This is necessarily a long essay, and I apologize, but I’ve heard so many arguments before that I want to deal with them preemptively.
many places, certain acts of affection between close genetic relatives
are still a crime, regardless of all involved being consenting adults,
regardless of their backgrounds. This includes when the adults have
experienced Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA).
is there are people who are happy together, in every way, who were
brought together through GSA. The main problem in the relationship is
the discrimination, often codified in laws that include the possibility
of criminal prosecution, against their relationship. There are other
people who are experiencing GSA who, for any number of reasons, do not
want their relationship to become sexual, or remain sexual if it has
already become sexual. Both of these groups, and the other people who
love them and depend on them, would benefit from decriminalization.
The first group would be free to live their lives.
The second group would be more able find effective help and support.
There is no reason to keep laws against any affection between consenting adults in these cases that is consistently applied elsewhere. For
example, in the USA, we have firmly established the legal concepts that
adults have the freedom of association and a right to privacy that
extends to consensual sex and that protects them from prosecution, and
we have firmly established as a social concept that consenting adults
should be allowed to do with each other what they want. It is just
taking some time for these to be consistently applied.
A Good Reason for Criminalization?
look at the reasons people give for making criminals out of consenting
adults who are experiencing GSA by denying them the freedom to be
1. “It is disgusting.” Also known as the
“ick” or “eww” factor, this explains why the person using the argument
wouldn’t want to do it, but their own personal disgust is not a
justification for preventing other people from doing something those
other people want to do. We all have seen relationships that disgust us,
but it is up to the adult involved, not anyone else.
“Not a lot of people want to do it” or “I don’t want to do it.” The
second one is much like #1 above, and many people who are in, or have
been in, GSA relationships never thought they would want to do something
like this before they experienced it for themselves. The first is not a
justification for keeping something illegal. If anything, it is a
reason laws against these relationships are wasteful and unnecessary.
“It goes against tradition.” So did the abolition of slavery. A
tradition of inequality is not a justification for continuing to deny
4. “My religion is against it.” We should all
have the freedom of religion and in places like the US, we have
separation of church and state, so this can’t be a justification for
keeping laws against GSA, only a reason why one person would not feel
free to be affectionate that way.
5. “It's not natural." Actually, yes, it is. GSA is a normal, natural reaction to the
circumstances (see references below). But even if it wasn't, people are
allowed artificial things all of the time, like using smart phones.
6. “What’s next?” “Where do we draw the line?” Freedom for consenting adults. Who has a problem with that?
“These relationships are abusive.” These types of relationships are not
inherently abusive. Abusive people are the cause of abuse. We have
several examples showing that outlawing consensual behavior correlates
to an increase in problems as people try to avoid law enforcement and
other authorities. Legalizing these relationships will most certainly
reduce abuse, as abuse victims can go to the authorities with much less
fear. So the solution isn’t the status quo, it is in decriminalizing
such relationships and prosecuting abusers. Victims will be much more
8. “It ruins, confuses, or distorts family relationships.” Ever notice how people who use this argument against
GSA relationships almost never say the same thing about any other
relationship? It is okay for say, siblings, to be coworkers, business
partners, roommates, lender and borrower, best friends, on and on… but
never lovers. Why the inconsistency? They don’t say it about any number
of additional relationship dimensions relatives might have with each
other, or at least this objection is not enshrined in law, as it is with
laws criminalizing GSA sex. It is as if these people think sex is a bad
thing and about doing bad things to the other person(s). Maybe they are
doing it wrong?
Most people experiencing GSA already
have sociological families. The genetic sibling, child, or parent with
whom they have been reunited or to whom they have been introduced is an
addition to their life, not someone who is dropping or conflicting with
an existing sociological role. Some people in these relationships see
the affection as a form of compensation for what was lost and can never
9. “There is a power differential.” This
applies least of all to siblings close in age, but even where the power
differential exists, it is not a justification for making criminals out
of lovers. There is a power differential in just about any relationship,
sometimes an enormous power differential. One person is more
emotionally needy than another. One earns more than the other. One is
more educated than another. One has more friends and family than
another. One has more life experience than another. On and on it goes.
To question if consent is truly possible in these cases is insulting and
demeaning. There are sober, functional, healthy adults who consent to
sex with an older relative. It shouldn’t be illegal or questioned,
unless you would do the same to any intergenerational relationship
10. “There are so many people outside
of your family. Go have sex with one of them, instead.” This is usually
said out of ignorance of what GSA is. There is a relationship going on
that can’t be duplicated with anyone else, and if sex is involved, it is
just one aspect of a powerful whole. Consenting adults should free to
make their own decisions about their relationships, regardless of the
prejudices of others. There are plenty of people within one’s own race,
too, but that is no reason to ban interracial relationships.
