I’ve touched on this subject in some of my articles, but I felt it deserved an article all on it’s own. We’re all familiar with the armchair eugenecists who bang on and on and on about the discredited mutant babies argument, but there is another group who exhibit the same behaviour using an entirely different argument: armchair psychologists. These usually crop up in the form of media article columnists, and they exist too in the general population and often cite their opinions as basically agreeing with the armchair psychologists opinion: that all incest must be down to mental illness.
Now, how can some random person on the Internet, who doesn’t even know the couple they’re talking about, and who probably isn’t a qualified mental health professional (c’mon, how many journalists actually are?) possibly be equipped to make such a statement about that couple, or worse, extrapolate (from that tiny sample of one couple) and apply that to ALL people who are, or who have been involved in consensual incest or GSA? Putting it bluntly, it’s quite obvious that they can’t actually back up such statements with anything more than the appeal to common knowledge fallacy. Everyone knows people who do incest are mentally ill… right. Well, wrong. Everyone ‘knew’ that the Earth was flat, and look how accurate that belief turned out to be.
What’s even more interesting though, is analysing where such a widespread but inaccurate belief would have come from in the first place. So, let’s see what we can come up with, just free thinking here:
- Most people have a strong Westermarck Effect, rendering the idea disgusting. They do not know how or why we do not react in the same way. This misunderstanding leads to the assumption of mental illness.
- The assumption that family dynamics and romance are not compatible without the family bond being compromised or without some kind of unhealthy power play. So basically it’s not understanding double-love.
- The assumption that mentally healthy people do not have these kinds of relationships, therefore anyone who does must have a mental illness.
- The assumption that common knowledge on the subject is common knowledge because it is correct
- The assumption that incest has something to do with pedophilia (which is unhealthy adn evil in the extreme), backed up by media stories of adults who sexually abuse their children. This is a guilt by assoication logical fallacy.
So, what we can reasonably take from this is that there is a lot of assuming going on, and that because the assumptions are incorrect, people cannot help but leap to the wrong conclusion. Much of the problem here is lack of accurate information, not to mention a lack of genuine healthcare professionals who will touch the subject of consensual incest with a bargepole! Add to that, most people are more comfortable not having their worldview rocked, which is likely a good part of the reason it took so long for people to become generally supportive of gay marriage.
It can be quite tricky to get people to challenge these assumptions within themselves, because it is done largely on a subconscious level. All people absorb the general views and attitudes of the culture in which they live, without ever really thinking about it. Therefore, the prevailing views in society tend to be based upon whatever assumptions (rightly or wrongly) hold them up. The old saying ‘garbage in, garbage out’ applies here. Enter wrong assumptions and you get wrong conclusions out.
Sadly, challenging these assumptions underlying the prevailing attitude won’t be easy, for the very reason that the subject is so emotive for so many people. People become more irrational and closed minded the greater the emotional charge. Some people are able to see past their own gut reaction and societal programming and recognize that there are areas in which they may be wrong (including this one), but oftentimes they are so convinced of their own accuracy that it’s as if they have an automatic ‘mute’ button for all opposing opinions, even if those opinions are backed up with evidence of some kind.
All we can do is carry on doing what we’re doing, fighting the good fight and educating the public. This is easier said than done of course, but knowing where these reactions come from and challenging these assumptions is something that will make our work somewhat easier. What would however make a dramatic difference is if some REAL mental health professionals decided to study us, in countries where consensual incest is legal of course. Their findings would be beneficial in proving conclusively that consanguinamory is NOT a form of mental illness, but is a normal and natural expression of human sexuality. Until such studies are conducted, I think it’s going to be tough going trying to actually prove to people beyond reasonable doubt that there is nothing wrong with us, and we do not need fixing.