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The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality

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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.

216 pages, Hardcover

First published September 2, 2014

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About the author

Julie Sondra Decker

4 books145 followers
I'm Julie and I'm primarily on Goodreads to share my reviews and interact with other book lovers, fantasy fans, and writers!

I'm an author who writes both nonfiction and fiction. Most of my fiction is fantasy or speculative fiction. My nonfiction book, The Invisible Orientation, released September 2, 2014 from Skyhorse Publishing/Carrel Books.

You can find out more about me at one of these places:

My main author site

My author blog

My YouTube account, with video tips for writers

Twitter or Facebook

My webcomic about the writing life

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 379 reviews
Profile Image for Alexis Hall.
Author 51 books11.7k followers
December 18, 2021
I read this as a sort of “check your internalised bullshit” type thing – since, well, as a romance writer I write about sex a fair bit, and I want my books to be sex-positive in the broadest sense of the word, which includes not taking for granted or otherwise reinforced allosexual worldviews as some kind of exclusionary default.

Most of the information here I think I already knew? And it does feel quite repetitive at points. All of which said—and I am absolutely no judge—it probably does make an accessible primer to anyone wanting an introduction to the asexuality spectrum, either on their own behalf, or so they can avoid being a dick to someone else.

The book felt slightly weighted towards harmful myth-busting to me, which may unfortunately still be very necessary. Although I did appreciate the normalising approach to all sorts of intersecting identities, preferences, orientations, behaviours and experiences.

The only aspect of the book I felt slightly uncomfortable with—and again, it’s way out of my lane, so take this with however much salt you need—is the section about dealing with critical or hostile responses from other people if you come out to them. It’s very clear that dealing with critical or hostile responses is not okay but lot of the advice it offers for handling those responses seems, uh, a bit … I hesitate to say dangerous? Emotionally difficult? To me.

For example:

If your conversation partner is employing DISRESPECTFUL or ABUSIVE behavior, try the following techniques and phrases:
• Express personal disappointment in the other person’s refusal to respect you.
• Demand to know why they’re so obsessed with your sex life.
• Question their motivation and their need to invalidate you.
• If they’re concern trolling, ask them if they need printouts of your fitness routines and food intake.
• Push them into having an even discussion with you by asking if they’re even listening.

Etc. etc.

Before concluding with: “You never know what item will work to turn a critic into an ally.” And, I don’t know, all this seems like a lot of work for a marginalised person to undertake, as well as lot of responsibility for engaging with someone who is being incredibly hurtful. Basically, I just wish there was more acknowledgement that refusing to deal with this bullshit was an option too.

Also I might just be a cynic but I genuinely think it’s borderline impossible to *turn* a critic into an ally. If someone isn’t able, at that time, to acknowledge your humanity then no argument you can possibly make is going to make a difference to that.

And the idea that it’s the job of the marginalised to gentle seduce the bigoted into non-bigotry is fucked in the head.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,014 followers
July 5, 2014
Reviewing this book publicly feels kind of awkward, because I know the fact that I've read it is likely to make people ask questions right away. The temptation with something like this is pretty inevitably going to be asking me why I'm interested, to what extent it might align with my own experiences, etc.

To dispose of that in a single paragraph: I have no interest in sex for physical gratification. I do have a partner, and whatever we may do is between the two of us and no one else's business. Certainly I've had some of the experiences mentioned in this book: wondering what is "wrong" with me that I'm not interested, being told that my disinterest can be "fixed" (sometimes quite forcefully), being told that it's down to my medication/mental illness, etc.

So, to the extent that any single person can identify with a book about a broad issue, this book is "about me". If you're now feeling curious about all this, I would ask you first not to ask me questions but to read this book and the book I'm currently reviewing. Then, maybe, we can talk.

Speaking more generally, this is a pretty awesome book for acknowledging the sheer breadth of human experience. It acknowledges all sorts of levels of interest in sex and romance, all sorts of orientations on the spectrum of attraction. I know one of my friends who identifies as demisexual also found this a useful resource. It can be a means of finding information, whether you're asexual or not; it can also be a means of finding validation, of finding a measured and sensible voice telling you that there's nothing wrong with you, you're not strange, there are people out there like you.

The problem is that people who are opposed to the idea right away probably won't read this, or if they do won't be convinced by it; that's definitely not the book's fault, just that issue that people much prefer things that confirm their pre-existing bias. It's worth trying, though -- you never know what's going to get through and change someone's mind, even your own mind.
September 21, 2014
Please note that my opinion of this book is biased by the fact that I identify as an asexual.

What I love most about Decker’s book is that many statements in her writing resonate with me and I think that many asexuals who read this will find the same thing. There are too many to talk about in this review so I will just discuss my favorite one about aromantic asexual relationships. “When their friendships are their most precious relationships, they are often dropped or demoted in importance if their partner-desiring friends get significant others, and they sometimes struggle with feeling like they can never be important enough to anyone” (p131). I remember feeling this way once, with a friend I made in the army, after he became “more serious” with his girlfriend. I feel that I see myself reflected in much of this book.

