Lessons of a ‘Sex Object’
What can we really learn from Jessica Valenti’s memoir?
Her freshman year at Tulane University, Jessica Valenti made the mistake of sleeping with her ex-boyfriend’s roommate. When the ex-boyfriend (“Kyle” in her memoir Sex Object) found out about this, he took it as a personal affront, which resulted in Kyle screaming at Valenti: “You’re a piece-of-shit garbage whore, do you understand that? . . . You’re fucking trash and I don’t want to ever fucking see you again because I don’t fucking associate with whores.”
Jessica Valenti flunked out of Tulane. She didn’t belong there, and it was a mistake for her to choose the notorious party school in New Orleans. She was only 17, a middle-class girl from Queens, N.Y., and Tulane — an elite private liberal arts school where annual tuition is now $51,010 — can be a cruel place for girls like that. Why was she there? Because when her ambitious parents “saw the campus buildings and ivy and grass, it looked to them the way they imagined colleges were supposed to look, and so they were happy and proud.”
Among the many poignant passages in her new memoir Sex Object, here Valenti makes a revelation most progressives don’t want to recognize, namely that “white privilege” isn’t so ubiquitous as to confer automatic success and happiness on every random Caucasian in America. It is still possible for white people to fail in the Land of Opportunity, and Jessica Valenti’s parents invested enormous effort in preventing her failure. Hard-working and entrepreneurial, Phil Valenti had married his high-school sweetheart, a nice Catholic girl. Together, they built a retail business, and by the time their oldest daughter (born in 1978) entered adolescence in the early 1990s, she was a vessel carrying the freight of their ambitions. Her parents arranged to have her attend a better elementary school on Roosevelt Island, and when it was time for high school, she made it into elite Stuyvesant in lower Manhattan, where she became acutely aware of her inferiority. She “went from being one of the smartest kids in my junior high school to being a nominally good student without the same drive and pedigree of my cute and smart girlfriends,” Jessica Valenti explains on page 68 of Sex Object:
They lived on the Upper West Side or in Park Slope apartments filled with books and paintings and cabinets full of alcohol. One friend had an entire floor of a four-story park-side brownstone as their “room.” I lived in a house where once or twice a week my mom would go outside wearing yellow rubber gloves to clean up the used condoms that littered the sidewalk from the men who parked there with prostitutes.
New York City is a terrible place to raise children. This is one obvious lesson the discerning reader might glean from Sex Object, although it’s not the lesson Valenti intends to teach, nor is it a lesson she has learned, given that she and her husband, Andrew Golis, are now raising their daughter in Brooklyn. The belief that New York is the only place in America worth living has become an idée fixe among young writers, even as the Internet has made it possible for anyone to be a writer anywhere. No doubt the neighborhood in Brooklyn where Valenti and Golis live is crowded with would-be writers in their 20s, English majors fresh out of college, crowded into tiny apartments, working day jobs to pay the rent in hope that their spare-time hobby — poetry, fiction, political commentary, whatever — will someday make them famous. The success of 1990s TV shows like Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex and the City served as an advertisement for the idea that all the cool kids live in New York, having zany adventures with their colorful cast of attractive friends. The urban hipster lifestyle — tribes of carefree single buddies hanging out together in their cool apartments — is now as blatantly promoted by TV as was the suburban idyll of Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver in the 1950s. For all the media criticism that has emerged from the latest feminist resurgence, no one seems to notice this particular elephant in the room, i.e., the way TV sitcoms sell a particular way of life. Because this urban hipster lifestyle is in fact pursued by feminists themselves — all those ambitious 20-something girls in Brooklyn — they don’t notice it for the same reason fish don’t notice water.
“Stay away from New York” is not a lesson Jessica Valenti intends to teach in Sex Object, nor does she bother to warn middle-class girls against the error of thinking that an elite private university is the ticket to happiness. Probably most of her young feminist readers will take away from Ms. Valenti’s book the exact lesson she does intend to teach, namely that misogyny is a pervasive all-powerful evil from which no woman can ever escape:
Still, somehow, inexplicably, “man-hater” is a word tossed around with insouciance as if this was a real thing that did harm. Meanwhile we have no real word for men who kill women. Is the word just “men”?
We say “misogynist” . . . but the word falls flat on your tongue — it’s too academic sounding, not raw or horrifying enough to relay the truth of what it means. . . .
