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Incest is sexual activity between close family members. Incest is considered taboo, and forbidden (fully or slightly) in the majority of current cultures. The precise meaning of the word varies widely, because different cultures have differing notions of "sexual activity" and "close family member". Some cultures consider only those related by birth, while others include those related by adoption or marriage. Some prohibit sexual relations between people who grew up in the same household, while others prohibit sexual relations between people who grew up in related households.

Incest can occur between same-sex as well as opposite-sex relatives. It can also occur between related children as well as between parents and their children. In addition, there have been cases of incest between adult relatives.

Incest between close blood-relations is a crime in most nations, although again the extent of the definition of "close" varies. However, since incest is an interpersonal act that takes place in private, it is a difficult law to be enforced. There are wide differences between nations as to how serious the crime of incest is. In some countries, such as Australia, incest is a serious indictable offence, while in others it is a minor crime with much less serious consequences.


[edit] Inbreeding among animals

Biologically, animals may have an aversion or inclination to inbreeding based on specific local circumstances and evolutionary trends. In some species, most notably bonobos, sexual activity, including between closely related individuals, is a means of dispute resolution or even a greeting. Incest between family members, including parents and children occurs; however, incest between a mother and immature sons, who are less than four years old, has not been observed.

The pattern of parenting behavior combined with the structure of dominance hierarchies among many species of animals serves to discourage inbreeding. For example, offspring, in some cases only the male offspring, are often driven away by the mother at about the same age they reach sexual maturity.

[edit] Distinctions between incest and inbreeding

The concepts of "incest" and "inbreeding" are distinct.

Incest refers to socially taboo sexual activity between individuals who are considered to be too closely related to enter into marriage. In other words, it is a social and cultural term.

Inbreeding, on the other hand, refers to procreation between individuals with varying degrees of genetic closeness only, regardless of their relative social positions. It is a scientific term rather than a social or cultural term.

In many societies, the definition of incest and the degree of inbreeding may correlate positively. For example, sexual relations between people of a given degree of genetic closeness is considered incestuous. In other societies, the correlation may not be as obvious. Many cultures consider relationship between parallel cousins incestuous, but not those between cross cousins, although the degree of genetic relationship does not differ. Relationships may be considered incestuous even when there is no genetic relationship at all: stepparent-stepchild relationships, or between a man and his sister-in-law, or a woman and her brother-in-law, have been considered incestuous, even though they involve no risk of inbreeding above that of the original marriage.

The consequence of inbreeding is to increase the frequency of homozygotes within a population. Depending on the size of the population and the number of generations in which inbreeding occurs, the increase of homozygotes may have either positive or negative effects.

[edit] Genetics

Image:W.Clerke table.PNG
Table of prohibited marriages from The Trial of Bastardie by William Clerke. London, 1594.

Inbreeding leads to an increase in homozygosity, that is, the same allele at the same locus on both members of a chromosome pair. This occurs because close relatives are much more likely to share the same alleles than unrelated individuals. This is especially important for recessive alleles that happen to be deleterious, which are harmless and inactive in a heterozygous pairing, but when homozygous can cause serious developmental defects. Such offspring have a much higher chance of death before reaching the age of reproduction, leading to what biologists call inbreeding depression, a measurable decrease in fitness due to inbreeding among populations with deleterious recessives. Recessive genes which can contain various genetic problems have a tendency of showing up more often if joined by someone who has the same gene. If a son who has hemophilia becomes intimate with his sister who may have the same gene for hemophilia, and they have a child, the odds are in favor that the child will have hemophilia as well.

