Essay on Incest Taboo

1719 Words Jun 11th, 2006 7 Pages
Incest is a word that is often misunderstood but universally considered taboo. While incest is listed as a criminal offense, many health care professionals have no clear idea of what constitutes incest or some incestuous acts are reportable by law. There are endless academic writings on the subject, yet may confuse rather than clarify because of lack of adequate definitions. Incest may be considered one of the only universal taboos, however, there is no uniformity as to which degrees are involved in the prohibitions. Through this paper I intend to further examine the different definitions of incest and I hope to clarify what incest may or may not be.
First we must look at why incest is considered harmful to our societies. The primary
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Author Jane Leder estimates that "23.000 women per million in (America) may have been victimized by a sibling" before age 18. According to researcher Richard Niolon childhood sibling incest can cause serious psychological damage to the younger or less capable sibling. Sibling incest can also damage or destroy sibling bonds, (wikipedia.org). Consensual incest between adults occurs when there is no dependence on the adults as parent-child or sibling-sibling. In these cases, there is no blame to be placed on either adult, and implies independent consent. The last type of incest is sex between cousins and other distant relatives. This type of incest is not considered harmful in some places because the definition of "family" varies around the world. In most of the Western world incest generally refers to forbidden sexual relations within the family. However, even in the United States, definitions of family vary. Within the US, marriage between (first) cousins is illegal in some states, but not in others, and sociologists have classified marriage laws in the United States into two categories: One, used mainly in southern states, in which the definitions of incest are taken from the Bible, and which frowns upon marriage within one's lineage but less so on blood relatives, and another group which frowns more on marriage between blood relatives (such as cousins), but less on one's lineage. Twenty-four states

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