Thursday, January 6, 2011

Yet Another Perspective on Consanguineous Sex Restrictions

At the Atheist Experience, Matt D. ponders laws and bigotry towards consanguineous sex. Atheism isn’t invoked in the argument. Rather, the venue meant that nobody invoked a religious restriction on sexuality or marriage.

While I personally find the concept of marrying a sibling, etc. rather "icky", there are lots of things that I find "icky" that aren't necessarily immoral and that society has no business restricting. My aversion is something that most of us experience and it's known as the "Westermarck effect" but that's not the case for everyone.

There are certainly biological reasons to avoid inbreeding, but marriage isn't necessarily about procreation. There are also psychological issues that surround taboo relationships (both contributing psychological issues and psychological issues that result from such unions) but we have to be very careful to distinguish between issues caused by societal disdain for something (as was/is the case with inter-racial marriages) and psychological harm that is intrinsic to the relationship (a daughter raised segregated from societal influence in order to 'brainwash' an incestuous spouse).

So far, so good.

I think there's a compelling argument that we should generally discourage incestuous marriage in order to minimize the risk of birth defects and psychological trauma, but that we are probably not justified in prohibiting those unions as a matter of law.

It is good that he recognizes the lack of justification for laws against consanguineous sex. It is too bad he seems here (see below) to express support for discouraging people who have found love in this way.

He continues, pleading a lack of enough information to make a move either way.

Until such time as we have compelling evidence (and not just a visceral aversion), I'm not sure that I can support laws against such marriages - but I'm in favor of discouraging it by education and investigating such relationships to ensure that we have true, informed consent.

Not exactly support, but at least it isn’t another knee-jerk condemnation and spewing of hate.

He does cut some slack for people who were unaware of their close biological relation when they fell in love, who are people who most likely are experiencing Genetic Sexual Attraction.

I'm of the opinion that it would be more immoral to prevent their marriage that to allow it...and that colors the entire spectrum of possible incestuous relationships...especially when you consider that some people get married, lead happy lives and find out about their kinship years later.

He ends with…

As a matter of personal freedom, unless someone can demonstrate clear harm, I don't see a compelling reason to disallow it.

Then comes back with an amendment…

Re-reading that, it looked like I was in favor of discouraging a loving relationship between people who happened to be related and that's not the case. The education comment was intended to address the real risks and not be a pronouncement about whom you should/shouldn't love or marry.

So it looks like we have another ally. Thank you, Matt D.

Most of the comments expressed general support for this freedom to love, sex, and marriage (and to poly people, too), though there was a disapproval of procreation.

Weedwhacker showed a lack of solidarity...

This "argument" is nothing but a distraction tactic to make same-sex marriage sound illicit and immoral.

Actually, we are just trying to fight for the rights of all consenting adults to love, sex, and marriage with the person or person(s) of their own choosing. You don’t have to like the idea of consanguineous sex to see that there is a larger set of rights that covers having sex with someone of the same sex and having sex with someone who is a close relative. The right to free speech not only covers, say, unpopular books about Roman Catholicism, but also paintings of ugly dogs, and movies critical of Richard Nixon. Are those all the same things? No, they aren’t, but are all protected by the right to free speech, even if only a few people want to make paintings of ugly dogs.

Dawn evaluated the genetics…

I don't have the exact numbers at my fingertips (got rid of my genetics books about 6 years ago) but if I recall correctly, the "unknown" risk of birth defects due to familial marriage (sibling, parent/child) is about 10% (and I may be recalling incorrectly and it might be 10% greater than the usual risk of about 3% in the general public marriages).

Of course, that is an increase of risk. But so is the marriage of 2 persons with sickle cell trait. We don't demand those people not marry. We don't say Ashkenazi (sp?) Jews not marry within the group, although they have a higher risk of birth defects. We don't require anyone get genetic testing. So why keep incestuous marriage illegal?

Thanks, Dawn.

If someone does practice a religion and that is the basis for some of their personal restrictions when it comes to sex or marriage, they should certainly be free to live that way themselves. But they should not be able to force anyone else to adopt the same restictions.
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