Friday, October 19, 2012

Origins of the Incest Taboo

When someone asks why consanguinamory (consensual incest or consanguineous sex) is taboo, someone will usually provide an explanation like this one...

The reason we mate up with persons not of our own blood is to build genetic diversity and, whether we accept it or not, attempt to create more superior humans.

While I think genetic diversity is usually a good thing as long as it doesn't suppress a genetic advantage, if humans were naturally inclined to seek genetic diversity, I think we would not have seen so much segregation based on skin color and ethnicity over the years, or a taboo against interracial marriages. Even in the most progressive communites, people still often segregate themselves on the basis of skin color. Furthermore, studies have shown and experience with Genetic Sexual Attraction has shown that people are often strongly attracted to those genetically similar to them. It is prepubescent ultrafamiliarity in socialization and externally imposed taboos that often squelch such attraction.

I think it is likely that humans in the past were not aware of, or concerned with, genetic diversity because they didn't know about genes. They could see that offspring often resembled their parents, but for all they knew, that was the will of the gods or the fates.

Taboos against consanguineous sex were more likely imposed because parents, especially fathers, used the sexuality of their children to form partnerships and gain power. In patriarchal societies, daughters were traded away via arranged marriage into other families to buy favor, and sons were expected to marry for dowries and alliances and such. It was more difficult for this to happen, especially in cultures that demanded a bride marry with her virginity and have only her husband as a sexual partner, if the siblings were having sex with each other or a parent.

It was probably more about power and control, and marriage bans and laws against consensual sex are still about those things. We see that happening now, and so we have good reason to believe it happened in the past. What do you think?

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