Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, by Angela Chen was written by science journalist and editor Angela Chen and published in 2020 for Kindle by Beacon Press. The Kindle edition is 240 pages long and was named one of the best books of 2020 by media outlet NPR among other prestigious names. Ace is a clear-sighted collection of essays that explores the plurality of asexuality in a sex obsessed society.
Separated into three core parts, Ace argues the validity of asexuality and aromanticism as an orientation in wider social contexts. From it we gain greater perspective on sexuality in a world that thinks only in broad binary terms and asserts that feelings of sexual attraction are innate for everyone.
Chen uses her own life experience as a biromantic demi-ace woman as well as that of many other ace interviewees to bolster the point that not everyone feels sexual or romantic attraction in the same way that most allosexual (or non-ace) people do. Thinking only in terms of gay and straight (and bi occasionally) is a neat and digestible narrative that has normalised a plethora of different identity expressions out of existence.
This book explores the modern history of asexuality, though it also acknowledges the existence of ace peoples from older periods of times (pre-2000s). It concedes that asexuality is an orientation that has only recently become part of public consciousness due to the rise of the internet but it succinctly proves why asexuality is not just an internet-identity to be dismissed.
The insights shared into how asexuality overlaps with other social factors such as race, disability and masculinity were perfectly rationalised. It reveals a multitude of ways in which the erasing of ace experiences has harmful consequences i.e. the tacit implication that all men have raging sex drives and if a man doesn’t find sex appealing then something must be mentally wrong with him or his very masculinity is called to question. The book looks at how this toxic masculinity has resulted in many men concealing their asexuality so as to prevent exclusion from the group.
I thought Ace was such a perceiving, clear-minded book that encourages its reader to rethink sex and sexuality. There was only one chapter that I feel didn’t really complement the rest of the book but otherwise a highly recommended read.