What if you weren't sexually attracted to anyone?
A growing number of people are identifying as asexual. They aren't sexually attracted to anyone, and they consider it a sexual orientation - like gay, straight, or bisexual.
Asexuality is the invisible orientation. Most people believe that "everyone" wants sex, that "everyone" understands what it means to be attracted to other people, and that "everyone" wants to date and mate. But that's where asexual people are left out - they don't find other people sexually attractive, and if and when they say so, they are very rarely treated as though that's okay.
When an asexual person comes out, alarming reactions regularly follow; loved ones fear that an asexual person is sick, or psychologically warped, or suffering from abuse. Critics confront asexual people with accusations of following a fad, hiding homosexuality, or making excuses for romantic failures. And all of this contributes to a discouraging master narrative: there is no such thing as "asexual". Being an asexual person is a lie or an illness, and it needs to be fixed.
In The Invisible Orientation, Julie Sondra Decker outlines what asexuality is, counters misconceptions, provides resources, and puts asexual people's experiences in context as they move through a very sexualized world. It includes information for asexual people to help understand their orientation and what it means for their relationships, as well as tips and facts for those who want to understand their asexual friends and loved ones.
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Thorough and eye-opening
As a little-understood sexual orientation, asexuality may seem inscrutable to non-asexuals and overwhelmingly nuanced to people wondering how or whether to place themselves along the asexual spectrum. Julie Sondra Decker's book patiently and thoroughly covers a vast range of those nuances. She's extremely careful and precise in her language, inclusive and conscientious. She doesn't descend into sarcasm or irritation, even when addressing some of the most tone-deaf FAQs lobbed at out and activist asexuals.
I identify in the asexual spectrum, and after frequenting online ace forums and doing some reading, I was still confused (and sometimes alienated). This book provided a lot of clarity, teasing out all kinds of variations on the asexual orientation and giving me much more confidence about my choice of "label." Listening to it was a validating experience. As others have mentioned, it's repetitive (which actually helped hammer home some of the ideas in my mind): definitely view each section as a long article designed to be read by itself.
Decker's writing style doesn't lend itself particularly well to the audiobook format, apparently featuring lots of slashes (e.g., "and/or," which is read aloud as "and slash or"), tables and lists. Part Six, Additional Resources, is a heroic and sadly unlistenable reading of dozens of long URLs. The resource section would have been better served by a single simple URL that audiobook listeners could go for the rest of the links. It's a minor quibble, but if the author is looking at reviews: Julie, any chance you could post a links page like that?
Nevertheless, Reay Kaplan's narration is clear, well-paced and easy to listen to, so hats off, especially for soldiering on through Part Six! I'm so glad to have found this subject covered so excellently.
- A. Hawley
Educational first half