Whether you identify as asexual or allosexual, I think Ace is a must-read. This book had me thinking so much about friendship, sexuality, and feminism.

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The summary, from Amazon:

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.

Buy Ace here.

Angela Chen is an ace woman, and she interviewed a number of others who identify as asexual, demisexual, and/or aromantic in writing this book. While Ace explores all of the different ways one might experience these orientations, what gripped me the most was its discussion of love, romance, sex, and feminism.

I came into feminism largely through the lens of sexuality. To me, especially as a victim of rape, I found a lot of freedom in having and talking about sex. However, reclaiming terms like “slut” (something I explored extensively while writing for Slutty Girl Problems) and having sex aren’t the only ways to explore feminism – and for many, aren’t a way to explore feminism as all. Ace really opened my eyes to this even more than they already were.

Of course, I always knew asexuality existed, or at least I have since my teens. But I never really thought about how the world at large views so many things through a sexual lens. Chen had me thinking about romance both within and without the lens of sex, and about the passion of other relationships as well. I can think of a number of friendships in my teens and early twenties that looking back on, I wonder to myself, “Was that queer?” I never was with these women in a sexual way, and I never thought about them sexually, but I loved them so passionately to the point I was jealous at times. After reading Ace, I realize maybe those friendships were queer in some ways and maybe they weren’t in some ways. Ultimately it was the feeling that matters and not any sort of label attached to it.

I think this is a great book if you want to learn more about asexuality and demisexuality, but also if you want to expand your thoughts on romance, friendship, relationships, sex, sexuality, and feminism. I’m allosexual (I experience sexual attraction) but I still learned and benefited so much from reading this book. Though I will say, Ace had me thinking about my own sexuality on an ace/allo spectrum. There have definitnely been times in my life when sex was less about attraction and more about connection – and I think that’s something possible for people regardless of how they experience sexual attraction.

I listened to the audiobook at my usual 1.2x – 1.3x speed. I enjoyed Natalie Naudus’s narration.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of SexAce: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Good listen! Had me thinking about how I view sexuality, feminism, and myself on the allo/ace spectrum.

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Book Club Questions

  1. What did you know about asexuality before reading this book, and how has your knowledge/ideas shifted since reading it?
  2. If sex is part of your life and experience, is it always about attraction?

Interested? Buy Ace.
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P.S. I listened to this book on Audible. Try Audible and get two free audiobooks!

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