Oh dear, we’ve got another one here folks, another right stinker of an article in which the author appeals to lack of official research to defend her ridiculous claim that GSA doesn’t exist, labelling the term pseudo-scientific. Obviously this woman hasn’t dug particularly deep, nor has she spoken to anybody who has experienced GSA, and to make matters worse she piles on the hate. Okay let’s begin:
Last week a minor eruption of media coverage surfaced about an incestuous couple in New Mexico who is fighting criminal prosecution and a court order keeping them apart since sex between a parent and child is illegal. Monica Mares gave up her son, Caleb Peterson, when she was 16 years old, and they reunited after he became a legal adult. The relationship swiftly became romantic, and the government intervened, forcing them to separate and charging them both with a crime.
Except that he wasn’t a child, but a grown man capable of making his own decisions. The action of the government are persecutory, unnecessary and cruel.
But Mares and Peterson are defending themselves by claiming that it’s not incest, but something called “genetic sexual attraction.” This is a term that that surely sounds scientific.
Genetic Sexual Attraction is a phenomenon that occurs to around 50% of reunited adults. It may or may not lead to sex which is biologically incestuous, however, it is sociologically not incest because the separation means that the had no chance to develop the Westermarck effect. And yes, it IS a genuine phenomenon.
Certainly, much of the reporting on this case makes “genetic sexual attraction,” or GSA, sound like a scientific phenomenon, beyond the control of the people involved. Take, for instance, this reporting from Mic:
Their story fits the standard definition of GSA, which is when the child grows up separated from the parent, and then sexual attraction consumes both of them when they’re finally reunited as adults. There is not a ton of research on the topic, but a generous estimate reported by one GSA forum said it occurs in as many as half of all post-adoption reunions.
I suppose by contrast, everyone else is in complete control over who they have feelings for and fall in love with :eyeroll:
A “standard definition”? Offering statistics, even as an “estimate”? Other media coverage used words like “phenomenon” or “raising awareness” — language that implies that genetic sexual attraction is a measurable, demonstrable reality, as opposed to some half-baked pseudoscientific nonsense that people dreamed up to justify continuing unhealthy, abusive relationships.
Except that we’re not talking about abusive or unhealthy relationships. We’re talking about normal functioning adults who meet as adults and then fall in love and have a relationship just like anyone else. A relationship does not become abusive just because two people share many common genes.
Just because there isn’t much research into this yet does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Think about this logically, the non-existence of a thing cannot be proven by lack of research, that doesn’t make any sense now does it. I’d have thought your argument would have been somewhat stronger, but as always bigots are unable to disguise their bigotry.
“Signs of pseudoscience?” asked Carol Tavris, social psychologist and co-author of “Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me),” over email. “Look for biological buzz words — genetic, neuro- (attached to anything), hormonal, hardwired — that are used to make a claim about some complex activity, solely on the claimer’s personal experience (anecdote) but lack any scientific research to back up that claim.”
Added Tavris: “And attraction and sexual behavior are about as complex as you get.”
Except that many many anecdotal pieces of evidence create a large picture when put together. I agree that research in this area is very scarce, and there are very good reasons for that: by and large people experiencing GSA don’t want to open up because of the kind of bigotry and hate they face, not to mention the risk of being locked up by the state for nothing more than falling in love.
You want more research? Fine, then campaign to legalize incest so that such research can be done without so much fear. The taboo and peoples irrational reactions towards it are the reasons for the lack of research you cite.
It didn’t take much digging for me to discover that genetic sexual attraction is not the scientifically determined phenomenon that its proponents portray it as, starting with the fact that the vast majority of these stories have been percolating out of tabloid publications like the Daily Mail and not from legitimate news sources.
Well this article of yours isn’t exactly the bastion of scientific truth either, it’s thinly disguised bigotry. The Daily Mail did a far better job of trying to find out the truth than you have, and for that they deserve our thanks.
Nicolas DiDomizio at Mic admitted “not a ton of research” exists to back up claims of genetic sexual attraction, but that is an understatement. A better way to put it is that there is no real research supporting the notion that sharing genes with someone makes you more likely to want to have sex with them.
Then you didn’t do much research at all did you? Take a look at this article for instance, which contains the results of some such research. Didn’t dig very deep did you if you couldn’t find it.
I couldn’t find any studies or mentions of this supposed phenomenon in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or scientific articles with an in-depth look at it.
Oh right, so if something isn’t mentioned in a manual, it doesn’t exist? You are aware that such manuals are continually updated, some entries are added and old ones which are no longer considered disorders are deleted… you did know that… right? GSA is NOT a disorder anyway, it’s a genuine phenomenon which is a normal response to a separation and reunion.
The “generous estimate” came not from a scientist or any other kind of expert but from a random website that claims to have obtained the number from “some studies” but declines to point out who conducted them or where they were published.
Even if it is far fewer than 50%, and the original studies aren’t found, that still doesn’t detract from the wrong that is being done to those to which it applies when they are denied equal rights.
