Well, This Sucks

Oh boy. Incest will be a fun one to write about. It’s probably the least controversial of the Facets, and there are some good reasons for that. I was taught in school that incest is the only taboo that has been observed in every culture. I’m no anthropologist, but that passes my BS test. Don’t ask me why, though. I mean, I’m part of humanity, so I feel the ickiness (every time Jamie has a love scene with Cersei). But there are so many deviations I feel so strongly about and I wouldn’t list this one among the worst.

So why do we “all” agree on this? Is it diseases? Close family members having children can lead to an unusually high risk of genetic flaws. That part I agree to be pretty established science. Since it has to do with reproduction, then it doesn’t just affect the two deviants, but any offspring they might produce. The whole inbred, counting-to-12-on-only-fingers joke is well-worn. I get a mental image of Punnet squares overlapping and making several different squares, misshapen and erratic.


Photo by Braydon Anderson on Unsplash

But I have my doubts about this explanation. Its effects are self-evident, but limited in scope, I think. The fact that we have races at all is because people were so sequestered for so long. They may not have married siblings, but exaggerated traits like very dark or very light skin, almond eyes, very tall or very short stature are all results of inbreeding to some extent. Either that or I misunderstood most of 9th-grade biology, which I admit is entirely possible.

More Possible Genetic Explanations

And there’s a hypothesis from contemporary evolutionary research as well. Current dialogue, as I understand it, postulates that humans have developed a distaste for incest because it leads to weaker, more sickly offspring. And that widespread distaste has given us an evolutionary advantage that aided us in our superior advancement as a species. Now, I have strong doubts about this, and not because I have qualms with evolutionary theory (though I do). Psychology just seems to me to be far more complex than this particular just-so story. What are the exact processes that show how taboos as complex as avoiding sex with close relations can be passed down genetically? And again, aren’t there more important things to weed out than sexual attraction to relatives? Like murder? And if our evolution almost forces us to reject incest because it decreases our success of producing strong offspring, then isn’t marriage antithetical to our purpose? Maybe monogamy should be the taboo. And how then can we explain homosexuality? That practice doesn’t just decrease the odds of having strong children, it eliminates them entirely. There may be answers to those questions, and they might even be good ones.  I remain cautiously pessimistic.

If we branch out from biological attempts to explain, there are side effects from other deviations as well. In rape, there can be extreme psychological damage. With promiscuity, there is an alphabet soup of STD’s to go around. Torture seems self-explanatory. Yeah, it seems to be far from the worst in any category. So one last time: why is incest the most widely rejected practice? Seriously, why isn’t there a necrophilia taboo? I honestly have no idea. Neither my understanding of science (sociology, biology, psychology), nor theology, nor even Christianity can explain it. All I know is that it makes me feel gross, and apparently, almost everyone else feels the same. Or maybe the sociology research I got in high school wasn’t as thorough as they made it sound.

Cover Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash