Recent large-scale sequencing studies of mating type loci in a number of organisms offer insight into the origin and evolution of these genomic regions. Extensive tracts containing genes with a wide diversity of functions typically cosegregate with mating type. Cases in which mating type determination entails complementarity between distinct transcription units may descend from systems in which close physical linkage facilitated the coordinated expression and cosegregation of the interacting genes. In response to the particular selection pressures associated with the maintenance of more than one mating type, this nucleus of low recombination may expand over evolutionary time, engulfing neighboring tracts bearing genes with no direct role in reproduction. This scenario is consistent with the present-day structure of some mating type loci, including regulators of homomorphic self-incompatibility in angiosperms (S-loci). Recombination suppression and enforced S-locus heterozygosity accelerate the accumulation of genetic load and promote genetic associations between S-alleles and degenerating genes in cosegregating tracts. This S-allele-specific load may influence the evolution of self-incompatibility systems.