What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex
An engaging exploration of what it means to be asexual in a world that’s obsessed with sexual attraction, and what the ace perspective can teach all of us about desire and identity.
What exactly is sexual attraction and what is it like to go through life not experiencing it? What does asexuality reveal about gender roles, about romance and consent, and the pressures of society? This accessible examination of asexuality shows that the issues that aces face—confusion around sexual activity, the intersection of sexuality and identity, navigating different needs in relationships—are the same conflicts that nearly all of us will experience. Through a blend of reporting, cultural criticism, and memoir, Ace addresses the misconceptions around the “A” of LGBTQIA and invites everyone to rethink pleasure and intimacy.
Journalist Angela Chen creates her path to understanding her own asexuality with the perspectives of a diverse group of asexual people. Vulnerable and honest, these stories include a woman who had blood tests done because she was convinced that “not wanting sex” was a sign of serious illness, and a man who grew up in a religious household and did everything “right,” only to realize after marriage that his experience of sexuality had never been the same as that of others. Disabled aces, aces of color, gender-nonconforming aces, and aces who both do and don’t want romantic relationships all share their experiences navigating a society in which a lack of sexual attraction is considered abnormal. Chen’s careful cultural analysis explores how societal norms limit understanding of sex and relationships and celebrates the breadth of sexuality and queerness.
Journalist Chen probes the nuances of asexuality in her well-intentioned yet muddled debut. According to Chen, asexuality exists on a spectrum from "sex-repulsed" to "sex-indifferent" to "sex-favorable," but what links "aces" is their lack of the experience of sexual attraction, which she defines as "the desire to have sex with a specific person for physical reasons." In Chen's own case, she began to identify as an ace in her mid-20s, after realizing that she only ever wanted partnered sex for emotional not physical reasons. She notes that Alfred Kinsey deliberately left asexuality off his scale of sexual orientation in the 1940s, and sketches the origins of the ace movement in early 21st-century internet message boards. Drawing on interviews with more than 100 aces, Chen profiles an African-American filmmaker, a disability activist, and a Christian man who, before accepting his asexuality, hadn't considered "that lust might not be a struggle at all." Though Chen succeeds in exploring the full range of asexuality, her stated desire to transcend labels is undermined by a hyper-focus on categorical minutiae, and her analogies (such as a comparison between sex and eating crackers) often miss the mark. Aces will appreciate seeing themselves reflected in Chen's sensitive portrayals; non-aces are likely to remain confused by the concept.
just read it already!
a must read if you think you might be asexual or if you’re simple interested in deconstructing society’s ideas of sex and romance.