Three things on incest

As promised, this post will consist of unabashed speculation about where the taboo on incest comes from.

You might know about the Kibbutzim – the great Israeli experiments in communal living. Though as societies they did not do badly, as experiments in socialism, they were failures. A lot of studies were conducted by many learned and wise men on what we can learn from those experiments and a lot of interesting things were learnt. For example, one of the interesting things that these wise people learnt was that gender roles invariably came back, even though the participants in the Kibbutz were nominally committed to stamping out gender differences – i.e. men and women invariably ended up doing different things, and they ended up doing the same things that men and women do in the outside world.

But the study that I am interested in looked whether adolescent boys and girls in a Kibbutz got attracted to girls and boys from the same Kibbutz. Remember that they’d typically have parents who were extremely liberal as far as sex went, so you couldn’t blame society for any taboos.

It turned out that the opposite happened. Girls would dress ultra-conservatively when boys from the same Kibbutz were around. Intra-Kibbutz marriages were very rare. Why did this happen?

The theory was that having been brought up practically within the same household, the adolescents would unconsciously think of others as brothers and sisters and thereby forbidden for sexual liaisons – this of course would imply that the taboo on incest has genetic origins, not just social origins.

The “natural” unit of human society is not the nuclear family – it is a tribe consisting of an extended family. Before humans learnt to distinguish between “brother” and “cousin”, it would have made more sense to intuitively distinguish the world into “boy-from-my-tribe” and “handsome-stranger-from-outside” and learn to prefer the latter. The young people in those Kibbutzim were applying the same pre-rational logic, at least that is the speculation.

The second example is from closer (if you are in India). Kingsley mentioned that South Indians have this weird practice of marrying their cousins. True, but in fact it is more complicated than that. You can’t marry just any cousin, and here I am afraid the resources of the English language fail me in describing the situation – I’d have to resort to block diagrams and stuff. But basically the idea is that your mother’s brother’s daughter is allowed, but your mother’s sister’s daughter is your sister. Similarly, your father’s sister’s daughter is allowed, but your father’s brother’s daughter is your sister. In fact this rule goes even at the second cousin level – your father’s father’s brother’s son’s daughter is your sister, but you can marry your father’s father’s brother’s daughter’s daughter.

All this might seem very complicated, but that is only because I cannot use a South Indian language or a diagramming tool to explain it to you. South Indian languages have a symmetry that make the whole thing seem completely natural. For example, the word for “father-in-law” is exactly the same as the word for “mother’s brother”. “In North India” you cannot marry your mama’s (i.e. maternal uncle) daughter” is basically impossible to translate into Kannada, because you end up saying “You cannot marry your father-in-law’s daughter”, which is absurd. Your mama’s daughters bear exactly the same relation to you as your wife’s sisters.

Now if the Kibbutz experiments told us that the taboo on incest is probably inborn, what does South India tell us? How is the poor sod who has some innate ideas about incest that he probably has no control over, to know that his Chikkappa’s daughter is his sister while he is allowed to flirt with his Mama’s daughter? My guess is that while we have innate categories for “boy-from-my-tribe” and “handsome-stranger-from-outside”, who we put into those categories is to some extent influenced by society.

To what extent? There is the example of Ancient Egypt of course. My understanding was that the weird practice of actual brothers and sisters marrying was an extreme example applicable only to the Pharoahs, to preserve royal blood and all that. My understanding was also that both the husbands and wives took on lovers from outside routinely, so the practice was not actually successful in breaking innate taboos.

But a visit to the Metropolitan Museum in New York challenged that idea – it turns out that in Ancient Egypt, it was routine to use “brother” (or “sister”) to address your lover. I heard a love-song where the terms are used to convey the idea of “soul-mates”, i.e. someone who is so close to you that you are practically one body. Further research told me this

From the close family relationships in Egyptian mythology and the fact that Egyptians seemed to have no taboo against incest, many have concluded that incest was rife in ancient Egypt.

There were probably some brother and sister marriages, but more likely than not, the siblings in question would have been half-brothers and half-sisters. The problem arises from the limited Egyptian terms of kinship, which are very confusing. A ‘father’ could refer to the actual father, the grandfather or male ancestors, while ‘mother’ could be the same, but for the females of the family. ‘Sister’ could mean a lover, a wife, a mistress or concubine, niece or aunt!

The royal family, on the other hand, did have more incestuous marriages. The royal blood ran through the females, not the males. To become pharaoh, a man had to marry a royal princess… which would be his sister or half-sister

So may be they weren’t so weird after all.