Some anthropologists are critical of including biology in the study of the incest taboo, and have argued that there can be no biological basis for inbreeding aversion because inbreeding may in fact be a good thing. Leavitt (1990) is a good representative of this point of view, writing that "small inbreeding populations, while initially increasing their chances for harmful homozygotic recessive pairings on a locus, will quickly eliminate such genes from their breeding pools, thus reducing their genetic loads" (Leavitt 1990, p.974)

Other specialists claim that this notion betrays a misunderstanding of basic genetics and natural selection. They argue that, while technically possible, the proposed positive long-term effects of inbreeding are almost always unrealized because the short-term fitness depression is enough for selection to discourage inbreeding. Such a scenario has only occurred under extremely unusual circumstances, either in major population bottlenecks, or forced artificial selection by animal husbandry. In order for such a "purification" to work, the offspring of close mate pairings must only be homozygous dominant (free of bad genes) and recessive (will die before reproducing). If there are heterozygous offspring, they will be able to transmit the defective genes without themselves feeling any effects. What's more, this model does not account for multiple deleterious recessives (most people have more than one), or multi-locus gene linkages. The introduction of mutations negates the weeding out of bad genes, and evidence exists that homozygous individuals are often more at risk to pathogenic predation. Because of these complications, it is extremely difficult to overcome the initial "hump" of fitness penalties incurred by inbreeding. (see Moore 1992, Uhlmann 1992)

Therefore, it is not surprising that inbreeding is uncommon in nature, and most sexually reproducing species have mechanisms built in by natural selection to avoid mating with close kin. Pusey & Worf (1996) and Penn & Potts (1999) both have found evidence that some species possess evolved psychological aversions to inbreeding, via kin-recognition heuristics.

Given such overwhelming evidence of inbreeding depression as being an important force in sexual reproduction, evolutionary psychologists have argued that humans should possess similar psychological heuristics against incest. The Westermarck effect is one strong piece of evidence in favor of this, indicating that children who are raised together in the same family find each other sexually uninteresting, even when there is strong social pressure for them to mate. In what is now a key study of the Westermarck's hypothesis, the anthropologist Melford E. Spiro demonstrated that inbreeding aversion between siblings is predicatably linked to co-residency. In a cohort study of children raised as communal, that is to say, fictive, siblings in the Kiryat Yedidim kibbutz in the 1950s, Spiro found practically no intermarriage between his subjects as adults, despite positive pressure from parents and community. The social experience of having grown up as brothers and sisters created an incest aversion, even though genetically speaking the children were not related.

Further studies have backed up the hypothesis that some psychological mechanisms are in play that "turn off" children who grow up together. Spiro's study is corroborated by Fox (1962), who found similar results in Israeli kibbutzum. Likewise, Wolf and Huang (1980) report similar aversions in Taiwanese "child" marriages, where the future wife was brought into the family and raised together with her fiancee. Such marriages were notoriously difficult to consummate, and for unknown reasons actually led to decreased fertility in the women. Lieberman et. al (2003) found that childhood co-residency with an opposite-sex individual strongly predicts moral sentiments regarding third-party sibling incest, further supporting the Westermark hypothesis.

While the exact nature of kin-recognition psychology is still waiting to be defined, and to what degree it can be overcome by cultural forces is as yet poorly understood, an overwhelming body of research now shows that evolutionary biology and evolved human psychology plays a central role in human aversion to incest.

[edit] Incest versus exogamy

Anthropologists have found that marriage is governed, though often informally, by rules of exogamy, which is marriage of individuals outside their own groups, and endogamy where individuals marry inside their own group. What is considered a group, for purposes of either exogamy or endogamy, varies considerably between societies. Thus, in most stratified societies one must marry outside of one's nuclear family, a form of exogamy, but is encouraged to marry a member of one's own class, race, or religion - a form of endogamy. In this example, the exogamous group is small and the endogamous group is large. But in some societies, the exogamous group and endogamous group may be of equal size. This is the case in societies divided into clans or lineages.

In most such societies, membership in a clan or lineage is inherited through only one parent. Sex with a member of one's own clan or lineage — whether a parent or a genetically very distant relative — would be considered incestuous, whereas sex with a member of another clan or lineage — including the other parent — would not be considered incest (although it may be considered wrong for other reasons).

For example, Trobriand Islanders prohibit both sexual relations between a man and his mother, and between a woman and her father, but they describe these prohibitions in very different ways: relations between a man and his mother fall within the category of forbidden relations among members of the same clan; relations between a woman and her father do not. This is because the Trobrianders are matrilineal; children belong to the clan of their mother and not of their father. Thus, sexual relations between a man and his mother's sister (and mother's sister's daughter) are also considered incestuous, but relations between a man and his father's sister are not. Indeed, a man and his father's sister will often have a flirtatious relationship, and a man and the daughter of his father's sister may prefer to have sexual relations or marry. Anthropologists have hypothesized that in these societies, the incest taboo reinforces the rule of exogamy, and thus ensures that social ties between clans or lineages will be maintained through intermarriage.