Decker provides an introduction that shows her own experiences as an asexual which helps the reader understand where she is coming from. While many asexuals will not identify with her experience specifically (including myself), I believe that her experience establishes that she has had to face many of the same trials that other asexuals face.

I believe that many asexuals can also benefit from reading this book. Despite having spent almost 2 months researching asexuality, I found through reading The Invisible Orientation, that I still had some misconception about specific aspects of asexuality. I found that concepts such as demisexuality and demiromantism were more clearly explained in this book than when I had explored them on the internet. Also this book is the first time I had ever heard of “secondary sexual attraction” a term that explains the different circumstances under which a person can become sexually attracted to someone. Even if a person is familiar with asexuality, that person might discover something new for themselves.

Here is what I did not like about the book.

While the book is written in common language, there were times when reading it that I felt like I was reading a textbook. While reading parts two and three I had to stop frequently and take a break much the same I do with textbooks. I would recommend to anyone who is already comfortably identifying with asexuality to skip part 3 as it is written more for those who have objections toward the orientation.
If you are unfamiliar with asexuality, you will find that your vocabulary will be growing. Much like a textbook, there is a lot of terminology to learn especially in part 2 of the book, which will make readers, who are unfamiliar with asexuality, feel overwhelmed.

Decker continuously restates that sexual orientation is a feeling not a behavior or a decision. For asexuals, and everyone else who understands this, these statements will seem very repetitious and make the reader feel like they are hearing a broken record. However, for those who are not familiar with this concept, the information probably requires a hammer-to-nail approach. In other words, repeat it till they get it. It should also be noted that many concepts are revisited multiple times throughout the book (i.e. problems that asexuals face, relationship issues, and “coming out”). For this reason, the reader will want to focus on reading sections of the book that apply to the reason they are reading the book.

Decker advises “non-asexuals” to avoid using blanket statements in reference to asexuality but she has used a few of her own when advising how to deal with detractors (p163). This is the best example, “Most people recognize they should respect another person’s labels and methods of self-identifying of their personal definitions” (p54). This suggests (at least to me) that Decker has had limited interactions with people outside her socioeconomic class (whatever that might be), western culture in general, and has probably never met a Texan before either. That or she is simply trying to give the reader false confidence towards coming out to peers. Because no, in my experience with certain groups, most people do NOT necessarily recognize that they should respect another person’s labels. Another blanket statement is, “Most people don’t want to disrespect you and will pull back if you suggest they’re being respectful” (p148). In many of the circles that I have frequented, suggesting someone is being disrespectful can make them become more disrespectful. In these same circles it will take a lot more to convince people that they are making “the world harder for a largely invisible population” than employing the techniques that Decker provides on pages 148 to 150.

Overall, I love this book despite a few issues and give it a five star rating.
Profile Image for Lizz.
231 reviews1 follower
August 17, 2017
Have you ever read a book and thought "holy crap on a stick, my life would have been so much easier if this had been published several years ago"? Because that's how I feel about this book. Decker does a great job of outlining what asexuality is - and, more importantly, isn't - as well as dispelling a lot of myths and falsehoods about the orientation, advice and reassurances on relationships and coming out and other kinds of attraction, and there's even a section for allies. All around, I think it's a great resource, particularly because there is so little information/so few resources for asexuality, especially in comparison to other non-hetero orientations. I... figured out (I guess that's the right phrase) my sexuality about three years ago, and I spent the previous five to seven years before that feeling pretty confused and frustrated and - sometimes - isolated. If I had had access to a book like this, that explained asexuality so clearly and validated what I was feeling at the time, it would have saved me a lot of trouble and helped me find words to express what I was feeling (or NOT feeling, as the case may be). I am grateful the book exists now, though, and that people who are still figuring out their sexuality have access to a well-written text like this.
Profile Image for Melissa.
1,079 reviews71 followers
June 27, 2017
This one was a bit of a harder read for me, I found it a bit repetitive in parts, but sometimes that's exactly what's needed in an introduction book as the author explains asexuality from definitions to discussing with different audiences. Definitely a must read for those interested in learning more about Asexuality, what it means, what terms within the asexual community mean, and most importantly how to start conversations with family and loved ones about this often "invisible" orientation to foster better understanding about this part of the spectrum. Plus it contains a lot of other resources for further exploration of this topic.
Profile Image for Andy.
2,527 reviews208 followers
August 25, 2021
A great intro to asexuality!

If you've never heard of asexuality or want to know more about it this is the book for you. This was a really great book and seeing the labels and sublabels I used made me so happy, I actually got chills when demiromantic was mentioned. I would definitely recommend this one to everyone.

The only thing that I don't agree with was that hetero aces or hetero aros don't belong in queer spaces, because they do. Being aro or ace means that you are queer full stop.

