If teen comedies are anything to go by, losing your virginity is a combination of circumstance, luck, and awkward social ladders. However, scientists are now starting to find that genetics could also play a role.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have identified 38 genes that correlate with the age people lose their virginity. Some of these genes accounted for the release of sex hormones and the age of puberty, while others related to neurocognitive traits that affect behavior. For example, reaching puberty at an earlier age was found to be associated with an earlier age of first having sex.
Of course, as the researchers themselves pointed out, there are a lot of other non-genetic factors at play too. They found that genetics accounted for less variation than social and cultural factors, such as religious beliefs, peer pressure, and low levels of parental monitoring.
“We were able to calculate for the first time that there is a heritable component to age at first sex, and the heritability is about 25 percent, so one quarter nature, three quarters nurture,” said lead author John Perry of the University of Cambridge, The Guardian reports.
The study involved analyzing the genomes of 125,667 people from the U.K. They then went on to confirm their results with 241,910 people from the U.S. and Iceland. Their results and findings were recently published in Nature Genetics.
A gene known as MSRA, which is associated with an older age of first sexual intercourse, was also found to be linked to irritability. CADM2, which appeared to strongly correlate with an early loss of virginity, was associated with risk-taking behavior and having a large number of children. The study suggests that these two genes can affect behavior that could lead to losing your virginity at different times.
The same research team have previously conducted studies that found a link between first sexual intercourse at an early age and “adverse educational achievements, physical health and mental well being.” While it’s always worth remembering that we’re never complete slaves to our genes, the team hope that their findings could be applied to health initiatives and medical understanding.
Dr. Ken Ong, a co-author on the paper, said in a statement: “We have already shown that early puberty and rapid childhood growth adversely affect disease risks in later life, but we have now shown that the same factors can have a negative effect at a much younger age, including earlier sexual intercourse and poorer education attainment.”