I just read Kayla Kaszyca and Sarah Costello’s Sounds Fake But Okay: An Asexual and Aromantic Perspective on Love, Relationships, Sex, and Pretty Much Anything Else over the weekend, and wanted to share my thoughts on it for those looking for nonfiction books about asexuality/aromanticism to read.
Sarah and Kayla are the hosts of the popular aspec podcast Sounds Fake But Okay, and the book has a similar vibe. It’s more of a fun (but still serious) discussion about what being aspec is like regarding society and gender and relationships (of all kinds, not romantic) and such, rather than a more textbook-type work that refutes stereotypes in an orderly list and explains the history of the aspec community and such. But they still provide all the basic definitions and concepts from the ground up, making it a good read (if you like a style similar to a podcast) whether it’s your first aspec book or you want to explore further after reading a “101 textbook” book.
It contains a lot of quotes/anecdotes from community members on all the main topics discussed, not just the authors’ stories, and every chapter has a link at the end to a special bonus podcast episode for those so inclined. I was mildly concerned it wouldn’t be concisely on topic enough for my tastes due to the “and pretty much everything else” part, but everything discussed was directly relevant to being aspec in some way.
Top 3 Favorite Parts:
I’ve written before about my experience of being a formerly-Christian ace/aro, and how I didn’t realize I was different for a while in that I assumed I was just doing what I was supposed to and everyone else just tended to be bad at “being good” when it came to sex and dating and such. So, I particularly appreciated that when talking about gender, they specifically mentioned how societal expectations about girls staying “pure” and such can produce a unique experience of being aspec if you’re a woman, or raised as such (page 116-17). (Granted, it’s not that niche an experience, but it felt like they were addressing some religiously-influenced points more specifically rather than leaving it with “woman are expected to receive sex from men rather than seek it themselves so sometimes people don’t see why explicitly labeling themselves asexual is meaningful.”)
In the same chapter, they discussed how a lot of aces are also nonbinary in some way (using nonbinary as the umbrella term), and how stepping outside of societal norms around sexuality can open the door to more easily rejecting gender norms as well, or feeling like gender isn’t that big a deal even if you’re not trans/enby (124-33). This has been my experience as well. I’m nonbinary and prefer to go by they/them, and it makes me happy if people see me as queer without prompting, but it’s more because I don’t feel like having a specific gender is relevant to me. I’m not particularly bothered by “playing” a woman in the theater of life if that’s what random people on the street want to assign me as default – I just don’t have an internal attachment to it like many others do.
But that point I originally meant to make was, there’s new research on that experience actually since the book was finished. Canton Winer coined the term “gender detachment” in his paper published this July to describe the same kind of experiences mentioned in the book. Full citation at the end for those who want to read it.*
And finally, I acquired a new favorite quote that I’ll likely cite at some point in future project(s): “Mass aspec representation is important not just so that burgeoning aspecs can feel safer and more comfortable in their identities, but also so that allos learn what aspec umbrella identities are” (144). This sentiment is one of my favorite points as a writer and aspec community member. One, because it’s easy to think, if you’re not part of a marginalized group, that representation only matters to them. But it’s relevant to everyone because what you see influences your perception of people and what they’re like, and you ARE going to interact with people in different groups even if you’re not in them, so you need to know how to do it in an informed, non-hurtful way. And two, because the aspec perspective really does benefit people at large in that it challenges toxic assumptions that impact most everyone in some way or another, and/or provides language to better describe experiences that aren’t limited to aspecs.
I’m obviously one person, so I may be missing a valid critique someone with a different perspective would have, but for my part, I have no real complaints about the book. It would have been cool if they’d explored more the overlap between the ace and autistic communities and our experiences as both, given that 12.32% of autistic survey respondents identified as asexual** compared to the 1-5% of the general population depending on which source you ask, but I’m biased in personally favoring that subject, and you can’t fit everything into one book. It doesn’t detract from all the stuff that is there.
Good book. Go put it on your Christmas wish list if it sounds like your style. I’ll leave you to look up where to buy it in your area since the title is up there to copy-paste, because I don’t want to direct everyone to Amazon if you can get it from a nice local bookstore in your area or something. Or if it doesn’t sound like your style but you want to read about aspec stuff, there are several other nonfic books too. (I’m hoping to add a page to the blog soon with the complete-as-I-know-it list of aro/ace nonfic books, since I maintain and occasionally share that list anyway.)
Also 5/5 stars on the cover design. The fact that it’s exclusively in the colors of the aro and ace flags makes me happy. (I tried to add a photo but it won’t let me.)
*Winer, Canton. “‘My Gender Is Like an Empty Lot:’ Gender Detachment and Ungendering Among Asexual Individuals.” OSF, 21 July 2023. https://osf.io/nbr28.