At university, everyone seems to know of a holiday romance, a one-night-stand or a casual fling that’s happened to someone, which may even have been themselves. What do all of these have in common? The answer is simple: sex. Promiscuity is rather common in the student community, yet not everyone goes about it as rampantly as a rabbit. This makes me wonder: what makes some people so much more inclined to a life of sex than others?

Hormones play a large part in sexual arousal, with testosterone being the key component in adult males. Studies have shown that testosterone is necessary for normal levels of sexual interest and arousability. What is less well known is the fact that you can change the level of testosterone within the body by changing what you eat and the amount of physical activity you undertake. So, the man who’s been to the gym, goes home to eat cabbage and takes zinc supplements will have a higher sex drive than the man who spent all evening playing video games … Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Women are, as always, more complicated. Studies on how women’s level of sexuality is influenced by testosterone have shown inconsistent and occasionally contradictory results. The evidence suggests that women vary in their response to testosterone. Mood, energy, well-being and other psychological factors have been shown to be capable of masking the effects of the hormone. So, while women can control their response to testosterone, men seem to be much more at its mercy.

Age is yet another factor to consider. Men usually hit their sexual peak from about 18 – 21 as in later life, testosterone levels decrease (by approximately 0.3% per year from the age of 40). As a result from about 60 onwards, men can feel depressed, intellectually muddled and develop a low sex drive. This is the little heard of male version of the menopause, known as the “andropause,” and 1 in 200 men over the age of 60 are thought to suffer from it.

As with any hormone-influenced response in the body, genes are going to play their fair share in the differences between individuals. The amount of hormone being released by the body, the number of receptors and the level of responsiveness to that hormone are all influenced by genes. Simply put, some people are naturally made to be hornier than others!

However, the environment seems to play a key role too. Some argue that promiscuity has more to do with culture than evolution, and the facts speak for themselves. Italians on average lose their virginity later than anywhere else in Europe, America is the only country where the average age for losing one’s virginity is rising and Brazilians had more sexual partners in the last year than anywhere else on the planet. Last but not least, us Britons can proudly say that we hold the highest number of unmarried teenage pregnancies in the world and British men are the most unfaithful in Europe (42% admit to sexual infidelity). Gone are the days when men and women were put onto a pedestal for their virtue. Society now seems to idolise the “sexaholic” Russell Brands of this world. Sexual experience is no longer seen as a bad thing and promiscuity is increasing as a result.

So, to summarise, if you eat the right foods, do regular exercise, have a naturally high level of testosterone and a very good response to the hormone, are between the ages of 18 and 21, have been brought up in a society that doesn’t discourage promiscuity and (in the case of women) you’re in the right mood, you will most definitely have sex with the next living organism you pass?? …WRONG! The last and most important factor is that which makes us human. Choice. We can rationalise, we can choose. All these factors just influence our response; the result in the end of the day is what we decide it to be.

Doñah Sabbagh

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