Chinese and Indian society provides an example of a society with a very broad notion of the exogamous group, as relations between two individuals with the same surname may be banned.

Some cultures cover relatives by marriage in incest prohibitions; these relationships are called affinity rather than consanguinity. For example, the question of the legality and morality of a widower who wished to marry his deceased wife's sister was the subject of long and fierce debate in the United Kingdom in the 19th century, involving, among others, Matthew Boulton. In medieval Europe, standing as a godparent to a child also created a bond of affinity.

The Bible, primarily in Leviticus, contains prohibitions against sexual relations between various pairs of family members. Father and daughter, mother and son, and other pairs are forbidden on pain of death to engage in sexual relations. (Father/daughter incest is covered by a prohibition on sexual relationships between a man and any daughter born to any woman he has had sexual relationships with, thereby prohibiting not only incest between father and any possible daughter, but many women where it would be impossible for the daughter to be the man's.) It prohibits sexual relations between aunts and nephews but not between uncles and nieces.

The Qur'an in the surat An-Nisa prohibit sexual relationship with the following closely related women: mother, daughter, sister, father's sister, mother's sister, brother's daughter, and sister's daughter. Breastfeed mother and breastfeed sister are also prohibted. Several women who are related through sexual relationship and in certain situations are also prohibited.

[edit] Forms of Incest

[edit] Parental incest

Incest between parents and their children, including adolescents, is considered the most severe form of sexual offense by many psychologists[citation needed] and is a criminal offense in many nations. Parental incest includes opposite-sex and same-sex forms engaged in by fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters.

Child-therapist Susan Forward calls parental incest "perhaps the cruelest, most baffling of human experiences" as it "betrays the very heart of childhood — its innocence". Recent findings by psychologists view non-consenting parent-child incest as a form of 'sexual predation'.

There is also a dramatic increase in cases when statistics are compared between "step" and biological parents.

Child abuse attorney Andrew Vachss calls parental incest a form of rape of a child by the child's parent. Adults previously involved in incest are often called "secret survivors", by therapists, as there is no one to listen to their shame, confusion, or self-loathing due to the topic's taboo, since the topic is regarded as the cruelest and most baffling action.

It is known to therapists, that in many cases of such coercive / violent incest, the non - incestuous parent colludes with or denies the incestuous activity so that the child does not have the other parent to turn to either.

Ken Adams states that "a common myth is that overt incest is the exception not the rule in America. This is not the case." He quotes researcher Mike Lew's estimate that there are over 40 million American adults who as children were 'victims of sexual abuse', 15 million of whom were men. According to the United States' NIS-3 study of child abuse, "the sexual abuse of children has a strikingly low age transition in the distribution of incidence rates. The rate of child sexual abuse was very low for 0-2 year olds, but then relatively constant for children ages 3 and older, indicating a very wide range of vulnerability from pre-school age on."

Given the taboo nature of parent-child incest and the fact that it is engaged with dependent children, it is likely to be under-reported in official government statistics where information is given voluntarily.

A much more objective and non-judgemental action is needed to deal with parental incest, for the benefit of both the child and the parent.

[edit] Sibling incest between children

Consensual incestuous interactions between similar-age brothers and sisters sometimes occur according to a study by Floyd Martinson who found that 20-35% of college students had childhood sexual experiences with a brother or sister, a form of child sexuality. However, where significant differences in age or capabilities occur between siblings, where elders fail to provide functional families, and/or where force or deception is used, childhood sibling incest can cause serious psychological damage to the younger or less capable sibling according to researcher Richard Niolon. Sibling incest can also damage or destroy the sibling bonds.

