March 31, 2009
Genetic Influence On Loss Of Virginity Seen

My genes made me do it.

"It's not like there's a gene for having a sex at a certain date," says Nancy Segal, a psychologist at California State University in Fullerton who led the new study. Instead, heritable behavioural traits such as impulsivity could help determine when people first have sex, she says.

As genetic determinism goes, the new findings are modest. Segal's team found that genes explain a third of the differences in participants' age at first intercourse which was, on average, a little over 19 years old. By comparison, roughly 80% of variations in height across a population can be explained by genes alone.

The team found a weaker effect from genes with people born before 1948. This supports an argument I've made here previously: the breakdown of old cultural constraints on behavior frees up people to follow genetically driven desires and impulses. We become more genetically driven as external constraints weaken.

Keep in mind that we are not all equally driven by our genes to start having sex earlier or later. Some people probably have genes that make them extremely likely to lose their virginity at a young age. Some others probably have genes that make them delay sexual activity for many years. Still others have genes that leave them more malleable to the environment. We are not all equally genetically driven on each type of behavior we engage in.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 March 31 11:33 PM  Brain Sexuality


Comments
David Govett said at April 1, 2009 8:32 AM:

Could it be that we are genetically driven to be genetically driven? My head hurts.

Sidney Raphael said at April 2, 2009 6:55 AM:

I'm genetically driven to think this whole line of research is nonsense. Sorry, I can't help it, it's my genes.

Texpatriate said at April 2, 2009 7:27 AM:

So is there any way to profile easy girls? That would be a hotter seller than term papers online.

Trudy said at April 2, 2009 8:06 AM:

When you take into account the new cultural constraints, which discourage people from having children, one would expect to see more genetic influence. That is, those whose genetic makeup leads them to be more easily influenced by cultural constraints will have fewer babies. Those who are more impulsive, as well as those more genetically resistance to hormonal treatments are the ones having children.

The culture is arguably more tolerant of a single mom (mustn't impose our outmoded morality), than of a married couple having more than one child. Pressure on the married couple increases with each child they have. (This can get very crude and offensive)

However, intact families who are able to consciously pass along their cultural heritage, still outperform other families. They have more children than others in their social-economic group, yet acquire more wealth than their peers, as it is not dissipated through legal proceedings. They have more grandchildren, and again, remaining successfully married gives their descendants an economic advantage. The stability of family relationships increases the family's ability to transmit the family culture down through the generations.

Take my own family as an example - all five of us married into intact families. That is all my parents grandchildren had two sets of married grandparents. We are all still married to the same spouses. Of the 22 grandchildren, 5 are married. They too all married into intact families. There are at this time 14 great grandchildren, with another one on the way.

The family culture brings us all together to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and births. We can put a pot-luck together with a days notice. We're inclusive - we meet & enjoy each others in-laws, and include them in family activities. So the children grow up, as I (and my siblings did) experiencing a family life that they want to replicate. It is, after all, easier to replicate a working model than to try to build from broken bits.

Yes, less children have these advantages today, as the culture discourages accurate analysis about family life. The question is not only 'Who is having children?' but more importantly 'Who is having grandchildren?' Are 'only children' less likely to have a child? Are children whose parents are divorced likely to have less children than those from intact families? How many children are born to those whose parents never married? That is, what are the long term consequences?

We know that family structure has broken down before, and that the conventional family tends to regain cultural prominence, as it is well suited to passing familiy successes on to future generations, whether success is expressed in land, bank balance, mercantile or trade skills, athletic or educational achievement. The intact family not only provides through word and example a lesson in how to succeed, it also gives the young families support, until they do succeed.

Is there a genetic bases between those 'clued in' to reproductive success, and those who are not 'clued in'? If there is, I know which genes are being left behind.

Trudy

Charlie (Colorado) said at April 2, 2009 8:07 AM:

It makes sense that if your parents lost their virginity, you'd be more likely to lose yours.

C. Hagins said at April 2, 2009 8:49 AM:

Impulsivity? What about charm?

David Govett said at April 2, 2009 10:15 AM:

I'm changing my name to Gene.

Mark Johnson said at April 2, 2009 10:31 AM:

The gene you are looking for is best known as "the ugly gene." Having it is quite predictive as to the timing of the loss of virginity.

Gabriel Hanna said at April 2, 2009 10:37 AM:

Strictly speaking, there's not a "gene" for blue eyes, or any other hereditary trait.

To say there is a "gene for X" is really to say that there is one or more sequences of nucleotides which, all else being equal, will result in X, and their absence does not result in X. The chain of cause and effect, from "gene" to hereditary trait is enormously long, complex, and tangled. The sequence codes for a protein, which is acted on by another, and another, and another.... and by the time you've produced a human baby from a single cell, good luck figuring out exactly how that sequence of nucleotides produced blue eyes.

It's just as meaningful to say that there is a gene for losing your virginity at a given age, as to say there is a gene for tying shoelaces or a gene for blue eyes.

anonymous said at April 2, 2009 10:44 AM:

"Heritable behavioural traits such as impulsivity" are a possible factor, but twins share more than that. There could be many other biological factors, such as hormonal differences. For instance, individuals who reach sexual maturity earlier than others may be more disposed to early sexual experiences. Many contemporary girls experience menses earlier than prior generations, perhaps that contributes to "a weaker effect from genes with people born before 1948."

It appears difficult to draw any conclusions from this study.

John Greene said at April 2, 2009 11:25 AM:

Could it be that this study is another "bulls**t science" project. The age at which one first has sex has more to do with cultural factors than genes. But I suppose because some doofus with a PhD tells us "my genes made me do it" it must be true.

Mark said at April 2, 2009 1:00 PM:

"Texpatriate said at April 2, 2009 07:27 AM:
So is there any way to profile easy girls?"

Ahh, I remember when finding easy girls was the most important thing in life. Anyone who could provide guidance would make a fortune.

One day when I was visiting England a tipsy elderly man put his arm around my shoulder and said "You should know that there comes a day in every man's life when the pleasure he gets from alcohol exceeds the pleasure he gets from a woman."

J said at April 2, 2009 1:04 PM:

Textpatriate beat me to it, but if we're going waste money on this sort of nonsense, let's at least get some useful knowledge out of it.

"The culture is arguably more tolerant of a single mom (mustn't impose our outmoded morality), than of a married couple having more than one child. Pressure on the married couple increases with each child they have. (This can get very crude and offensive)"

Trudy, could you expand on this one? I work with a pretty broad cross section of the culture, and I have never run into this attitude. I have a sneaking suspicion your social circle is overweighted with an unusual demographic.

rrr said at April 2, 2009 1:15 PM:

"It makes sense that if your parents lost their virginity, you'd be more likely to lose yours."

It also makes sense that if my parents DIDN'T lose their virginity, I wouldn't exist!
It also makes sense that probably 99% of people lose their virginity, so it's almost inevitable that you will lose yours!

Just having fun with a typo . . . I could go on all day!

Jennifer Cecelia said at April 5, 2009 8:26 AM:

I agree that a decrease in values could cause impulses to increase in amount and strength. Influence from a significant other, such as impatience, can be an effect. Perhaps even causing a change in one's values, then effecting other's values, and so on until values change among the main population. Just like news gets around, changes do too. My two cents, I guess.

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