Sex Object is not at all the book I thought it was going to be but I’m not entirely sure what I expected either. I had read Valenti’s book Full Frontal Feminism a while back and had a sense of her style of feminism and that how she feels about the way women relate to men. Of course, not all feminism is about men but they are the half of the population and we need them for procreation.
Still, I’m pretty sure I missed the “memoir” part of this book for a long time and thought it was another feminist commentary on the titled subject, which I am very interested in. There is a lot out there about the way women are viewed as sex objects and Valenti does get into it a bit in Full Frontal Feminism but I figured she had just dedicated the whole book to it this time. She is one of those writers for me that I’m always willing to see what she has to say. I don’t perfectly agree with everything she says (change your name if you want to) but I do get what she’s saying in a lot of ways and appreciate her point of view.
Nevertheless, this is a memoir, not a feminist commentary on being treated like we were created specifically for the male gaze and usage by men. In the book, Valenti recounts all the ways she was made to feel like a sex object by those around her. The problem with the book and the title is that her experience is not that unique among women. Pervy teacher who just wants a hug for a good grade? Flashed or catcalled on the street? Talked about as if your sole reason for being is how much someone wants to have sex with you?
Yep. I have either had similar experiences or known at least one person personally that has had it. These are not little pieces of the universe that Valenti happened to stumble onto because she was a slut or something. These are all a part of the female experience and what makes it obvious that we are still sex objects in a lot of ways to a lot of men. Even men who don’t really believe women to be just sex objects will refer to us as such when we’ve pissed them off. And apologize profusely to the women in the room that they don’t mean us, in my experience. Because it’s the worst thing they can call women and there’s really something wrong with that. Why is my worth directly correlated to whether or not you want to have sex me and whether or not I’m willing to? And why does that only last insofar as it’s appropriate for me to want to?
This is why we feminists call it a rigged system against us so much. It is. The experiences Valenti talks about in this book are all reasons why I love the idea of the Slut Walk and Reclaim the Night. All those things about women that so directly correlate our value to someone’s views of who we should be having sex with, who we should want to have sex with, and whether or not we will have sex with them need to be eliminated.
Well, there are two ways to equalize any given number, though. We can lower the one number to the other (as in men can stop looking at us this way) or raise the lower number up to meet the other, as in we could constantly reduce men to sex objects. They say they’ll like it, but just as Valenti points out in the book, they don’t really know what they’re talking about. They like it when an available, attractive woman ogles them a bit in a way that doesn’t feel threatening. The problem is that we are constantly assaulted by the more threatening kind of gaze in these circumstances. It’s the kind of look that makes men worry about what happens to them in jail. Yeah, I don’t really want to do that either. I’ve seen it happen, though, and I’ve known plenty of guys who are not in the habit of doing this, so maybe it will equalize one day….
I’m not really counting on it happening in my lifetime, but I have hope for the new generation. I borrowed the audiobook from my library, read by the author. Click on the cover to be redirected to Booklikes for purchase options or add it to Goodreads for later. While I think most women would enjoy the book, I want men to read it so they can see what we’re talking about better when we say things like “women are treated like sex objects”.