Book Review

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen

Asexuality

Genre | Non-fiction
Page #s | 210
Publishing Date | September 2020

An engaging exploration of what it means to be asexual in a world that’s obsessed with sexual attraction, and what we can all learn about desire and identity by using an ace lens to see the world

What exactly is sexual attraction and what is it like to go through the world not experiencing it? What does asexuality reveal about consent, about compromise, about the structures of society? This exceedingly accessible guide to asexuality shows that the issues that aces face—confusion around sexual activity, the intersection of sexuality and identity, navigating different needs in relationships—are conflicts that all of us need to address as we move through the world.

Through interviews, cultural criticism, and memoir, ACE invites all readers to consider big-picture issues through the lens of asexuality, because every place that sexuality touches our world, asexuality does too.

Journalist Angela Chen uses her own journey of self-discovery as an asexual person to unpretentiously educate and vulnerably connect with readers, effortlessly weaving analysis of sexuality and societally imposed norms with interviews of ace people. Among those included are the woman who had blood tests done because she was convinced that “not wanting sex” was a sign of serious illness, and the man who grew up in an evangelical household and did everything “right,” only to realize after marriage that his experience of sexuality had never been the same as that of others. Also represented are disabled aces, aces of color, non-gender-conforming aces questioning whether their asexuality is a reaction against stereotypes, and aces who don’t want romantic relationships asking how our society can make room for them.

Goodreads

The Roar Cat Reads community includes many people who identify as asexual, and I’ve long felt like the term demisexual could be a good fit for me. Despite this, I was eager to read Chen’s book to further educate myself and dispel cultural stereotypes about asexuality. I was not disappointed! This is a phenomenal book that is equally useful for those within and without the asexual community.

For those who identify as asexual (or who might after learning more about the term), this book offers validation and inclusion. Asexuality is a spectrum with many lived experiences. Although the thing that binds asexuals is a lack of desire for sex, there is still a huge variety within the community of those who are sex-repelled, those who enjoy sex, and those who are somewhere in between. Additionally, the book covers aromanticism and the way that this interacts with asexuality. “If you think you belong, then you belong” seems to be the message of this book.

For those who are not asexual, Ace does a great job providing frames of reference to allow anyone a brief glimpse from an asexual perspective (the anecdote about the game show Naked Attraction was very effective). Chen also calmly takes apart common stereotypes that exist about sexuality with compassion and an utter lack of judgment.

My favorite chapters were those that dealt with the intersection between asexuality and race and/or disability. There are cultural stereotypes about Asian men and disabled people that cause asexuals within these groups to feel like they are letting down the cause by seemingly supporting the stereotype. Desire is a nebulous concept impacted by multiple factors, and Chen allows for all of this, ultimately insisting that the label of asexuality applies if you want it to apply.

As soon as I finished this book, I wanted to read it again. It’s so educational and inspiring, and I want its messages to sink even deeper into my brain! Definitely a book worth buying.

Who Do I Recommend This Book To?

This book is great for everyone, but for different reasons. If you are asexual, or think you might be, this book will validate your experience. If you’re not asexual, this book will educate and enlighten.

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

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