CWs: discussion of sex, discussions of arophobia/aromisia, acephobia/acemisia and general queerphobia/queermisia. There are also mentions of intersecting identities including disability, autism, fatness, and race.
Profile Image for Imanewreader.
404 reviews200 followers
August 3, 2021
(première review ? wooow, quel honneur)

ce livre est littéralement une bible de l'asexualité. c'est informatif, documentaire, important, rassurant.. et très bien fait.

il y a énormément d'informations principalement sur l'asexualité mais il y a également des explications sur les autres orientations lgbtqia+ ce qui est vraiment cool !
il y a des études, des expériences, des témoignages, des explications, discussions et questionnement (ainsi que réponses).
honnêtement il est si complet. ce livre a répondu à tellement de questions que j'ai vu passer sur les groupes aromantiques/asexuels de partout dans le monde.

c'est absolument fabuleux qu'il soit maintenant accessible en français pour les asexuel.le.s (et autres intéressés ou en questioning).
merci aux éditions Améthyste d'avoir sorti ce livre et cette collection. ça s'annonce très prometteur !! ♠️💜
Profile Image for angie.
365 reviews41 followers
December 21, 2017
Asexuality is so rarely discussed, especially in public circles, that it's almost as if it doesn't exist at all. Yet it is very much real, not (as some would have it said) the result of someone's "imagination" or "confusion" or the “inevitable outcome” of a history of sexual abuse.

According to _The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality_ by Julie Sondra Decker, asexuality can be a source of frustration, even contention, for those struggling to make their families and close friends understand it's not all in their head or an attempt to deny their sexuality.

Having now read more about asexuality and seen many comments on various online articles, I'm shocked at both the meanness and lack of understanding about it. Perhaps this comes from sincere misconceptions or perhaps from an unwillingness to even try and understand. Either way, these misconceptions can be very traumatizing to those who are asexual.

There also seems to be some leaps to mixing up asexuality with celibacy, which is a different thing. The former is a complete lack of interest while the latter is a commitment to not giving in to any sexual activity, even if the compulsion is strong.

Asexuality is not an indication that a person is emotionally immature nor is feeling sexual attraction necessary for a person to be considered an adult. Yet these are often exactly what those with “the invisible orientation” hear when they dare to talk about who they are.

A person can still be considered asexual if she has romantic feelings for someone, but not sexual ones. It makes perfect sense to me. Sex without love would be meaningless, but love without sex is not. Of course, there are asexuals who are also considered aromantic. Asexual people can also have crushes, often called squishes. The difference between the two:

A crush is a romantic attraction to someone, a desire for a romantic relationship of some kind, a desire that is possibly temporary in nature, possibly never to be acted upon. A squish is an aromantic crush, a desire for a strong platonic relationship with someone; this envisioned relationship is usually more emotional and intimate than a typical friendship. (http://www.asexuallity.org)

On the surface, you might wonder what’s the big deal? Why does anyone need to talk about this? Before I read _The Invisible Orientation_, I had no clue there was any stigma associated with being asexual. That there is a woeful lack of knowledge involved, even outright derision, and that people can so judgmental and completely lack compassion or understanding about this is heartbreaking and makes this book all the more necessary.
Profile Image for Stacie C.
332 reviews65 followers
December 3, 2017
This book is an introduction to asexuality as a sexual orientation. It discusses not only what asexuality is but what is isn’t and goes to great lengths to help people understand the validity of asexuality as a sexual orientation and a way for people to identify themselves. So what is asexuality? Asexuality is an orientation describing people who don’t feel sexually attracted to anyone. It's possible to be heterosexual and asexual, homosexual and asexual, queer and asexual, trans and asexual, in a romantic relationship and asexual. Have questions about any of that? Pick up this book and educate yourself.

I found this book to be extremely informative. Written by Decker who identifies as asexual and is able to rely not only on her own experiences but the available research lends an authenticity to this book that you wouldn't find from an outsider looking in. I loved her candid and straightforward writing style. Her passion for educating people on asexuality is apparent throughout the book. The separation into 6 different parts allowed Decker to focus on specific topics and reference others throughout the book as necessary. She also made sure to explain asexuality and how it relates to other sexual orientations. Decker discusses the range of those that identify as asexual and how everyones experience differs from each other. What’s most important is understanding asexuality in order to understand how people identify.

I knew next to nothing about asexuality before reading this book. I feel really well informed after reading this book, but nowhere near an expert. There are parts for everyone, even those that are non-asexual like myself that want to gain understanding. This book is really well done. I think Decker did a really amazing job with this book. But it did get repetitive at times. And there is a lot of information that you may need time to process while reading. Overall, this is a recommendable read with great insight into asexuality. I give this 4 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for Auntie Terror.
435 reviews103 followers
July 30, 2020
3.7 Stars.
It's great that there is a book such as this. It isn't merely interesting for those who wonder themselves whether they might belong somewhere under the "ace umbrella". It also has value, I believe, for those who just want to learn about the subject of asexuality for the first time.
But it really very much is an introduction and becomes repetitive in some parts when you actually treat yourself to the whole thing, not just the passages that might be more addressed to you as someone researching for the first time (for whatever purpose).
Also: I listened to the audible audiobook, and the narrator does have one of those voices I like to zone out to...
I started this book "too late", but it is a solid introduction to the subject.
Profile Image for ♠ TABI⁷ ♠.
Author 15 books488 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
April 20, 2021
Officially DNF'd at 40% BECAUSE I'd read about 3-4 books about asexuality in the same time-span, and . . . wow. Talk about a glut of information. True, it was self-inflicted, but still . . . wow.


