Sherlock Holmes, as played by Benedict Cumberbatch, was asexual / Hartswood Films/REX

Researchers have found romance and intimacy is still very much on the cards for those who are 'asexual'

In a world where sex blasts out from adverts and magazines and the romantic relationships of others is standard office gossip, managing to be “asexual” seems a pretty tall order.

Yet an estimated 1% of Britons have almost no interest in sexual activity, according to researchers.

The identity, which describes rarely or never experiencing sexual attraction, has moved from a diagnosis of mental disorder in the past to a sexual orientation in its own right today.

As public interest in “asexuality” grows, researchers at Glasgow University have found that romance and intimacy is still very much on the cards for those who take the label.

Matt Dawson, lecturer in Sociology at the University of Glasgow, said: “In no way was this a group that was lacking in intimate relationships. Some will even have sexual partners, but that might be because they think it’s because of the good of the relationship, or they just want to try it.”

The study of 50 asexual people, which was carried out over two years, said more research was needed to throw off negative associations.

One study has suggested the public are even less accepting of asexuality as a “fourth orientation” than someone identifying as bisexual, gay or straight.

Yet 1% of Britons agreed with the statement “I have never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all” and there may be as many as 4.5 million Americans who are asexual.

The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (ADEN), which was founded in 2001, is the largest online community giving voice to messages such as: “Never had a relationship, never want one,” and “I am now in a relationship with a heterosexual person, I don’t know how it will work out but I am trying to be positive […]”

It’s a step forward from when asexuality was classed in the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a sexual disorder – someone self-identifying as asexual now no longer comes under it - though “hypoactive sexual desire disorder” is still used for people distressed by the idea of sex.

George Norman, the first openly asexual Parliamentary candidate, said asexuality needs to be recognised as another romantic orientation.

“People tend to assume things about asexual people,” said Mr Norman. “It’s important for everyone to realise that sex and romance are not necessarily the same thing.”

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