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Old 09-24-2012, 03:26 AM
njtt njtt is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: U.K.
Posts: 12,068
Indeed, in many cultures, first cousin marriage is close to being mandatory in many cultures, and was common in 19th century Britain and N. America, and close to being the norm for the upper classes, probably even more than for the rural poor (probably much the same applies to most other European cultures too).

I believe all cultures where the matter has been studied regard parent-child sex to be incest, and icky, and nearly all agree about sibling sex. Incest taboos at this level are probably biologically innate in humans. (That is not to say that it does not occasionally happen in certain families - obviously it sometimes does - but it is never approved by the wider community.) However, incest taboos that go much beyond this, like the recent USAian stigmatization of cousin marriage and sex, are cultural oddities (and to extend the taboo beyond first cousins seems to me to be based more on a failure to understand the concept of cousin than anything else). The genetic risks of cousins breeding (unlike sibling and parent-child breeding) are fairly negligible.

I have heard that the medieval Catholic Church officially disapproved of cousin marriages up to the level of (IIRC) 17th cousins, but this rule was probably honored more in the breach than the observance.