I TRIED TO FINISH THIS SO MANY TIMES but I just couldn't. Maybe another day I'll try to get to 100%, but as Aragorn said it best, "Today is not that day."

Still, if you haven't read this book, I challenge you to pick it up and at least read the first chapter. You will learn something new, and learning is always good, right? Right?

Ah, I am rambling. Again. I tend to do that a lot, especially when I don't have much to say on a subject. I ramble so I feel like I do, in fact, have something good to say. But I am of the opinion that the better condensed and stated facts are, the better. And so I shall stop and leave you with one last thing.

This is one of the best written asexual information books that I have read. It is informative to the point of droning on at some times, but overall it is a rather easy read and states things very, very clearly.
Profile Image for Avani.
152 reviews6 followers
September 4, 2014
A really good, comprehensive introduction to asexuality. A great resource for people on the asexual and aromantic spectrums, and people who have loved ones on the ace/aro spectrums. I powered through this book in two days, and was crying within ten pages from the profound sense of relief and support this book provides. It's written in layman's terms with a ton of external resources, very well-sourced, and easy-to-navigate sections. 1000% worth the money I spent on it!
Profile Image for Aleksandra.
141 reviews77 followers
February 23, 2022
This is a grat introduction to the subject and a reliable resource for the people on the ace spectrum as well as other folks seeking for information.

The writing style is very easy, a bit textbook-y, but I won't complain as it clearly explains what asexuality is and what it is not. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Nivi.
12 reviews
March 24, 2023
Despite being repetitive at times, this was very well-researched and comprehensive. But most of all it was super validating. I'm really glad this exists and I wish I had read it years ago!
Profile Image for Leah Markum.
326 reviews40 followers
June 19, 2017
One star for personal preference and three stars for the asexuals who have had it rough and the historical context.

I also want to quickly mention a footnote on page 5, to which I responded, "Thank you!" because I've found it bizarre that no one else I've come across has applied basic logic to sexuality: if you have heterosexuality as to homosexuality, then you have bi/pansexuality as to asexuality. That's the way I've been putting it, but here's how K. Yoshino, 2000, in "The Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure" in the Standford Law Review put it:

"To concede that there are two forms of desire--cross-sex and same-sex desire--is to recognize the analytic possibility of at least four kinds of persons. These include: (1) those who harbor cross-sex but not same-sex desire; (2) those who harbor same-sex but not cross-sex desire; (3) those who harbor both forms of desire; and (4) those who harbor neither form of desire. Yet even those who acknolwedge that orientation arrays itself on a continuum spanning the first three categories often ignore the fact that the continuum fails to represent the fourth."

Moving on to the review.

This is less of an "introduction to asexuality" as the title indicates and more of an introduction to the dark side of asexual people's experiences and what sexual people "should not" do to asexuals. I half-expected the book would take something of this nature since the author is an advocate, and advocacy by definition uses information with a persuasive agenda rather than pure education. Usually I don't appreciate this approach, which is why I was quick to point out that even though I didn't like the book, I do believe it would have a valuable place in the hearts of others.

Who are these others? Who are the true audiences for this book? Decker introduces the book as being for all asexuals, allies, and anyone willing to become aware. However, she disproves herself in her writing style and the organization of the book. Aside from "asexual people," the most common and heavily used expressions in this book are "shouldn't" and "don't" in regard to how to interact with asexuals. Most of the book is prescription for non-asexuals. An asexual person wouldn't need to tell themselves all the conjured ideas people have due to seeing the world and themselves as inherently sexual. I suppose an asexual may try if they're surrounded by it, but that would require a significantly low self-esteem.

That brings me to the other audience for this book. Since the book exclusively addresses negative experience asexuals have with what sexual people tell them, we have to consider people who would most likely grow up in that environment.

There's easily just as many people living in social environments where sexuality is personal business and isn't discussed: we live in a modern world where it's common to not marry or have kids, or people regard it as polite or even repulsive to discuss sex. In fact, romantic orientation is more apparent and easily discussed--after all, general dating is a more common topic than explicit sexuality. But which environments do heavily discuss sex lives? Sometimes it comes to personality. We see it all the time on TV--people who chase the party, extroverted life; the macho types; and sexual territoriality that's often a part of the plot. These types are out there, but not everywhere. Many asexuals don't have the environment or personality to ever interact with these types. If they are in this environment, this book will be beneficial.

The other big one is the religious conservative community. Even in the asexual groups I've been in online, people discuss how rough it is to be in the American South. Some rural and low income communities might have harsh sexuality beliefs as well. While again, the modern, Western world, this isn't a prevailing problem and many asexuals don't have to deal with this, some do and will have been treated with comments and actions Decker mentions in this book. In some places, sexuality is a major, open discussion in families. Your business is their business, so asexuality will show as opposed to never being relevant and thus never addressed in any manner. I've known many people that got married and had kids shortly after graduating high school--it's all they've ever been expected to have or even biologically want. An asexual will stick out. Being agender would stick out even more since gender is practically worn on one's sleeve and socially conservative environments may not address sex lives but more often than not enforce gender perceptions.

