Most people would agree that Christianity is against incest, but, is that right? I havementioned before that there was positively portrayed incestuous relationships in the Bible, most notably Abraham’s marriage to his half-sister Sarah. That said some Christians can beextremely bigoted and narrow minded, and that is really sad considering the mountain of evidence to suggest that the Bible provides no concrete and clear guidance either way… an incestuous man is prophetized as the founder of Judaism (and later by extension, Christianity and Islam), and later incest is condemned in Leviticus. This would suggest that the incest taboo has not always been there, and that it has more to do with shifting attitudes towards it than it has to do with Gods opinion.
In ancient times, marriages between families was often used as a means to solidify bonds with other families and provide a greater sense of security within a community. That’s not going to happen if large numbers of people are hooking up with their siblings or parents. I believe that this is one of the reasons for the taboo.
Anyway, I digress just a little, because we have an amazingly insightful analysis coming from a Christian source here. I found it to be a wonderful and delightful read, considering all of the hate that has been spewed at our people from both religious and secular sources. It is nice to see that somebody out there is at least asking the right questions and demonstrating that anti-incest hate is not necessarily a Christian virtue. As a consanguinamorous Christian, I thank the author of the article for this amazing piece of non-judgemental and neutral work.
Incest sparks strong emotions – and today, in many cultures at least, they are largely negative. But has it always been thus? Or is the taboo peculiar to certain times and places?
Different cultures at different times have had differing attitudes towards incest. Part of the reason for such strong emotions is because of the taboo aspect that is present in our own culture at this point in time. Were the taboo not in place, people would probably have much the same attitudes towards it as they do towards any other relationship. It’s not for everyone of course, but it is positive for those of us to whom it applies. It is known that ancient Egyptian society was fully accepting of incestuous relationships, and they were very common in that society.
Incest taboos are often said to be universal – and sex with a close relative (one’s parent, child, or sibling) is widely considered particularly depraved, as well as detrimental and stigmatising for any offspring who might result from such a union.
The main reason that it is considered depraved is because of the misunderstandings that surround incest, the lack of knowledge and the ‘common knowledge’ (most of which is very negative) has caused the population to hate us. What is not well known is that the inbreeding risk, even for immediate family, is currently thought to be around 9% chance of something going wrong… it could be a very minor defect or it could be serious. However, most children born of incestuous parents are healthy. If people realized that many unrelated people had a far higher chance of birth defects, such as people who suffer from a known genetic defect themselves, perhaps they would be more supportive of our cause.
Both of these cases are hideous. In the case of Fred West, he and his wife Rosemary were MONSTERS who raped, tortured and killed both children and adults… including some of their own children (there was even the sick joke about Charmaine’s body being buried under the patio below the family barbecue). I remember when this was all coming out on the news, it sickened everyone.
Josef Fritzl kept his daughter in an underground dungeon for over a decade, fathering many children by her by rape, some of which died. The case came to light when one of the children was taken to hospital for some injury or illness and she spoke out about her imprisonment and sexual abuse. Fritzl is only marginally less evil than Fred West in that he did not deliberately kill any of his victims. His wife claims she had no knowledge that any of this was going on… I still don’t know whether to believe that because surely the food bill for his daughter and her kids would have given it away that something was up, not to mention how do you build a dungeon without your wife noticing? Just my opinion of course, but it irks me.
Both of these cases are as far removed from consensual adult incest that it is possible to get. It would be akin to comparing pedophile priests who molest their altar boys with homosexuals. Consensual adult incest is a beautiful experience, it is the merging of family bonding with the lovers bond, and when combined it surpasses both to a large degree. What is better than love?… DOUBLE LOVE like this.
And yet incest also seems to be everywhere: in high and low-brow literature – from Virginia Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic to Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things – as well as in film and especially popular television – think Game of Thrones, Brookside, Hollyoaks andEmmerdale. It is also a trope in gothic horror.
