Incest Between Consenting Adults: Should It Be Legal or Illegal?

incest between consenting adults
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Incest Between Consenting Adults: Should it be legal or illegal? The age old taboo that makes many of us uncomfortable has recently made headlines in the United States. A  New Mexico mother and son were reunited last year after she gave him up for adoption. She was sixteen years old. Their reunion triggered a love affair. They now face the possibility of jail if found guilty of incest.

Should incest between consenting adults be socially acceptable?

Should incest between consenting adults be legal? 

 Internet searches, chat rooms and incest based porn indicate that there is a significant interest in it. Anonymous Kinsey Institute surveys have found that around 10% of North American citizens have admitted to consensual sexual contact with their sibling. A further 20% have admitted to fantasizing about having sex with a relative or a fictitious relative.

incestuous couple new mexico

Incest between consenting adults:  Monica Mares with her son Caleb Peterson.

 Key Definitions:

GSA (Genetic Sexual Attraction)-Attraction between parents and children or between brothers and sisters who meet as adults.

Consanguinamory-The romantic and sexual relations between family members

 

Countries Where Incest Between Consenting Adults Is Legal:

Albania, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Cyprus,  Hungary, Israel, Ivory Coast, Norway, Portugal ,Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain,  Thailand, Turkey, and Ukraine.

Italy– Only illegal if it provokes a public scandal.

Netherlands– Incest between adults is legal but marriage is not permitted.

Russia– Incest is not a crime but incestuous marriage is not allowed

United States– Each state has different legislation pertaining to incest. New Jersey does not apply any penalties for consenting incestuous adults, Ohio only targets parental figures and Rhode Island has repealed incest laws.

 

ARGUMENTS FOR INCEST BETWEEN CONSENTING ADULTS: 

  • As long as its consensual and between adults there is nothing wrong with sex or romantic relationships between family members. They are not hurting anybody and there are no victims.
  • Consensual sexual and romantic relations between family members makes sense. There is a great deal of love, trust and intimacy already developed and forged over a significant amount of time. These are the foundations of a strong and healthy relationship.
  • It is no more unnatural than using contraception or abstaining from sex. One cannot use the argument of incest being unnatural without admitting that contraception and sexual abstinence is unnatural too, yet those elements are not banned or criminalized on those grounds.
  • Incestuous consenting adult couples pose no threat to society. There is nothing criminal about the sex and love that comes from this equation.
  • Incest is an acceptance practise in certain religions and cultures. First cousins often marry, in an arranged and non arranged context.
  • The potential for power abuse is not exclusive in an incestuous relationship, as it’s almost always made out to be. Power abuse can occur in any family or relationship and is not adequate reason to go against incest.
  • The state should have no role in private sexual or romantic relationships where there is no victim. Private consensual activity should not be interfered with.
  • Incest is also found in the animal kingdom as well as in human history going back to Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece. The combination of its presence in both the human and animal world indicates that is fairly nature as opposed to unnatural.
  • There is a risk of potential birth defects when relatives procreate, however the risk of blood relatives having children with birth defects  is significantly exaggerated by the opposition. The risks are rather low. In 2002 The New York Times reported that “first cousins are 93% likely to give birth to a healthy child compared to roughly 96% of the population”
  • There are also risks of birth defects when it comes to mothers who smoke or drink alcohol during their pregnancy but there is no criminal law outlawing mothers from engaging in cigarettes and liquor. Also, homosexual incestuous couples are not capable of procreation so the potential birth defects argument doesn’t really hold up.
  • It is impossible to successfully ban incest. The law may catch people out here and there. It is very easy to hide such relationships.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST INCEST BETWEEN CONSENTING ADULTS:

  • Regardless of consent, the younger partner involved in the incestuous relationship may have been subject to years of grooming in preparation for this relationship. This makes the whole idea of real consent questionable. They may have been manipulated and exploited by the older party.
  • Further decriminalization of incest globally will only encourage power abuse and encourage an increase in incestuous liaisons.
  • If incestuous couples have children, there is high risk of those children having birth defects and deformities. On the surface it may appear that this situation is not “hurting” anyone, but any children they may have brings a third party into the situation which is at risk of harm, hence not a victimless crime.
  • The move to further decriminalize and normalize incest is this new wave crusade to be a progressive society. To allow something because it’s seen as someone’s right despite the damaging social, physical, mental, and procreation issues it can cause is dangerous.
  • Incest and inbreeding is terrible for society and a ban is good social policy. Children of incestuous parents are more likely to engage in incest themselves due to their likely perception of its normality. Second and third generation incest runs a far higher risk of birth defects and genetic issues.
  • Incest damages and destroys the family unit and family relationships. The laws protect families by preserving sound family models. Incest can destroy trusting and nurturing relations by bringing in various forms of resentment, disdain, animosity, lack of trust, embarrassment, jealousy and unhealthy sexual tensions.
  • The government intervenes in family matters when there are instances of abuse, neglect, drug addiction, and violence. Therefore the state has the right to stop incest from occurring which has been proven to be both damaging and dangerous.
  • Inbred children, who are at high risk of illnesses, are highly likely to become a burden on the welfare system which means they will be a  burden on tax payers and society.
  • Incestuous lovers (and any children they may have) will suffer from social rejection by other family members, friends, colleagues and society as a whole because it is deemed to be immoral and corrupt by the majority. Why put yourself through such a burden?
  • Difficulties in enforcing criminal law against incest should not be a deterrent. A society does not choose not to make a law because they are difficult to monitor. They legislate due to a law being just and it is just.
  • The fact that homosexuality was once considered generally illegal and immoral is not comparable to incest. Though homosexual incest does occur, homosexuality in general does not have such a horrendous and corruptible impact on a family unit.

 

Part of the problem regarding taboo sexuality is that we don’t have a good solid understanding of them. We tend to recoil in disgust. People refuse to discuss these areas. We don’t look further into the motivations and psychologies. They are tough issues but this is no reason to bury our heads in the sand . Incest is problematic , so we need a good grasp on the concept

I find it very difficult to support criminalizing sexual practises between consenting adults. As long as there is consent and participants are of legal age. A person may have been groomed from an early age to engage in incest when they are of legal age.  This is exploitation and manipulation. However, that possibility isn’t enough to criminalize. My major concern is the potential for birth defects of inbred children. This poses many social and medical issues. However, we do not ban pregnant mothers from smoking or drinking. Those habits can also cause birth defects yet we don’t legislate on them.

There are also the social stigmas attached. There’s potential damage to families.  If consenting incestuous adults chose to be in these relationships, they have to be prepared for a major social back lash. The discomfort and damage that it causes to the family unit is not comparable to cases of domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, or parental neglect.

Personally, I do find incest incredibly unsettling but discomfort is not just cause for legislation. I also believe that society should not actively endorse it due to the medical and social risks that it poses. I would approve of legislation decriminalizing it but I would also be in big favour of legislating on incestuous procreation which would help diminish that issue. Though monitoring and controlling this would not be easy. A woman could easily get away with carrying an inbred child to term.  I would also be in favour of not allowing incestuous couples to marry.  A ban on it would send a message that there are limits as to what the society will support or look past.

 

 

 

 

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