Wednesday, May 18, 2011

They Are Consenting Adults

A recent pair of episodes of the Steve Wilkos Show (a spin-off of the Jerry Spring Show) has caused some “incest” stir online, prompting discussions about consanguineous sex and consanguinamory. Here’s something from Tracie Egan Morrissey at Jezebel.

Recently The Steve Wilkos show (what, you haven't heard of it?) aired a two-part story about a father and his 18-year-old daughter who had been estranged during the girl's childhood but reconnected through MySpace when the daughter, Britney, became an adult. They struck up a romantic relationship and are now calling themselves boyfriend and girlfriend.

Good for them.

The footage-which features Britney and her father, Morgan, in a deep French kiss when he first walks onto the stage-is disturbing to say the least, but apparently it gets worse. In the intro to the segment, Wilkos mentions that the couple "provided proof" that they were in a sexual relationship, which one source tells us was "video documentation" and that the "dad had filmed it."

People take video of themselves having sex all of the time. Morrissey may not want to see them kiss, but there are plenty of people who don’t want to see nonconsanguineous heterosexual couples kiss, either.

On part two of the incest show, Britney suspected she was pregnant with her father's child, saying to Wilkos, "How do you know if it's gonna come out lookin' all weird?" (Later in the episode, it was revealed that she was not. Exhale.)

Most children born to consanguineous parents are fine.

There were plenty of comments left about this.

A Small Turnip…

All accounts of incest make me feel cold and sad, but there's something especially gut-twisting about sexual relationships between fathers and daughters.

Some people say the same thing about all interracial relationships.

I think it's the power differential, really.

Ah. Discredited Argument #20.

Even if both parties emphatically declare that the relationship is entirely consensual, there's still that low gong in your heart that knows that it just isn't possible.

Not my heart. But I sometimes see couples together and I can’t make sense of it, either because one person seems so disagreeable or otherwise unattractive. Yet I would never try to pass a law or a judgment that says it couldn’t possibly be consensual. Some people insist that no man could possibly want to be monogamous, so no man can really consent to monogamy, right? Only, it isn’t true.

How, as a parent--even a long-estranged parent--can you be weak and cruel enough to damage your child in that way?

What is the damage? If you find sex is damaging, perhaps you aren’t doing it right.


I don't understand. Obviously the two are weirdly f----- up, but, like, I don't get how he's being "weak" or "cruel." It's consensual, and he had absolutely no part in raising her. What's the problem?

Thank you, I think. I don’t think it is obvious that they are messed up simply because they enjoy each other.


If you don't know, you probably will never know. Sad.

Clever. “Agree with me, even though I refuse to explain my position. If you don’t agree with me on these conditions, you must be defective.” THAT is sad.


@zegota: I'm sorry, do you actually believe that just because a woman says "okay" to have sex, that everything's okay?

Um, I thought we had long ago left in the dustbin of history the idea that women could not make decisions for themselves.

Lux Alptraum…

Well, conversely, do you believe that just because you can't imagine consenting to something, that no one could possibly consent to it?

Thank you!

A Small Turnip…

It's weak because this man has an entire world of adult women to love and be with, and he's chosen instead to be with someone who he will always have a psychological advantage over.

Discredited Argument #21.

He's cruel because he has stolen his daughter's trust.

So having sex with someone steals their trust? Again, maybe you’re not doing it right.

Britney's 18 years old, and still a child, really.

Are we going to take our age of consent laws seriously, or not? Or are we only going to take them seriously in one direction?


Barring circumstances such as underage children or the severely mentally challenged, the answer is yes. Allowing people (such as women) the freedom of choice means allowing them to make choices we find gross, disturbing and possibly self-destructive.

Thank you!


I watched the show and it was fairly obvious the way the interacted that it was not all right. The girl is 18 and has been abused in the past and has no other family, she reached out to her father and ended up in a relationship with him.

Abuse survivors can’t possibly consent to sex?


@deemer: "I'm sorry, do you actually believe that just because a woman says "okay" to have sex, that everything's okay?"- Is there proof of coercion? No, then why can't we take this woman on her word?

The lady in question is 18 and she says its consensual; so asides from icky feelings, cultural mores, and possible genetically defective offspring, whats the problem here? Shes legally an adult and has been estranged from her father for most of (her entire?) life so there's no basis for power differential or coercion.

I'm not a fan of this...set up (as it taps into my own icky feelings) but I'm weary of ascribing victim-hood and passivity to an adult woman's choice to sleep with whomever she wants (all parties meeting the legal definition of consent of course). Is it psychologically f----- up? sure, but shes an adult now, so shes freely capable of dealing with it...or not.

Thank you, I think.

Comme ci, comme ca…

I wonder if, since she has no other family, she consented to the relationship because she thinks it is the only way to keep him with her.

Legally, it shouldn’t matter why someone consents to sex. Some do it because they want to have fun. Some for love. Some out of a sense of obligation. Some to make babies. Some because they like the attention. Some to make others jealous. Some because they like the other person’s butt. Are we going to only make some consent legal?

Lux Alptraum…

Fine, but if one wishes to establish incest as taboo, one needs an actual, rational argument against it, and not rely on feelings-based statements like, "It's icky" and "No one can consent to that" (which, for the record, are arguments that can be used against a whole host of other behaviors many of us consider fine, like homosexuality and kink).

Thank you!


But I think we can both agree that there's a major difference between normal consent and incest. I think that certain things are taboo for a reason, and the fact that incest is being glossed over here because there's "consent" is very troubling.

All sorts of things have been taboo, such as gay or lesbian relationships and interracial relationships, or older women having relationships with younger men. It doesn’t mean the taboo is right.

Lux Alptraum…

I don't think incest is a good thing, and I don't think incestuous relationships should be encouraged, but if two consenting adults are entering in to a relationship--even if it's an unhealthy, gross relationship--I don't think that it's anyone's business but their own. A lot of people do a lot of things that I find appalling, but it's not necessarily my place to tell them whether or not they can do that.

Thank you. Either we're going to take consenting and the age of consent seriously, or we’re not.
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