A minor audience would be older asexuals. I say this because maybe 75 percent of the book a person can find online while curiously surfing the Internet for a few hours. That's another major reason I didn't enjoy the book: I knew most of it. Nonfiction books still have value today because the research is more in-depth and the content is more specific than what you'll find easily online. Not so with this book. It would be more valuable to those who sought out a book before searching online.

Outside of these audiences, The Invisible Orientation has little use. The introduction basically weaves together all the misconceptions--I daresay, "myths"--about asexuality from the sexual's perspective. Then there's another major section of the book dedicated to myths. It repeats itself. The organization in the two sections is different but addresses the same things. The sections are also written so that if you didn't read one, no worries, definitions are fleshed out again.

Overall, I didn't like how it was written or organized. It was too prescriptive and the language use made it sound like all asexuals experience these things and these negative things are everywhere. I would've appreciated a broader, less assumptive tone. There are positive and neutral experiences, just like with any other human trait. Not every woman is constantly sexually harassed. Not every blonde is always treated like they're dumb. It doesn't take much for a writer to pick an angle on a topic and be transparent that it's a specific angle they're writing about and not the entire topic. However, it is the first well-known book on asexuality, and the community is excited just for its existence. In this historical and morality context, and keeping in mind those who are regularly confronted for being sexually different, I respect The Invisible Orientation to a degree.
Profile Image for Candies.
165 reviews11 followers
July 6, 2021
Quel plaisir de pouvoir lire un livre complet sur l'asexualité !

Informations, ressources, témoignages... cette petite pépite permet d'expliquer ce qu'est cette orientation méconnue sans être trop complexe et en ne laissant de côté aucun aspect. C'est un essai qui s'adresse à la fois aux personnes ace, ou qui se questionnent, et aux personnes qui souhaitent simplement en apprendre plus. L'aromantisme n'est pas laissé de côté, et l'ouvrage reste bienveillant envers toutes les autres identités sexuelles. Je n'ai lu aucun propos problématique, je ne pouvais pas rêver mieux.

J'ai tenu à le lire en français parce que les ressources sur l'asexualité manquent d'autant plus. Je suis comblée : la traduction est très bien, et l'éditeur a pris le temps d'adapter les termes et les liens disponibles à la communauté francophone. Je crois que cet ouvrage va devenir ma petite Bible de référence et j'espère que plus de gens, ace ou non, s'y intéresseront afin de sensibiliser enfin la population à cette orientation.
Profile Image for kory..
1,058 reviews117 followers
February 4, 2022
the writing is incredibly dry without an ounce of personality, longwinded where a single or couple paragraphs would’ve sufficed, repetitive to the extent that the entire book is the same handful of points over and over in slightly different words, and in some respects, contradictory with the author constantly flipflopping. it was honestly a drag to read. oh, and super fucking aphobic, ironically enough.

content/trigger warnings; discussions of acephobia, arophobia, internalized acephobia, internalized arophobia, sex, kink, amatonormativity, rape, sexual assault, abuse, sexual abuse, coming out, ableism, racism, homophobia, religion, mental illness,

there are some good/important things in the beginning of the book, but then it goes downhill. and my biggest issue with this book is how asexual oppression and exclusion from queer spaces is talked about.

i think the author, in the attempt to make this book for allosexuals as much as it is for asexuals (which is totally fine!), did such a disservice to asexuals and asexuality by pandering to aphobic rhetoric to avoid upsetting allosexuals (which isn’t fine!). the author basically says queer people can be aphobic all they want, even if their reasoning is rooted in queerphobic falsehoods, gatekeeping, and exclusionism, and asexuals need to just sit and take it because they aren’t as oppressed as them and aren’t even inherently queer.

the author positions queer and lgbt/q as the same, and asexual as separate from them. the author says asexual people have heterosexual privilege; one) erasure is not a privilege (not sure why people think any level of queerphobia, which is what erasure is, would be a privilege to experience. also not sure why people pointing that gets twisted into “being called straight is the same as or worse than being killed” but i guess some people can’t make their argument without bad faith interpretations and strawmanning). three) privilege that is contingent on you hiding/censoring/erasing your identity and presenting yourself or being perceived as something you’re not is not privilege.

the author says asexual people experience oppression, discrimination, hate crimes on personal and systemic levels due to being asexual, but then backtracks and says you can’t really call it oppression because that would position allosexuals as privileged over asexuals. the author says asexual exclusion is damaging to asexual people, but the backtracks and says (aphobic) queer people are justified in excluding asexual people from queer spaces because they’re allowed to not want people who are “read” as heterosexual invading their spaces. the author says asexuals have every right to identify as queer and people shouldn’t gatekeep the term, but then backtracks and says (aphobic) queer people are justified in being weary when asexuals identify as queer. the author says being/identifying as queer isn’t a measure of oppression, but then backtracks and says (aphobic) queer people are justified in bristling when people identify as queer without having earned it or when they can belong in cishet spaces.

a lot of these arguments are used against other queer groups, ones the author positions as inherently queer. such as mspec people, straight trans people, any closeted gay person, any queer person who doesn’t “look” queer (or their relationship doesn’t), etc. etc. but something tells me the author (and anyone who supports those arguments being made about asexuals) would never validate telling those people they haven’t earned the word queer or they don’t belong in queer spaces or they need permission to be in queer spaces or they should only be in queer spaces that allow allies or they shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t get support from queer people or they shouldn’t make everything about their own issues.

