Angela Chen: Ace (2020, Beacon Press) 5 stars

An engaging exploration of what it means to be asexual in a world that's obsessed …

5 stars

I've identified as gay for a while, but these last years I realized I was probably closer to aroace, but hadn't found a satisfying confirmation online, so I was excited to read this book. I'm happy to announce that it lives up to its ambitious subtitle (What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex).

Ideas I particularly liked seeing explored or picked apart:

  • How labels are useful to find meaning and shared experiences. (The words are gifts. If you know which terms to search, you know how to find others who might have something to teach. They are, like Lucid said, keys. Intellectual entryways to the ace world and other worlds. Offerings of language for as long as they bring value.)
  • Compulsory sexuality: I LOVE it when authors analyze concepts that don't necessarily imply each other. Yes, you can want intimacy but not being that interested in sex (just as you can love to read and not want to grow A Collection™).
  • Disorder vs. variation
  • Queerplatonic relationships
  • Amatonormativity (The assumption that “a central, exclusive, amorous relationship is normal for humans.” Not simply normal, but preferable. Not only preferable either, but ideal and necessary—better than being polyamorous, better than having a strong web of family, better than having a close-knit group of friends. A good that we should universally work toward and are incomplete without.)
  • Emily Nagoski's model of consent (yes to granularity!)
  • Conflict between being ace and belonging to another minority, like how being ace and disabled can put someone at odds with both ace activism ("we are not sick!") and disability rights activism ("just because we're disabled doesn't mean we don't want a fulfilling sex life!")