Genetics of human sexual behavior: Where we are, where we are going

Emmanuele A. Jannini, Andrea Burri, Patrick Jern, Giuseppe Novelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Introduction: One of the never-ending debates in the developing field of sexual medicine is the extent to which genetics and experiences (i.e., "nature and nurture") contribute to sexuality. The debate continues despite the fact that these two sides have different abilities to create a scientific environment to support their cause. Contemporary genetics has produced plenty of recent evidence, however, not always confirmed or sufficiently robust. On the other hand, the more traditional social theorists, frequently without direct evidence confirming their positions, criticize, sometimes with good arguments, the methods and results of the other side. Aim: The aim of this article is to critically evaluate existent evidence that used genetic approaches to understand human sexuality. Methods: An expert in sexual medicine (E.A.J.), an expert in medical genetics (G.N.), and two experts in genetic epidemiology and quantitative genetics, with particular scientific experience in female sexual dysfunction (A.B.) and in premature ejaculation (P.J.), contributed to this review. Main Outcome Measure: Expert opinion supported by critical review of the currently available literature. Results: The existing literature on human sexuality provides evidence that many sexuality-related behaviors previously considered to be the result of cultural influences (such as mating strategies, attractiveness and sex appeal, propensity to fidelity or infidelity, and sexual orientation) or dysfunctions (such as premature ejaculation or female sexual dysfunction) seem to have a genetic component. Conclusions: Current evidence from genetic epidemiologic studies underlines the existence of biological and congenital factors regulating male and female sexuality. However, these relatively recent findings ask for replication in methodologically more elaborated studies. Clearly, increased research efforts are needed to further improve understanding the genetics of human sexuality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-77
Number of pages13
JournalSexual Medicine Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Female Sexual Dysfunction
  • Genetics
  • Premature Ejaculation
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Xq28

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Dermatology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Urology

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