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Sex Object: A Memoir

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Sex Object: A Memoir
SubjectSexism, gender, sexuality
PublisherDey Street
Publication date
June 1, 2016

Sex Object: A Memoir is a 2016 memoir and the sixth book written by Jessica Valenti.[1] Valenti shares personal stories since her childhood about being treated as a sex object and her daily encounters with sexism, painting an image of an adult whose identity has been entirely shaped by these experiences.[2] According to Valenti, most women face a similar reality of being shaped by—and making everyday decisions to minimize—sexual assault and aggressions.[2] Valenti works professionally as a feminist writer, known for her reactions and opinions about current events, advocating for actions women can take to counter sexism. She used Sex Object: A Memoir as a platform to focus on sharing experiences with readers, helping them understand how prevalent they are for young girls and women, shedding light on the sheer size of this cultural problem.[3]

Publication history[edit]

Valenti published Sex Object on June 1, 2016 with Dey Street.[4]

Valenti selected the title despite fear of backlash,[5] some of which came to fruition with the book's publication. Speaking to Emma Gray at HuffPost, Valenti said:

"People say, 'Oh you’re too ugly to call yourself a sex object' — as if calling yourself an object is a compliment, which completely misses the point. But I decided that I can’t let harassers determine the content of the book. At the end of the day, this is a book about objectification and dehumanization. So that was the most accurate term."[6]


The 224-page[7] book is divided in 21 chapters[8] chronicling Valenti's encounters with street harassment and other forms of sexual assault, sexism, and treatment from sexual partners.[2] Valenti promotes the belief that men can start mitigating women's daily experience of sexism by listening to women and believing their experiences.[9]


Reviewing the book in The New Republic, Rafia Zakaria wrote, "The appeal of Valenti’s memoir lies in her ability to trace objectification through her own life, and to trace what was for a long time her own obliviousness to it," and compared Valenti's critical reassessment of her own experiences to Adrienne Rich's observation that for women "'revision—the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction is more than an act of cultural history; It is an act of survival.' Sex Object is such an act of revision."[10]


  1. Tortorici, Dayna (2016-06-13). "'Sex Object: A Memoir' and 'Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Zeisler, Andi (2016-06-06). "Sex Object review – Jessica Valenti shares a story women know all too well". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  3. Quinn, Annalisa (June 12, 2016). "Yes, All Men (And Everyone Else) Need To Read 'Sex Object'". NPR. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  4. "Nonfiction Book Review: Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti. Morrow/Dey Street, $25.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-243508-8". Publishers Weekly. March 14, 2016. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  5. Felsenthal, Julia (June 3, 2016). "Jessica Valenti on Writing Sex Object and Holding Nothing Back". Vogue. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  6. Gray, Emma (2016-06-09). "What It Means To Grow Up As A Sex Object". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  7. "SEX OBJECT A Memoir by Jessica Valenti". Kirkus Reviews. April 30, 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  8. Al-Shawaf, Rayyan (August 20, 2016). "A Chaotic Chronicle". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  9. Emily Mae, Czachor; Peterson, Glyn (2016-07-05). "'Sex Object' Author On Penises, Trauma and Everyday Sexism". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  10. Zakariya, Rafia (June 13, 2016). "Against 'Survival Feminism'". New Republic. Retrieved 2018-02-23.

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