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The Onely Gene? September 15, 2008

Posted by Onely in Food for Thought.
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According to this New Scientist article by Priya Shetty, there may be a Monogamy Gene. This got me thinking, could there be a Onely Gene? Is the Monogamy Gene related to the Onely Gene? Copious Readership, what do you think?

First we need to understand the Monogamy Gene: As I understand from the New Scientist article, the “Monogamy Gene” is part of a gene coding for a vasopressin receptor (vasopressin is related to oxytocin, a chemical that induces feelings of trust and closeness). Variations in this gene may indicate a person’s tendency to stray. According to a Karolinska Institute study by Hans Walum, the more copies of a certain part of the gene men had, they more likely they were to “score worse on pair bonding” or be unmarried or have “marital crises”.  Another facet that may be involved in controlling people’s tendency to bond is the physical proximity in a person’s brain of their reward system and their social-perception system (that is, the proximity of the parts of these systems that respond to vasopressin).  Maybe the “Monogamy Gene” controls the location of vasopressin receptors. If receptors for the two systems are located close together, then a person gets a “rewarded” feeling when they socialize. At least, this is what happens with prairie voles.

Couple things:

Interesting that the article and the study infer that the men who remain unmarried are in the same pair-bonding-impaired class as the men who have marital crises (meaning possible infidelity or other betrayals/abuses).  So, let’s assume that the unmarried men are “defective” (my word) in the same way as the unfaithful men–they don’t bond effectively with their lovers. Does this mean that they don’t bond effectively with anyone? 

Does the Monogamy Gene control pair-bonding in romantic relationships or in all social relationships? I presume that it would affect all social relationships because the starring brain chemical, oxytocin, does not know the difference between the post-coital comfort engendered by a boyfriend or the protective instinct inspired by a baby or the trust created by contact with a close friend. However, studies and news articles frame the discovery of this gene in the context of coupledom, by naming it the Monogamy Gene (why not the Loyalty Gene)? 

I wonder if there is a Onely Gene too. Maybe it’s connected to the Monogamy Gene, maybe not. My whole life I have had a distinct lack of interest in serious, go-forward, get-married-one-day romantic relationships. Not an aversion. It’s just not something I pursue, nor feel a lack of. Do I get this tendency from nature or nurture? Do I have a very strong Onely gene? 

My sister is almost constantly looking for a relationship or in a relationship. And that works for her. (Especially because she wants kids, and so she feels the pressure to find a man for that purpose–but this topic is a whole nother post.)  Does she lack the Onely gene? 



1. The Love Vaccine « Onely. - January 18, 2009

[…] the idea of this “vaccine” in response to the scintillating science story about the monogamy gene and the power of the “love potion” oxytocin. As we come to understand more of the […]

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