MANILA, Philippines – This week on #AskMargie, clinical psychologist Dr. Margie Holmes talks about a topic a lot of people consider taboo - incest.
I’ve received several questions and comments from you about what exactly constitutes incest. Does it have to be a blood relative? Does it have to be physical to be considered incest?
Here’s what you said.
Lut Helin: Incest need not be based on blood. If they are raised as saiblings, an intimate relationship between them could be incest.
Tommy says: It’s sexual intercourse between family members of first to second degree.
Benjamin Vallejo Jr: Methinks what civil law defines as incest is fairly representative of what many believe what incest is all about.
To which Jeremy Baer replies: If you take civil law as the yardstick, you end up with multiple definitions of incest. In countries like Australia and the USA definitions even change from state to state. Many definitions only cover intercourse between a man and a woman - and not therefore any other form of sexual activity. The original prohibition was simply based on a) avoidance of birth defects and b) protection of minors. With the advances in contraception and a whole slew of laws specifically protecting minors, it seems that incest law have become archaic and redundant in many jurisdictions.
Diana Sayson: I think it should cover family-like relationships. Titos and titas with parental authority, real or taken for real, should not get involved with their friends' children.
Alfie Mella: ‘Incest’ should be defined as it is without being mixed with or confused with other issues. To me, incest is simply a sexual encounter or relationship between relatives.
The key words are 'sexual encounter' and 'relatives.' Therefore, 'sex' and 'relative' should be clearly defined.
To me, 'sex' is any physical act that involves lust--kissing, fondling, oral stimulation, penile or digital penetration, etc. 'Relative' is a parent, a child, a grandparent, an uncle, an auntie, a cousin, a nephew, a niece. That's it. But remember, an incestuous relationship does not necessarily or automatically involve pregnancy.
If there is coercion, the issue is now rape. If a person involved in the incestuous relationship is a minor, then the issue is 'child abuse.' If the issue is morality, it becomes subjective--relative to the concept of what is moral or immoral to the observer. If the issue is the legality, simply refer to the applicable laws.
Personally, I don't mind incest as long as there is a truly mutual consent between the persons involved. If pregnancy is being considered, then that to me will make a difference because there is now the involvement of giving birth to a child with congenital problems.
WRAP UP: Thank you, Alfie. Not only have you made many of the issues surrounding incest crystal clear, you have been able to do so rationally, without the hysteria that can sometimes accompany it.
Admittedly, sometimes the hysteria/fear/disgust (?) is perfectly understandable. Oftentimes the seeming perpetrators are real perpetrators who pounce on trusting and oftentimes defenseless family members.
But sometimes the misunderstading can come from how we look at incest For example, Anonymous: Incest could be sexual attraction to family members. The mere fantasy of such can be considered incestuous.
This can be a little tricky since we are not responsible for what we feel, only for what we do.
In answer to the two questions above, my view as a clinical psychologist (bearing in mind other clinical psychologists may have a totally different view) is that
1. The behavior need not involve the perpetrator’s physically touching someone before it is incest: peeping in bathrooms and letting the person know you are peeping, asking overly intrusive questions such as--where did he touch you—or making lewd comments and suggestive gestures in someone’s presence can still be incest.
2. Yes, incest can happen between people who are not blood relatives. If anything sexual happens between 2 people (or more) who are considered family—e.g., step parent and stepchild, whether adopted legally or not—that is incest.