Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Saletan at Slate on Consanguineous Sex

William Saletan at Slate linked to this blog in his take on the David Epstein case, open-mindedly called “Incest is Cancer.” The heading of the piece asks “If homosexuality is OK, why is incest wrong?” Saletan goes on to note that these are two different categerories. Of course they are. One can be homosexual and engage in incest, or not. One can engage in incest and be homosexual or heterosexual. It’s like asking “If drinking wine is OK, why is dancing wrong?” There are people who decry both wine drinking and dancing as part of their moral code, and there are people who decry both homosexuality and and incest as part of their moral code.

In both examples, it becomes problematic when people who avoid these things themselves try to force everyone else to avoid them, too.

If homosexuality is okay because private sex between consenting adults is okay, then so is consanguineous sex because it is also private sex between consenting adults.

One side defends the privacy of all consensual sex; the other side sees an inexorable descent from homosexuality to incest.

Homosexuality and consanguineous sex among humans have both been around for all of human existence. One clearly does not cause the other.

Saletan goes on to look at why homosexuality is legal and certain kinds of consanguineous sex, in most places, aren’t.

The old answer was genetics. Germany's high court relied on that argument two years ago when it upheld the conviction of Patrick Stuebing for sex with his sister. Of the four children the couple produced, three had physical or mental disabilities.

This also happens in other families where the parents aren’t closely related. On the flip side, there have been many healthy babies born to close relatives.

In general, studies show a significantly higher rate of birth defects in offspring of incestuous couples.

This is true. When the chances go from something like 2% to 4% (I’m just making up the numbers), that is a 100% increase. But that happens with births to older parents, too. And we don’t prevent people from inherited diseases from reproducing. Regardless, most sex does not result in live births, nor do the lovers intend it intend to. As he writes…

But this rationale won't withstand close scrutiny or the march of technology. If genetics is the issue, just get a vasectomy. Then you can bang your sister all you want.

Uhm, thanks for the crude take of some very loving relationships.

On to the next objection, exploitation.

But you can't prosecute Epstein under that theory. According to news reports, his daughter is 24, and their affair began in 2006. That makes her an adult. Furthermore, police say the sex appears to have been consensual.

Prosecuting this case will be a waste of resources. Hopefully, though, it will lead to the downfall of laws against consensual sex.

He looks at what he sees as the conservative argument…

Families depend on moral structure: Mom, Dad, kids. When you confound that structure—when Dad sleeps with a man, Dad sleeps with another woman, or Mom sleeps with Grandpa—the family falls apart. Kids need clear roles and relationships. Without this, they get disoriented. Mess with the family, and you mess up the kids.

Where does this knowing what is best for the children of other people stop? Should single parents not allowed to keep custody? Should we compel pregnant women to get a specific kind of prenatal care? Also, this doesn’t apply at all to adoptees who reunite as adults. They already have families. Some women say their sister is their best friend. Doesn't that blur roles and relationships and cause disorientation? Why would that be acceptable and the sisters marrying each other not be? Many people have many relationships that have more than one aspect. They may be spouses and coworkers. They may be friends and coworkers. They may be siblings and coworkers, siblings and best friends, and siblings and spouses.

Morally, the family-structure argument captures our central intuition about incest: It confuses relationships. Constitutionally, this argument provides a rational basis for laws against incest.

But some people do also apply this to same-sex relationships. Friendships, these people say, become potential sexual relationships; it confuses relationships because men are supposed to be friends and not lovers, the say. Why don't we let everyone worry about their own relationships?

When a young man falls in love with another man, no family is destroyed.

If there is a negative reaction by his parents or siblings, the family is just as destroyed as it is when parents or siblings react negatively to a sexual relationship between family members. Accepting each other drastically cuts down on the problems.

Homosexuality is largely immutable…Incest spectacularly flunks this test. By definition, it occurs within an already existing family. So it offers no benefit in terms of family formation.

Something does not have to be immutable to be legal. However, there are people with GSA who would swear to you that they couldn’t love anyone as much as they love their partner.

How can the author say that consanguineous sex offers no benefits in family formation? For some, it has resulted in continuing the family. For more, it has strengthened their bonds.

On the contrary, it injects a notoriously incendiary dynamic - sexual tension - into the mix.

That must be why there is such a high divorce rate. Almost every single one of those relationships involved sex! If only they would have abstained, they could have eliminated all of that tension and stayed married.

Think of all the opposite-sex friendships you and your friends have cumulatively destroyed by "crossing the line." Now imagine doing that to your family. That's what incest does.

It can. So again, the answer to all human relationships is to never have sex. Your friends can stay your friends that way without having to be mature. Jealousy would be reduced.

And don't tell me you're just adding a second kind of love to your relationship. That's like adding a second kind of life to your body.

What? Don't tell me that gays have to have sex! It would ruin their friendship. Again, there’s no reason why people can’t have more levels to their relationship than just one.

I wouldn't prosecute David Epstein.

And most of the people who voted for Prop H8 wouldn’t prosecute same-sex couples for having sex. I suppose that is progress, but it isn’t enough. Laws against consensual, private sex need to be eliminated. You are not going to force what you see as good familial relationships onto others by keeping it illegal for those who want to engage in sex to do so.

But incest is wrong. There's a rational basis to forbid it.

I’m still waiting for a clear justification that doesn’t involve “It isn’t how I would do things.” The author says it is like cancer. Others disagree. It is his word against ours. He cites court decisions, but the courts have been wrong in the past on other things, too. They are moving towards marriage equality. There are many things one might choose not to do, but they aren’t illegal. We’re not saying this is the way everyone should be. We’re saying that the persecution, prosecution, and denial of the freedom to marry needs to end, so that those who find happiness in choosing this life can continue to pursue that happiness. Isn’t that their right?
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1 comment:

  1. incest can’t just be the cause of disease. rape is the cause of sexual diseases if they have sexual diseases.


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