But here’s the thing — what is crazy about killing a woman in a culture that tells you women’s lives are worth nothing?
Women are raising children, picking up socks, and making you feel like a man by supporting you when you need it and looking sexy. . . . We’re being independent and bad bitches while wearing fucking lipstick and heels so as not to offend your delicate aesthetic sensibility, yet even just the word “feminist” pisses you off. How dare we.
Still, no name for the men who kill women because we have the audacity not to do what we’re supposed to do: fuck you, accept you, want you, let you hurt us, be blank slates for your desires. You are entitled to us but we’re not even allowed to call you what you are.
Feminism is a Rorschach test. Stare at the inkblot and shout: “Misogyny!”
How irrational do you have to be to think the way Jessica Valenti thinks? She grabs up a fistful of resentments — from housekeeping to high-heel shoes — and flings these out with the accusation that all men are guilty of misogyny, a murderous hatred of women. You have blood on your hands, sir, if you take any pleasure in a woman “looking sexy,” and disliking Ms. Valenti’s brand of feminism is proof of your misogynist guilt. “The personal is political,” as radical feminist pioneer Carol Hanisch said, and therefore any source of unhappiness in a feminist’s life becomes a political cause. This leads feminists to viewing the world through the warped lenses of ideology, and induces a sort of sexual paranoia in which the feminist succumbs to delusions of persecution, the victim of a male conspiracy she calls “patriarchy.” Yet the question raised by Sex Object, if read with a critical eye, is whether Jessica Valenti has ever been a victim of anything except her own bad judgment.
Dear God, what awful choices she has made in her life! Her personality was warped by insecurity, a problem made worse by the way her parents burdened her with their own ambitions and, of course, there was New York City itself. Nearly 20 million people reside in the metropolitan New York area, and perhaps not every man in the city is a disgusting pervert, but when you cram that many people into one place — 8 million in the five boroughs and 12 million more in the suburbs — the perverts are hard to avoid. The working-class neighborhood where Jessica Valenti grew up was frequented by hookers and their customers, and when she traveled to school via the subway, she encountered the notorious “flashers” and “mashers” (exhibitionists and frotteurs) who have menaced the city’s public-transportation system for decades. Ms. Valenti doesn’t seem to understand this as a uniquely urban hazard, unknown to the many millions of Americans smart enough to avoid big cities. Girls growing up in small towns and suburbs may not be able to avoid misogyny and, even in the Ozzie and Harriet era, suburbia was not all sunshine and rainbows, but at least our daughters aren’t subjected to the horrors that Jessica Valenti endured on New York’s subways and streets.
Many genuinely despicable behaviors are commonplace in big cities, including violent crime, drug abuse and sexual hedonism. Ms. Valenti was a practitioner of the latter two vices from an early age, but goes to some length to avoid admitting that her behavior was wrong. She recounts her use of marijuana, ecstasy (MDMA) and cocaine as if being a dopehead was an ordinary aspect of life, the same way she discusses her drunkenness and all the various “hook-ups” and “relationships” in which she engaged from the time she lost her virginity as a 14-year-old freshman at Stuyvesant until 2009 when, at age 30, she married a Harvard boy five years younger than her. What emerges from the pages of Sex Object, discernible to any thinking adult, is the tale of what happens to girls growing up in a culture devoid of morality.
The only values Ms. Valenti recognizes are materialism, status-seeking and whatever the policy agenda of the Democrat Party may happen to be. Her ferocious partisan hatred of Republicans goes unexamined in Sex Object in the same way the wickedness of New York City goes unexamined. She takes for granted that every intelligent person votes Democrat, just as she assumes that life in New York is the only life worth living. Having internalized these peculiar prejudices (to call them what they really are) from childhood, Ms. Valenti cannot step outside herself to examine her values objectively, to wonder if life may be better for people who live and think differently.
On page 94 of Sex Object, Ms. Valenti introduces us to her college boyfriend “Paul,” whom she met after transferring to SUNY-Albany. Short (5-foot-5) and redheaded, Paul was the perfect feminist boyfriend, and Ms. Valenti would have married him but, alas, Paul’s mother “never thought I would be good with kids” (p. 108). That races ahead of the tale, however, which begins when she meets Paul “through my drug dealer, a tall rich kid who lived in my dorm in Albany . . . and sold ecstasy and weed.” And then there’s this (p. 98):
When I start taking women’s studies classes, and loving them, [Paul] is happy. . . . We do coke with one of my women’s studies professors in her house when we cannot get ecstasy.
