DNA can be traced from here to Jurassic Park. But most people don’t know that the main way DNA can be traced is from the mouth to the penis. Genes lurk in everything from pollen and fruit to water and dirt. And though DNA has been used to explain why some animals live longer than others, researchers haven’t been able to verify that there is a direct relationship between longer life spans and longer, more focused oral sex.
Now, researchers are opening up the door to look for the genetic basis of oral sex in newborns. By comparing DNA extracted from the mouth and penis of mice, researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark have determined that mice that live sexually active lives do indeed produce more than just a bare number of genes — the actual number of genes they produced is three times as high as other mice.
“This implies that oral sex may provide new insight to the mechanisms of sexual reproduction, and differentially influence the diversity of genes in sex,” the study’s lead author, Anna Scher, PhD, said in a statement.
Recent research suggests oral sex can actually increase blood flow to the penis, with studies finding that the flow increases the brain, the immune system and even can boost erectile function. Regardless of how this research is interpret, Scher said it’s clear that oral sex has been overlooked.
“It is so obvious that this is no longer a taboo,” Scher said. “Even when this was not the case, the genes identified were in such a small number that their role in humans was hardly considered. By challenging this traditional view of oral sex, we can learn more about other aspects of the human genome.”
Scher and her team studied the saliva of newborn mice and the genitourinary tissues of well-fed adult female mice. In the saliva samples, they discovered that genes connected to inflammation were elevated in male mice that had played in competitive territorial mating games. They then sequenced and analyzed the DNA in the mice and created detailed lists of thousands of genes that appeared in both male and female mice. According to Scher, they discovered 1,400 genes that were not found in other adult mice.
“The fact that males also produce quite a few genes linking to oral sex suggests that some of the structures or signals of oral sex may be more active in males than in females,” Scher said. “But if we assume that the process by which [these genes] come to be expressed in the body only in sex, then the overall size of the genes is likely to be lower than it would have been in adult mice.”
Scher plans to study men who have had oral sex and compare their sex-dense genes to healthy male and female mice. Even if these future studies succeed, Scher cautions that this research could never determine the real relationship between the genes and oral sex.
“From our point of view, these are the genes whose importance depends on their behavioral context,” Scher said. “If you increased oral sex in a world without its ethical, moral or cultural context, then we can think about their role as interfering with expression of these genes. But if you increase oral sex in a society in which oral sex is normal and a path of sexual empowerment, then the role of the genes must depend on another element in the context. The larger the gene population, the more likely it is that the sex context is involved in influencing their gene expression.”