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Should incest between consenting adults be legal?

Posted by on Jul. 21, 2009 at 11:38 AM
  • 16 Replies

Incest generally refers to any sexual activity between closely related persons (often within the immediate family). The type of sexual activity and the nature of the relationship vary in different societies.

Some societies consider it to include only those who live in the same household, or who belong to the same clan or lineage; other societies consider it to include "blood relatives"; other societies further include those related by adoption or marriage.


 Do consenting adults have a right to engage in whatever relationships they choose? Do incestuous relationships often violate the principle of consent due to complicated past family dynamics? Can incest be morally sound, possibly in cases of genuine love between incestuous couples? Should social norms of morality even determine the legality of incest? Does incest harm the institution of marriage? Are there significant risks for the offspring of incestuous couples? Do incestuous relationships follow from disproportionate power-dynamics within a family? Do the overall pros and cons suggest that legalizing adult incest is good public policy?

by on Jul. 21, 2009 at 11:38 AM
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by on Jul. 21, 2009 at 11:48 AM

Now thats something that Ive not thought about............ In trying to keep my own personal feelings out of my answer, I am assuming that its illegal due to possible children being produced?  I have seen the product of a close incestuous relationship and it wasnt good.  I dont know.  Im thinking that if your country expects you to go off to war with a less then 50% chance of coming home safe or in a pine box, Im thinking that what happens in a consensual ADULT incest relationship should be legal (ewwwww) But then again I dont know..........I cant fathom it but I know it happens.  My husband is buried in a small town of 2500 in WV with only three different last names in the phone book. 

by Gold Member on Jul. 21, 2009 at 11:55 AM

Is there actually any legit scientific information linking birth defects with incest? How does it compare to babies born with defects to parents to are not related?

by on Jul. 21, 2009 at 11:56 AM

All I can think of is


by on Jul. 21, 2009 at 12:11 PM

ditto my friend! ... a girl i used to be friends w. years ago , everyone in her fam was realted , but had kids w/ eachother ... step mom is related to her dad , pap and gram are related and had kids , her sister had her kids to her cousin ... than i found out we're related thru marriage ... her bro started flirting w/ me and it made me sick -- reason we're not friends , everyone wanted me to get w/ him -- ewww lol

Quoting margroc:

All I can think of is


**im a 22 y/o UNMARRIED mother of 2 who-speaks & types exactly how she wants-loves the 360-loves takin pics-is never seen w/o her blackberry-loves rap & r & b music but also loves her emo punk shit-waits on her man hand & foot-keeps to herself-is very outspoken-will say whatever is on her mind (ignorent or not)-but also has a sensitive side & is there for anyone who needs her-had her son at 17,finished highschool,and isnt with her 1st borns father-doesn't have her son currently living with her-has a white son and a bi racial daughter-is with her daughters father-is pro choice-is a formula feeding-disposable diaper using-non cio-co sleep when i feel like it-circumcised her son-vaccinates both children ... so yea somethings may be the 'typical teen mom sterotype' but until you get to know me, you DON'T know me ... & whatever you don't like about me -- I DON'T GIVE'A FUCK!**

by on Jul. 21, 2009 at 12:13 PM

yeah I guess so - they are adults, it is thier body

by Silver Member on Jul. 21, 2009 at 12:18 PM

Here are some reason why incest is not good reproductively speaking:


Nathaniel Wheelwright, an evolutionary biologist at Bowdoin College in Maine, said asexual reproduction was initially the only way to survive. In its most basic form, asexual reproduction involves one-celled organisms such as bacteria dividing in two. But more complex creatures do it, too.

"Asexual reproduction is the ultimate in incest because you're breeding with yourself," Wheelwright told LiveScience. "You can still see species asexually reproducing, or cloning themselves, in situations where there's no penalty to inbreeding."

