Quick review (ha! possible for me?) for a book that’s been holding up my review queue. This was an excellent book about what it means to be asexual, and how we think about sexuality in general. The best thing about it isn’t the way it explains asexuality, or the ace identity (which is extremely varied! as is all sexuality and forms of identity) but the way that it takes that premise and then opens it further. Chen posits that by acknowledging asexuality and striving to understand it further, we also will have a better, more balanced view of the spectrum of sexual identity and desire.
Her basis for this is the idea of compulsory sexuality (which is akin to the idea of compulsory heterosexuality): The idea that the desire to have sex is a basic human impulse that everyone should have, is the norm, the standard, and everything else is by definition abnormal and thus wrong. She posits that a full range of human sexuality by definition would include people who do not want to have sex, all the way from the most sex-averse ace, to aces who sometimes engage in sex for various reasons, to people with “average” amounts of sexual desire, to someone who craves sexual activity more than the average person. Compulsory sexuality as a cultural basis for thinking about sex is inherently flawed and harmful.
The book is also sort of a mythbuster on what it means to be ace. As someone who is on the ace spectrum myself, I did get the feeling that this book was aimed not just at people like me but to all people, as a tool of awareness and education. It’s equal parts diving into the variations present in the ace community (not all ace people are sex averse! not all aces are celibate! being ace is not a clinical problem that can be fixed with meds! etc.) and reframing the discussions about sexuality in general. It was a very good book. I confess I did get overwhelmed while reading it and feel like I need to read it again in order to really absorb some of it’s ideas. This is also why I have taken forever to write this review!
Highly recommended for anyone, but especially people who are interested in human sexuality, and learning about asexuality from a source that is balanced and informed.
“The goal of ace liberation is simply the goal of true sexual and romantic freedom for everyone. A society that is welcoming to aces can never be compatible with rape culture; with misogyny, racism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia; with current hierarchies of romance and friendship; and with contractual notions of consent. It is a society that respects choice and highlights the pleasure that can be found everywhere in our lives. I believe that all this is possible.”