Jackie Bell doesn't like sex. But she does enjoy a good snuggle.

The 43-year-old attends monthly "cuddling" sessions in Wellington, where up to 20 clothed people consent to hug and touch. Sexual contact is forbidden.

"It's like being at a sexless orgy," Bell says.

If experts are right, about 40,000 New Zealanders are "asexuals" who feel no sexual attraction at all.


A book out this month argues the growing number of asexual men and women should be classed as a "fourth sexual orientation" after heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals.

Professor Anthony Bogaert, from California, thinks asexual people feel excluded and the subject is under-researched.

He believes his Understanding Asexuality book could persuade more asexuals to "come out".

Leading Kiwi sex therapist Mary Hodson welcomes Bogaert's findings. She says health professionals at Sex Therapy New Zealand see a small number of people every year who are asexual.

The Wellington snuggle parties started up towards the end of last year but they are not aimed solely at asexuals like her, Bell insists.

"I do find other people attractive to look at but, because I am never in the mood, if I do have sex it can be painful," she says.

Another asexual, Chris Coles, from Wellington, describes himself as the original 40-year-old virgin.

He had sex for the first time six years ago - on April 17, 2008, to be precise.

"I became interested in sex on a mental level and decided to bonk the next person that fancied me," he says. "I tried it a few times but there was nothing in it for me."