so in case anyone else needs a reminder: asexuality is inherently queer. asexuals aren’t allies to the community, they are a part of the community. always have been. always will.

other things that bother me:

the author tends to conflate not experiencing sexual attraction and not wanting sex, as well as sexual desire, sexual drive, and sexual attraction. the author often says things like “most asexuals feel this way” and “it’s much more common for asexuals to do this” without providing anything to back those claims up.

the author talks about asexuals having relationships as if their only option is allosexuals. there are more allosexuals, but let’s not forget that queer folks tend to flock together, especially with the internet. it would’ve been nice to see that reality acknowledged, beyond “yeah i guess it’s possible, but not likely enough to matter”.
Profile Image for Kaitlin.
547 reviews
April 17, 2022
This book flew by! I didn't realize how quick of a read it would be. I was captivated from the moment the author said there was nothing wrong with people on the asexual spectrum. I've struggled with a lot of the self-worth issues that were highlighted in this book and it was reassuring to know that I'm not alone in what I feel and how I perceive intimacy. I definitely highly recommend this book to anyone who is even remotely curious about the A in LGBTQIA. It's such a good introduction to asexuality for those who are not ace and it's really esteem-boosting for ace people.

I read this book for the LGBT book club in the Goodreads Discord!
Profile Image for Sinistmer.
756 reviews15 followers
October 9, 2014
This book is an accessible look at asexuality; the writing style is conversational and explains asexuality without getting too jargony or scientific. Additionally, the writer is compassionate to both sides and is able to "talk" to both asexuals and non-asexuals. It's a great read for familiarizing yourself with the definition and challenges--as well as being affirming and compassionate. As a bonus, the author includes a large list of resources at the end!

Profile Image for Spark.
13 reviews27 followers
March 8, 2016
This book helped me a lot to NAME my feelings and my orientation.
I am so glad that I could read trough it. In some cases it
was so hard to read, cause it reminded me so much to the things
I went trough:

"But remember: Asexual people who have never heard of their own
orientation are trained since childhood to think sex is an
unavoidable part of all romantic relationships and that no one
will love them withouth it. Asexual people are taught to hide it if they
don't feel what everybody else seems to feel. The way things were
before may not have been okay with them, but they were conditioned not
to speak of such an alien experience as not being attracted to the partner
they love so much.

They may have felt too ashamed or confused to share these feelings,
may have been worried you'll think they want to break up, or that
you'll think it's your fault for not being sexy to them. Until
they discovered the existence of asexuality, they very well may have
thought they were the only person to feel this way, and that's hard
to say out loud.

People who are asexual typically struggle for years trying to find
some indication of what's wrong with them or whether anyone else feels
the way they do. Most asexual people were struggling for understanding
before finding a community and their rarity makes finding each other
offline very unlikely. The internet is the only option for many if they
want to connect with others like themselves.

Ace people shouldn't be told they'll grow up, have sex, and change their
minds, no matter what age they are.

Some asexual people do feel like they "need" to go trough with a sexual
act just to see if theycan jump-start themselves, there are asexual
people out there who worry that something is wrong with them and wonder
whether everyone is right- that having sex may actually "cure" them.
This is pretty common in asexual people who have not heard of asexuality."

You really do not need to worry if you even do not like being touched
in any way. I can tell you that. It is not even the sex-things I dislike,
I always disliked many kind of touches. I felt so strange and even my
sister said: "Don't you like me? Why can I not touch your hand? I am
your sister!" I did not like being hugged or kissed by my mom or my
dad. I had so hard to explain, there were no words and no reason for
it just the strange feeling of dislike doing those kind of things.
So if you do not like being touched you might be an aro too. An ace/aro.
The only thing I feel comfortable is (being touched at my head) or
in some rare cases (held by my hand). But nothing more.

I really like hangin out with men and boys too and that is those month
a fuckin big problem. They all seem to freak out and I do not get anything.
I get angry and annoyed and even my body had some breakdowns those weeks.
It feels like my body is allergic to all those kind of pinky lovely shit.
I just want to meet up for cooking, for traveling, for talking, for a cup
of tea, for sharing hobby, for having fun...but in some cases they send
strange messages and they act strange, well not rational or whatever
i may call this state they are in.

The problem is that if you TALK normally about your body, about genders,
about sex...well in my case people seem to feel and see it different.
They seem to have another connection to all those toppics. Some thought
just cause I can talk that straight bout those stuff, I might be
interested in it or that I can feel something. Talking without feeling
is a different story. Writing without feeling is different too.
I had no problems with watching a men to men prono, cause it included
no female body. But I damn had a problem when I watched romantic movies
which include all that stuff. It felt disgusting.

