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One Teacher's Sexual Odyssey

Incest the Last Taboo

Many people are of the opinion that the reluctance to engage in incestuous relations is natural and instinctive.

That’s far from the case. It’s a learned response, enforced by both society’s disapproval and, in many countries, severe legal penalties. In fact, taboo sex itself is open to wide interpretation. One person’s taboo is another’s commonplace.

Incest sex is legal in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, China and France (just to name 5 countries). There are several others. Including Japan. And of course, there's even been a term coined for sexual relations between twins, namely twincest.

For a current examination of sibling incest, you only have to watch the popular TV series Game of Thrones really brought the term twincest into common use. Cersei Lannister produced three heirs to the Iron Throne but none of them were her husband the king’s. Their father was Cersei’s twin brother Jamie. It was said that Cersei and Jamie were so similar in looks as children that it was difficult to tell them apart unless they were naked. They have enjoyed incest sex most of their life. It was certainly not a form of taboo sex to them

The incest taboo is not natural, but imposed by society. There is no automatic block in the animal world towards sex between father and daughter, mother and son or between brother and sister. Incest sex is very widely practised.

In fact, breeders often mate closely related pairs in order to reinforce a desired characteristic.

There is an old story that illustrates this.

A woman's cat is behaving strangely and she calls in the vet for a home visit. He tells her the cat is pregnant. She says that isn’t possible as the cat never leaves home, is in the house all the time and has had no contact with male cats. Just then, a large unneutered tom walks past and the vet says what about him? No, it can't be him, says the woman, he's her brother.

So you see the social (and legal) disapproval of incest is thought by many to be part of the natural order, but it isn't. Like so many of our taboos, it's just made up. The incest taboo has been created by human society and its level of acceptance has varied widely over time.

There’s a thing known as genetic sexual attraction. It happens when close relatives first meet as grown-ups for the first time, because of early separation such as adoption into separate families. It occurs between fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, brothers and sisters. There was a case in the US were a couple due to get married found out through a blood test that they were in fact twins!

It’s unbelievable to many just how much incest there has been throughout the history of the human race. Cousins marrying cousins, sisters and brothers, mothers and sons, daughters and fathers and relatives of all sorts. Incest in history is not as rare as you might think.

Cleopatra, the famous Egyptian pharaoh, married both of her brothers Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, in keeping with royal Egyptian tradition.

Charles Darwin married his first cousin Emma Wedgwood. They had two children.

Queen Victoria also married her first cousin and they had nine children! By all accounts, theirs was both a loving and lustful union.

The Siamese monarch Chulalongkorn fathered 77 children during his lifetime. Not all of them were born out of incest, but a fair number of them came from his four wives, who were also his half-sisters.

Edgar Allan Poe's second marriage was between him and his first cousin, and when Poe married his cousin Virginia Eliza Clemm, he was 27 years old and she was 13. In most jurisdictions, this would be considered under age sex.

While Albert Einstein was still married to his first wife, he carried on a sexual relationship with his first cousin and subsequently married her.

But what about the risk of genetic abnormalities in children, which can be higher when the parents are closely related. For many closely related couples, this is simply not something that is going to happen. They have no desire to set up housekeeping together. They just want to have sex with someone they love, know and trust and, if they are still living at home, is simply always there. Siblings sometimes use relationships with each other as a safe way of learning about sex. And with modern contraception available, pregnancy can be avoided entirely. This removes the only rational prohibition against incest.

So maybe it's time incest between consenting adults was decriminalized. Maybe it would then lose its stigma and couples would no longer be sent to prison just for loving each other.

Incest is, of course, not the only taboo sex. Others, which also vary widely in different jurisdictions include under age sex and bestiality (sex with animals, also known as zoophilia) and I’ll examine them in separate articles.

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