Monday, 14 April 2008

The last taboo?

A couple of years ago, over a couple of glasses of wine, a friend of mine suggested that the last taboo frontier to be smashed would be the incest taboo. Soon enough, she reckoned, there would be people coming out of the woodwork hoping to garner acceptance, both moral and legal, for their incestuous relationships.

Bah, I dismissed. I doubt that will ever happen.

Well I stand corrected. Having seen the section on 60 Minutes tonight called Forbidden Love about the father and daughter in Australia and the half brother and half sister in Scotland - both couples in sexual relationships - I haven't been able to stop thinking about this.

Why is incest a taboo, after all? To protect the gene pool? To prevent child sexual abuse? Because to those of us who grew up with our siblings and parents it is completely unthinkable (although Freud would tell you a different story) and gross? Then there's the legal issue... is the law against incest really protecting anyone in the cases of these people who have met as consenting adults and started a consenting, loving relationship? What function does the law serve here? To legislate against what most people find abhorrent? From what I could tell, the legal position was "Fine, carry on having a relationship, just don't have sex." Which I find odd on two levels: a) how would anyone know? b) so basically it's the sexual connection that is the issue.

Interesting topic. Something that I will be pondering for a few days...


  1. I thought this question shouldn't even arise. I thought it's basic human instinct and inherent moral value not to have sex with family members. And I thought the instinct for in-breeding is not human nature.

    Last year I met a police chief in this quiet town of Kuala Terengganu. It's a town where crime is very low and there is no violent crime such as murder. There are house break-ins and petty crimes. So I told the police chief that his work must be relatively easy compared to being in other cities.

    He mentioned otherwise. He said there are lots of "silent crimes" such as incest and rapes that go unreported until after many months or even two years.

    The cause, according to his theory is that this is a laid back town with lack of entertainment and leisure outlets. People return home from work and got nothing better to do.

  2. I didn't think it would need to be asked either but as I said, I stand corrected. There is no 'human instinct' as such - we are drawn to that which we perceive to be similar to ourselves and in some cases, this can translate into sexual attraction. Those of us who grew up with our family members around us have been exposed to something called the Westermarck Effect - basically familiarity breeds disinterest.

    This is why I found it so interesting - something which you would have thought to be a natural repulsion in fact is not. It should also be noted that these relationships were not rapes or sexual abuse cases. They were cases of people meeting as adults and being attracted to each other as they had not grown up together. They were related biologically but they did not know each other.