Are You a 40-Year-Old Virgin?

April 22, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

Couple kissing in the snow

Blame your genes — but only a little bit

Gene-blaming is a widespread phenomenon. While our genes certainly play an integral role in our health and behavior, we often forget that they don’t write the whole story. In reality, both nature and nurture are almost always at play.

New research might give people a brand new reason to gene-blame.

The study, published in Nature Genetics, examined 250,000 men and women from Iceland and the US to better understand how genetics might help determine the age at which people lose their virginity.

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Though it is already known that factors like peer pressure and religious beliefs influence when people first engage in sex, the study revealed that genes are important too.

“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,” John Perry from Cambridge University and an author on the study told The Guardian.

38 regions of the genome were found to play a role in the age at which people lose their virginity. Furthermore, it was shown that those who have an early sexual debut also tend to engage in more risk-taking behavior and have a large number of children, all of which are genetically linked.

Early puberty also appears to have a small effect on the ages at which people lose their virginity and have their first child. The study went on to show that these factors, in turn, reduce a person’s chances of doing well in education.

The authors note that the average age of puberty has fallen drastically over the last century, from 18 years in 1880 to 12.5 years in 1980.

Commenting on the novel finding that genetic factors influence when people first have intercourse, Perry said to STAT: “It’s one of those things that people think is completely choice. Sure, choice has a massive role in this, but there are biological and genetic factors, too.”

So those who are displeased about being later-in-life virgins can go ahead and blame their genes — but only a little.

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