Normal is often treated as a moral judgment, when it is often simply a statistical matter. The question of what everyone else is doing is less important than the question of what works for the two people in the actual relationship. It matters that everyone’s needs are carefully considered and respected, not that everyone is doing the same thing.– Ace
Summary and Thoughts
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.
A long-awaited read, Ace by Angela Chen provides an ambitious introduction to asexuality, covering the history of discrimination, issues of consent, intersectionality with race, gender, and disability, and what these topics reveal about our society’s focus on romance and sex. I really appreciated the subjects Chen chose to analyze and I definitely learned a lot, despite the sometimes wordy explanations. It’s inevitable that such a short book on such an expansive topic isn’t able to cover everything under the sun, but the text serves as a great starting point for those who want to be exposed to how strange our society is for over-valuing sex/romance. For the most part, I enjoyed how Chen interwove her personal experiences with larger analyses (though some areas could have been edited/expanded upon), and I found her interviewees illuminating. All in all, Ace is an insightful edition to LGBTQAI+ studies and I’d definitely recommend picking it up!
For Those Who Enjoyed
- Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine by Michele Lent Hirsch
- Hard to Love: Essays and Confessions by Briallen Hopper
- How to Be Ace by Rebecca Burgess
- All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister