“Ace”: Angela Chen’s New Book On Asexuality

This nonfiction, journalistic book isn’t just for the ace community—allosexual people (non-aces) can also benefit from considering a life that doesn’t prioritize sex and romance above all else. Julie Kliegman, Bitch Media, regarding Angela Chen’s new book, Ace, about asexuality

In Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex science journalist Angela Chen writes not only of her own asexuality but also that of many other self-identified “aces.” From the publisher:

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.

Additional info from Publishers Weekly regarding the varied levels of asexual experience represented in Ace:

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.

Asexuality “can also be thought of as just a way of living that doesn’t center sex,” states Chen (Julie Kliegman, Bitch Media). In other words, it’s not always adopted as an identity. As she tells Kliegman:

And yet, of course, [when you’re someone who is] not having sex, but you don’t have a sexual identity, that becomes your sexual identity. I do think writing this book made me think that ideally it would be great if there [weren’t any] requirements to have a sexual identity. Like if you didn’t want to have [sex], you’re still not [necessarily] asexual—it wasn’t something you had to choose. Julie Sondra Decker has this great line [in Ace] where she says, ‘I’m not a ‘non-crafter,’ and it’s the same way she thinks about sex. ‘I’m only asexual because there’s a word for it and because people have an objection to me not wanting to have sex.’ She’s asexual because she [feels] pressure to choose a sexual identity and explain why she doesn’t have sex. That’s one [thing] that shifted the way I think about sexual identity.

Julie Sondra-Decker is the author, by the way, of the groundbreaking The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality (2014), previously featured in two different Minding Therapy posts, here and here

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