Species' survival
Aside from microbes, most of which still reproduce asexually, Wheelwright said mountaintops, small islands and other isolated habitats are places where incestuous reproducers are most commonly found today. "It's better for your species' survival to reproduce than not reproduce at all, and if your relatives are the only game in town you don't have much of a choice."

But Wheelwright explained that sexual reproduction — the current reproductive norm among plants and animals — gives creatures a leg-up in life. "Sex maintains a diversity of genes in a population," he said.

Sex is nature's way of avoiding putting all its eggs in one basket: Where one copy of a gene may spell doom for one organism, a different version spread through sex in another creature may help it survive.

"People who domesticated plants and animals were likely the first to figure this out," Wheelwright said. "When they inbred, they got lower birth weights, increased embryo death and decreased fertility."

Still, genetic diversity is at times less important than other advantages, such as better guarding of offspring in some African fish that inbreed. On the whole, however, the risk of incest in plants and animals generally outweighs any of its benefits.

The problem with incest is that it can keep so-called "bad" genes in the gene pool and compound their effects, said Debra Lieberman, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Hawaii.

"Close genetic relatives run the risk of having offspring that have a reduced chance of surviving," Lieberman said.

Divvying up chromosomes
To understand the dangers of incest in humans, she explained, one needs to know that DNA — the blueprint of life — is divvied up into two sets of 23 chromosomes for a total of 46 in the average human being. One set of 23 comes from the father while the other comes from the mother.

While Lieberman cautioned it's never plain when it comes to genetics, she offered a simplified example to illustrate the risks associated with incest.

"Let's say you get a bad gene, which scientists call deleterious, from your mom. But your dad's copy of the same gene functions normally," Lieberman said. "The good version acts like a backup, effectively preventing disease the bad gene might have caused."

But having a kid with your sibling, she explained, drastically increases the chances of getting two copies of the deleterious gene as compared to reproducing with someone outside of your family.

"Each of you would have a copy of that bad gene, so there's a good chance your kid won't have a normal copy to work with," she said. Multiply that by any other deleterious genes sprinkled among an estimated 50,000 active genes in humans, she explained, and there are bound to be some life-shortening problems.

Because so-called higher organisms such as humans are susceptible to life-shortening genetic combinations, Lieberman thinks nature has weeded out incestuous behavior over time through natural selection. Humans and other animals, she said, likely evolved ways to detect and avoid mating with their close relatives.

"We don't have DNA goggles to detect our relatives, but I think we've evolved cues that help us do so," Lieberman said, including face recognition and even scent. But Lieberman thinks the strongest cue humans have is growing up with a sibling under the same roof.

"People refer to this as the Westermarck Effect, which essentially says children who co-reside are much less likely to breed with each other when they reach adulthood," she said.


by on Jul. 21, 2009 at 12:23 PM

Quoting margroc:

All I can think of is


me too....

by on Jul. 21, 2009 at 12:24 PM

 Imo, any direct incest should remain illegal (father-daughter, siblings, mother-son, etc.) but first cousins is ok.  I was faced with this very question a couple years ago when my dh and I found out that our close friends are first cousins and wanted to marry.  At first, I was really grossed out and thought it was weird but I did some research.  There are two things I looked at:1 is it biblically wrong? and found the answer to be no.  2 What are the chances that their children will have genetic defects and found the answer to be reallllly slim.  Based on those two things, I said I didn't have a problem with it.  Plus, in my state it is legal.

by Ruby Member on Jul. 21, 2009 at 1:59 PM

I know of someone who had a child, and she will not reveal the father. Everyone around her has a suspicion of who it belongs to. Either her father or her cousin. Either way....they're swimming in the same gene pool. The kid is a very attractive kid (we often think of those born of these types of relationships to be backwoods hillbilly lookers). BUT he is riddled with emotional and mental problems.

by Member on Jul. 21, 2009 at 2:01 PM

ME 3 !!  yuck...just thinking bout it !!!

Quoting athenax3:


Quoting margroc:

All I can think of is


me too....

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