78 thoughts on “Three things on incest

  1. interesting topic but what about incest thoughts going in normal minds of people from all over the world. One cant deny that incest stories are most popular thing,it will be reasonable to think that most of us have fantasy of our siblings and parents as our sexual partner.The thoughts are generated as there are many normal a sexual activities in a family and many accidental exposures too and we all love our family members too.Even if it gets in our minds accidently and we feel shy about it we cant deny that our love towards our nearest family members makes our fantasy most exciting in our mind,as they are not just the sexual charecters of our thoughts but the persons we love the most.Thinking of having sex with say for example a film star during masturbation would never have same excitment as with our close relative as we share a bond of love.And with enough contraceptive methods available there are reasons to accept that sex between family members may well become a normal hidden practice.

  2. If any1 want to discuss freely about this in person, u can mail me cool.guy.sanjay.s at googlemail.com

  3. I agree with the comments of Sangita Jinsi to a great extent. I think it is out of a sheer bond of love with your siblings, i.e Dad, Mom, Brother, Sister, Daughter and Sons that one starts fantasizing having sexual and loving relations with them and one enjoys masturbation much more as compared to when one fantasizes about having sex with hotest film stars. I think at one point of time, the society both in the East and West will have to accept this loving relationship in a discreet manner. This is what many people having love for nature do but with the fear of society do it discreetly. Believe me it is a unique experience.

  4. I have been reading different forums and discussions on the morality and nature of sex between cousins. This is not because I am interested in or have any desire to have relations with a cousin. However, I am trying to understand, and perhaps normalize, the act. I am currently engaged to a man that I find to be kind and wonderful. I told him I wanted to spend my life with him and have not questioned it until recently. He told me, in shame (and I do not say that to imply that anyone on here should feel shame – hard for me to be diplomatic right now and I do truly apologize if I am offending anyone), that he had sex with his first cousin long before he met me. He says that he wanted to tell me because he felt if I was committed to him for life I should know something like that because he had never shared this with anyone and the only people that knew about it were him and his cousin. He said he did not want to have any secrets with me and swears that nothing ever happened again – no kissing, flirtation, or sex. He stated that it just happened once and that in the moment he did not think about being related, only the fact that he was lonely and she was, and had been, there for him through difficult times. In this case she was lonely too, both of them having just been broken up with. I think it’s just very hard for me to accept because it has been ingrained in me to think that incest is wrong. I was molested as a child and felt shame in myself because of it and therefore, when he says he did not think of her as family, only as a girl that wanted him when he needed to be wanted, I have a hard time believing him. I also have a hard time believing he wants to be with me. In some way I have overanalyzed the situation to the point where I think he is only with me because he knows that he can not be with her (because he also feels it is morally wrong, family not agreeing or accepting it, etc.). Does everyone out there think this is totally irrational for me to feel? Do you think I may be right? I do not know who else to ask or turn to – I love him and if we do stay together I do not want family or friends to judge him and something this taboo would probably make my very conservative family and friends tell me I’m being stupid.
    PLEASE HELP!

  5. i agree with sangita’s ideas.all of us have strong emotional bond with our close relatives and there always are hidden desires for them in every ones mind.With so much sexual activity all around us,its not sinful if some one have sex within relations.as it doesnt hurt any one and wont result in pregnancy[even a fool wont].If its done with consent there is nothing wrong in it. i did have fantacies for my dad when i was young and still i engage in role play with my hubby,he acting as dad.

  6. As a social scientist dealing with society’s taboos I appreciate anar patel’s frankness. can I have your e-mail?

  7. Hawaiian is no propblem with incest, its normal most of us dont even no hoo there reel parents r

  8. uh hey mike paahana, hawaiians are some of the most inbred humans on earth.. did you ever notice that the hawaiian jawline is set quite far back which is indicative of serious inbreeding.. seriously it looks like the hawaiians jawline is kicked in or somthing. not only that but all you your incesters dorpped like flys when whitie showed up, which is indicative of poor immune system hence inbreeding. besides i live in hawaii and cant help but to notice this state is one of the worst in the country for incestive child abuse, thats right your brudahs are fucking their daughters and grandaughters and you guys art told who your parents are because it is shamefull to know the same guy is you grandpa. seriously, you people have the worst incest history on earth. and besides that it is hawaiian tradition for your women to breed with whomever they like(brother, father, or neighbor) and the brother is responsable to raise the children as the father, so basicly your men are really treated like bitches. sound like your a typical uneducated hawaiian making up history as you go….and besides all hawaiians have what is known as inbreeding depression, its obvious by how hard you dont work. most of you would rather continue to sow the seeds of discontent, taught to you by your dicontentful instestors, rather than join the human race jump onboard and do somthing with your life besides getting really really fat and breeding with your nucular family.

    sincerly the truth.