Excuse me for sounding hopelessly old-fashioned, but since when do professors and their students do cocaine together? If any of my professors at Jacksonville (Ala.) State University got high, they kept it a secret, and certainly they would have been fired for sharing cocaine with their students. Yet this anecdote is related by Ms. Valenti as though there was nothing unusual in a college girl meeting her boyfriend through a narcotics trafficker, and then snorting coke with one of her professors. Also . . . women’s studies?
What kind of fool would major in Women’s Studies? The kind of fool who loses her virginity at 14, goes off to Tulane, sleeps with her ex-boyfriend’s roommate, flunks out and then transfers to SUNY-Albany, that’s who. The only career possible for a Women’s Studies major is as a professional feminist, and there are only so many full-time gigs at non-profit “pro-choice” organizations to go around. However, the Feminist-Industrial Complex — the departments of Women’s Studies on some 700 college and university campuses across the United States — has a rent-seeking interest in promoting the metastatic growth of feminism, so the fact that many of their alumnae are quite nearly unemployable isn’t mentioned in the course catalog. Feminists complain about the shortage of women in high-tech STEM fields, or in corporate executive positions, and yet continue directing tens of thousands of college girls into the absurd ideological cul-de-sac of Women’s Studies. The dope dealers on campus are engaged in a profitable venture, at least, and don’t demand that taxpayers foot the bill for their evil enterprise.
In a nation of 320 million people, one need only convert a tiny percentage of the young adult population to a belief system in order to create the appearance of a surging mass movement, providing that supporters of the movement are in control of the major engines of mass communication — the TV networks, major newspapers and magazines, book publishers, etc. This is the story of feminism’s “success” in a nutshell. Having established hegemonic control of academia (with the help of federal Title IX legislation) by the 1990s, feminists have spent the past quarter-century training an army of activists. About 90,000 students annually enroll in college Women Studies courses, which means that more than one million women under 30 in the United States have taken at least one class in the subject, and the veterans of this ideological indoctrination program are mostly employed in the vast empire of tax-exempt non-profit 501(c) groups that comprise the political machinery of the feminist movement. Of course, some feminists become lawyers, or they go to Washington and get government jobs, but the one place you never expect to encounter a feminist is in the profit-making world of capitalist free enterprise. The sole exception to this rule, however, is the world of publishing and communications. Practically every female writer — whether as a journalist or a screenwriter, a novelist or non-fiction author — thinks of herself as a feminist, one way or another, and nearly every smart male in the communications industry understands that he must be careful never to say or do anything that might be considered “sexist.” First and foremost, to be perceived as “sexist” would ruin the young bachelor’s social life, but secondly, such a perception might destroy his chance for career advancement. If every woman in your office is a feminist, as is the case at a TV network or book publisher, management must constantly fear a discrimination lawsuit, and so-called “hostile environment” doctrine means that every major corporation enforces a zero-tolerance policy toward any overt expression of “sexism.”
What is “sexism,” you ask? A synonym for anything a feminist doesn’t like, which can mean practically anything a man says or does. Jessica Valenti once wrote a book entitled He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know, but she herself is a perfect example of how feminism enforces a reverse double standard. Ms. Valenti justifies all manner of wrongdoing by women — herself in particular — but condemns heterosexual men simply for being heterosexual. She doesn’t say this in so many words, of course, but this double standard pervades Sex Object in ways that Ms. Valenti’s young feminist readers probably take for granted.
How is a man to judge women? Well, according to feminists like Ms. Valenti, it is wrong for men to prefer good-looking women to ugly women, or to prefer chaste women to promiscuous women. Any overt expression of such male preferences — e.g., to express admiration of a woman’s beauty — is sexist, according to feminist ideology. Remember, guys, women are only “wearing fucking lipstick and heels so as not to offend your delicate aesthetic sensibility,” according to Ms. Valenti. If a man admires female beauty, this is only because men expect women to “be blank slates for your desires.” If there is some way for a man to be both heterosexual and acceptable to feminists, Ms. Valenti doesn’t bother to describe it. Pity her poor husband, Mr. Golis:
Every time I see a dirty cup on the kitchen counter, my face gets red. The level of disrespect feels . . . as if Andrew has hopped on the counter, pulled down his pants, and taken a shit there for me to clean up. My husband is lovely. He is a feminist. . . .
