Do Your Genes Decide When You Lose Your Virginity?

CNN/ Newswire | 8/8/2016, 11:41 a.m.
How old were you when you lost your virginity? Or maybe you haven't reached that point yet.
Whether you're 16 or 40 when you decide to have sex for the first time, you may think the choice comes down to your partner, the people around you and the environment you are exposed to. That's part of it -- but scientists are increasingly realizing that your genes also have something to do with it.

But it's the combinations of these traits that come together to decide when you take the plunge for a milestone like sex, and as with anything, it's complicated. "People think a gene will cause a risk, but it doesn't," said Perry. "It just puts you at higher risk."

"It is a great study," said Andrea Burri, associate professor at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand. Burri's own research focuses on the genetic aspects of sexual health and chronic pain, including sexual dysfunction. "It's fascinating how (this) can be used to untangle what actually influences complex human behaviors," she said.

Her own studies have found a similar degree of involvement, from 28% to 48%, for heritability playing a role in sexual anxiety and dysfunction.

Reducing the risks -- and stigma

Burri added that this insight should be used purely as a knowledge base and, if anything, could be used to destigmatize and change attitudes toward sexual behavior by showing how variable people can be at their core.

"Sometimes, you don't chose [how] to be and have the preferences that you do, but actually there is -- to a certain extent -- a biological component," she said, and differences among people are "normal."

The insight could also be used to inform other areas of public health, according to Perry, including addressing lifestyle factors that contribute to earlier ages of puberty, such as obesity and poor nutrition.

"[These] contribute to earlier puberty timing," Perry said. "[And] if earlier puberty puts you on a riskier trajectory, reducing anything causing that will be of benefit."