Consensual incest?

[Hope this is the right forum; mods, please move if not. Thanks.]

Read this
in the Sunday Times yesterday, about a girl who had sex with her brother several times in their teens.

Responses seem to be divided between ‘that’s sick and wrong’ and ‘if it’s consensual and not hurting anyone, what’s the big deal?’

Apart from having the plot for my next YA novel ;), I’m not sure what I think about this. What say you?

Well as long as she don’t get praggars sign me up for the what ever floats their boat camp.

The primary problem with incest is that it is very rarely fully consensual. The family dynamic makes “consensual incest” a rarity. Thus, the social stigma against it makes a certain amount of sense.

It’s not something that bothers me in the slightest.

It’s morally wrong, IMHO, but given the woman’s description of the affair (genuinely consensual; not the result of one sibling using power or pressure on the other; mutually-rewarding and fulfilling; not stunting either’s attraction to nonfamily members, etc.), it’s hard to work up too much outrage about it. Wrong as it is, it’s a much more benign form of incest than many I’m aware of as a former prosecutor. I’m sure it’s happened before and will happen again.

In legal terms, it’s a crime, and of course you can’t consent to letting someone else commit a crime against or with you.

And as a former defense attorney, I will agree that this case study, if you will, was not typical of any cases of intra-family sex I encountered professionally.

But it’s fair to point out that if a case reaches the attention of the criminal justice system, it’s not likely to be benign.

My SIL and her mother’s brother were together for 20-odd years. Most of the family eventually came to accept it, even though we’d all rather we were not “that family” on the block.

Children on both sides of the relationship had mixed reactions. Some seethed with hatred and some were accepting. Strange thing, incest.

Nabokov didn’t do YA (Let me rephrase that…Nabokov didn’t write YA novels) But Ada is a fictional exploration that would be hard to beat.

It seems to me likely that incest between siblings is more likely to be consensual, while parent-child incest is more likely to be imposed by the parent on the child. I’m not sure that means we should legalise sibling incest, however.

Yeah, I think I’m between Malthus and Elendil’s Heir here. Can’t get too worked up about it, and I’m sure it goes on a lot more than we think, but I’d wonder if it (in general, not necessarily this case) can be fully consensual. If a brother and sister is OK, couldn’t a father claim he was having consenual sex with his daughter and it was OK? What about a mother and son?

Not sure if anyone will have seen it, but there’s an excellent drama by the writer Jimmy McGovern called Priest, which involves a dad in confession calmly explaining how incest is the last big taboo and how he should be allowed to sleep with his daughter. The fact that she wasn’t consenting didn’t seem to matter to him, of course. But is it ever possible for sex to be fully consensual in that type of situation? Another popular culture example - last week’s soap opera Eastenders had a character’s partner released from a year in prison. While the character was soaking in the bath and happily daydreaming about the sex to come, her partner was in his and hers 15 year old stepdaughter’s bedroom having sex with her. She was besotted and willing, but the guy is clearly being portrayed as a paedophile.

This is a somewhat confused post, but as I said, I’m researching this topic at the minute and trying to figure it out. All thoughts are most welcome!

ETA - sigh, Giles said it much better. And ta for the Nabakov link, will check it out. He doesn’t do YA, no, but my YA is Nabakovian… :wink:

I’m not sure why we need a separate category for sex-with-relatives. Either it’s consensual, in which case, whatever, or it’s non-consensual, in which case it’s rape, and the perpetrator should be charged as any rapist.

Yeah, but I think it gets mucky when both parties claim it’s consensual and it might not be. Can a 14 year old willingly consent to sex with her 45 year old father, for example? Even an 18 year old?

I’ll stop hijacking my own thread now and go and check out Amazon. :slight_smile:

The 14 year old would certainly be statutory rape if unrelated, so I think that should stand for relations.

If an adult person says s/he consented, I think we should take them at their word, barring other illegal activity (like kidnapping, assault, threats to their children, blackmail, etc.). To do otherwise - to say, “no, no, we know better than you do, this was rape, even if you don’t think so,” is infantalizing and obnoxious. It’s little better than rape itself - it’s taking away their power of judgement and discrimination (in the positive sense of both of those words) and overpowering them with our collective legal will.

Now leave me be while I try to reconcile this with my belief that there are some things (like female genital mutilation) which are just wrong and should be stopped, no matter how “consenting” the participants are. :stuck_out_tongue:

Haha! :smiley:

I was stroking my chin and nodding in agreement with your whole post, thinking, ‘Hmm, excellent point. Perhaps that is infantalizing an adult woman and telling her we know more about her and her beliefs than she does?’ Then I got to your last sentence… Sheesh, it’s a minefield, this ethics lark (and I FULLY agree with you on FGM, btw). I’m away to have a glassa wine.

If she is not dependent on him, then I would say that yes, an 18 year old could consent to sex with her own father as well as she could consent to anything. Dependency issues–with parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and other family members–are what indicate potential problems. But I feel about this the same way I feel about joining a cult, which could also happen to include weird dependency issues and constitutes a choice most people find problematic. It’s not a freedom I care to exercise, but it’s not, to me, a problem worth getting worked up over. I find it a bit of a degenerate solution to outlaw certain relationships wholesale.

I would find it weird and strange, but a case of consensual incest between adults would be ok I guess, morally speaking.

The example in this case though, 14 is too young to ok this kind of thing.

Do you mean the hypothetical fourteen year old having sex with her father, or the girl in the OP’s article?

Ah! Got it! FGM is still done to minors. If a grown women wants to have FGM done (or clitoral/labial piercings or a penis created or whatever mods to her naughty bits she wants), then I don’t have a problem with it. As an adult in our society, that’s her choice.

Note that this only applies to OUR society, though. In a tribal culture where one would be killed for refusal and/or driven out of support systems with no other communities willing to take one in, I still consider that duress, even if “consent” is verbalized. In America, you can refuse and go to a shelter, join a commune, or move to New York City and become a maid/model/CEO and get on with your life with no further contact with your family if you want…in most of Africa and the Middle East? Not so much.

Likewise, our culture is such that a grown woman who doesn’t want to have sex with her father doesn’t have to. She can leave (or if she can’t, that’s illegal in and of itself) and she can create a life for herself without him or her family. I’m not saying it’d be emotionally or financially easy, but it would be logistically possible.

I can consent to be your slave (or to be eaten), but that does not make it okay,

Consenting to illegal acts does not make them legal.

That’s a legal statement, sure. The OP asked for what you think about this. Imagine there were no laws about incest on the books and you were sole legislator. Would you write one, or no? Would it contain an exemption for consensual incest? Why or why not?