He tells me to leave the cups on the counter and the socks on the floor. He’ll get to them eventually. But I can’t. I don’t believe him. And I can’t write in a house where something is wrong. — Sex Object, p. 174
See? Feminism presents men with a no-win situation. Everything a man does is always wrong, according to feminists, and even if a guy tries to do everything possible to please her, it is only his failures she ever notices.
If feminism means anything, it means that no man is worthy of admiration, praise or respect. The feminist applies a relentless fault-finding scrutiny to male behavior, a negative attitude she would consider “misogyny” if any man applied it to her. The double standard of male chauvinism is exactly reversed by Ms. Valenti, but still she wonders why so many people hate her.
Have I mentioned yet that Jessica Valenti is selfish and superficial? Have I talked about how her heart has been poisoned by envy since childhood? Oh, she was the uglier of two sisters, and keenly aware of this as a girl:
I wrote in my diary at the time, I’m so ugly I can’t stand it. I have a big gross nose, pimples, hairy arms. I will never have a boy like me or a boyfriend. All of my friends are pretty and I will be the one with no one.
I was feeling that loneliness acutely at the time, because I was obsessed with a boy named Matt. Matt — the first in a long line of blond boys I would fall for — told me once that I would be so, so pretty if not for my big nose. All I heard was, he thought I could be pretty! . . .
I imagined all of the things that would go right if I were just to have a smaller nose. I would have a boyfriend and the girls in school would stop making fun of me. — Sex Object, pp. 31–34
Notice how her perception of herself as a big-nosed hairy girl leads her to develop an envy of “pretty” girls (not only her female classmates but likewise her younger sister), and also a pathetic fetish for “blond boys.” Ms. Valenti has never gotten over her childhood insecurities, and uses her memoir to indulge her appetite for petty vengeance. For example, on p. 108 of Sex Object, she explains how she kept in touch with her college boyfriend “Paul” after they broke up: “Later we would sleep together when he was seeing other women, when I was seeing other men.” She suggested they “give it another try” — i.e., resume a relationship, rather than just occasional hook-ups — but he turned her down, citing his mother’s objections, and she dismisses him thus:
He married someone — smart, blond, pretty — who wanted the same things he did. They bought a house in the same town as his parents and had two kids. He seems happy.
Notice her jab at Paul’s “blond, pretty” wife? Poor big-nosed hairy Jessica just can’t get over the fact that even her ex-sweetheart preferred such a girl.
“SEXIST! HOW DARE HE CHOOSE A BLONDE INSTEAD OF ME! HOW DARE THAT RED-HEADED SCOUNDREL BE HAPPY WITHOUT ME!”
Such is the subtext of Ms. Valenti’s dismissal of her ex-boyfriend, anyway. Never mind how many boys endure broken hearts in their youth — men may complain about the pains they suffer in search of love, but there are no university departments devoted to turning men’s romantic woes into a political ideology that explains their heartbreak as a result of oppression.
There is no Department of Cry Me a Freaking River at any university, although perhaps there should be. Life is not fair, everybody has to deal with it, and an endless carnival of “social justice” protests won’t ever change this reality.
One of the most important duties of parents is to educate their children in the way the world works. “Bad things happen to bad people,” I sometimes tell my kids, not only warning them against doing bad things, but also warning them to avoid associating with bad people. Of course, my parents’ similar warnings bounced off my thick skull when I was a young hellion, running around with hoodlums and dopeheads and other ne’er-do-wells, but thank God nobody ever tried to convince me that I was entitled to do the wrong thing. Every responsible adult tried to curb my long-haired rock-and-roll wildness, or otherwise I might have never survived all my bad choices in life. At least one of my old dopehead buddies was sentenced to Death Row in Georgia, and plenty of others went to an early grave. Suicides, murders, auto accidents, drug overdoses, AIDS — the Grim Reaper harvested his share of my generation, and it is truly a miracle that I should have lived this long.
Life is not fair, or else I’d be dead by now, because more than once I was that fool who ventured where angels feared to tread. If you’ve never seen a pistol drawn in anger, count your blessings, and if you’ve never been sucker-punched by some redneck looking for a fight, you’ve done better than me. Objectively speaking, however, I’ve got no cause to complain. Other people suffered worse harm than I did in life and with less justification. Probably I deserved to get sucker-punched more often than I actually did, and if some redneck girl’s jealous boyfriend had shot me dead, I’m sure many of my old acquaintances would’ve reckoned I had it coming: “Live fast, die young.”