  9. sangita agree with u but i will add that incest fantasies are the most exciting as they r the most forbidden, quite naturally.
    anar u r not the only one. my wife too loves dad fantasies . she n her sister were taken in dad’s lap n enjoyed in childhood. incest is not such horrible as it is made out.
    japanese mothers r fond of making it with their sons.
    1 lac girls r seduced by their dads every year n most girls cooperate.
    mothers r known not to mind their husbands petting with teenage daughters
    a lot of research still needed on this subject,
    one day it will be excepted by society like gay n lesbiens has been , in the past 50 yrs.

  10. interesting info by sangita, anar & janak .
    will share my views latter.
    let us have true stories both as academic sudy n interesting reading material.
    hope this site turns more active.

  11. instead of going with bf its better to have sex with brother or father as they will be more concerned and there wont be any one finding out . there should be a ritual when a girl or boy turns a certain age they should have sex with father or mother,and loose there virginity with them only .that way there wont be sexually starved people and reduce the rapes and maniacs.every one will get a chance to sleep with a virgin and most fathers will love to have daughters which they hate other wise.

  12. great platform to express once ideas and experiences.when i was young i used to masurbate thinking of my dad and even now the thought excites me,he is 48 now .i showed him my body lots of time when we were alone thinking he will react ,he looked at my body indirectly and i could see the erection in his pants,but he never made any advances.and my younger brother who is 2 yr younger to me and i played a lot with each others body but never went all the way as both of us were to much worried of hymen,the only place he landed was my behind and mouth,but i remained virgin till marriage and the moment i returned to my parents house after marriage and got lonly time with brother i gave him full pleasure getting on top of him for and breaking his cherry.we still enjoy it though both are married,and i enjoy mor with him then my husband just because of its secrative relation.ii hope some day my father will do it with me .

  13. You can’t help who you fall in love with, it just happens. I fell in love with my sister and I’m not ashamed … I only feel sorry for my mom and dad, I wish they could be happy for us. We love each other. It’s nothing like some old man who tries to fuck his three-year-old, that’s evil and disgusting … Of course we’re consenting, that’s the most important thing. We’re not fucking perverts. What we have is the most beautiful thing in the world.
    we were very friendly since childhood and had sex when i was 12 and she 11.we dated others in collage but finally decided that we are for each other .our neighbours think we are husband and wife and parents are dead. we have adopted childeren as we know that our child may have problems.there is nothing wrong if two adults decide to have sex even if they are related if they dont produce child.

  14. The incest taboo is reported to be the only taboo adopted by the majority of cultures around the world. It is considered the only “universal taboo.” In reality, that taboo usually concerns incestuous marriages, reproduction, and not sexual contact. This is because several generations of incestuous reproduction results in a greater incidence of genetic birth defects. Socially supported or tolerated incestuous reproduction is bad for a society so they do not permit it. Despite our fears, the child born of father-daughter or brother-sister incest will more than likely be perfectly normal if it occurs very rarely within that family’s genetic history. The only universal concept that applies to incest is that it is universally prevalent. We have just been conditioned not to notice and are as a result not aware of it.

    The natural aversion we reportedly have to incest is the result of social conditioning not instinct. The proof of this is the number of siblings who engage in sexual activities as young children and teenagers. I certainly remember seeing many siblings engaging in sexual activities together. I know, we did not engage in penile-vaginal penetration so it really was not sex, wrong. Yes, it was definitely sex. We have just chosen not to see it that way so we do not appear to have broken the great taboo, to subject ourselves to society’s wrath. We all want to appear normal. I’m not faulting the individual, but denial does not change reality.