As much as I would love to believe that all of these sources were trying to raise awareness of the issue, I think it may have to do more with the ratings. If they can capture the audience by presenting a taboo topic that intrigues them, then they will do it because more viewers translates to more money. That said, I am glad that there are so many positive portrayals of consensual incest out there. That at least should get some minds thinking about it in a more tolerant light.
Curiously, too, in popular culture, incest is not infrequently depicted as consensual and – especially when it is between a good-looking brother and sister – even as romantic.
Which is good. We actually need some parent/offspring couples added to the mix too, to show people how those relationships too can be functional and beautiful too. It’s good to raise such issues, even if at first they must be in a fictional format. People are more likely to have a sensible debate surrounding fictional characters than they are real life people, simply because ‘it’s not real’.
Nevertheless, judging from the press over the last few weeks, anyone would think that familial sexual relationships were a completely new phenomenon and that until recently, incest was kept at bay by strong social taboos.
I know what you mean. The media have basically created a storm because there has been a recent frenzy of articles on the subject covering different cases. It’s not because there is more incest now than there was before, it is because there is the internet now and news travels further and faster than ever has at any time in human history. A piece of news that would have been city wide a century ago is now available to a global audience, giving the ILLUSION that there is more of it happening. In truth it is probably happening at the same rate at which it has always happened.
However, whether familial sexual relationships are indeed considered to be incestuous (that is, illegal, even criminal) or not depends on the social and cultural context. Moreover, attitudes to incest tend to be gendered and heteronormative.
Agreed, which is why people go on and on about the mutant babies argument, and do not stop to consider homosexual incest to which that argument does not apply. The ancient Egyptian culture, for example, accepted incest as the same as any other relationship, where our own culture goes nuts over the mere mention of it. It shouldn’t even be an issue, much less illegal and criminal.
With relatives who were once separated increasingly able to trace each other (through DNA testing, social media, and reunion services), stories of siblings, or of a parent and childreunited are more common. And not infrequently, such reunions transpire in mutual attraction and love – which has been hitting the headlines recently.
These are the stories most often reported by the media, but in reality we have no idea what the ratio is of GSA to NON-GSA forms of incest. Nobody knows because of the necessarily secretive nature of the act. Had incest not been illegal, we would know what the percentages were of each kind (just as we know roughly what percentage of the population is homosexual).
Actually, GSA feelings occur in around 50% of all reunion cases.
When people do spend early life together, a different psycho-social mechanism, called theWestermarck effect, functions to suppress erotic bonding. It is almost never the case that romantic, consensual erotic bonding happens between family members who do spend early life together.
The Westermarck effect is absent for GSA couples, like you said, but it is also absent or very weak for Non-GSA incest couples. I believe, but cannot prove, that the Westermarck effect is largely down to the taboo against incest.
Some of the public conversations now turn to whether incestuous unions – where they are consensual and between adults – should be tolerated and decriminalised. Indeed, in Sweden half-sibling marriage is already legal and the jurisdictions of some other countries, too, do not penalise such acts.
It should not be a criminal offence anywhere. Not only is it a complete waste of taxpayers money and police time, it is also immoral to persecute those people who are not harming anybody. Decriminalization is a good first step, and it should be followed up with the right of marriage.
Media stories only portray heterosexual familial partnerships, however, so there’s precious little coverage on brothers or male close family relations who’ve experienced GSA after a period of separation.
This is probably because gay people only represent around 3-5% of the population at any given time, and that gay incest likewise represents 3-5% of all incest. The existence of gay incest is acknowledged, but for media purposes they tend to focus more on heterosexual incest.
That’s not to say it hasn’t happened, of course, but the coverage says a great deal about such being a cultural “taboo too far” for us.
I don’t think it’s that, many people would likely be more accepting of homosexual incest than heterosexual incest if they are believers in the mutant babies argument. Of course, this is assuming that there are not homophobes in the debate. Sadly, homophobia is still an issue in society, even in places where gays may lawfully marry.
By contrast, popular cultural representations of heterosexual sibling incest is often eroticised, with the woman frequently portrayed as a feminine ideal: beautiful and sexy.