Count your blessings, I say, if you go as far down the Highway to Hell as I did and make it out alive. God must have preserved my life for a reason, after all, and the reason might be to warn young people against making the kind of choices I made in my reckless youth. You see, fellows, the road to Hell isn’t paved with good intentions, but with good weed — and bad women.
Which brings us back around, of course, to the subject of Jessica Valenti.
Exactly how many guys did she have sex with during the 15 years that elapsed between losing her virginity and finding the man she eventually married? She doesn’t give any estimate in Sex Object, but we’ve already identified three — Kyle at Tulane, Kyle’s roommate and Paul at SUNY-Albany. Among the several others, we find a “WASP-y Harvard graduate who played piano and once fucked me in the bathroom of a New Year’s Eve party” (p. 26), and Ms. Valenti further informs readers that she “made steak and fettucini Alfredo” for that boyfriend, but “he later broke up with me, [despite] his insistence that I was the ‘hottest’ girl he had ever dated [which] only intensified my despair.”
Yes, young ladies, it’s still true — lots of guys are OK with dating a slut for a while, but they don’t usually marry them. This useful lesson on the folly of promiscuity is not, however, what Ms. Valenti is trying to teach her readers. Her reversal of the double standard means only male behavior is subject to criticism, and if you point out “it takes two to tango,” that’s just misogyny!
So, we’ve got Kyle, Kyle’s roommate, Paul, and Mr. Harvard Piano Guy — this brings the total of Ms. Valenti’s sexual conquests to at least four, by the time we get to page 26. This omits the possibility that the two men listed on page 17 (“a shitty boyfriend” and “an even shittier ex-boyfriend”) might be someone other than Paul and the WASP-y pianist. We’re only at four so far, then, and must wait to page 87 to reach the tale of “Jay,” the junior at Stuyvesant to whom Ms. Valenti lost her virginity as a 14-year-old freshman. (In 2009, Ms. Valenti published a book, The Purity Myth, devoting 272 pages to the idea that virginity is a meaningless concept, a “social construct.”) Sixteen-year-old Jay lived in prestigious Park Slope, was “fine looking but awkward” with the kind of “floppy” hair she liked. Jay had “the supreme confidence of someone much cooler” and was a “graffiti artist.” Vandalism and having sex with 14-year-old girls are activities that parents probably want to warn their sons against, but that’s not a lesson Ms. Valenti intends to teach in Sex Object, either. It turns out that Jay’s “supreme confidence” is matched by his possessive jealousy. He starts checking up on his 14-year-old girlfriend, suspicious she’s cheating on him every time she’s late for a meeting. Not that his suspicions are baseless, however, as her sophomore year, Ms. Valenti goes to a dance where she makes out with a boy from Bronx Science: “He is just an okay kisser but a lot nicer than Jay. Taller, too” (p. 90) and she goes to meet this guy’s mother for dinner on the Upper West Side. Ms. Valenti cleverly arranges to break up with Jay (“I try to lead Jay to believe that this is his idea”) so that she can date Mr. Tall Boy from Bronx Science, but when Jay finds out, he throws a tantrum and she “finally agreed to take him back.”
Now, she doesn’t actually say she had sex with the Bronx Science boy, but I’m going to share Jay’s suspicion that yeah, of course she did. So adding him and Jay to the list, we’re now up to six for Ms. Valenti’s total, and next we must add Number Seven, “Jack.” After Jay left for college and met a new girlfriend there, 16-year-old Jessica went to a barbecue (p. 92) and met Jack, “the most beautiful guy I had seen up close . . . all muscles and smiles.” Jack was a 20-year-old bodybuilder who worked at a gym somewhere up the Hudson River Valley halfway to Albany, and why she was at a barbecue in Saugerties, N.Y., is never explained but . . . holy hormones, Batman!
Jack is six foot three and chiseled — like a movie star or stripper way. . . . He works out for hours every day. . . .
I was thrilled by him. I remember noticing the outline of his body the first time he go on top of me — huge and muscular — and thinking that this is what fucking a man is like. There were no scrawny arms or adolescent halfhearted facial hair, just girth.
Compare this description to what Ms. Valenti says about her “lovely” husband, who is forced to keep the house immaculate merely to avoid her wrath, and then ask whether you’d rather be (a) the muscle man who banged her at 16, or (b) the poor fool who ended up marrying her when she was 30.
