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'Questioning sex makes people very uneasy and there's a lot of stigma about not having sex,' says Hephzibah Anderson, who wrote the memoir Chastened (Vintage, £7.99) after choosing to be celibate for a year.
'But most of us will go through a dry spell at some point, and some people just aren't that into it. One of the reasons I wrote the book was to try to bring celibacy back as an option.' While people may dip in and out of celibacy, asexuality tends to be a permanent state.
When I was 16 I had an abortion, but I carried on being carefree and thoughtless until my mid-thirties, when I met the man of my dreams. After about six months I decided to see a gynaecologist and to my horror discovered I had blocked fallopian tubes and was infertile. My sexual behaviour had ruined my opportunity to settle down; I couldn't give my husband the baby he desperately wanted, and the marriage ended.
In my forties I set up a head-hunting firm in the City and gave up sex to focus on the business.
'Having a healthy sex life isn't seen as an optional extra, it's seen as essential, like a healthy diet, which is nonsense – we need to eat food in order to survive and function, but we don't need to have sex. Sexuality is very fluid; some people have low or no sex drive, but if it doesn't cause them distress then it's not a dysfunction.
We shouldn't make moral judgments.' Shirley Yanez, 54, a life coach from Leicester, has not had sex for nine years I had been sexually active from about 13 and was never really told anything about the dangers of unprotected sex.
I became more and more successful, but also more lonely.Then, in 1999, I went to Los Angeles to be maid of honour for my best friend.