Sunday, January 29, 2012

Another Ally For Consanguinamory

A Young Contrarian Speaks, which presents “rhetoric from a lonely liberal,” offered thoughts on abn advice column that dealt with sex between a widowed grandmother and her grandson, “On Incestuous Grandmothers and Morality.”

Not that I have anything against the pitiful undergrad who dabbled with a potent combination of incest and anililagnia, but it was hard to read the atrocious advice offered by ‘Thelma’ without wincing. She indulged in age-old assumption that men are horny beasts utterly incapable of controlling our lustful desires, while women (apparently even those tottering with creaking joints and wrinkled skin) indubitably play the role of the seductress. This morally dubious judgement was immediately followed by a legally erroneous one- it is irrelevant to bring up statutory rape when the lad in question was clearly over the age of consent in Malaysia (16), and furthermore our laws do not make allowance for male victims of rape.

It is good to have that clarity.

What is so morally abhorrent about incest? The automatic reaction for most people (including myself) upon reading the aforementioned column is a cringe of disgust. This sense of repulsion is caused by a variety of factors, but most obviously by the incestuous nature the sexual relationship. I personally would not be very much disturbed by the notion of the young lad enjoying carnal relations with an elderly woman (though I may find his taste questionable).

“Elderly” women can be great, experienced, caring lovers.

It is the blood-tie, the familial relation that causes that instinctive flinch of distaste to the whole state of affairs.

For some.

The fact that countless people discriminate against homosexuality for reasons which do not stand a moment’s scrutiny makes me wary of not challenging my own deeply imbedded assumptions.

Ask the next person you meet why precisely does he or she impugn the morality of incestuous relationships, and chances are you will get the following reaction: ‘It’s just not natural!’. That exclamation, accompanied by the furore of the eyebrows and grimace of the mouth, appears to be the end of the discussion for most people on the subject. Unfortunately, the argument is one that is equally often employed against homosexuality and it has no merits in either case.

It is Discredited Argument #5.

Firstly comes the question of what exactly is defined as ‘natural’, after all, are humans natural? And if we are natural beings, how can it be possible for us to do anything unnatural? Assume that you are able to neatly divide the world’s phenomena in sub categories of ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’, and you still have the problem that the naturalness of an act has little to say about its morality. There are natural phenomena that are hugely destructive (virus, tsunamis), and unnatural phenomena which we all love and cherish (the internet, vaccines). Clearly it is not possible to judge the moral character of an act simply by whether or not you consider it ‘natural’.

Well done.

A more plausible line of argument may be that incestuous relationships lead to lack of genetic diversity, in other words-deformed children. This is certainly a relevant component to consider, but it hardly settles the issue.

It is Discredited Argument #18.

If we were to condemn incest purely on the grounds of genetic diversity, we would have to denounce all couples who carry a higher than normal risk of passing on defective genes (such as those with a recessive Down syndrome gene). And yet we do not look upon such couples with condemnation but with sympathy. It comes into question what degree of genetic risk is acceptable for our scorn; after all by most measures children produced by first cousin couples only carry a marginally higher risk of chromosomal irregularity. The whole question is made moot by the fact that we live in an era where contraceptives are easily available, and sexual intercourse is done for reasons other than procreation. Since an infertile but incestuous relationship is almost certainly to be condemned in equal terms by most parties, the possibility of deformed children does not appear to be the central issue here.

Well done, again.

The only path left for one wishing to prohibit incest is either an appeal to religion, or to just call it repugnant without clarification.

Discredited Arguments #1 and 4.

I won’t go into the religion argument too closely, but suffice to say that every religion has had its rules on morality bent due to the passage of time, and a great many practices we take for granted today (equal rights for women, usage of condoms) would have seemed morally questionable at time of the conception of most monotheistic religions. You have to employ something further than a reference to divine to justify your belief, at least if you want others to take you seriously. The argument from repugnance is rarely articulated, it is just assumed that if sufficient people hold a consensus in dislike for a certain act then no further justification is required. It should be obvious however, that we cannot simply implement policies and laws on the basis of our individual tastes. The fact that the question even arises shows that at least one other individual (or in this case two individuals) does not share in the popular assessment.

Rights are not reserved for the majority anyway.

By making these arguments, I do not have to indicate encouragement or approval of incestuous relationships. I do, however, point out that the vitriol and revulsion commonly associated with the taboo of incest seems to be rather misplaced. There are much more horrific actions to disavow than consensual sex between adults, and the sharing of a common bloodline does not immediately make it inherently unethical. My own line of thinking that the dynamics of a family structure does make sex between their direct members significantly unhealthy,

See #19.

but I can find no reason to condemn say, siblings who were separated from birth who are later reunited and then wish to have a romantic liaison.

Genetic Sexual Attraction.

When people are informed and sit down and think it through, rather thank letting their personal, knee-jerk emotional reactions to form opinion on law, they’ll see that there is no reason to deny the consanguinamorous freedoms to sex and marriage.
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