Friday, July 18, 2008

Don't have sex with your siblings

Despite my crusade against puritanism, here's one sexual taboo I can fully support: the one against incest. The incest taboo rarely requires an intellectual justification, because the natural reaction of most people is a visceral "EEEWWW YUCKK!". But this essay the Times Online has made such a justification necessary:
[...]Over the next few years we had sexual encounters every six months or so, each time going farther and farther until I was 17, when we had full sex for the first time. We both went out with other people and there was never any jealousy, although I found it hard to be physically intimate with anyone else. Part of that was because sex with Daniel was so amazing that I had no patience for all the fumbling that seemed to happen with other boys. The sex was never pre-planned, but just always seemed to happen when there was no chance of being discovered.
(HT: Rod Dreher via Ross Douthat) The title of the essay is "I had sex with my brother but I don't feel guilty". Rod Dreher asks:
If God doesn't exist (that is, if there is no such thing as absolute moral truth), why shouldn't the woman have sex with her brother? They're careful not to risk reproduction, its always been consensual, they enjoy it, and they don't feel guilty. So what's the problem?
Well, Mr. Dreher, here's my answer to that, as I posted in the comments to both your blog and Ross Douthat's:

Here's a practical argument for maintenance of this part of the incest taboo: It's a bad idea to have sex or romantic relations with your siblings because you can't dump them when things go sour. The vast majority of sexual and romantic relationships do not end with blissful matrimony. Often, the end is accompanied by very negative feelings. When this happens between unrelated people, the negative feelings can be ameliorated by the former partners distancing themselves from each other.

With siblings, such distancing is extremely difficult without inflicting damage on the whole family. They're your sibling no matter what. You can't dump your brother into un-brotherness. And it puts the rest of the family in an extremely difficult situation, much as a divorce does: who do they "side" with? If the formerly incestuous couple can't be together at family functions, who gets to be there? etc.

Another reason to avoid becoming entangled with your siblings in this way is that even if somehow you do manage to make the relationship "work", children would be at enormously increased risk of birth defects. Often, you want to have babies with the person you're in love with. This drive can be extremely powerful. Having that person be your sibling makes that drive very perilous to succumb to.

So one needn't resort to esoteric theological arguments to find a justification for the incest taboo. It has enormous practical benefits that become obvious if one thinks ahead to the likely consequences of the incest.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, that's your opinion on it.
Here's mine.

Personally, I feel that if two mature (preferably adult) siblings consent to having sex then there is no problem.

You say you cannot dump your sibling.
Well the thing is, you can.
Yes, it will be considerably more awkward than dumping an unrelated person, but it can still be done.

There are other awkward relationships too you know.
For example: my first boyfriend was my best friend.
Now that's quite awkward don't you think?

Breaking up with him WAS awkward, as I obviously risked losing him as my best friend, but we broke up, deciding we should just stay friends, and we are still best friends to this day.

Two mature siblings could do the same, deciding to end the sexual side of their relationship and return to simply being siblings.
If it works out well, like it did between me and my best friend, they will hopefully still remain close.

If the break up does not go well, they may become more distant.
Sad yes, but it happens all the time.
Lots of siblings aren't close to begin with.
Me and my brothers aren't.

And even if they were close before they broke up, you rarely see your siblings that often as adults anyway.
You move out of your parents' home usually, and that often involves moving away from your siblings.
So even close siblings may not see each other much, so sexual relationships are not the only things that may cause siblings to drift apart.
If two siblings who know the emotional risks of having a sexual relationship still decide to do it, that's up to them.

As for having children together, that is the ONLY real problem that can result from sexual relationships between siblings.
Children born to matings between full siblings have a 50-50 chance of dying soon after birth.

That, among other defects and disabilities that may occur from mating with full siblings shows quite well that is is genetically unwise to HAVE CHILDREN with your (full) sibling.

So yes, when it comes to having children with such close relatives, I agree with you that it is not the best idea.
But just having sex, which you claimed was bad between siblings, their is no real problem.
Using proper protection, there is no real reason why SEX between siblings is bad.
HAVING CHILDREN is the problem.
But even that has a defence:

Siblings should probably not have children together.
But there are other people who probably shouldn't either.

People with hereditary diseases, for example, that could potentially pass their disease onto their children probably shouldn't have children.
But I don't hear anyone shouting at them not to have kids.

The thing is, (full) siblings share 50% of genes ON AVERAGE. They can actually share almost no genes at all.
If you have a sibling who looks nothing like you, it could be because you share very few genes.

So basically, children born to full sibling matings have A CHANCE of having certain disabilities, while people with hereditary diseases who have children ALWAYS share 50% of genes with their children (parents always share 50% genes with their offspring. The only exception is if they have a very rare disease called chimerism), so therefore literally have a 50-50 chance of getting the disease (unless it is a disease that requires two copies of the defective gene to give the person the disease, which would make it a 25% chance of getting the disease, one gene from each parent).

So really, the chances of children getting defects from parents with hereditary diseases is roughly the same, if not more, than children who's parents are siblings.

So breeding with siblings, though not advised, is not the only sexual relationship with problems.
If the people having these relationships are not telling you how to live your life, don't tell them how to live theirs.
Live and let live.

2:57 AM, June 10, 2009  
Anonymous pheromone advantage said...

If you matured enough you should know what is this all about.

isey

6:43 AM, December 28, 2010  

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