Factors contributing to extreme incestophobia

I was having a conversation yesterday with Rainy, one of my close friends and colleagues, and fellow admin over at Kindred Spirits. The conversation went from current events to some peoples extreme reaction towards us. We weren’t talking about people who simply disagree with our lifestyle and who simply want incest to remain illegal (the vast majority), we were talking about people who literally want us dead (a minority within that majority).

As unpleasant as it the fact is, these people exist. But without understanding what drives such an extreme reaction, we have no hope of defeating it’s toxic effects on society and neutralizing it at source. Ideally it would be better if nobody was developing such extreme views, and this article exists to explore some options on how we may do just that.

After some theorizing, it became clear to me that there is no one single factor that is causing people to react in this way, rather it may be a convergence of several of these factors. So, let’s explore what those factors are:

An extremely strong Westermarck Effect

I believe that the Westermarck Effect exists as a kind of scale, between somebody having none at all, and people having it ramped all the way up to maximum where they feel physically nauseated at the possibility of even other people doing it. Most people are somewhere in between, where it’s strong enough that they wouldn’t engage in incestuous activity themselves and they’d prefer others didn’t but even if they do they just don’t want to hear about it because it makes them uncomfortable.

Having the Westermarck effect as a scale makes more sense to me than it being a simple ‘on’ and ‘off’ function, which in my mind would be a gross oversimplification of whats going on. So, I think that somebody having an extremely strong Westermarck Effect, while in isolation may not be enough to make somebody homicidal, may be a risk factor in predisposing them to such attitudes.

Childhood sexual abuse by a relative

While most of the population falsely associate incest with child abuse, I believe that many people can see the glaring difference between people molesting their kids and two adult relatives forming a relationship, although even then many believe that there is some kind of grooming going on, something I covered extensively in a previous essay.

That said, I think that incest and child abuse may become indistinguishable for some people who suffered psychological trauma as a result of being sexually abused by a family member. Nothing gets people more angry than being who abuse defenceless little kiddies, and for good reason, pedophiles cause horrific trauma to their victims and mentally scar them for life in many cases. Some victims are left with trust issues, and an inability to be physically intimate with others. Of course anyone who has suffered from this should seek help and counselling, and they’re deserving of sympathy.

I can fully understand why somebody who has suffered like this and then hears about an incest couple could fly into a homicidal rage because they associate it, falsely, with the abuse that they went through. Not all victims of sexual abuse are going to feel that way, and some may even oppose legislation against consenting adults in their name… but I can and do understand why some people would become so angry.

Religion

While this should be an irrelevance to the law, it certainly isn’t an irrelevance in many peoples lives. Religion does shape how people think and feel, and the more religious a person is, the more likely they are to hold extreme views about sexuality. Belonging to a conservative sect of a religion is more likely to make a person hold extreme positions about alternative sexuality than somebody from a more libertarian or liberal sect. A good indicator is the attitude that a religion holds towards homosexuality, it’s a pretty safe bet that those preaching hellfire and damnation to gay people are likely even more hostile to incest.

In some religions there is room for interpretation. At first glance, the Bible appears to be against incest, and yet Abraham and his sister Sarah were clearly a consang couple and God not only approved their union, but blessed them with a child after Sarah has believed herself to be barren.

In other religions there is far less room for interpretation. Islamic Sharia law for instance insists that gay people be thrown from high places, and that people guilty of incest be stoned to death after being flogged.

So while religion may be an irrelevance to many people, it isn’t irrelevant when talking about peoples attitudes towards sexuality in general or about us in particular. Some people, those of the ‘true believer’ mentality, are more prone to getting whipped up into a homicidal frenzy than those who may simply celebrate their holidays and that’s about it.

Psychopathy

While it’s certainly true that most psychopaths are able to go about their business without murdering anyone (they realize it’s in their own best interests to adhere to the law) it can be a factor in some people getting homicidal when they see or hear about something that they REALLY don’t like. I say this because most people are able to have empathy for others, this acts as a social and moral barrier for us and prevents us from harming others. With a psychopath, this barrier is severely impaired, because he or she would have no capacity for remorse upon hurting others. It’s not difficult to see how psychopathy would be a risk factor.

Degree of mental programming

Everyone is programmed to an extent, but some more than others. Programming happens when something is planted in the subconscious mind, perhaps without that person ever being aware of it. Most people have undergone anti-incest programming in the form of ‘eww gross’ reactions of other people when the subject has been mentioned, stories in the news about incest couples being depraved and perverted, and of course we’re the butt of many a joke. All of this underscored by the Westermarck Effect I mentioned earlier and you’ve got the recipe for a pretty solid negative response to incest.

That said, like in all other things, it is a scale. Some have been programmed more than others. If they’ve ever seen somebody else fly into a homicidal rage when they heard about incest, they will be more likely to think that this is the appropriate course of action. Not consciously of course, but subconsciously. So they can fly into a fit of rage without ever knowing why or even stopping to question their reaction.

What can be done to reduce these risks to our safety?

In the short term remaining hidden is a no-brainer, but in the long term that is not a viable option if we want full equality, and things aren’t going to change any if we stay hidden and afraid. Needless to say we need to minimize if possible the risk factors.

Now, it seems at a glance that all of these things are beyond our control, and to a certain degree they are. That said, that doesn’t mean that we cannot work to lessen the impact that these have. As I have said previously, we’re not as powerless as we sometimes believe ourselves to be. Far from it, we can have some influence in the world if we use our heads.

Our main objective is to improve our image. We have a major PR problem, and most of it is down to ignorance of the issues, and peoples incorrect perceptions about us. We can and should continue to get our stories out there as much as possible without putting ourselves at risk. For now that means running with independants as much as humanly possible, as they will not always expect us to provide verification, as the mainstream media does. Even if an independant does ask for verification at first, quite often it’s possible to negotiate and they may publish your story anyway even with no verification.

It’s an education issue mostly. Most people are hoplessly ill informed about consensual incest, because it doesn’t effect them and they rely on ‘common knowledge’. When that common knowledge is lacking, it leads to all kinds of misconceptions, and sometimes to people being demonized, as we are. Some of this is down to fear, aleviate the ignorance and we aleviate the fear.

By doing this we can actually get to a point where somebody who has an extremely high Westermarck effect can be disgusted without feeling the need to fly into a rage. We can get to the point where the sexual abuse victim no longer associates his or her abuse with consenting adults who are just a bit different from the norm. We can appeal to more moderate and inclusive versions of each religion so that eventually their attitudes towards us become the dominant ones. We can’t do anything about the fact that some people have psychopathy, but we can at least make it socially unacceptable to kill us and make it in their best interests not to harm us. Lastly, by fighting the misconceptions and ignorance, we leave less and less room for the programming of peoples minds.

You see, this is not an unwinnable war, it’s just going to be a long one. This is deeply engrained into the public psyche, and this level of prejudice is not going to be quick or easy to remove, but if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, we will get there in the end, no matter how long the journey. But no matter how long that journey is, no matter what obstacles we face, as long as we have each other, and enough faith to keep going, we WILL get there. That I promise you.