Essay on On The Incest Taboo

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Incest is not such a clear-cut matter as it has been made out to be over millennia of taboos. Many participants claim to have enjoyed the act and its physical and emotional consequences. It is often the result of seduction. In some cases, two consenting and fully informed adults are involved. Many types of relationships, which are defined as incestuous, are between genetically unrelated parties (a stepfather and a daughter), or between fictive kin or between classificatory kin (that belong to the same matriline or patriline). In certain societies (the American Indians or the Chinese) it is sufficient to
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Genetic material is handed down through the sexual act. It is the mandate of the family to increase both, either by accumulating property or by exogamy (marrying outside the family). Clearly, incest prevents both. It preserves a limited genetic pool and makes an increase of material possessions through intermarriage all but impossible.

Once allocated, the family is an efficient venue of transferring material wealth, as well as transmitting information and messages horizontally (among family members) and vertically (down the generations). A large part of the process of socialization still rides on the back of this property of the family. It is still by far the most heavyweight agent of socialization. Gender roles, for instance, are learned, emulated and assimilated mainly through the family. Incest, in itself, isolated from its social context and judgement, should not have affected this function in particular. There is no logical reason why incest should interfere with socialization, role learning or with the allocation of material resources (except, perhaps, when it comes to inheritance). Paradoxically, it is the reaction of society that transforms incest into such a disruptive phenomenon. The condemnation, the horror, the revulsion and the social sanctions distort the internal processes of the incestuous family. It is from society that the child learns that something is horribly wrong and that he

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