Let's talk about sex
You have probably heard the term heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual but what about asexual? According to the definition of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, unlike celibacy, which is a choice, asexuality is a sexual orientation.
At 22 years of age, Melanie is about to start her masters’ degree in English heritage studies. She knows where she's going in life and who she is, part of which is asexual.
"I thought maybe I was afraid of sex or that my libido wasn't working, I thought all these things...none of it made sense, I wasn't repulsed by sex I just wasn't interested in it. And then I heard the term asexual. People who don't enjoy sex because they are not attracted to anyone and I thought oh well it makes sense now," says Melanie.
Asexuals say that they are not sexually attracted to either men or women. However they can form long term meaningful relationships and Melanie now shares her bed with a fellow asexual.
A growing number of people are recognising themselves as asexual. In Reading, Mark remembers the years he spent trying to fit into society’s expectations. He had relationships with women, and then with men but neither felt right to him. "Other people want sex and I wasn't able to offer that so I thought, right, what else has life got to offer and I just gave up on the sex element," he remembers. "Early on I would have been curious to find out if there was something wrong with me but now I have adapted to my lifestyle and then I realised I wasn't the only one plus the feeling that it is something innate, like homosexuality its just something your born with," he continues.
Today, rather than feeling isolated by his asexuality Mark has become the media man for the asexual community in the UK. He is working on getting the term known and has taken part in the gay pride march saying that its time for A Pride to hit the streets.
While there are those who recognise themselves as asexual and are content with living without sex therapists do point out that the vast majority of people who want to have sex but have issues with it can find a solution.
After finding out about asexuality HEALTH stays on a sex theme but turns to a very different issue: intersex. That is, people born with both male and female characteristics. “They have a genital bud, you can't tell if it's a clitoris or a penis they have genital rolls of fat, you can' tell if it's labia majora or if it's a scrotum that hasn't fully developed anatomically from the outside you can't say if it's a boy or a girl,” notes Professor Michel Polak, an endocrinologist and paediatrician at Paris’ Necker Hospital.
Some parents can’t bear not knowing the sex of their newborn child and so many ask for an operation. However with difficulties in determining which sex will develop later in life problems often arise. Progress made in the genetics field means doctors can now determine more precisely the sex of babies and the number of early operations being carried out is on the decrease.