Books have answers, and that is one of the reasons I love them. The past few years I’ve spent some time digging into me, and how I work, and how much of what I have presented to the outside world was authentic, and how much was what I had been expected to do.
I had some knowledge of aces and asexuality before reading this particularly as one of my friends is ace and has been out for at least the decade I’ve known her, probably longer. But while I had functioning experience with at least part of the ace spectrum I had on some of the blinders lots of people have about it, since my friend is on the sex aversed end of the spectrum. My brain simply hadn’t made room for there being more to the spectrum, and so much more nuance to the whole thing.
One of the things that stood out to me when I was reading Queer: A Graphic History earlier this year is how much of how we all behave in society is based in compulsive sexuality, specifically compulsive heterosexuality. Chen digs into this concept in a big way in Ace. Chen, as Barker did, lays things out it in a way where it becomes apparent how foundational the assumption that there is a baseline desire for sex that is the same for everyone. Further, how ubiquitous the idea that if you don’t share the same levels of desire either you haven’t found the “right’ scenario or are repressed (and what a death nell to self-value that term can be). The result is that if one doesn’t have the same drive for sex, there must be something wrong or defective with the person. This thinking is incredibly harmful on so many levels, and at least for me has led to letting others assume that my desires and needs are what they expect, and not necessarily what they are, let other aspects of my personality do the speaking.
Do I have fewer questions now than I did before? I’m not sure, but I have new ones, different things I need to ponder, more time to spend deciding which descriptors fit me best – a path I’ve already been on the past few years. The more I learn about myself and the human experience the more I learn that it is not, really, as universal as we were led to believe, not even close. Everyone, literally everyone, experiences it differently. And that’s a good thing.
When I was prepping to write this review, I went back to the reviews its already gotten at Cannonball, certain that I had commented on at least one of them: I had not. I think that probably speaks to how many questions I had even though so much of what I was reading in others’ reviews and experiences was ringing true. Do I think you need to be wondering about your own identity to find value in this one? Nope. I agree with Chen that by acknowledging asexuality and striving to understand it further, we will de facto have a better and more complete understanding of the spectrum of sexual identity and desire – and that’s just good for everyone.