Cover Photo: illustration depicting a large face in the foreground, looking out at a mountain range of line graphs and other faces arrayed against a starry field
Illustration by Sirin Thada for Catapult

Writing a Book About Asexuality Taught Me to Look for a Fate Beyond Numbers

I learned to reevaluate the meaning of ‘normal’ in relationships, and also my habit of reflexively turning to data.



A romantic relationship like this is not normal in American society, insofar as it is statistically uncommon. And so it took time for James to feel okay about this partnership that didn’t follow the script. Normal and the perception of normal hold power, even though this was what his girlfriend wanted and even though it gave James the space and freedom to figure out what he wanted too. It was only after dating his current girlfriend that James realized that he didn’t know whether he liked kissing. In previous relationships with allosexual (non-asexual) women, he kissed without thinking, to signal romantic interest and keep the relationship moving forward. Kissing was non-negotiable, simply what you did.

Angela Chen is a senior editor at Wired Magazine and the author of Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, which was named one of the best books of 2020 by NPR, Electric Literature, and Them. Her reporting and essays have also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Guardian, National Geographic, Paris Review, Lapham's Quarterly, and more.