Author Jane Leder estimates that "23,000 women per million (in America) may have been victimized by a sibling" before age 18. Researcher Andrea Peterson notes that "This may be, at best, a conservative estimate when one considers the scarcity of data, particularly where males are the victims." In treating abused adolescents, therapist Eliana Gil, shows how to transform incested-associated trauma in a case of overt brother-sister incest. She failed to show how the sister committed covert incest against her brother by using him as a substitute 'father' in this fatherless family.

[edit] Adult incest

Adult incest occurs between individuals who are close blood relations and who have exceeded their society's legal or cultural age of consent.

[edit] Sexual relations between cousins and other distant relatives

Image:Map of USA with Incest Legality.svg
Map of the legality of marriage to first cousins in the USA.

In most of the Western world, incest generally refers to forbidden sexual relations within the family. However, definitions of family vary. Within the United States, marriage between (first) cousins is illegal in some states, but not in others, and sociologists have classified marriage laws in the United States into two categories: One, in which the definitions of incest are taken from the Bible, and which frowns upon marriage within one's lineage but less so on one's blood relatives, and another group which frowns more on marriage between blood relatives (such as cousins), but less on one's lineage.

Twenty-four states prohibit marriages between first cousins, and another six permit them only under special circumstances. Utah, for example, permits first cousins to marry only provided both spouses are over age 65, or at least 55 with evidence of sterility. North Carolina permits first cousins to marry unless they are "double first cousins" (cousins through more than one line). Maine permits first cousins to marry only upon presentation of a certificate of genetic counseling. The remaining nineteen states and the District of Columbia permit first-cousin marriages without restriction.

Legal in: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia

Illegal in: Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming

Legal under Certain Circumstances: Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Utah, Wisconsin

On account of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, a marriage between two cousins where it is legal generally remains valid in any state where it would be illegal. Therefore, two cousins who are legally resident in Virginia and marry there, and then move to Michigan will still be recognized as married under Michigan law. There are conflicts and courts have interpreted the clause differently. Also: some states (such as Wisconsin [1]) have marriage abroad laws which make marriages by their residents in another jurisdiction in order to circumvent their state's marriage restrictions null and void; and marriages contracted in that state to avoid restrictions in another jurisdiction likewise void.

See also: Cousin couple

[edit] Covert incest / emotional incest

Covert incest or emotional incest refers to situations where there is no actual sexual contact, but rather an emotional relationship of an inappropriate character. For example, a parent who treats their child in the same way as they would treat their partner, even though they do not engage in any sexual activity with them. However, many people deny that this should be labelled incest. Overt incest refers to actual sexual acts which occur between relatives; almost everyone simply calls this "incest" without qualification -- only proponents of the concept of covert incest generally use the term 'overt incest'.

The concept of covert incest is controversial. It has in the last few years become commonly discussed among therapists and self-help groups, with books such as Silently Seduced: When Parents Make their Children Partners - Understanding Covert Incest by Kenneth Adams (isbn 1558741313). However, the concept has been criticized as trivializing overt incest (which traditionally has been called simply, incest). It has also been criticized as demonising parents who, while they may have some emotional issues in their relationship with their children, do not engage in any of the acts which most people would label "incest". Critics charge that "covert incest" is not a concept associated with serious academic research; rather, it is a creation of pop-psychology.

[edit] Laws regarding incest

[edit] Degrees of criminality

The laws of many U.S. states recognize two separate degrees of incest, the more serious degree covering the closest blood relationships such as father-daughter, mother-son and brother-sister, with the less-serious charge being pressed against more distantly-related individuals who engage in sexual intercourse, usually down to and including first cousins and sometimes half cousins. In New York State, close-blood-relation incest is a felony with a maximum penalty of four years in prison, while the less serious charge is usually only a misdemeanor. Curiously, many incest laws do not expressly proscribe sexual conduct other than vaginal intercourse — such as oral sex — or, for that matter, any sexual activity between relatives of the same gender, so long as neither party is a minor. This legal position is in stark contrast with that in Australia, where incest is punishable by a maximum of 25 years imprisonment for the more serious form of penetrating a child, even if that child is over 18, and 5 years for the less serious charge of sexual penetration of a sibling or half-sibling.

