Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex

Beacon. Sept. 2020. 224p. ISBN 9780807013793. $26.95. SOC SCI
Writing as an asexual woman of color, journalist and editor Chen has produced a thoughtful if occasionally unfocused look at what it means not to experience sexual attraction. Chen sensitively discusses the social narratives and pressures around sex, and her solicitation of stories from other asexuals or “aces” of various backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders provides the most thought-provoking chapters, which detail how aces of color and disabled aces, in both the United States and the UK, find that their orientation intersects in complicated ways with stereotypes about other facets of their identities. Later chapters explore the wider topics of expectation of sex in relationships, issues of consent, nonsexual romantic friendships, and the marrying of feminism and liberalism with sexual permissiveness; while interesting, this results in the latter half of the book feeling less about asexuality and more about the complex and fluid nature of sexuality and relationships in general—certainly a valuable topic, but perhaps a potential fault for readers hoping for a more focused text.
VERDICT Most likely to appeal readers of any orientation seeking a general text about asexuality and its place on the wider spectrum of human sexuality.
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