Once I did like the book told above, I did try sex with any random guy,
cause I thought I need to learn, in order that I am normal and in order
that I can say "yea, if i do it with the person I love, then I can
really say I love." What kind of bullshit. If you like someone within
your heart, you do not to do ANYTHiNG in the outside for it.
Of course it does look the same way, right. It all looks like
"Oh you are friends with everybody?" Well, yea, maybe we shall call
it like that. But even in friendship there are differences. Some come
and go and in some cases you feel very sad when they are leaving
you. They are not replacable and it hurts. We all do the same
things, we cook, we share time and hobby, we travel, we have fun,
but in some cases there is a "plus" which I call "friendshiplove"
or "soulpartner" or "platoniclove" or now found out that
there is another word for it "Queerplatonic". If u are queerplatonic
like me, than there is just some small difference: I am very sad
if zucchini is leaving. But who will not be sad if good friends
will leave? The difference is that normally in normal friendships
I hate sleeping beneath, in queerplatonic relationships I do
not find it akward and I do not find it akward or disgusting
when my hand gets touched and the hurt when friendship brokes
hurts much more than in normal cases.

I think that ace is much more common but an ace/are has much more
trouble sometimes. But I think my girl-friend is also ace/aro,
cause she does not like to be kissed and cuddled by her mom too.
XD Maybe she is like me. Just cause I do not speak any wonderful
words in front of people or not hugging them or whatever, it
does not mean I do not like them. If I would not like them, I would
not talk to them or would not like to meet. I would not cook with
them I would not give them presents. The ways to show what
you feel in the inside may be different, but it does not mean
if it is not been shown in a common way, that there is no
feeling for them inside. At least I can not show my feelings
at all in front of people, but we meet all the time and have fun.
Not even giving compliments. I have given up on struggling,
instead of struggling I am just meeting with them and if
it would not be enaugh for them, they have to leave me. XD

It can be that you read love-books and romantic movies.
In my case I even was able to write some loveletters,
but when it comes to the eye in eye situation it was never
ever possible to show those things I have written. Once
a boy seemed angry and said: "Well, but why is your
writing different from your current here and now!"
I always wished that I could be like those men/women in movies,
but I was not and never will be. When it comes to visiting
people all the stuff got blew away and I only am rational.
People sometimes felt like I lied at them, but i never lied.
I can write bout sex and all that stuff but i neither feel
in nor I can do it. I was afraid of losing this person,
cause when he find out that I could not give those
kind of things he might leave. Well, guess what happened:
He left. Well he went away living with a girl who is more female
and more sexual and more common-love like. But I can understand
that men just prefer the common men/women instead of
some strange kinds like me, instead of "just" having a
very good long-thermfriendship. It was so fuckin hurtful
when he shared his photos at FB at to me it felt like
"Haha look, I want to cook for HER, but not for you,
cause you are not a common girl. Haha, look, I live
with her, but not with you, cause you are not a common
girl." It was so hurtful. I felt like "I fuck on u as
a human and I fuck on your friendship. Just piss off!"
I thought he could accept that i was different from the most of
humans, but in the end he turned his head towards "normal" guys like her.
I just can not give those things I wished to give. Just
could write bout it. The only thing I can give is my inner
self (which nobody can see) when we meet and that is all.
Only can give platonic love. I am a rational very
good friend with good morals. You can also talk to me
bout religous things or deep mental things. I'm a honest
truthful person, but not the one givin great compliments.
I am the one whom u can call in the middle of the night
when u have a problem, but you might never have the permission
to cuddle me. I care a lot bout my friendships and if
there is any problem we try to solve it as quick as possible,
so I am a faithful person who is not leaving the field
until everybody is save at the lazarett

By the way, do not ever push yourself too much. I was at the
doctor and at the psycho-doc. The first said: Your hormones
are pretty ok. And the psycho-doc told me: "It is not normal
that you do not like to have sex and touches." So I left the sessions.
If you feel unconfortable with things, no matter what,
just speak it out cleary no matter what. Don't wait and
don't punish and push yourself. I did once and it was awful.
It is ok being different and if you want, just feel free to
talk to me, ask me anything you want. :-) We just are
a bit more colorful than the others, but we are still
humans, no aliens. :-)

And please, never ever push yourself doin and acting
and trying for the persons you love. I once tried to be
like all common people. Never loose yourself, no matter
how different you might be. Either they accept that
you are "just platonic friends" or if they do not accept
it, but just do not struggle and hurt yourself for it.
Don't struggle like I did. Everybody is worth to be
accepted like you are. :-)
Profile Image for steph.
228 reviews
December 31, 2020
The information in The Invisible Orientation is useful and presented in a very textbook-y sort of way that is easy to read, so if you’re looking for an overview of asexuality, this could be a good place to start! However, for me the writing style wasn’t something I found particularly engaging, and the repetition – although I guess kind of necessary to hammer home various points – made me want to skim-read sometimes.

The book is broken up with various quotes from people in the asexual community and data in the form of tables and graphs, but I found it a bit awkward to read those in ebook format. Decker also uses bold to highlight various points, but I feel like sometimes this technique was overused, and also the same style (or at least what appeared to be the same style in the ebook) was used to introduce a section rather than emphasise a point.

