Legal Incest Isn’t Wrong

You probably heard of this story: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2922059/New-Jersey-legislators-rush-ban-incest-anonymous-father-daughter-reveal-plans-marry-children.html Daughter met her father after being estranged from him for 12 years, they have sex, and get engaged. I guess it makes some sense – he was never a proper father to her. Meeting him was probably like meeting a random older dude.

And while I know lots of people find it gross, “ew” is not a legal argument. Preventing the possibility of babies with birth defects also doesn’t hold up as a good reason. Not all incest results in babies. Plus people with defects and defect genes are allowed to procreate. Women over forty are allowed to procreate. If we want to prevent babies with birth defects, we should be consistent about whom we persecute. What should be done to prevent defective babies from being born? Should one force the mother to abort? Maybe sterilize the women in the risk group (women fucking their dad/brother, women over 40, women with genes for Harlequin syndrome…). Or maybe let the baby be born, but jail the parents and give the baby away for adoption. It doesn’t matter if the parents were married since 20 and had several babies already – having kids over 40 increases the risk of Down’s syndrome.

I don’t know why relatives would want to marry though. Don’t they already have rights to each other’s stuff, and things like hospital visits?

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36 Responses to Legal Incest Isn’t Wrong

  1. random person says:

    The stigma against incest is pretty inconsistent when you lay it out like you have. Personally I just wish people would stop trying to involve themselves in other people’s lives. Who cares if two people are related, unless it affects you in some way its none of your business.

    Is is that risky for women to have children when they’re over 40? I’m not doubting you its just that I’ve never head that before, then again I have head that its very difficult for women around that age to get pregnant in the first place. I guess their might be a reason for it.

    • Scott Vater says:

      Over 40 years the eggs start to degrade. It’s not true of ALL women but there certainly is more of a risk for complications past 40 years.

    • Emma the Emo says:

      Taboo against incest is widespread, but not universal from what I’ve read. Apparently ancient Egyptians didn’t see anything wrong with it. And I guess royals and higher classes tend to practice it, to keep power&money in the family. So I don’t know – it seems too widespread to be purely cultural, and not universal enough to be purely biological.

      It’s not a huge risk to have a baby over 40: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Down_syndrome#Epidemiology

      Maternal age affects the chances of having a pregnancy with Down syndrome.[88] At age 20, the chance is one in 1441; at age 30, it is one in 959; at age 40, it is one in 84; and at age 50 it is one in 44.[88] Although the probability increases with maternal age, 70% of children with Down syndrome are born to women 35 years of age and younger, because younger people have more children.[88]

      It’s a vey small point compared to all the people with birth defects and predisposition for defects that are allowed to reproduce (although likely discouraged from it).

      • Some advice to the young lady being mentioned in this feed. No self respecting father would bed his own flesh and blood. Would you let your daughter bed your husband ? The attraction comes from years of yearning for love and wanting to be loved. Do yourself a favor and meet some chaps your age. You are young and have your entire life ahead of you. Your father needs to seek professional help. i am not judging either of you. I talk from experience, as i was placed in child homes age 3 to age 16, never knew my parents well. It is morally wrong as well as religiously a sin, whether or not you practice some form of religion. Think of the long term effects it can have eg such as having kids, kids going to school and what they would have to deal with. If your father has no respect for a young lady of your age, what else could he do or get up to. These are questions you have to ask yourself. I hope you get to read my comment and i sincerely wish you all the best. Regards

  2. Scott Vater says:

    I really don’t see a problem with incest myself past having babies (just due to issues that can happen). If both parties are down with it and OK with it on a mental level then go ahead. My cousin and I have been fooling around and have sex all the time when we’re together for YEARS now. She’s OK with it, I’m OK with it and were attracted to each other soooooo why not? I mean, we don’t let anyone know and all that, of course, but we’re consenting adults (she’s 21 and I’m 28) and do it responsibly enough.

    Like “random person” above says, I really don’t see why people have such a problem with it. I think a lot of it stems from jealousy. I know the one friend I have that knows about my cousin and I is jealous. Buuuut that may be because she’s hot and would be wayyy out of my league normally. :-p

    Either way, it’s none of peoples business and I really don’t see what the big problem is.

