Sex Object offers little redemption, and none of the familiar bubblegummy positive-thinking strategies that place the onus on women to magically think their way out of being told, on a daily basis, that public spaces are not for them. It is a relief to read a book on harassment and violence that simply acknowledges, rather than exhorts: 'Buck up!' 'Lean in!' 'Girl power!'...Maybe instead of solutions and angles and strategies, there is power in saying, simply, 'This is how bad it is.'
The writing that feels truest to life describes Valenti feeling sapped of it....[P]erhaps there’s no better illustration of the way everyday sexism grinds one down than the fatigue that drags on this book. But Valenti short-sells her peers when she suggests humor is a pandering concession or a rictus grin women must wear to mask their pain. Humor needn’t be a diluting agent; it can be a Trojan horse. As the saying goes, if you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, or they’ll try to kill you.
As one of America’s best-known and often divisive feminists, Valenti is surely all too familiar with hearing stories that other people tell about her, which makes Sex Object a bold undertaking. It’s also one that fits seamlessly within the feminist tradition of consciousness-raising....An alternative to teaching girls to shrink themselves, or suggesting they develop a bright, ever-hardening shell, is crucial. That alternative isn’t necessarily presented in Sex Object. (Indeed, the book goes out on a sour note, with a litany of horrible tweets and Facebook messages sent to Valenti in recent years.) And it won’t be realized without a shift that requires all of us first to believe that stories like hers, and millions of others, are real.