CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian's Reviews > Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex

Ace by Angela  Chen
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An accessible and thought-provoking book that shares ace perspectives on feminist politics, disability, race, consent, relationships, and more. I thought the mix of Chen's personal story, those of other aces she interviewed, and her more academic writing on the topics worked really well. I learned a lot and found a lot of food for thought.

The observations that hit me the hardest were those about progressive feminist attitudes to sexual practices, expectations of consent and sex in relationships, and about rape culture vs. feminist responses that rape us violence, not sex. (Likely the sections on race and disability didn't stand out as much to me because I'm white and able-bodied).

On sex and feminism:
"If having sex were merely cool, this would have bothered me little. However, sex had also become feminist, and this I cared about. Through a subtle series of twists, like in a game of telephone, sex for liberal women has become more than a way to enjoy ourselves or even prove that we are desirable. Conspicuous consumption of sex has become a way to perform feminist politics."

She emphasizes how an ace perspective asserts that "I don't want to" is always more than adequate as a reason to not have sex, especially in long term relationships. She also writes about how consent can be viewed on a spectrum rather than a simple yes or no.

Rape and sex as binaries -- with the assumption that sex is always "good" or not harmful in comparison -- is better seen as a spectrum too, she writes, given the experiences of aces with sexual encounters that fit in neither category. This discussion reminded me of another book I recently read, Girlhood by Melissa Febos, which also discusses the slippery nature of consent and the concept of "empty consent."

The short section where she discusses aro and ace representation in books was the weakest, imho, but obviously the area of LGBTQ2IA rep in books is an area I have expertise in so it's easy to criticize. I will say her dismissal of SFF as potential sites for affirming aro and ace representation really bugged me, especially as she gave no rationalization and then soon after included an interview with an SFF ace writer!!

The audiobook was fine, but I occasionally had difficulty knowing if a sentence was a direct quotation from an interviewee or Chen's own voice, so that was a bit confusing.
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Reading Progress

August 11, 2020 – Shelved
August 11, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
August 11, 2020 – Shelved as: nonfiction
August 11, 2020 – Shelved as: asexual-aromantic
August 11, 2020 – Shelved as: queer
May 14, 2021 – Shelved as: east-asian
May 14, 2021 – Shelved as: reading-in-colour
July 28, 2022 – Started Reading
July 28, 2022 – Shelved as: american
July 28, 2022 – Shelved as: audiobooks
July 29, 2022 –
24.0% "This is so good!"
July 29, 2022 –
29.0% ""If having sex were merely cool, this would have bothered me little. However, sex had also become feminist, and this I cared about. Through a subtle series of twists, like in a game of telephone, sex for liberal women has become more than a way to enjoy ourselves or even prove that we are desirable. Conspicuous consumption of sex has become a way to perform feminist politics.""
July 30, 2022 –
41.0%
July 31, 2022 –
57.0% ""If having sex were merely cool, this would have bothered me little. However, sex had also become feminist, and this I cared about. Through a subtle series of twists, like in a game of telephone, sex for liberal women has become more than a way to enjoy ourselves or even prove that we are desirable. Conspicuous consumption of sex has become a way to perform feminist politics.""
July 31, 2022 –
57.0% ""Aces know that sex is not always the dividing line that determines whether a relationship is romantic...Questions about the definition of romantic love are the starting point for aces to think about love and romance in unexpected ways, from new explicit categories beyond friendship and romance to the opportunities -- legal, social, and more -- of a world where romantic love is not the type of love valued above all.""
August 1, 2022 –
67.0% "Why does she dismiss SFF books as potential sites for aro and ace representation? She doesn't even give a reason! Then in the next paragraph she talks to an aro/ace SFF writer who writes about friendship."
August 3, 2022 – Finished Reading

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