I’m still glad I read this book, but I think I’d have found more value (from a personal perspective) in it a few years ago!
August 31, 2022
This is a solid compendium of all things asexual. It’s very well-structured and well-researched.
What I found especially helpful was an entire chapter on debunking the myths that exist around asexuality—it come in handy in conversations with those who are dismissive of this orientation.
The thing I find problematic, though, is that the concept of virginity is still there, alive and kicking, in the 21st century.
Anyway, it is a real go-to resource for anyone interested.
It’s a book that gives asexuality the visibility it deserves, as well as one that shines the light on the problems we as society are yet to address and resolve—if we are ever to become a society of non-judgemental and unconditional acceptance of each other, a society where we have finally done away with heteronormativity and sexualised culture so that everyone can go on with their lives without pity or harassment.
Profile Image for Katherine.
8 reviews3 followers
June 14, 2014
Note: This review refers to a digital ARC, so it may not accurately reflect the final published copy.

If you've ever wondered why friends without "benefits" are "just friends," read this book. If you're not sure why everyone else makes such a big deal about sex, read this book. Or, if you love sex and don't see how anyone could survive without it, you should read this book, too.

It's not perfect--what is, besides cake?--but it's a good start.

In a 1994 study of nearly 19,000 British people's sexual habits and preferences, about 1% reported never feeling sexual attraction to anyone, ever, regardless of gender. That one little percent may not seem like much, but if it holds, that's millions of people worldwide who don't experience sexual attraction. I'm one of those people, so I'm always looking for better ways to explain what asexuality is (and what it isn't). I'd happily recommend The Invisible Orientation to anyone who thinks they might be asexual and to friends and family wondering how to be supportive.

I'd also recommend, though, that anyone interested in the topic be ready to check out a few of the introduction threads on the AVEN forums (linked in the resources section), especially if you don't personally know anyone who is asexual--while Ms. Decker does a great job setting out facts and correcting misconceptions about asexuality, a lot of the book feels oddly depersonalized on its own. She tells some of her story in the introduction and in a few author's notes elsewhere in the book; I don't think it's a coincidence that I connected most with those portions. Possibly the most important part of the book is the "asexual perspectives" section, where we hear a little bit from other members of the asexual community. Unfortunately, in my review copy, that section comes at the very end, buried under the bibliography. I'm hoping that's just the review copy, but if it's not: read the last few pages, too. It's worth it!
Profile Image for degelle.
111 reviews24 followers
September 28, 2023
This was like drinking from a fire hose. The book is densely packed with information and overflowing with insights that anyone could benefit from.

To be honest I don't think I'll ever perceive sexuality the same way again. It's much more complicated than I realized.
Profile Image for Chris.
2,863 reviews205 followers
Shelved as 'contemplating-its-sins'
August 31, 2018
I desperately wanted to like this, but it just seemed really dry and dull. Couldn't stay focused on it and have given up on it.
Profile Image for Apollo Mul.
134 reviews4 followers
April 27, 2019
I certainly needed this book when I was younger because wow, did I have some questions and concerns. Finding out pretty late in my teens about asexuality was life-changing. This book would have been all the information I ever needed to know and understand what was going on with my body, something that every person should understand about themselves.

It contains information all about asexuality, gray-asexuality, demisexuality, and pretty much anything to do with asexuality. The surprising part was seeing it also explain every single romantic orientation, and while I thought I knew a lot, I learned much more from this. Decker is also an asexual, which makes me pretty happy to know the information will probably be will researched and understood (spoiler alert: it is). Decker also goes into detail about misconceptions on asexuality, and I sincerely connected with many of those, including the exclusion from LGBTQIA+ spaces by those who invalidate asexuality as a whole or cisgender heteroromantic/hetero-passing asexuals.

I really do hope that more literature and media on asexuality comes out, but Decker absolutely nails everything you'd need to know about it (at least as a starting point if you want to do your own research). I cannot recommend this book enough if you want to learn more about asexuality.
Profile Image for Lona.
216 reviews13 followers
September 25, 2020
Really good book about what Asexuality is and what it's not and why it matters. Really good ressource for asexual folks, their friends, partners and parents regarding relationships, what not to say, how to be an ally (& how not to be an ally).

Sometimes a little repetitive because it's a lot about the things asexuals hear all the time and this is thematized in almost every chapter, but I think it's okay because it's more memorable this way and it's also different contexts. For example there's a chapter for asexuals and tips how to react to different intrusive questions/comments and a chapter for friends/partners/parents where it's thematized what not to say to asexuals and all the points get thematized one by one (why it's not a "choice", why it doesn't have to mean someone has experienced abuse etc).

I'm glad I picked the book up. I'm not asexual but I know many asexual people and it's always good to learn more about the people around you - I knew that asexual folks have to endure many stupid comments/questions but reading about this is giving me a broader picture.
Profile Image for Kate (Reading Through Infinity).
739 reviews405 followers
July 26, 2022
I can see why people often recommend this as a good non fiction book on asexuality. It's a detailed primer on what it means to be asexual and the many different identities encompassed within the ace spectrum.

The author does a good job of recommending different ways to introduce others to asexuality and suggests many avenues for challenging acephobic comments and ideologies. When reading, I found myself thinking "that's a great analogy to use when challenging someone's biases" often. Overall, this is a good introductory guide to asexuality, but also still a satisfying read if you're someone who's read multiple books on the topic.

Content warnings for discussions and examples of acephobia, queerphobia.
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