Pickup artists (PUAs) have a saying — “Alpha fucks, Beta bucks” — to describe this phenomenon, but the PUAs are “misogynists” for being so cruelly realistic in describing an observable pattern (hypergamy) of female behavior. Of course, life is not fair to anyone — I’m neither a 6-foot-3 bodybuilder nor a Harvard alumnus — but it is only the unfairness experienced by women that feminists ever bother to notice. Feminists permit no man to criticize the selfish, cruel and dishonest behavior of women. No matter how he may unjustly suffer in his relationships (or lack thereof), if any man dares to describe how women actually behave in real life — well, that’s a hate crime!
(Seriously — the Southern Poverty Law Center hate-listed Man Boobz.)
Notice, as previously mentioned, that Ms. Valenti is superficial in her judgment of men, and also notice the status-seeking nature of her behavior. Her first serious boyfriend Jay was (a) older, (b) “fine-looking” and (c) from the relatively prestigious Park Slope neighborhood. Then she cheated on Jay with the taller guy from Bronx Science — dinner on the Upper West Side— but now at age 16, she falls in love with 6-foot-3 of chiseled muscle — a real man!
Yeah, you guessed it — Jessica was just a pump-and-dump for Jack (p. 94):
After about seven months of dating, though, he stops calling. . . . Despite my bluster to friends about having a trophy boyfriend I am devastated when, finally, he tells me over the phone that he wants to break up. That the attraction was just physical and there is nothing really beyond that. . . .
I spend the rest of the school year, my last in high school, smoking pot and hooking up with friends of mine — though no one seems quite as adult or good-looking as Jack.
If we start the count with her first boyfriend Jay, then add the tall boy from Bronx Science, with Jack we find Ms. Valenti has reached Number Three by her senior year of high school, during which she mentions casually “hooking up” with at least two other “friends,” so her total count of sexual partners by the time she reached Tulane was already five, at a minimum. This was the fall of 1996, and Ms. Valenti didn’t turn 18 until more than two months into her freshman year at Tulane, but she’d been “sexually active” (as the public health officials say) for more than three years with five different guys and, after her “thrill” of being with the 6-foot-3 muscular manhood of Jack, whatever boyfriend she met at Tulane was doomed to be a disappointment.
This was Kyle’s basic problem, really. Guys, you don’t want to be Kyle. You may think you want to be Kyle, but you don’t. He was from Boston (p. 99) and had attended a private boarding school (p. 101), and could afford both the tuition at Tulane and fees to join a fraternity, but despite his family’s wealth — or maybe because of his family’s wealth — Kyle had some serious problems. Rich kids are often spoiled by their affluence, and Kyle not only had a serious drinking problem, but he was also addicted to porn videos. This was before the Internet had made that vile stuff as ubiquitous and easily accessible as it is in the 21st century, so Kyle must have gone to some effort to amass several boxes of “magazines and tapes, most of which had to do with asses and anal sex,” Ms. Valenti tells us (p. 101). Furthermore, she tells us this:
I had never met anyone who wanted to have sex so often, a few times a day at least. . . . I also had never met anyone whose penis was so large that when he got an erection it didn’t stand straight up, but instead stood out perpendicular to his body, too heavy to make it all the way up.
In addition to his huge penis and enormous sex drive, Kyle also “had big arms and a great sense of humor,” Ms. Valenti tells us. So her first college boyfriend was a rich frat boy with muscular biceps and a massive penis but don’t you dare to suggest that a feminist could be superficial in her judgment of guys, that she engages in selfish status-seeking or that she “objectifies” men.
Feminism functions as an all-purpose excuse for women to do whatever they want, and to exempt themselves from criticism, no matter how predictable the bad consequences of their behavior might be. Say what you will about old-fashioned “traditional values,” any well-raised young woman foolish enough to behave like Ms. Valenti behaved would at least realize she alone was to blame for all the bad things that happened to her as a result of her folly.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” etc. Everything that the Apostle Paul said about Rome in the decadent age of Nero is true of America today. No matter what excuse we may offer for our wickedness, it’s still wicked, and we alone are responsible for the consequences of whatever evil things we do.