Child abuse attorney Andrew Vachss notes that there is also an incest loophole in that laws of most U.S. states that "gives privileged treatment to child rapists who grow their own victims". He writes that:
"In New York, sex with a child under the age of 11 is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. The law is indexed appropriately, in the chapter on sex offenses. If, however, the sexually abused child is closely related to the perpetrator, state law provides for radically more lenient treatment (emphasis added). In such cases, the prosecutor may choose to charge the same acts as incest. This (incest) is not listed as a sexual offense, but instead as an 'offense affecting the marital relationship', listed next to adultery in the law books. It is a Class E felony, for which even a convicted offender may be granted probation."

[edit] Adult incest

Incestuous relations between adults, such as between an adult brother and sister, are illegal in most parts of the industrialized world. These laws are sometimes questioned on the grounds that such relations do not harm other people (provided the couple have no children) and so should not be criminalized. Proposals have been made from time to time to repeal these laws — for example, the proposal by the Australian Model Criminal Code Officer's Committee discussion paper "Sexual Offenses against the Person" released in November 1996. (This particular proposal was later withdrawn by the committee due to a large public outcry. Defenders of the proposal argue that the outcry was mostly based on the mistaken belief that the committee was intending to legalize sexual relations between parents and their minor children.)

In the wake of the Lawrence v. Texas (539 U.S. 558 2003) decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, striking down laws criminalizing homosexual sodomy as unconstitutional, some have argued that by the same logic laws against consensual adult incest should be unconstitutional. Some civil libertarians argue that all private sexual activity between consenting adults should be legal, and its criminalization is a violation of human rights — thus, they argue that the criminalization of consensual adult incest is a violation of human rights. In Muth v. Frank (412 F.3d 808), the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals interpreted the case applying to homosexual activity, and refused to draw this conclusion from Lawrence, however, a decision that attracted mixed opinions.

In France, incest isn't a crime in itself. Incestuous relations between an adult and a minor are prohibited and punished by law, but not between two minors or two adults.

[edit] Effects of parent-child incest

Parental incest is known to sometimes do severe psychological harm to a child, due to the child's physical, mental, and emotional dependence on a parent, due to total disparity in the power of authority, due to the disparity in emotional and physical maturity, and finally due to the fact that the incestuous relationship may damage or destroy healthy aspects of childhood development. Child victims have been observed to go into disassociated or reclusive mental or emotional states due to shame associated with their parent's predation, which is thought to overwhelm their coping capabilities. Becoming "dead inside" is another tactic children have been observed to use in an attempt to deaden the associated pain. Suppression of emotions, as well as a halt or a severe reduction in personal growth has been observed, similar to the effects studied in the psychology of torture. Child-incest victims often suffer from what is known as complex trauma due to developmental immaturity, due to repeated incests, and/or due to being forced to ignore the incest(s) as a child.

In adulthood, chronic, complex, and cyclic post traumatic stress has been observed in some victims of childhood parental incest. Shame, suspicion, and unconscious alienation is thought by some psychologists to occur in the first stage of trauma transformation as the victim attempts to suppress past pain. Rage, terror, and sorrow have been observed to surface in the second stage as the victim begins to become conscious of the incest acts. In the last stage of trauma transformation, genuine self-esteem, genuine desire, and, on occasion, genuine joy have been seen in victims. These stages have been observed to take decades to complete and, in extreme cases, to cycle on until the victim's death.

Some victims of parental incest suffer severe depression, and/or have committed suicide, which is thought to be due to the inability to accomplish the associated trauma transformations shown above. Some victims also predate against their own children thus resulting in a legacy of incest in following generations, a form of vicious cycle. Often, even if trauma transformation was successful, survivors have reported that due to the betrayal of innocence, the incest-associated losses, and the trauma-transformation related costs, their lives were much worse off than peers who had not suffered incest by their parents.

According to clinical psychologist Ken Adams, covert parent-child emotional incest causes pain similar to that suffered by victims of overt incest but it is rarely identified. Covert incest is deeply harmful to children, as it denies them proper parenting, betrays their innocence, and places pathological demands on them to deal with what are their parents' obligations (Adams 1991).

