New study suggests that a propensity for one-night stands, uncommitted sex could be genetic

December 1, 2010

So, he or she has cheated on you for the umpteenth time and their only excuse is: "I just can't help it." According to researchers at Binghamton University, they may be right. The propensity for infidelity could very well be in their DNA.

In a first of its kind study, a team of investigators led by Justin Garcia, a SUNY Doctoral Diversity Fellow in the laboratory of and health at Binghamton University, State University of New York, has taken a broad look at , matching choices with and has come up with a new theory on what makes humans 'tick' when it comes to . The biggest culprit seems to be the dopamine receptor D4 polymorphism, or DRD4 gene. Already linked to sensation-seeking behavior such as alcohol use and gambling, DRD4 is known to influence the brain's chemistry and subsequently, an individual's behavior.

"We already know that while many people experience sexual activity, the circumstances, meaning and behavior is different for each person," said Garcia. "Some will experience sex with committed , others in uncommitted one-night stands. Many will experience multiple types of , some even occurring at the same time, while others will exchange sex for resources or money. What we didn't know was how we are motivated to engage in one form and not another, particularly when it comes to promiscuity and ."

Gathering a detailed history of the sexual behavior and intimate relationships of 181 young adults along with samples of their DNA, Garcia and his team of investigators were able to determine that individual differences in sexual behavior could indeed be influenced by individual .

"What we found was that individuals with a certain variant of the DRD4 gene were more likely to have a history of uncommitted sex, including one-night stands and acts of infidelity," said Garcia. "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.'"

According to Garcia, these results provide some of the first biological evidence that at first glance, seems to be somewhat of a contradiction: that individuals could be looking for a serious committed long-term relationship, but have a history of one-night stands. At the same time, the data also suggests it is also reasonable that someone could be wildly in love with their partner, commit infidelity, and yet still be deeply attached and care for their partner. It all came back to a DRD4 variation in these individuals. Individual differences in the internal drive for a dopamine 'rush' can function independently from the drive for commitment.

"The study doesn't let transgressors off the hook," said Garcia. "These relationships are associative, which means that not everyone with this genotype will have one-night stands or commit infidelity. Indeed, many people without this genotype still have one-night stands and commit infidelity. The study merely suggests that a much higher proportion of those with this genetic type are likely to engage in these behaviors."

Garcia also cautions that the consequences of risky sexual behavior can indeed be extreme.

"One-night stands can be risky, both physically and psychologically," said Garcia. "And betrayal can be one of the most devastating things to happen to a couple. These genes do not give anyone an excuse, but they do provide a window into how our biology shapes our propensities for a wide variety of behaviors."

At this point, very little is known about how genetics and neurobiology influence one's sexuality propensities and tendencies but Garcia is hopeful that this study will add to the growing base of knowledge - in particular, how genes might predispose individuals to pursue sensation seeking across all sorts of domains – from substance use to sexuality. This study also provides further support for the notion that the biological foundations for sexual desire may often operate independently from, although absolutely linked to, deep feelings of romantic attachment.

As Garcia points out, he and his team of study co-authors have only just begun to explore the issue and plan on conducting a series of follow-up and related studies.

"We want to run a larger sample of men and women to replicate these findings and check for several other possible genetic markers," said Garcia.

"We will also be conducting a number of behavioral and biological studies to better understand what kinds of associated factors motivate uncommitted sexual behavior. Most importantly, we want to explore the receiving end of infidelity by looking at how people respond to cases of uncommitted sex and infidelity."

More information: A detailed report can be found in the current issue of Public Library of Science's PLoS ONE journal. The article, "Associations between Dopamine D4 Receptor Gene Variation with Both Infidelity and Sexual Promiscuity," can be found at

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1.4 / 5 (9) Dec 01, 2010
More excuses for bad behavior - "the debbil made me do it".

One trait that makes us human is that we can choose to disobey what our genes tell us to do. The concept of "sin" in all religions is based around fighting our predispositions to do what comes naturally and do what is good for others instead - our family, community, nation.

The concept of "fidelity" evolved because it was good for society. It fostered family cohesiveness for child-rearing, held down the incidence of STD, promoted pair-bonding and all sorts of other good stuff.

But now that we have "studies" that tell us it's not really our fault when we screw up and violate societal norms, well, let's not stiffen our own spines and develop some self-discipline. "If it feels good, do it" was the motto of the me-me-me baby boomers. What a coincidence that they've grown up to be scientists doing research justifying their own licentiousness.
3 / 5 (2) Dec 01, 2010
geokst - a strange blend of self-righeouness and misunderstood evolution there ....

If it is 'in the genes' it is going to happen, despite what any "you-you-you are weak and I am not" ideologues.

Live with it.
4.3 / 5 (4) Dec 01, 2010
We believe genetics is destiny.
Destiny is outside our control.
People forgive for things things outside our control.
If sluttiness is genetic, they will thus be exonerated.

Thus, there is a strong incentive to find a genetic basis.
5 / 5 (3) Dec 01, 2010
Look, if I'm genetically disposed to have a weak bladder, that does not give me an excuse to piss all over the floor whenever I want.

All because we are "genetically disposed" to a specific harmful behavior does not provide an excuse, it just makes us have to find ways to control it.

I think that is one thing that makes us a bit different from animals, no?
5 / 5 (5) Dec 01, 2010
Excuses are irrelevant. We would still lock psychopathic murderers up even if we could prove that they had absolutely no conscious control over their actions when in that state. Why? Because it's in our genes to resent people disrupting peace and murdering people.

If somebody tried to use genes as an excuse for infidelity, the counter is easy: "Yeah. Well, your genes suck then."

Perhaps if it's something "uncontrollable" we will be less emotional about it and more understanding, but the end result of a person who wants faithfulness and their partner who can't help cheating is still incompatibility, and that's all that matters.
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 01, 2010
The current disgusting trend of single women having children, spread by Hollywood social engineering, will only make this worse by spreading this gene.
5 / 5 (4) Dec 01, 2010
whats wrong with slutty women?
5 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2010
Mom, Dad, stop preaching, I am promiscous because of your genes!
4 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2010
We believe genetics is destiny.
Destiny is outside our control.
People forgive for things things outside our control.
If sluttiness is genetic, they will thus be exonerated.

Thus, there is a strong incentive to find a genetic basis.

You disrespect a great many of us who can show that genes are but a small fraction of the puzzle.

Did you forget the message conveyed by Gattaca so soon?
1 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2010
Is there a web site where I can sign up to be a test subject? I think they need more research.
not rated yet Dec 02, 2010
How do unattractive men with this naughty gene cope?
A one night stand with the other hand, perhaps?

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