Jessica Valenti has done an awful lot of evil in her life. On page 115 of Sex Object we find her at age 25, far past the point where youthful naïveté could be accepted as a valid excuse for her recklessness. It was 2004. Ms. Valenti and one of her feminist comrades went to a Brooklyn bar “to celebrate the success of a webside we had started together.” This was the launch of Feministing.com, which she described in a 2006 feature interview:
I started Feministing [in 2004] when I was working at NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. At the time I felt like the mainstream women’s movement wasn’t really giving young women their due and was feeling generally frustrated with media coverage with young women’s issues.
After launching this site for “giving young women their due,” she and a friend go to a Brooklyn bar where she met a guy she calls “Ron” (p. 115–116):
I was drunk when I got there so I don’t remember how we started talking; I might have bummed a cigarette. I’m almost sure that I did. . . .
Ron was six foot three and broad shouldered, and had blue eyes. I thought he was fine looking . . . He talked to me about feminism and his work as a designer, and flirted mercilessly as we drank more and more. I was wearing a pair of “political” underwear that night that said GIVE BUSH THE FINGER and I surreptitiously lifted my skirt and let him take a few pictures of them as I got drunker. By the time we got back to my apartment it was four a.m. and I could barely walk. So when he pulled out a bag of cocaine, it seemed like a decent idea . . .
Yeah, she already had a master’s degree in Women’s Studies from Rutgers (2002) and was working for NOW, but she was drunk when she got to this bar, met a broad-shouldered 6-foot-3 guy, showed him her panties and when they got back to her place at 4 a.m., cocaine “seemed like a decent idea.”
Robin Williams once observed that cocaine is God’s way of telling you you’ve got too much money. Or maybe, if you’re a girl, cocaine is God’s way of telling you your boyfriend’s got too much money. One of the amazing things about the patriarchal oppression of women is how guys with too much money so easily locate women with an appetite for free cocaine. Ms. Valenti and Ron “were together immediately, in love within weeks, and the sex was better than any I’d had before” (p. 117). Better than muscular Jack, better than well-hung Kyle — the best sex ever — and hey, did I mention the cocaine?
Soon, every night we went out — two or three evenings a week, at least — involved cocaine. . . . As I got ready for the night out, I would do few bumps . . . before meeting Ron at a bar, or if we were going out to dinner, I’d wait until I was done eating to snort some in the bathroom. . . . The truth is that I loved coke not so much for the drug itself but because it let me drink as much as I wanted without passing out or embarrassing myself. . . .
Everywhere we went, Ron had friends. He knew every bartender, every drug dealer, every restaurant manager. . . . We snorted lines with the bar owners, who loved me for hooking them up with my cute friends, in back rooms and upstairs apartments. — Sex Object, pp. 117–118
Oh, what fun! Doing battle against male supremacy while drinking all night, snorting coke and helping bar owners hook up with your “cute friends.” Obviously, “the mainstream women’s movement wasn’t really giving young women their due” in terms of issues like this, and what excellent leadership Ms. Valenti provided, as the ultimate role model of a smart, young feminist.
Sleep became impossible. We covered my bedroom windows . . . with dark blankets and sheets, taking Vicodin and drinking beer so that we might finally pass out. . . . When we woke, sometimes not until four or five p.m. the next day, we would order pizza and watch movies as the hangover subsided.
I knew this was all a bad idea, terrible even, in the long run. But in the short term everything seemed to be working out okay. I called in sick a bit too often, that’s true, but I had friends, was having fun, was in love, and my website was starting to do really well. — Sex Object, p. 120
Despite being tall and broad-shouldered (Best! Sex! Ever!) Ron turns out to be more or less a sociopath — charming, but dishonest and unreliable. After more than a year of this, the happy ending comes along: She scores a book deal, quits coke, dumps Ron, leaves Brooklyn and moves in with her parents at their place upstate. She starts dating other guys: “Normal guys. Stable guys. Guys who answered the phone when I called and showed up to dates on time.” In other words, the kind of guys who might have dated her when she was 25, except they couldn’t afford cocaine, they didn’t know every bartender in Brooklyn, and they weren’t tall and extroverted like Ron. Probably none of them were as well-hung as Kyle or as “chiseled” as Jack, either.
Girls, you don’t need a political ideology to act like a fool, and you don’t need a master’s degree in Women’s Studies to date a coke-addicted sociopath. This would be a helpful lesson girls might learn from reading Sex Object, but then again, you don’t really need a book to teach you this stuff, do you?
Common sense should be all a girl needs to avoid emulating Jessica Valenti, but any girl with common sense would probably be a Republican.
