I saw ACE: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen mentioned on the list serve for the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA). As a clinician who works nearly entirely with clients with some type of problematic sexual behavior, I was keen to read this book. In years of doing this work, I had not been exposed to any work specifically about asexuality. In all honesty, I had been exposed to truly little relating to asexuality. If I dig back into the recesses of my brain for work in college and graduate school, I cannot recall the topic being brought up. In CSAT training, there was talk of sexual anorexia, but nothing about asexuality.
First, I need to admit that I am guilty of saying that sexuality is a part of being a human being and everyone has a sense of sexuality. In our work with problematic sexual behavior and sexual offending, don’t I say that our work is to find out what their sense of healthy sexuality is? Yes, I do. And I have not given too much thought to whether or not my clients are asexual. They do not really bring it up but neither do I. So, the first thing I need to say about this book is that it made me take a very hard look at my own assumptions about sexuality and the work I do. As a sex positive therapist, I am incredibly open about all types of sexuality. I have never not believed in asexuality; I just never gave it too much thought. If it did nothing else, this book made me a better therapist for making me investigate my own assumptions and challenge myself to be better.
This book is also a great way to introduce a person to the preferred language around sexuality that includes asexuality. Again, owning my ignorance, I had not heard the term allosexual. Someone who is allosexual experiences sexual attraction to another person. This contrasts with someone who identifies as asexual, meaning they have a persistent lack of sexual attraction to any gender. This book also introduced me to the term demisexuality. A person may identify as demisexual if they do not experience sexual attraction to another person unless they have formed a strong emotional bond with them. My clients had spoken of this before, but I (we) never named it.
This book also makes the reader take a hard look at their assumptions. Many people might assume that if a person is asexual, that they do not then feel romantic love and are never in relationships. This delve into asexuality provides us with the reality. Many people who identify as asexual find romantic love, have great relationships and can even be kinky! The nuances of these relationships are many and require honesty and communication between the parties. But don’t all relationships require this anyway?
The only downside to this book for me (and it is a small matter) is that, at times, it feels a bit preachy. However, if I look at how our culture ignores, talks about or judges asexuality, I can understand how the author could end up writing in this tone for some of the book. When you are part of a community that has been basically invisible, you want to be heard and heard authentically.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who works in therapy or sexual education. Particularly this book is important for those of us who work with clients with sexual issues of any kind. It can help us be better at our work and meet our clients where they are without judgement.