    The social ideal is that a man can find all women sexually desirable except his mother, sisters, and daughters, and a woman can find all men desirable except her father, brothers, and sons. Is this realistic? If you do not know someone is a member of your immediate family, will you automatically find them sexually undesirable? I would tend to believe not. I’m guessing there have been many incidents throughout history where close blood relatives engaged in a sexual relationship not knowing who their partner really was. The large number of incest and sexual abuse cases handled by our legal system would also support the idea that family members may find each other sexually desirable. Another situation where reality does not conform to society’s expectations.
    i have sexual relations with both father and brother and though they done know about each others sex with me,we enjoy whenever opportunity is there and i was lucky to loose my virginity with my experienced and caring father in proper home enviorment .the experience remains the most pleasurable one for me,but most girls whose first experience is with young boy in back seat of car wont ever like to remember that day.

  15. If you put two people together, there will be a sexual dynamic to their relationship, regardless of gender and age. The dynamic for young children is they are mutually curious about everything, including things of a sexual nature. Add puberty into the equation and mutual sex drives can cause one to sidestep society’s mores. Can you really expect two people experiencing a strong sex drive, who spend a lot of time with each other, not to occasionally act instinctively versus rationally to their biological urges, not to mention intense curiosity? As a result, incest between brothers and sisters, sisters, and fathers and daughters is probably much more common than we would like to acknowledge. The number of women who have experienced sexual contact with an immediate family member is likely higher than the reported five percent (brothers 4%, sisters 0.7%, and fathers 0.5%) because as adults we often do not look back at what we did as sexual, as dictated and desired by society.

    Socially we do not acknowledge and as a result ignore the sexual dynamics that occur within a family. Society says children are asexual, a mother is maternal, and a father while sexual, is not so within the context of the family. A father does not have “sex” with his wife, the mother of his children, or any family member. We ignore the sexual dynamics between daughters and fathers, and brothers and sisters. There is also a sexual dynamic between a girl and her female family members. Ignoring these dynamics does not mean they go away or do not exist, if anything, it may cause them to manifest themselves in undesirable ways, perhaps in the form of abuse, not necessarily sexual abuse.
    i and my brother had relations started when we were 8 or 9 playing doctor doctor and touching and looking each others organs .few years and we were having sex ith each other.sex never changed our relations just made it more stronger.and most brother and sister do it but no one will know.where are you going to put incest taboo,in every ones badroom?let our mind decide what to do and not the society as long as it doesnt hurt any one.these days one gets married at 25 and he or she needs to have few sexual partners ,so when you are sleeping with many boys,why leave your brother masturbating?

  16. Well I can only give personal experence how it possibly can get started. Although I did not have intercourse with my sister. When we were kids, age 9 and 10, me 10, it was my sister (for what ever reason) started coming to my bedroom and wanting to “Funk” that is the word she used. We just rubbed our genitals together with our clothes on. I got no feelings from that but I guess she did. During the period after that I learned that she was highly sexed for what ever reason. I did masterbate alot when I was that age but I had no more physical contact with my sister after that. I guess if I had feelings for her (sexually) it could have continued. Kids play doctor out of curiosity anyway and brother and sister are more likey canidates than with a friend. Hope that helps.

  17. Actually consensual incest is very very common and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I met my brother for the first time two years ago (I was 32 and he was 33) and we fell in love. What is so wrong with us being together? We’re hurting nobody and certainly aren’t of “bad character”. Most of society are ill-informed and judgemental, hence the reason people like us have to live a lie.

  18. I think incest is great like if a horney 14 year old boy is hot for his mother and she finds out and feels simalar why is it wrong form them to have sex as long as they use protection and can keep it a secret, so they are not abused by the likes of elewm.
    seriously it is wrong to get in the way of to 2 cnosentual individuals who as long as they use protection are not harming any one
    and for the prudes that say that say oh my god thats pediphilia, what do you think is better
    1.dangerus sex with strangers get ruin your life with stds’ unwanted kids, no protection
    or
    2.a save loving sex experiace with some one who knows what they are doing and in a relationship of mutual love and respect that can only grow as a result
    95% of boys have not negative reaction to incest
    personaly every case of consentual mother son incest I have seen has been described as positive and the best most fufilling sexual experiance they have ever had
    after both parties go onto lead normal relationships while still ocasionaly engaging in warm loving mother son sex
    this seems the norm in mother son incest and is not wrong in the least bit
    I ever engaged in incest with my mom and even now when she is 54 we still enjoy it.and it provodes great bond of love between us

  19. Most times I would say accessability plays a huge role in it. I was not allowed to date until I was 16. By that time I had been having sex for 3 years with 2 of my brothers.

    The forbidden fruit aspect is a huge thing too! We knew it was wrong but it made it feel better.