I think this is playing on the subliminal erotic fantasies that people may have. If the woman is extremely good looking, and chooses her brother over all of the other men she could have pulled, it shows the truth that some women choose these relationships and it is not lack of another available man that causes these attractions.
In such story lines, incestuous relationships function to add an extra thrill of the illicit. The most recent public examples of GSA, however, reveal the mundanity of many of the cases, despite the scandalous tenor of the journalists.
Well, most incest couples are in fact pretty mundane. They do the same things as everyone else… the ONLY difference is that they are related. You’d probably never know it if you saw an incest couple out shopping or something, they look and behave no differently than anyone else. You probably KNOW somebody who is in just such a relationship, but you will probably never know about it!
One journalist described GSA feelings as ‘strange and strong and sad’. Now, I must disagree with that person, because the only ‘sad’ thing I saw was the sensationalist news piece.
The media coverage provoked by biological mother and son Kim West and Ben Ford, the latest couple to go public with their experience of GSA, has been queasy, voyeuristic and sensationalist, with assertions that familial sexual relationships “are on the rise”.
Which they aren’t, they’re just more publicised than ever before.
Suggestions that familial sexual relationships are increasingly common suggests that they’ve been very rare in the past; however, even a text as ancient as the Bible outlines prohibitions for incest, suggesting that familial sexual relationships occurred frequently enough to warrant the introduction of behavioural guidelines.
Exactly! There would be no point in prohibiting that which nobody does anyway!
Despite the seemingly clear rules around incestuous relationships – just as popular culture toys with the titillation and taboo of the topic – biblical depiction is ambiguous. Yes, there are the Levitical laws that prohibit sex with a string of family members (one’s sibling, parent, certain in-laws … but not one’s son or daughter!), but then there is also the story of Lot’s daughters in Genesis 19, seducing their father and bearing sons, which offers no (certainly no explicit) reproof. The daughters even draw attention to incest by calling their sons “Moab” (Hebrew for “from the father”) and “Ben-Ammi” (“son of my people”)!
Exactly! The Bible offers us more than one interpretation, and just because incest is prohibited in Leviticus does not invalidate all such relationships. Leviticus had many strange laws. You’re breaking them if you wear cotton/polyester shirts or eat bread made with yeast. I take such ‘laws’ with a pinch of salt, as do most Christians. I doubt that the incest nay-sayers really know their Bible as well as they claim to.
The revered patriarch Abraham mentions rather casually that his wife, Sarah, is also his half-sister. David’s son Amnon becomes obsessed with and rapes his sister Tamar. This event is certainly depicted as villainous and cruel on Amnon’s part but Tamar’s words, as she tries to prevent the rape, suggest sibling marriage is an option.
Well the rape is clearly reprehensible and wrong, but as for Abraham and Sarah, those two are depicted as an average and loving couple.
Close-kin marriages – between fathers and daughters and between siblings – were certainly known in Egypt, right up to and including Cleopatra, who married two of her brothersconsecutively.
Yes. Brother/Sister marriages were the most common form, it was even expected of the Egyptian royalty of the time to marry their sibling to continue the bloodline, which they believed was from the Gods. It is interesting to know that some of their Gods were also in incestuous relationships, like Osiris and his sister Isis. Why would they not emulate the Gods they worshipped?
The Bible, as usual, however, offers no clear advice going forward.
That’s because the Bible is contradictory and therefore open to interpretation in places. I personally do not feel that God is about to send anybody to hell for loving another person who just happens to be a close family member. Hell wasn’t made for people anyway, it was made for demons.
This should show anyone how open minded and liberal it is possible for a Christian to be. I love God and I love Jesus as the earthly representation of God, I accept Jesus as my lord and saviour… however, doing this does not mean I throw my brains away. God gave human beings a brain for a reason, that they might use it wisely. This means being tolerant of other peoples lifestyles and other peoples sexuality. God cares far far less about what’s going on with your genitals than it does about what’s going on in your mind and the attitudes you hold. I say ‘it’ because contrary to popular belief, God does not have a gender. In short, you can be Christian and consanguinamorous, just as you can be Christian and gay… it doesn’t matter so long as you love God!