Jennifer Tillmann at vice.com managed to get a couple to talk with her, as long as their identities were protected. One of them describes the hate hurled their way...
Tom's profile picture shows him and his girlfriend, Lena. She hugs him from behind, lovingly kissing him on the neck. He is smiling, twining his fingers in her long, brown hair. Strictly speaking, nothing is wrong with this photo. It shows two people who love each other—a relationship based on mutual attraction.
But Lena is Tom's sister, and for most people this changes everything; the photograph actually becomes criminal evidence. "I'm scared of people finding me disgusting," says Tom. He looks away from me and claws at his fingers. He's been in a committed relationship with his sister for 20 years, and the couple has a child together. "There's nothing that I haven't heard before. People have called me a desecrator, sister-f---er, or simply retarded. And all that's come out of the mouths of people who were at one time my friends. Even if society won't recognize us, we exist and there are more of us than you think."There sure are.
Rotraut Perner is a psychotherapist who has worked, among other things, on various incest cases since 1975. "In most cases, my patients were very shy toward strangers," he says. "They clearly exhibited social anxiety and tended to stay at home. This of course was often linked to their backstory: Most of them weren't allowed to meet up with other people as children because their parents were either very jealous or very stern—limiting their children's movements."How many people who are happy social butterflies are going to seek the help of people like Perner? Consanguinamory exists among all personality types and with people who've had great childhoods and bad childhoods.
"I started getting real feelings for her when we both entered puberty," said Tom. "She was blossoming. Sometimes I would watch her getting dressed in her room and always felt ashamed of myself afterwards."
"I was relieved to find out she felt the same about me," said Tom. "We could be happy together. But of course that was a kind of utopia. In reality, our love was a curse—it still is."The curse is usually about discrimination.
In Rotraut Perner's view, this is not abnormal per se. "From my professional experience, it's not true that people don't find their siblings attractive," the psychotherapist says. "Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. More importantly, relationships between siblings are defined by envy, rivalry, and admiration, along with the need to cuddle or have secrets from the rest of the world. All those things are linked to certain fantasies—some of them induced by pop culture and the media, others by their upbringing and family situation. Whether or not you make those fantasies a reality, depends on how good you are at evaluating that reality. People in incestuous relationships often lack that skill."So do others. If people treat each other well and want to be together, why should anyone try to shame them or "fix" them?
In the case of Tom and Lena, their fantasy soon came to life: "I can still remember it like it happened yesterday," says Tom. "She looked up at me and asked why other men can't be more like me." That's when it happened; Tom felt sure that he and Lena were not just siblings. But before he could make a move, Lena leaned in and kissed him. Tom pushed his sister away. "What the hell are we doing?" he screamed. Lena started to cry.
The following days were torture for Tom. Of course they could have just blamed it on the alcohol, but was it really a one-off? His thoughts just wouldn't leave him alone. He begun to remember specific situations. "It became clear to me that Lena and I were always flirting," he said. "I always used to take it as a joke but it couldn't have been. All these strange situations suddenly became crystal clear."
The realization can be powerful.
He really believed that the law could be repealed. But the appeal was rejected in 2008 by judges who cited several reasons the law should stand, including:
Maintaining a diverse gene pool is in the best interest of public health
Laws against incest can protect vulnerable people from trauma that could arise even from consensual sexual acts.
Decriminalizing incest law could send the "wrong message" to the public
These "reasons" are flimsy. What's the message to the public? People should be free to love each other. What's wrong with that? See here and here and here for more responses.It's a common but erroneous notion.
Hans Jörg Albrecht, director of the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Germany, has tried to disprove the most common rumors surrounding incest in a lengthy analysis. Albrect's writings are Tom's Bible. "The majority of people think that Paragraph 211... serves children who are yet to be born," says Tom. "They are just so wrong. They assume that 100 percent of children who arise from incestuous relationships are handicapped."
In general, the children of related couples are more likely to have certain kinds of genetic conditions, but according to the Genetic Alliance, a UK-based group that works to improve the lives of people with genetic conditions, "most related couples have healthy children."Right.
"I would understand it if you told me, 'You are going to prison because you are endangering your child,'" Tom said. "But my child is healthy and my wife and I love each other voluntarily. Therefore all good reasons for punishment do not apply."The only harm is from the prejudice from others.
The story was picked up by at uproxx.com...
And what’s most interesting is that unlike Chris and Cathy and Jaime and Cersei (whose fictional relationships are all based on drama and intrigue), Tom and Lena claim they came together naturally, and not, as some people might think, from a twisted and brokenIt was also picked up by Alison Maloney at thesun.co.uk.
Unless I missed something, all three outlets treated this story objectively and with respect, rather than sneering and hate. Kudos to the journalists, their editors, and employers. Comments by readers may be full of hate, however.I'd like to hear more from this couple and anyone else in "forbidden" adult relationships. Please contact me!