    • Emma the Emo says:

      I agree that it’s none of other people’s business. Also, it’s interesting how cousins are even legally allowed to marry in many places, and it isn’t as taboo as sibling incest.
      Hmm:
      “Children of first-cousin marriages have a doubled risk of genetic disorders (although scientists contend this is relatively small of six percent, compared with three percent risk for children whose parents are genetically not related to each other.” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cousin_marriage ).

      Makes sense 🙂

  3. Liz says:

    I hadn’t heard the story. But I disagree that incest isn’t “wrong”. It’s a simple fact that “non-reproductive incestual relationships between consenting adults” are colored by the power dynamics of the family.

    Nothing magical happens when a person turns 18, or 17, or 16 or 15 (or however low you want to go, I know it’s pretty young, Emma) that suddenly frees them from any influence that other family members may have on them. This doesn’t even begin to get into the realm of parents who so manipulate and dominate their children that somewhere a shrink is guaranteed a lifetime job. And if its good enough at 16, then why should the brother or father wait?

    Social taboos aren’t enough. We have a weak social taboo in America against spitting your gum onto the sidewalk. Singapore has a strong social taboo, and strong laws aginst it. Guess who has cleaner sidewalks? Guess who has to spend more time wiping gum off their shoes? Divorce was once ‘taboo’, now the taboo is virtually non-existent, undermined by no-fault. And so forth. Bad idea, Emma.

    • Liz says:

      Should have said, “why should the brother or father wait?”
      Or sister, or mother. And yes, I think that’s all very very scarring.

    • Emma the Emo says:

      A lot of these people meet when they are already adults. This issue is a lot bigger now when families are splitted more often, and things like adoption, surrogacy and donor eggs are happening. Am I wrong in thinking it makes it very different, and not necessarily scarring? How much power could the father really have, if he was out of her life for the majority of her life? I understand that parents might be manipulative. So can peers and coworkers and other important figures in one’s life – it’s a part of life.

      And I’m not sure divorce is comparable. The problem is not too much freedom. No-fault divorce doesn’t mean people can leave at any time. It means wife can leave and take a money and kids. In this case, freedom would either mean lack of marriage (everyone leaves with what they formally own) or fault-based divorce (whoever is at fault pays for the contract being ruined). They wouldn’t divorce so much if consequences of freedom were not artificially removed.

      • Liz says:

        “Am I wrong in thinking it makes it very different, and not necessarily scarring? How much power could the father really have, if he was out of her life for the majority of her life? I understand that parents might be manipulative. So can peers and coworkers and other important figures in one’s life – it’s a part of life.”
        Of course if the parent or sibling was absent during the child’s upbringing the relationship dynamic is going to be different. That’s argument of the exception and laws aren’t based on exceptional circumstances. And I don’t think the fact that “peers and coworkers and other important figures” have an impact in one’s life is really a reasonable argument for consanguinous relationships…the impact such relationships have is rarely anywhere near the impact of one’s direct family.

      • Liz says:

        Of course, social dynamics are simply one argument against…not the only argument against. Coupled with genetic problems (that extend well beyond just the direct progeny, but entire population groups, see below) it’s a sound one.

      • Liz says:

        Should have added that these genetic abnormalities in wide swaths of populations become endemic and occur over time. This happens with the acceptance of consanguinity as a practice. Weird, outlier, non-sanctioned practices have far less impact on the overall population. The reason the practice should stay anathema.

  4. Liz says:

    “Not all incest results in babies. Plus people with defects and defect genes are allowed to procreate. Women over forty are allowed to procreate. If we want to prevent babies with birth defects, we should be consistent about whom we persecute.”
    There are some pretty obvious practical limitations and it would be inconsistent in a free society to force abortions and sterilization procedures on all people who reach a certain age. There are no such practical limitations or inconsistencies with denying the legal sanction of consanguinous relationships. And no one (to my knowledge) is suggesting aborting fetuses from those relationships.

