Monday, June 28, 2010

Incest is Icky, Except When She Likes It

Maura Kelly at wrote earlier this month an article called “Innocent Sibling Incest: Is It Really So Bad?” That title seems to imply it is at least a little bad. How could innocent, mutually enjoyable behavior between siblings be bad at all? She writes about an Irish couple who are half siblings who didn’t find out they shared their biological father until after they fell for each other and had a baby.

The couple's mutual father is having a hard time with the whole thing, and plenty of other people think it's gross, too.

Anyone who doesn’t like it doesn’t have to participate. Though they may have latent tendencies they are trying to hide.

My reaction: What's the big deal?

Good question.

As Yale psychologist Paul Bloom writes in his new book How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like, the "evolutionary rationale for incest avoidance is that it is a bad idea, genetically, to have children with your kin, because they share too many of your genes." In other words, we've developed a sense of disgust about sibling incest because it could lead to deformed babies.

But in this case, the couple already had a baby before finding out they were related.

Everything seems to be fine. Isn’t that wonderful? Kelly goes on to write about the Westermarck effect, without naming it.

In fact, a study done in 2007 found that the longer you live with a sibling (or an adopted sibling or someone sibling-like), the more sexual aversion you will have to him or her.

Some would complain this happens between spouses, too. Kelly, unfortunately, still expresses bigotry:

Now, in case it needs to be said, I understand that incest involving a parent or even a parental figure is an evil, evil thing.

How, if they are consenting adults?

The idea of two siblings or half-siblings who grew up together having sex makes me shudder.

Then don’t do it. But how would you feel if people were constantly printing articles about how disgusting they found something you enjoy?

But in the case of these two people, I really don't think it's a big deal. They're basically strangers. They came out of different mothers. They happen to share some genetic material. So what? I don't think it's morally wrong for them to be together. In fact, considering they have a kid together — and they love each other — I'd say that the morally right thing is staying together.

Kelly is trying to have her cake and eat it too, it looks like to me.

Sure, it's important to have a strong social taboo against incest. All the same, we're smart people. Shouldn't we be able to see that a case like this is different?

We should stop trying to prevent any consenting adults from sharing love, sex, and marriage with each other. How about that?
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