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Author Topic: Sex drive and genetics
yeahgirl
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A friend of mine was asking me if the strength of one's sex drive could be hereditary, I didn't know the answer, but I told her I would ask Scarleteen, as you guys are extremely knowlegable.

She is a year younger than me (21) and she has a very high sex drive. Based on conversations she's had with her mother about sex and sexuality, she's realized that her mother does not. Her grandmother on the other hand (who is suprisingly open about sex/sexuality), often brags to her about all the "crazy things" she did with boys when she was my friend's age. She's also talked about how her mother (my friend's great-grandmother) had so many boyfriends when her she (the grandmother) was growing up.

So, her theory is that her high sex drive is apparently genetic (and according to her, has "skipped a generation"-meaning her mother). I know many women share traits with other women in their families, but is one's sex drive one of them?

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Heather
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I've never seen anything, study-wise, to show this is so. At the same time, genetics plays a hand in most things, so it very well could play a hand here.

Our desire for sex is very complex, based on a lot of factors, and it also isn't static. Here's a piece that can give you/your friend an idea of some of the many factors at play: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/wheres_my_sex_drive_driven_off_to

In a lifetime, it's most common for people to run higher or lower, as it were, at different times, in different relationships, in different situations. And context is really key.

So, if your friend is suggesting it's all genetics? I think we know enough about the complexity of sexuality to know that just doesn't make any sense and that there's no basis for that. But if she's saying it might play one part of many? Sure.

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yeahgirl
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Thanks Heather. She actually did think that it was simply a matter of genetics. I wasn't completely sure myself. And yes, sexuality is very complex (as evident by the list of questions in the link lol)but it does make sense that genetics might play a part, but not be the definite reason. I'll definitely share this with her. Fortunately, her libido isn't a problem for her, but I guess she was just wondering where it was coming from.

Thanks again!

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EmilyV-NonPkid
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Have you ever heard of "evolutionary psychology"? According to Wikipedia, it's about explaining the origins about sexuality from a evolutionary perspective. Some psychologists know that people in caveman times had very high sex drives due to their desire for survival. Others, however, deduced that they also had sex for mere pleasure whether sex drive was present or not. You might want to read sex literature books such as Sex at Dawn or How Sex Works to get the idea. You can read the Sex at Dawn blog at the Psychology Today website.

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yeahgirl
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That's interesting...I'll check that out, thanks.
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Heather
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Ev psych is actually something considered to be pretty bunk by most sociologists and anthropologists, just FYI.

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EmilyV-NonPkid
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
Ev psych is actually something considered to be pretty bunk by most sociologists and anthropologists, just FYI.

But then why it has its own Wikipedia page and studied heavily? There's always a reason behind people's behaviors so I can't dismiss it as fake. Or we happen to behave randomly...? I believe by studying our past selves can lead to better choices in the future. It's not like people are automated to repeat the same habit over and over, right? The bottom line is people can change their behavior if they're really up to it. Didn't mean to debate but that's what I truly feel.

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Heather
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There's a Wiki for pretty much everything, including things far more ridiculous than ev psych.

Just so everyone is in the same page, the basic premise of evolutionary psychology, a combination of evolutionary biology and cognitive psychology, is that...well, pretty much everything boils down to natural selection.

That's a bit of an oversimplification on my part, so this definition from that Wiki entry might work better: ev psych tends to state that "human behavior is generated by psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments."

The biggest flaw in ev psych per sexuality and relationships, and it's major, is that it usually presents sexual behaviour as solely heterosexual (and often solely or primarily reproductive or sexual), something we know is highly problematic. It also tends to present gender as binary, something else we know is not reflective of many, many people. Mind, it doesn't HAVE to do that, but almost always, ev psych theories incorporate and demand both of those binaries. It also almost always considers a lot of behaviours universal, even when applied to people who don't share assumed traits.

Another biggie? There often is not anthropological evidence to support many ev psych claims, particularly those around sexuality.

Here's a piece to peek at regarding standard critiques of evolutionary psych: http://www.newsweek.com/2009/06/19/why-do-we-rape-kill-and-sleep-around.html That piece also mentions a book, Adapting Minds, which is an excellent address of some of its many problems.

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Karybu
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Adding to what Heather has already said, ev psych also tends to frame all human behaviour as not including any component of active choice, which is absolutely not true. Ev psych generally works on the assumption that people are at the total mercy of their hormones, particularly when it comes to (potential) sexual situations, and it's pretty obvious from people's experiences that that idea just doesn't hold water.

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polyprotic
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I completely agree that there are a lot of cases of evo psych psuedoscience, like the one in the article Heather posted. But I think it's also unfair to say that the entire field is bogus because of theories like that going around every once in a while. There has also been a substantial amount of research investigating non-heteronormative behaviors across the animal kingdom. One really interesting book that (quite entertainingly) challenges the most notable traditional evo psych theories with some good evidence is Olivia Judson's Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to all Creation.

A lot of the field does cover issues beyond sexuality, including the development and action of the sympathetic nervous and limbic systems. Additionally, the beliefs of every psychologist belonging to any perspective of psychology fall somewhere different on the spectrum of human determinism. True, it is most often those on the bio or evo psych side that believe more strongly in it than those of the cognitive or behaviorist perspectives, but you will find outliers on all sides in that regard. I think discrediting the entire field because of a few bad apple theories and theorists would be kind of like throwing the entire theory of natural selection out the window because of the eugenists.

In my opinion, though, evo psych's big issue lies in often failing to distinguish between biological and cultural evolution. And that's a big can of worms right there. Hence the disagreements on the subject between anthropologists and biologists, I suppose.

That's just my two cents.

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Heather
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Really, my problems with it become a lot smaller when it is applied OUTSIDE sexuality and interpersonal relationships (or, more specifically, when it does not merely consider all interpersonal relationships as sexual/reproductive). It's these areas, and the way it's most often used in these areas -- and how, with bias usually strongly affixed -- that it strikes me as the most problematic.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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yeahgirl
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From the little bit that I have looked into, I have to agree with Heather, it does seem a bit biased. Also, it doesn't really answer a question regarding why an individual person from a particular family has a high sex drive. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like more of a broad scale approach, than an individual one.

But I do appreciate Emily V posting the idea.

[ 08-16-2010, 11:01 PM: Message edited by: yeahgirl ]

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Heather
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Btw, thanks for the book suggestion, polyprotic. I'll take a look!

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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polyprotic
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I completely agree that most of the theories on sexuality are very biased, and often tend to show only one side of things, even when there is obvious evidence pointing otherwise. And that is, indeed, crappy science.

I think it's right up your alley, actually [Smile]

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