    Repeated inbreeding exponentially increases the risk of genetic birth defects. The first of a lineage of sister-brother offspring might not manifest a problem but repeated inbreeding does. This isn’t only inherent within incestual relationships, the genetic consequences of breeding within a closed society (not only of humans, but also groups of animals) are also apparent. Hemophilia in the Czarovitch, Tay- Sachs disease, Sandhoff disease, Sickle cell anemia, ect.

    (There are, actually, quite a few patients with mental defects like Downs syndrome living in institutions that are either sterilized or placed on medication that prohibits conception…with good reason, and I wouldn’t call that persecution)

    • Eric says:

      The Ancient Egyptians may have practiced it, but they were an anomaly. The American Indians, for example, strictly prohibited marriage within the same Clan (a family sub-tribe) and so did the Ancient Greeks and Romans.

      There are reasons why this taboo existed from prehistoric times, and not just because of hereditary diseases. Intermarriage weakens—not strengthens—social cohesion. A parallel Liz drew is apt socially as well as biologically. The Royal families who practiced it degenerated to the point where the ones who still exist are figureheads and laughing-stocks all over Europe.

  5. Clarence says:

    I like how Liz says “laws aren’t based on exceptional circumstances” when all sorts of American laws at least have plenty of “except if” and “when in” or “when over” clauses. Indeed, incest itself isn’t that common, one could argue its an exception to the rule of sexual relationships.

    In any event, good laws are based at least in part on HARM. And in cases like this where both parties are over 18 and no abuse is alleged, the only legitimate argument against it I could see would be what about any children?

    With birth control and abortion widely available, that’s not likely to be much of a problem, but if it is – we could simply legalize EXCEPT if there are children from the union.

    Regardless, lots of the (mostly biological based on the reproductive penalty) reasons for the ‘incest taboo’ no longer apply. And we aren’t talking multigenerational or Royal families filled with incest here, either.

    Thanks for having the guts to take on this topic, Emma.

    • Liz says:

      “I like how Liz says “laws aren’t based on exceptional circumstances” when all sorts of American laws at least have plenty of “except if” and “when in” or “when over” clauses.”

      What you are describing is a legal loophole. You believe that laws are based on loophole exceptions?
      Yeah, that makes sense…

  6. Clarence says:

    Liz:
    When language is specifically written into a law to exempt people under certain circumstances it isn’t a ‘legal loophole’. A loophole is an unintended exemption, not an intentional exemption.
    An example would be “Romeo and Juliet” laws for the age of consent which have some of the language I highlighted above.

    Got anything else?

    • Liz says:

      I can’t think of how that information strengthens your argument in any way, Clarence.
      Legal caveat exceptions to the law are exactly what the term would imply: Exceptions to the law. Romeo and Juliet laws are written exceptions to the law. So…I suppose under really, really unusual…especially under exigent circumstances, exceptions to the incest law might apply. If a guy said he’d shoot the son in the head unless he screwed his mother, for instance…?

  7. Clarence says:

    Liz:
    Exemptions are written into GOOD laws because few acts are of the type where they are always wrong or always harmful to others or to society. An example would be that while it is illegal to murder, there are degrees of murder, some of which recognize more or less mens rea(guilty mind) than others. And murdering is distinguished from killing by the self-defense statutes.

    My point is, these are intentional exceptions, not loopholes. With incest, you’d think there would at least be an exemption for people who did not know. Not being familiar with incest laws , I’m not sure if the majority are strict liability or not. I’m guessing “NO”.

    Anyway, I think Emma makes a rational case for loosening (not entirely eliminating) laws against incest. I don’t think your legal argument makes any sense, given that we already have plenty of laws with plenty of intentional exemptions – and that’s not counting the occasional law with a loophole.

  8. Tafatle says:

    Waitaminute! “Eeewww” is not a legal argument??

  9. Exfernal says:

    Do a little research on your own about the percentage chances for congenitally disordered children from an incestuous relationship between close relatives. Not even remotely close to any of your counterexamples. Sorry, but mandatory vasectomy should be a minimal precaution.

  10. Matthew Chiglinsky says:

    Don’t be crazy. Isn’t the risk of birth defects MUCH higher in the case of incest?

    Also, no, I don’t think older or unhealthy people should get married or have kids either. I specifically refuse to impregnate a girl who smokes cigarettes or doesn’t eat a healthy diet.

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