Bad things happen to bad people, like I tell my kids. Maybe not everything bad that happened in my life was my fault, but considering what a reckless sinner I was in my youth, I’m lucky to be alive at all. If being “sexist” were the worst sin of which I was guilty, I’d have no reason to repent anything, because what does it mean to be “sexist” except to be a man who disagrees with feminism?
If Jessica Valenti’s life is a testimony to feminist values, every decent human being must agree with Milo Yiannopoulos: “Feminism is cancer.”
What the cancer of feminism does is destroy life. Ms. Valenti describes two of her abortions in Sex Object, but the life feminism most destroyed is her own. Think of all the bad choices she made — from Jay to Jack to Kyle to Ron and I’m leaving out a few others, like Carl, the finance guy who lived in a high-rise apartment “in Manhattan overlooking the river” she dated a while in 2002. Carl raped her while she was passed-out drunk, she says, but then he bought her a grilled cheese sandwich and fries, which somehow made it OK. Having convinced herself that promiscuity was harmless, she wasted her youth on a series of guys chosen on the basis of shallow judgments — Jay was “fine looking” and older with lots of “confidence”; Jack was tall and muscular; Kyle had “big arms” and a sense of humor; Ron was tall and had cocaine.
The sole exception to these high-status types was Paul, the short redheaded guy she would have married, except his mother didn’t like her, and guess what? His mother was right about her — Paul’s mother “never thought I would be good with kids,” and she’s not. Ms. Valenti and Mr. Golis have a daughter, and we can only pity the poor child. No one, adult or child, would choose to live with Jessica Valenti if they had any choice in the matter. What sort of deep-seated masochist tendency explains her husband’s choice, perhaps no entirely sane person could ever hope to comprehend. You might have noticed not one of the ex-boyfriends she describes in Sex Object has stepped forward to identify himself and publicly admit he once had sex with Jessica Valenti. No doubt they’re all ashamed of themselves, as well they should be. On the other hand, they can congratulate themselves on escaping from her grasp.
Maybe she’s consciously aware of how stupid her choices were. It would be hard to avoid such awareness, but the way Jessica Valenti relates her various errors in Sex Object doesn’t convey much sense of her own culpability. There’s no point where she says, “Losing my virginity at 14 was wrong,” because ideas like “right” and “wrong” don’t really mean anything to a feminist, except maybe that Democrats are always right, or men are always wrong. As a matter of fact, on page 125 of Sex Object, Ms. Valenti admits she has no real moral values at all: “I don’t believe that right and wrong are black and white.”
This is the Democrat way! Truth is relative, no oath is binding, everybody lies about sex: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”
Wag your finger in the face of the American people on national TV, tell another lie and see if you can find a way to avoid the consequences. As long as you get away with it — whether it’s Bill Clinton’s perjury or Jessica Valenti’s two-year cocaine binge — you can tell yourself you did nothing wrong. But if you know that you’re a liar, how can you believe what you tell yourself?
Madness is the final scene of Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress, as Tom Rakewell ends up in Bedlam after having squandered his fortune, and Jessica Valenti’s mental health isn’t optimal, to put it mildly. She describes (p. 165) her physician being surprised at what a large dose of Ativan — brand name of lorazepam, “a benzodiazepine . . . used to treat anxiety disorders” — she’s taking. So she decides to wean herself from her medication and comments: “Smoking pot helps” (p. 169). Great. Now she’s doing bong hits to relieve her psychiatric symptoms, but then we get to page 176:
Andrew and I have been going to couple’s therapy, both for my anxiety and because Andrew is so mad at the space the anxiety takes up in our relationship. Our default mood is low-level annoyance toward each other with a propensity to turn into full-blown rage at the smallest thing. . . .
I feel like I might hate him and I suspect he feels the same.
If her husband doesn’t hate her, why not? Dear God, he must be the most unhappy husband since Alfred Conrad committed suicide in 1970. And let any married man think how humiliating it would be to have your wife write a book full of such ghastly revelations as Jessica Valenti makes in Sex Object.
The weird thing is that Ms. Valenti can’t seem to understand why everybody hates her so much. She ends Sex Object with 12 pages of nasty things people have said about her online, none of which I’d care to say myself, just as I would never say to any woman what Kyle at Tulane said to Ms. Valenti.
On the other hand, though, it’s hard to disagree with what Kyle said.