11. “This will hurt children.” This is usually meant one of four ways:
“Children you have together will have two heads.” This is one reason
why some lovers have decided not to have children together. But does it
hold up as a reason for criminalizing GSA sex? No. 1) As I just said,
many lovers have decided not to have children together, and would keep
that decision regardless of law. Most people do not believe sex is only
for reproduction. Most sex does not result in a birth, and there are gay
and lesbian GSA relationships, and other GSA relationships where
pregnancy is not even a possible result of sex. 2) We don’t prevent
other people from having sex or deny them their reproductive rights
based on increased odds of passing along a genetic problem or inherited
disease. 3) Most births to consanguineous parents do not produce
children with significant birth defects. Unless someone is willing to
deny reproductive rights and medical privacy to others and force
everyone to take genetic tests and bar carriers and the congenitally
disabled and women over 35 from having children, then equal protection
principles prevent this from being a justification for criminalizing
GSA. Anyone concerned about these things should have genetic testing and
counseling. People who are not close relatives can pass along health
b) “The children will find out their
parents are related, and will be taunted.” First, see above. Secondly,
what the children will know is that their parents love each other, and
love them, and that is what is important to a child. Finally, people
used to say this about interracial and gay parents. The biggest problem
appears to the rudely outspoken bigotry of others. Don’t want the kids
to be taunted? Then don’t taunt them.
c) “It will make
it easier for children to be groomed for sex or otherwise abused.” GSA
specifically involves people who were not raised together or by each
other, so grooming doesn’t really apply with GSA. But will
decriminalizing GSA make it easier for custodial guardians and parents
to abuse children? The law could be written in such a way as to only
decriminalize GSA and not apply to guardians/custodial parents, but
there are places, such as Rhode Island and various countries in the
world, where consensual sexual affection between close adult relatives
is legal, GSA or not. Where is the proof that child abuse increased in
those places as a result? Consensual sex and abuse are two different
things. There are people abusing their own children RIGHT NOW in places
where consensual adult incest is illegal. Meanwhile, does anyone really
think that allowing consenting adults to have their love lives means
more adults will prey on children? Society already disapproves of
preying on children, and it still happens, sadly. Many things legal for
adults are not legal for children, such as joining the military, getting
married, purchasing prescription medication, driving automobiles on
public roads, buying adult media, working in coal mines, etc. Not every
law or norm or sensitivity can cater to young children.
“This will break up the home of children.” This is applied to GSA
situations involving people who have existing relationships that are
threatened by GSA, and those relationships involve children. Personally,
I think children would rather their parents not split up unless one is
abusive, and I do not think it is OK to violate existing vows to others.
This is definitely an important consideration for someone experiencing
GSA. But… it is their consideration, not for strangers to try to decide
for them in law. We do not prevent people from breaking up or divorcing
even if they have children. It is perfectly legal, or any reason. In
most places, laws against adultery are no longer applicable. A parent
can have sex with a complete stranger every night, or divorce and
remarry multiple times; it is all legal, even if it is often a bad idea.
we can see, there isn’t a compelling reason for the continued
criminalization of GSA. It will make laws more consistent and people
will be better off if GSA is decriminalized. In many places, is legal
for complete strangers to have group sex, with different people every
night if they’d like, but not legal for two people who have an ongoing
relationship and love each other to, say, have oral sex, simply because
they are close genetic relatives. Does that make sense?
is real and is a common, normal response to the circumstances involved,
which are often circumstances nobody experiencing the GSA can be blamed
for creating. GSA is not an indication that anything is wrong with the
people involved. It is not wrong to have these feelings. I also argue
that in many cases, it is not wrong to act on such feelings, that there
is no good reason why adults in these cases who are not violating
existing vows to others, who are right for each other, should feel a
need to refrain from being together in whatever way they want. Even if
and when wrong, that doesn’t mean it should be criminal.
acting sexually on GSA ruined the lives of some people? Like all sexual
relationships, the answer is yes, for some it has. Some people are not
right for each other, even if they are strongly attracted to each other,
and some people are abusive (sometimes that is a reason for the
separation circumstances to begin with). Some people aren’t free to be
together. But that is no reason to categorically condemn and criminalize
all GSA sex.
It is a waste of precious resources to keep GSA criminalized; it is also harming people.
those brought together through GSA who are enjoying their relationships
in every way, nothing else compares. They should be free to share their
lives with each other, if that is what they want, and they should not
be prosecuted, bullied, or discriminated against.
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