On The Incest Taboo

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Incest is not such a clear-cut matter as it has been made out to be over millennia of taboos. Many participants claim to have enjoyed the act and its physical and emotional consequences. It is often the result of seduction. In some cases, two consenting and fully informed adults are involved. Many types of relationships, which are defined as incestuous, are between genetically unrelated parties (a stepfather and a daughter), or between fictive kin or between classificatory kin (that belong to the same matriline or patriline). In certain societies (the American Indians or the Chinese) it is sufficient to carry the same family name (=to belong to the same clan) and marriage is forbidden. Some incest prohibitions relate to sexual acts - other to marriage. In some societies, incest is mandatory or prohibited, according to the social class (Bali). In others, the Royal House started a tradition of incestuous marriages, which were imitated by lower classes (Ancient Egypt). The list is long and it serves to demonstrate the diversity of this most universal taboo. Generally put, we can say that a prohibition to have sex with or marry a related person should be classified as an incest prohibition, no matter the nature of the relationship.

Perhaps the strongest feature of incest has been hitherto downplayed: that it is, essentially, an autoerotic act. Having sex with a first-degree blood relative is like having sex with yourself. It is a Narcissistic act and like all acts Narcissistic, it involves the objectification of the partner. The incestuous Narcissist over-values and then devalues his sexual partner. He is devoid of empathy (cannot see the other's point of view or put himself in her shoes). For an in depth treatment of Narcissism and its psychosexual dimension, see: "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited" and "Frequently Asked Questions" (scroll down for a complete list of FAQs).

But incest involves more than a manifestation of a personality disorder or of a paraphilia (incest is considered by many to be a class of pedophilia). It harks back to the very nature of the family. It is closely entangled with its functions and with its contribution to the development of the individual within it.

A famil...

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...s of inheritance. This interference led, in all probability, to disputes. In more primitive societies, arms were resorted to in an effort to resolve conflicts. To prevent recurrent and costly bloodshed was one of the intentions of the incest taboo.

The incest taboo is, therefore, a cultural trait. Protective of the efficient mechanism of the family, society sought to minimize disruption to its activities and to the clear flows of authority, responsibilities, material wealth and information horizontally and vertically. Incest threatened to unravel this magnificent creation. Alarmed by the possible consequences (internal and external feuds, a rise in the level of aggression and violence) – society introduced the taboo. It came replete with physical and emotional sanctions: stigmatization, revulsion and horror, imprisonment, the demolition of the errant and socially mutant family cell. As long as societies revolve around the relegation of power, its sharing, its acquisition and dispensation – there will always exist an incest taboo. But in a different society and culture, it is conceivable not to have such a taboo. This would be either utopian or dystopian, depending on the reader.

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