Martyn Carruthers, a Canadian relationship researcher, defined the cross-generational cycles of mother-bonded men and father-bonded women that he calls "family karma". In childhood, victims of covert incest often feel confused, privileged, and 'old' beyond their years. In adulthood, children who were victims of covert incest often feel bonded to the same opposite sex parent and anger towards the same-sex parent, and shame about those feelings, unable to comprehend how their parents have wronged them. The consequences of this parent-child bonding often continue into adulthood, perhaps for the rest of the adult child's life. As Adams says "This separation will not be given. Real emancipation cannot be given. It must be taken". Carruthers' systemic coaching offers lasting solutions for covert emotional incest.

Some people have claimed a positive, or neutral, experience from incest. The number of these incidents is low when compared to people who have expressed a negative experience from the act. For those that claim a positive experience, there seems to be common ideas. One of which is a lack of the stigma of shame associated with sex. Commonly people who have expressed a positive experience with incest also mention that their parents were open about sex education while the child was growing up. People who claim a positive experience also state that they continue to have a positive relationship with the parent(s) involved. A positive experience with incest is never portrayed in the media, or psychological studies however. The question of abuse always overshadows the issue, and so to be objective about it is difficult.

[edit] History

[edit] Ancient civilizations

Some experts claim that incestuous marriages were widespread at least during part of Egyptian history, such as Naphtali Lewis (Life in Egypt under Roman Rule: Oxford, 1983), who claims that numerous papyri attest to many husbands and wives as being brother and sister. However, other scholars counter that it was common practice in Ancient Egypt for lovers to refer to themselves as brother and sister as a term of affection, not in reference to any sibling relationship. Those relationships which appear to have been genuinely incestuous primarily involved members of the royal family. Joyce Tyldesley (Ramesses: Egypt's Great Pharaoh: London, 2000), writing about the pre-Roman Egyptian period, states that within the royal family there was a tradition of hypergamy, where a king or his son might marry a commoner, but his daughter could not marry beneath herself, without the act being considered as degrading to herself. As a result, the royal princess often found herself either marrying her royal brother, or living her life without a spouse.

Incestuous unions were frowned upon and considered as nefas (against the laws of gods and man) in Roman times, and were explicitly forbidden by an imperial edict in AD 295, which divided the concept of incestus into two categories of unequal gravity: the incestus iuris gentium, who was applied to both Romans and non-Romans in the Empire, and the incestus iuris civilis which concerned only the Roman citizens. Therefore, for example, an Egyptian could marry an aunt, but a Roman could not. Despite the act of incest being unacceptable within the Roman Empire, Roman Emperor Caligula is rumored to have had open sexual relationships with all three of his sisters, killing his favorite sister/lover when she became pregnant with his child.

[edit] Royal dynasties

Although there are reports that adult incest has been notable in many royal dynasties, the evidence usually put forward has been subjected to much criticism. [Please name specific person or group] There are cases of siblings marrying which are verified.(And there are many cases in which first and second cousins married, a practice that would be considered "incest" in certain cultures today, but which of course was normal and non-incestuous when practised.) A motive often given by others for this supposed custom of royal incest is that this was in order to help concentrate wealth and political influence within the family. It is noteworthy that this motive is something attributed to these dynasties, not something that they themselves put forward. Since these dynasties did not, in fact, have the norm of royal incestuous marriage, it is specious to attribute any motives to a practice which didn't actually exist. Though usually frowned upon by present-day people, incest within families of royalty or of high esteem was done because the families believed that anyone who was not of their family was not worthy of marrying them.

Some cultures in which royal incestuous marriage (which included brother-sister unions) has been said to be common, are Ancient Egypt (as explained above), pre-contact Hawaii, the pre-Columbian Mixtec and the Inca. Ray Bixler (see references) shows that this popular view is not only without proper support but is contradicted by historical documentation. Incestuous royal marriages were found in only one Egyptian Dynasty, the Ptolemaic dynasty. This dynasty had thirteen rulers, only one of whom resulted from an incestuous (brother-sister) union. There were eight rulers who had a brother-sister marriage, but seven of these did not lead to a successor. Given these numbers, one cannot say that incestuous marriage was common in Ancient Egypt, nor that it was a common means of producing successors even in the one dynasty for which there is considerable evidence of incestuous marriages.

