Monday, February 8, 2010

Never Say Never Again

Classified under their “Health” heading, CNN has a story on their website with the headline of “Therapy Teaches That Incest is Never Consensual."

The article begins with citing Mackenzie Phillips before it gets to what concerns me today.

By definition, incest is never consensual, although often the perpetrator will convince the victim otherwise, experts say. The power dynamics of the relationship between a parent and child are such that it's always the parent's responsibility to maintain normal boundaries, even if it's the son or daughter who makes some kind of initial gesture, said Debra Borys, psychologist in Los Angeles, California.
Using the word “incest” in this way is why I prefer to use the term consanguineous sex. It appears they are making an argument that parent-child incest is never consensual even when the child is an adult, because of the power the parent has over the child. However, is this still true if the parent is elderly? Or ill? I suppose the argument would then be that it is a form of elder abuse and contrary to their statement, it would be the child’s fault. But this broadbrushing fails to take into account when the child was not raised by the biological parent, or siblings who are close in age, or aunt/uncle and nephew/niece (especially if close in age) and first cousins – those are all considered incest. I’m referring to adults in each example. If half-siblings who were not raised as siblings meet as adults and fall in love, that is not consensual? There have been cases when people have done this without knowing they were half-siblings. Did it stop being consensual once they found out their biological relation? And if so, is it always the person who is older who is to blame? Do you see how silly this is?

They often have trust issues, feeling that they have been betrayed by a close relative.
Rape or abuse or coercion are all bad. But we should not deny the loving, consensual relationships that exist. People are less likely to tell others about their positive experiences because of negative feedback, while claiming to be a victim provides cover and brings sympathy. And surely, they will have trust issues if people they thought they could trust to accept them and support them instead condemn them for their love.

The media portrayal is coming close to being like those who say that all sex is rape. There are consensual consanguineous relationships, and some of those involve a parent and an adult child. Perhaps when the stigma is removed, more people will speak positively of these relationships.
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