While I haven’t read every paper published throughout time, even the most ardent proponents of genetic sexual attraction have not produced a shred of evidence that some people who are biological relatives are are more likely to be sexually attracted to one another than to those they are not related to.
Then take a look at the article I just referenced, you might find it quite illuminating.
For a couple of decades now, stories like Mares and Peterson’s have cropped up in the news periodically and followed the same basic pattern: a defensive couple, pseudoscientific posturing, poorly sourced statistics and no actual evidence that any of this is due to genetic sexual attraction and not unhealthy choices and abusive behavior.
Well, now we’ve presented you with some evidence, how about you at the very least explain how and why you believe GSA relationships are unhealthy or abusive, and no, pointing to the fact that they share common genes does not count.
Again, consensual sex does not become abusive just because the participants are closely related.
Some searching around revealed that the term “genetic sexual attraction” can be traced not to a biologist or a psychologist but a woman named Barbara Gonyo, who coined the term in the 1980s. She is not a scientist or a doctor but simply a woman who met her son whom she had given up for adoption when he was in his 20s and she in her 40s.
By her own account, Gonyo sexually desired her son.
So, she labelled the phenomenon, that’s bad why?
Rather than accept that her feelings might simply be an unhealthy reaction to an unusual situation, she simply made up a biological-sounding term to describe them. It’s an understandable urge because it lessens the personal responsibility for these feelings, making it seem like they are being caused by something out of one’s control. But journalists should be careful to not be suckered into believing that something is scientific just because of science-y-sounding terms.
Except that it isn’t unhealthy, it’s a normal reaction. Also, people generally DON’T control who they fall in love with. How did you choose your partner? I doubt you sat down and chose that person logically, rather you went with your feelings.
Further digging around on the subject of genetic sexual attraction reinforces how flimsy the evidence for it really is. One major site purporting to “educate” on the subject has a books section, but a click on the recommendations leads not to psychological research but to a series of incest-based romance novels with names like “Love’s Forbidden Flowers.” The Kinsey Reports this is not.
In no way did she claim that the books she referenced were scientific research, they’re just interesting books that some people might enjoy reading. The articles on the site are there to educate, the books are there for recreation. We enjoy love stories too you know.
A small, overlapping series of blogs and social media accounts are pushing this pseudoscientific theory, and it’s essentially the same story everywhere: a lot of links, but no real research. There are a lot of comparisons to being gay, without acknowledging that incest is not an orientation like homosexuality. Big, science-y sounding words are used, but the evidence is mostly self-reported and anecdotal, not collected scientifically by researchers.
Actually, it IS an orientation for some of us… we need the double love bond that only exists in consanguinamorous relationships in order for it to feel right to us. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it does for some of us. So yes, it IS an orientation. Even if it wasn’t, that still wouldn’t be a good basis for denying people their rights.
As for the comparison to homosexuality, it’s valid. Much of the bigoted hate levied against us are EXACTLY THE SAME OBJECTIONS that people used to have against the legalization of gay sex. The only different one being the mutant babies argument, but of course, unless you’re going to ban all sex that might produce less than perfect children then that is a lot of the population that you’d be denying their rights. All we’re asking for is equal treatment under the law.
The dangers of this pseudoscientific approach became evident last year, when New York’s Science of Us blog published an interview of a woman in an incestuous situation, with the title “What It’s Like To Date Your Dad.”
Why is it a ‘danger’? If she wants a relationship with her father she should be allowed to have one.
The article started off with the usual evidence-free pseudoscientific framing of genetic sexual attraction as being rooted in nature and practically instinctual. But after one reads the actual interview, a different picture emerges — of a young woman who sounds like she’s being manipulated by her father into a controlling incestuous relationship; the red flags are flying everywhere.
So, let’s take a look at the red flags then.
She’s only 18.
So she is an ADULT. Either an 18 year old can consent to sex, or she can’t… if she is able to consent to sex with an unrelated man who is older, why not her dad?
He groomed her sexually by pretending he was just cuddling or playing.
So flirting and cuddling is a form of grooming then? Warning to any men out there, if you hug somebody you’re obviously grooming them for sex, apparently… my God how fucking stupid that statement was.
She was a virgin when they first had sex.
Everyone is a virgin until they have sex for the first time. You cannot be implying that virgins can’t consent, surely?
His ex-girlfriend pretends she’s her mother, that sort of thing.
well she would be an ex stepmother so I can’t see why that’s even an issue.
It’s a good example of why journalists need to be cognizant of the difference between science and pseudoscience. Any fool — clearly — can throw a bunch of big, scientific-sounding words around to justify behavior that people would otherwise see clearly as ill-advised or immoral. But journalists don’t have to let them get away with it.
Well you haven’t provided any science either, all you’ve done is attack a valid label and reveal yourself as a bigot who is very unknowledgeable on the subject you’ve chosen to write about.
For those interested, here is Keiths take on this sorry excuse of an article