Dynasties of the modern era where there was frequent familial intermarriage were the mid-Habsburgs; one branch ruled over Spain and the other over Austria. Spanish princesses, however, did marry French kings, Louis XIII and Louis XIV who were not Habsburgs (but had Habsburg blood: Louis XIII's grandmother was Johanna of Habsburg, and Louis XIV was his wife's double first cousin: his aunt (a Bourbon) had been her mother, and her aunt (Anne of Habsburg) had been his mother). The Spanish branch died out in 1700, but the last Spanish Habsburg king, Carlos II had been married to María-Luisa of Orléans, grand-daughter of King Charles I of England and niece to King Louis XIV of France: she however had a large amount of Habsburg blood via Anne and Johanna of Habsburg. In 1795 King George IV did marry his first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, which evidently was an acceptable practice. However, over the last century, Kings Philip II, Philip III, and (for his second time) Philip IV all married their Austrian cousins (in fact, nieces in the case of Ann of Austria and Mariana of Austria). The Austrian branch continued to rule until 1918, and they are still alive and prospering today. Although the ruler of Egypt, Cleopatra, was of Greek origin, she was the daughter of her father's sister, and while reigning she married her brother, Ptolemy XIII.

In Christian society, in which most of the great royal dynasties of the early modern era functioned, incest was a terrible taboo. In 1536 Queen Anne Boleyn of England was falsely accused of incest with her brother, George Boleyn, in order to blacken her name and enable her husband to execute her and marry Jane Seymour.

[edit] In religious traditions

Examples of incest in mythology are rampant. In Greek mythology Zeus and Hera are brother and sister as well as husband and wife. They were the children of Cronus and Rhea (also married siblings) and, according to some sources, grandchildren of Uranus and Gaia (a son who took his mother as consort, in some sources as brother and sister, first people on Earth). Cronus and Rhea's siblings, the other Titans, were also all married brothers and sisters. Poseidon also managed to produce a child by Gaia namely Antaeus.

The play Oedipus Rex features the Ancient Greek King having an unknowing incestuous relationship with his mother.

In Norse mythology, Loki accuses Freyr and Freyja of committing incest, in Lokasenna. He also says that Njörðr had Freyr with his sister. This is also indicated in the Ynglinga saga which says that incest was legal among the Vanir.

In Norse legends, the hero Sigmund and his sister Signy murdered her children and begat a son, Sinfjötli. When Sinfjötli had grown up, he and Sigmund murdered Signy's husband Siggeir. The legendary Danish king Hrólfr kraki was born from an incestuous union of Helgi and Yrsa.

Hinduism speaks of incest in highly abhorrent terms. Hindus were greatly fearful of the bad effects of incest and thus practice to date strict rules of both endogamy and exogamy, i.e., marriage in the same caste (varna) but not in the same family tree (gotra) or bloodline (Pravara).

The Bible also contains a number of references to incest: see Biblical references to incest.

[edit] In folklore

In Icelandic folklore a common plot involves a brother and sister (illegally) conceiving a child. They subsequently escape justice by moving to a remote valley. There they proceed to have several more children. The man has some magical abilities which he uses to direct travelers to or away from the valley as he chooses. The siblings always have exactly one daughter but any number of sons. Eventually the magician allows a young man (usually searching for sheep) into the valley and asks him to marry the daughter and give himself and his sister a civilized burial upon their deaths. This is subsequently done.

Sibling incest forms an important part of the plot in the story of Kullervo in the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, as also in medieval versions of the British legend of King Arthur.

In Sri Lankan folklore, there are at least three significant instances where incest is mentioned. The forefather of the Sinhala race, "Sinhabahu", is a king who married his own sister "Sinhaseevali". Incest is again mentioned when King Vijaya's son and daughter fled to the jungle together in protest of their father's second marriage. Also, the brother "Dantha" and the sister "Hemamalini" who brought the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha to the island, seemed to also have a married relationship. Despite the liberal mentioning of incest in folklore, Sri Lankan culture regards incest as a taboo. Then again, contemporary Sri Lankan culture is heavily influenced by the cultures of former colonial rulers, during last couple of centuries.

