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Your Genes Could Influence When You First Let Someone in Your Jeans

Over the last few years, I’ve been deeply impressed with the understanding of human nature that is emerging from behavioral genetics.  When I was growing up, folks would passionately debate whether one or another behavior was inherited through our genes or simply learned.  There were many people who took the position that all human behavior was learned, and that only “lesser” animals inherited some of their behaviors.

Yet, nowadays, it seems behavioral genetics and related fields are demonstrating that nearly every major human behavior has both some basis in our genes and some basis in our learning.  The question seems no longer whether a behavior is genetic or learned, but how much it is one or the other.

If a recent study of twins proves to be reliable science, then our genes somehow influence the age at which we first have intercourse.  I don’t have access to the actual study, though, so I am only repeating here a little bit of what’s come out in the media.  Always a risky business.

At any rate, the study was conducted on 59 pairs of twins — some of them identical, and some fraternal.  I assume each pair of twins had been raised apart, which would provide the researchers with evidence of whether an individual’s behavior was the result of her genes or the result of the social environment that the individual was raised in.

The study found that about a third of the variation in ages at which individuals first had intercourse could be explained by their genes.  If that’s true, then genes have a much more modest influence on the age of first sex than they do on such things as height and intelligence.

I should note the study is not the first to find a link between genes and the age at which people first have intercourse — at least one earlier study found something similar — but this new study seems to be the first one to specifically focus on  how much of a role genes play in the timing of first intercourse.

Another thing to note is the study does not necessarily imply there exists a gene or genes that determine the age at which we lose our virginity.  Instead, it’s quite possible that our genes influence the age we lose our virginity in indirect ways — such as making us relatively more adventurous than others, which might then lead to our losing the Scarlet “V” earlier than others.

I wonder if this new study has any implications for abstinence only sex education?  What do you think?

8 thoughts on “Your Genes Could Influence When You First Let Someone in Your Jeans”

  1. I’m going to have to read the paper and comment later, but my first thought: OF COURSE GENES INFLUENCE SEXUALITY! Genes influence pretty much everything, but so does environment… I’ll read the paper over the weekend and blag about it.


  2. If this is true, then over a time span of a few millenia (if humanity survives that long), the abstinence-preachers will ‘evolve’ to a miniscule minority!


  3. Pity that my first comment on this magnificent blog is to tell you that it is ‘Lose’ and not ‘Loose’ 🙂
    – Phoenix


  4. I ran the study the post is about past Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science and he graciously evaluated it for me. His verdict — he’s highly skeptical of the study because (1) there are too few twins used, (2) an inheritableness of a third is very low, and (3) the journal the study was published in is rather off the beaten path. So, I’m thinking I may have made a much bigger deal of this study than it warrants.


  5. Paul, you may have made it into a big deal for no reason, but it does make some sense that those more adventurous and outgoing than others might be more likely to have sex at younger ages. Now we just need to wait for better evidence before cementing this thought into the brain.


  6. @ Webs: I agree it makes sense that those who are more adventurous, etc. would be more likely to have sex sooner. I would be highly interested in any study that discovered which genes were responsible for those traits.


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