The Promiscuity Gene

Pro ·mis ·cu ·ous adj, \prÉ™-mis-kyÉ™-wÉ™s\

1 – composed of all sorts of persons or things

2 – not restricted to one class, sort, or person

3 – not restricted to one sexual partner

4 casual, irregular


Promiscuity, or at least the open acknowledgment of it, has been on the rise since the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, although it has been around as long as the human race in one form or another. Some sexologists speculate that male promiscuity hearkens back to the hunter-gather society, where it was advantageous for men to spread their seed often and with many partners, thereby increasing their chances of procreating and carrying on their blood line.

However, a recent study by a research team at Binghamton University suggests that a predisposition towards risky sexual behaviors in contemporary society, including one night stands and infidelity, is inherent in our DNA, specifically one particular gene variant of the dopamine receptor gene DRD4.

According to the study by researcher Justin Garcia, a postdoctoral fellow at the New York State University, “The motivation seems to stem from a system of pleasure and reward, which is where the release of dopamine comes in… In cases of uncommitted sex, the risks are high, the rewards substantial and the motivation variable – all elements that ensure a dopamine rush.”

For the study, the team collected DNA samples from a group of 181 young adult volunteers, and tested them for the presence of the variant of the DRD4 that causes thrill-seeking behavior. They also gathered information on the sexual history, relationships and behaviors of the volunteers.

People with the thrill-seeking variant of the gene reported a significantly higher rate of adultery (50 percent versus 22 percent for those without the variant) and were twice as likely to report a history of one-night stands. While it goes without saying that not everyone with this genotype is doomed to become a lying, cheating, easy lay, it does seem like they are at a much higher risk of going down this road.

It will be interesting to see where this research takes us in the future. Perhaps one day they’ll start testing for the presence of this variant at a young age so they can adequately educate those children and adolescents with a predilection towards these risky behaviorsmand sort of nip the problem in the bud, so to speak.

However, an intangible behavior like promiscuity can be very hard to measure, since actions considered promiscuous to one person or culture may be quite commonplace to another. In an effort to examine this as scientifically as possible, in a separate study the International Sexuality Description Project created a seven-question test to measure the taker’s “sociosexuality”, or promiscuity.

The number-based questionnaire include questions about the number of sexual partners in the past year, the number of one-night stands and attitudes towards sexuality on a scale between one and nine.

Interesting, Finland landed at the top of the pile, with a median score of 50.5. I suppose it is a great way to stay warm through those cold winter nights. Next were New Zealand and Slovenia, with Canada coming in at number 28 with an average score of 34.52. Out of curiosity I answered the questions for myself and while I won’t reveal my score here, suffice it to say I’d be a very popular lass in Scandinavia or with the Kiwis.

To see how you stack up against takers from 48 different countries, take the promiscuity quiz

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