    As kids we were very curious of what sex was and it just sort of happened. It progressed from oral sex to threesomes in a matter of 3 or 4 years.

    We had a sexual relationship right up until i got married.

    I dont regret any of it and would advice to do it to all

  20. From ages of 789 and again 14 through 18, I had very torrid flaming hot every hole sex relationship with my mother. She divorced and told me “son your father will not be coming home.” But she wore a skimpy sheer see through yellow nighty that I could see all her thick hair pubic hairs with out a problem. We had sex together for a long time and even after I married, visited her on Fridays for coffee and sex. I feel its not the best thing to do but I will not forget shooting my wad into my very own Moms mouth at the drive in movie — It is the most intense sexual experience. But to this day many years later I am still addicted to extremely hairy pubic area and shaven look is really a total bore. Im okay and we had a good relationship after that

  21. Actually, incest in this modern day and age is far more common than is generally accepted. In countries souch as Holland and the Scandinavian countries, it is no longer a legal offence provided it is consensual. This is mainly due to the softening of society’s evaluation of what is acceptable and what is not; for example, the attitude towards homosexualism is far more tolerant nowadays than it was 50 years ago.
    Brother-sister lovemaking is becoming common because:
    (a) availability – having sex under your own roof is just that more convenient;
    (b) the availability of fool-proof contraceptives has taken away the danger of an unwanted pregnancy;
    (c) sex for procreation is only practised in the animal world; sex for recreation is practised in the human world; if you could play a game of tennis with your brother/sister, why should you not enjoy making love to him/her?
    (d) the danger of STD’s – it is better to have sex with someone whose sexual history is known to you.
    Visit the poll at
    http://www.misterpoll.com/2751004205.html and look at the results to see how common it really is.
    As long as it is consensual and as long as unwanted pregnancy is avoided, there is little reason to object what goes on behing closed doors, even between siblings.
    i had seduced my father when i was 15 and he was drunk and enoyed the relations since then.a women likes to have a mature partnet in intial encounters and i still get wet thinking about those days.even now when i visit my father [mother died few years back] we have great time and his frustrations are gone.

  22. I can only speak for my experiences. My older sister introduced me to sex, initially masturbation but quickly escalated to full intercourse, she continued for about 2 years during this time I had sex with one of her girl friends, she married young and that left me with my younger sister I was around 12 or 13 by now my younger sister was 9 or 10 and very curious. We began foreplay and dry humping with our cloths on alter we did it alot nude or only with our undies on, after a few months of this we were in bed nude and I asked her to put it in, she said no that I should I got some lotion and put it on her and my self and had her get on top of me, I guided it to her and slide it up and down but it would’nt slip in so she guided it and pushed down soon we were doing it for real. Our relationship continued for several years. My little sister marries and divorced and we started our relationship again. It continues today though much less frequently since were are married and live far apart but do manage to see each other during family gatherings. Both of us enjoy our mutual taboo secrets.

  23. nothing worng if mom and son agree to satisfy each other keeping it secret and not affecting other relations, it should be fine and enjoyable. I am a mom, 46, and i have 3 kids, 1 son. i come from a respectable family, and my hubbys family is also of the same type. being a Brahmin caste we maintain our status. But being personally experienced of incest I can say many varieties of incest exist in India. i have been doing with my son for long even though My husband lives with me, and i know some of my very close relatives had incest relations with son in law and father in law. And I am talking about high class Brahmin family. so incest in not really limited in lower caste. Personally I feel its enjoyable just becasue its forbidden and by force you need to maintain secrecy

  24. In we muslims one can have sex with his fathers daughter if they dont have diferent mothers and marry her.its not against islam to have sex with your sister.my father had four wives and total 29 kids 12 male and 17 female and we had very big house.and since we could look to our sisters as our future wife and they too could look us as there future husband,the sexual thoughs were obvious to come and lot of sex used to take place between siblings on roofs,toilets,stairs,basement every where.and in those sexual days no one even cared even if they were from same mother.those were really fun days and we still enjoy lot of sex whenever i visit home.

  25. I was 16 and staying in a school hostel at a hill station. My dad came to visit me alone, as my mom was busy with my brothers n sisters at home, on a weekend.
    We stayed in a hotel for 2 days n natural attraction between a man and a girl developed . We had a great time together . Sex was great and fulfilling. I can easily call it my first n the best honeymoon.
    I am 40 now and dont have regrets for the lovely weekend i spent with my dad.
    Having kept it a secret it has not hurt anyone, so far.

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