British Dating Site Focuses on Sexless Relationships

For anyone looking for sex, the Internet is often the first stop, with its array of dating sites and chat rooms devoted to the subject.

It is probably the last place that those seeking a celibate relationship would consider looking.

However, an online dating agency has been launched for those seeking intimacy without intercourse. says that it will help the silent minority of adults seeking "celibate, platonic, non-physical or partly physical relationships" and help them to find a mate.

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The site was founded by Susie King, a former life coach, who was moved to set up the forum after a close friend attempted suicide because of his sexual impotence. He did not want a future without a loving relationship.

The issue had also come up repeatedly during her work as a life coach, with clients admitting that they could not or did not want to have sex any more, but still sought love and affection.

"I started to do some research into how many people might be in the same boat and the figures suggested it could be as many as five million at any one time," she said.

That data came from the Sexual Dysfunction Association, a charity originally dedicated to male impotence. These days it offers support for a wide range of conditions in men and women, including low libido.

Its research found that a third of women have no sex drive at all, either permanently or at some point in their life.

It also found that the effects of sexual problems are profound. One-fifth of men with sexual problems said that it had led to the break-up of their marriage or relationship.

Other research from the Office for National Statistics suggests that celibates are a sizeable group. One in eight women between the ages of 16 and 50 has not had sex in the past year, while the figure for men aged between 16 and 70 was one in six.

Platonicpartners was launched in June and has 400 members. The Web site had over 27,000 hits in the first three months.

King said that celibacy was far more common than people thought, but there was nowhere for people to turn if they wanted a non-physical relationship.

"Our society is so inundated with sexual images, people feel bad and suffer if they don't want it. I wanted them to know they are not alone," she said.

The Web site's membership is almost equally divided between men and women. Some have medical conditions that rule out sex — men with heart disease or prostate cancer, or women with postmenopausal conditions — although others are just not very interested in sex.

A traffic-light system warns prospective partners how far members are willing to go. Red means no physical contact, amber indicates that kissing, cuddling and maybe light petting is acceptable, while green suggests they will try as much as they are capable of.

King said that she was aware from the outset that the agency might attract sexual predators and deviants, so she screens applications and messages.

"I go through all the applications myself, and if I have any doubts at all, I contact them under the pretext of checking some small fact or other to see if they are legitimate," she said.

Christine Lacy, of Relate, a relationship-counseling service, said that there was likely to be considerable demand for the service. But she pointed out that while she believed it was possible to have a full relationship without sex, it did not always work.

"I do think it possible to have an intimate relationship without sex. There are numerous cases where both members of a couple are happy to give up sex," she said. "Other cases involve one member of the couple no longer wanting to have sex and the other saying that they will stay with them. However, that can make relationships vulnerable."