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About the Author

Julie Sondra Decker has been a prominent voice for the asexual community since 1998. She has been interviewed in many mainstream publications, including Marie Claire, Salon, and the New York Times, and she was interviewed in the documentary (A) sexual by Arts Engine. As an aromantic, asexual woman, show more she is happily single and resides in Tampa, Florida. show less

Includes the name: Decker Sondra, Julie

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Canonical name
Decker, Julie Sondra
Birthdate
1978-01-17
Gender
female
Nationality
USA
Places of residence
Tampa, Florida, USA
Education
University of Florida (BA - Education)
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author

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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.
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leah_markum | 9 other reviews | Oct 28, 2022 |
The Invisible Orientation includes some valuable information on asexuality, particularly for those who are unfamiliar with the topic, but it is presented in such a dry and repetitive format that it is not an engaging book and I would not recommend it as a first read on the topic for the casual reader. Decker presents much of the same information in multiple sections of the book, partly because different sections are addressed to different readers (those who think they might be asexual vs. those who know someone who is asexual, for example), but when reading the book straight through the effect is like being repeatedly hit over the head with the information. It's good information, but I don't need to read it half a dozen times in one book. The text is also broken with up multiple footnotes, which I think would have been less distracting if tucked away in the back of the book as endnotes. Decker includes an almost dizzying array of new and unfamiliar terms, some of which are not really essential to a discussion of asexuality but are more relevant to the broader queer community (for example, polysexual).

If you're already familiar with asexuality, there likely won't be much here that is new to you, although the author's meticulous and detailed treatment of the subject may appeal to some readers. If you're looking for an introduction, I personally found Angela Chen's Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex to be a more readable alternative that covers much of the same material. A Quick & Easy Guide to Asexuality was also good if you want something short and sweet and non-overwhelming.
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1 vote
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Heather39 | 9 other reviews | Oct 17, 2022 |
This book has a lot of great information. I loved that it had an entire resource section in the back. The only issue is a lot of the information seemed repetitive, especially in section three with the myths.
 
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kayfeif | 9 other reviews | Jul 7, 2022 |
I think this book would be a good introduction for people who either think they'd like to identify as asexual but don't know a lot about it, or people who aren't asexual and want to learn about it. Since I've already read a lot about asexuality, none of it was really new - and a lot of it was relevant to the queer community at large which is definitely not new to me.

While reading this I had a strong desire to add "citation needed" tags after so many sentences...it's not that I thought what the author was saying was wrong, but a lot of this book went like "many people believe x about asexuality", "some say xyz, but it's not so", "few people are actually x", etc., with nothing cited. When it comes to a topic like this, anecdotal evidence is cool, and hearing from asexual people who have had experiences coming out and talking about their sexual preference with people is really helpful and would have made for a more interesting book, I think. And it's not that I doubt that "many people" have never heard of asexuality or ask dumb questions when someone comes out or assumes that asexual people just can't get dates or whatever other strange misconception people sometimes have...it just seems really hand-wavey to be writing a book that sounds like it's professional and backed up by evidence, and have every other sentence begin with "many people".

Still, I think it's a good resource for people who know nothing about the topic, because while the language is vague, the conclusions seem to be taken from a long analysis of various asexual tumblrs, forums, and blogs.
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2 vote
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katebrarian | 9 other reviews | Jul 28, 2020 |

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