In fairy tales of Aarne-Thompson folktale type 510B, the persecuted heroine, the heroine is persecuted by her father, and most usually, the persecution is an attempt to marry her, as in Allerleirauh or Donkeyskin. This was taken up into the legend of Saint Dymphna.

Several Child ballads have the motif of brother-sister incest, such as Sheath and Knife. This is usually unwitting (as in The Bonny Hind, the siblings usually have not seen in each in a long time, or at all) but always ends tragically.

In ancient Vietnamese folklore, there is a tale of a brother and a sister. One time, when the brother fought with his sister over a toy, he mashed a stone to her head. She fell down unconscious. He thought he killed his sister. Afraid of the punishment, he fled. Years later, by coincidence, they met each other, fell in love and married without knowing they were siblings. They built a house along a seashore. He was fisherman, she was housewife. They had a son. One day, he discovered a scar in her head. She told him about the childhood fight with her brother. He discovered that his wife was his little sister. Overwhelmed with incest’s guilt, he left for the sea. She came to the top of the hill looking and waiting for him everyday. He never came back. She died in waiting and become "Hon vong phu" (The stone’s waiting for her husband).

[edit] Fiction

Main article: Incest in fiction

[edit] See also

[edit] Mass media articles

  • Lobdell, William, Missionary's Dark Legacy; Two remote Alaska villages are still reeling from a Catholic volunteer's sojourn three decades ago, when he allegedly molested nearly every Eskimo boy in the parishes. The accusers, now men, are scarred emotionally and struggle to cope. They are seeking justice., Los Angeles Times, Nov 19, 2005, p. A.1.
  • Teri Hatcher's Desperate Hour, Vanity Fair, Apr 2006

[edit] External links

[edit] References and further reading

  • Adams, Kenneth, M., Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Their Partners, Understanding Covert Incest, HCI, 1991.
  • Anderson, Peter B., and Cindy Struckman-Johnson, Sexually Aggressive Women: Current Persectives and Controversies, Guilford, 1998.
  • Bixler, Ray H. "Comment on the Incidence and Purpose of Royal Sibling Incest," American Ethnologist, 9(3) (Aug. 1982), pp. 580-582.
  • Blume, E. Sue, Secret Survivors: Uncovering Incest and its Aftereffects in Women, Ballantine, 1991.
  • DeMilly, Walter, In My Father's Arms: A True Story of Incest, University of Wisconsin Press, 1999.
  • Elliot, Michelle, Female Sexual Abuse of Children, Guilford, 1994.
  • Forward, Susan (1990). Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life. Bantam. ISBN 0-553-28434-7.
  • Gil, Eliana, Treating Abused Adolescents, Guilford, 1996.
  • Herman, Judith, Father-Daughter Incest, Harvard University Press, 1982.
  • Hislop, Julia, Female Sexual Offenders: What Therapists, Law Enforcement, and Child Protective Services Need to Know, Issues, 2001.
  • Leavitt, G. C. "Sociobiological explanations of incest avoidance: a critical claim of evidential claims", American Anthropologist 92: 971-993, 1990
  • Lew, Mike, Victims No Longer: Men Recovering from Incest and Other Sexual Child Abuse, Nevraumont, 1988.
  • Lobdell, William, "Missionary's Dark Legacy," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 19, 2005, p. A1.
  • Love, Pat, Emotional Incest Syndrome: What to Do When a Parent's Love Rules Your Life, Bantam, 1991.
  • Miletski, Hani, Mother-Son Incest: The Unthinkable Broken Taboo, Safer Society, 1999.
  • Miller, Alice, That Shalt Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child, Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1983.
  • Pryor, Douglass, Unspeakable Acts: Why Men Sexually Abuse Children, New York University Press, 1996.
  • Rosencrans, Bobbie, and Eaun Bear, The Last Secret: Daughters Sexually Abused by Mothers, Safer Society, 1997.
  • Scruton, Roger, Sexual Desire: A Moral Philosophy of the Erotic, Free Press, 1986.
  • Shaw, Risa, Not Child's Play: An Anthology on Brother-Sister Incest, Lunchbox,زنا المحارم

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