There's a connection between our DNA and the first time we have sex
Before we say anything else, we just want to make one thing very clear: It does not matter if/when you lose your virginity. There is no “right time” to have sex for the first time – what matters most is that you feel ready and are comfortable with your partner. It is all up to you. No pressure.
With that being said, a recent study published in Nature Genetics found a connection between DNA and the first time we have sex. Using 250,000 participants in the United States and Iceland, along with 150,000 volunteers in the United Kingdom, researchers pinpointed 38 gene variations that exercise a bit of control over when someone loses their virginity. Social class, peer pressure, upbringing, religion, and several other factors also play a part.
“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%, so one quarter nature, three quarters nurture,” John Perry, a reproductive aging expert, told The Guardian. Not all of these genes were related to puberty, with there being some that influence appearance and personality. For instance, if you are the type of person who likes to walk on the wild side, you may be inclined to have sex earlier on.
Women, specifically, demonstrated that these genes can also contribute to when one becomes a parent. The study’s authors discovered that those who experience puberty early in life are more likely to have sex early on and are also more likely to start a family in the same fashion.
There are also other effects that must be considered, especially when it comes to education and illness. Ken Ong, one of the study’s co-authors, explains that early puberty has been seen to negatively impact heart disease, diabetes, and cancers such as those related to hormones. Clinical epidemiologist George Davey Smith adds, “It suggests that earlier puberty does influence early age of sexual debut, which then appears to have other consequences such as, all things being equal, earlier first birth, having more children, less likely to remain childless, and poorer educational outcomes.”
On the flip side, there are a few experts who feel that this particular study could have been more extensive. Geneticist Peng Jin reveals that the study only used European people (or those with a European ancestry) for their research. While Jin wants the study to look at other cultures, adolescence researcher Mary Hediger wants readers to realize that this information isn’t exactly groundbreaking. “We’ve known for a long time that menarche, particularly in girls, is a gateway to sexual activity,” Hediger states. “The prevalence of girls who had sex before they started their periods is very very low.”
Despite criticism, Ong asserts that their intention wasn’t to downplay other factors or to bring forth a fresh perspective. Instead, researchers simply wanted to prove that the influence of genetics has been constant throughout time. Ultimately, the study’s authors hope that this information will help to promote well-researched, healthy behaviors.