relationship advice

[Two Pronged] It’s always a ‘no’ when it comes to incest

Margarita Holmes

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[Two Pronged] It’s always a ‘no’ when it comes to incest
'Incest has never been good news,' writes our Two Pronged duo

Trigger warning: Incest

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,

I am a 27-year-old lesbian, blessed with parents and siblings who accept me for who I am. My problem started with the pandemic when my 25-year-old brother came back to live with us. He was downsized. I have two younger sisters at home with us. 

From five people in a small two bedroom house, we are now six. The third “bedroom” is something we created so my two sisters could have their own private space. I have one of the real bedrooms because I am now the only one working and supporting my family. 

My brother sleeps on the sofa of our living room and I see him in only his briefs when I go downstairs to get a drink of water twice a night.

This is a habit from before.

The problem is, he now turns me on. I am thinking of asking him to share my room and sleep with me in my bed. No one, including my brother, will suspect since they know I don’t like men.

He will say yes and will not refuse me if I try anything. What do you think?


Dear Bella,

Thank you for your email.

Incest, whether child/teenager or adult, is an age old issue bedeviled with religious and cultural pitfalls. Adult sibling incest has received relatively less attention than other types of incest, but we do know, for example, that it is not criminalized in a significant number of countries, including China, Japan, about half of EU and the Philippines

However, Bella, you are not concerned with whether it is a crime. Rather, you want to know whether to go ahead with your plan to lure your brother into your bed where “he will not refuse” you.

Sexual relationships are supposed to be built on consent between the parties and consent in this context means unfettered consent. Coercion has historically been a feature of many relationships and marriages — undue influence on daughters to marry “well” regardless of their wishes, shotgun marriages to avoid “shaming” the family etc. Adult sibling incest is not exempt.

The power of Ate or Kuya over their siblings does not necessarily diminish just because they are all getting older. Material success is also frequently used to coerce siblings to bend to the more successful one’s will.

There seems little doubt that your plan is fundamentally coercive. Under the guise of offering him a more comfortable night’s sleep, you intend to invite your brother into your bed but like the spider luring a fly to its death, your intentions will be hidden until you strike. The fact that you know in advance that he will not refuse you suggests that you will be exerting an unacceptable degree of domination over him which effectively will make this a non-consensual relationship.

I suggest that instead of manipulating your brother for your own purposes and causing him possible psychological damage, you leave him to his own devices and choose someone outside your family with whom to experience straight sex, if that, indeed, is what you want to try.

All the best,

JAF Baer

Dear Bella,

Thank you for your letter, thank you for sharing your concern with us. Among other reasons for my gratitude, your letter has given me a greater appreciation of Mr Baer’s ability to state his views firmly and unequivocally (Don’t do it, Bella!) while still remaining objective and non judgmental.   

I will try to be as professional. This obviously predicts/foretells that I too firmly believe you should not do it.

I hope this does not mean, however, that I (and, I think, Mr Baer) am judging you. Professionally, I appreciate the movement towards decriminalizing sibling incest as long as there is no coercion and the protagonists take measures to ensure there are no untoward repercussions (birth control, for example).

Part of me feels there is no reason for my answer, since Mr Baer has not only covered, but given excellent reasons, for his suggestion.

However, you are an intelligent woman so perhaps it would help for you to examine why you having sibling incest with your brother would not be ok.

Is it because you are horny? Could masturbation or using a vibrator if you have one, help alleviate or tamp down this need?

Are you bored or wanting to connect with your brother at a deeper level?  Some people use physical intimacy as a road to emotional intimacy, but in my clinical experience, executing such a plan often backfires.

The Dalai Lama says that, for wellbeing, we must see everyone as a brother whom we can show compassion.

An article explains this emphasis on the illusion of individual identity by using a stand of aspen trees as a metaphor.  “We ‘see’ many individual trees; in reality, a stand of aspens has but one root system. Indeed, possibly the world’s most massive single living organism is the Pando aspen grove in Utah, spanning 107 acres. Similarly, while we might appear to ourselves as individual entities, we are, in Buddhist thought, shoots off the same root.”

Whatever you attempt with your brother, affects not only him, but your entire family. It will affect not only the rest of both your lives (no matter if you stop contact with each other), your future relationships, and the relationships you have with the rest of your family, no matter how much you try and keep this a secret.   

True, no one can predict the exact outcome of your plan, but in my own clinical experience, incest has never been good news.

Dearest Bella, is it really worth the risk?

Best regards,

MG Holmes


Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.

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