incest taboo


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incest taboo

the prohibition on sexual relations between certain categories of kin, generally those of close blood relationship. Some form of incest taboo is found in all known societies, although the relationships which the taboo covers vary. Most common are child-parent and sibling relationships. Some societies actively encourage sexual relationships between cousins, whereas in other societies such relationships would be seen as incestuous. Other societies may not prohibit sexual relationships between certain categories, but would prohibit marriage between the same people.

Various explanations have been put forward for the universality of some form of incest taboo. Some have argued that the now known genetic consequences explain this. But not all human groups would have made this link, and cousin marriage preference would probably have not existed if this was the case. LÉVI-STRAUSS argued that it existed to ensure that people marry out of their social group and thus form alliances with other social groups. (However, sexual prohibitions are not the same as marriage rules.) FREUD's explanation rests on the strong attraction of incestuous relations, particularly between son and mother, and the taboo exists to reduce conflict within the nuclear family. The internalization of the taboo is, for Freud, an important part of the psychological development of the individual (see OEDIPUS COMPLEX).

Given the variety of ways in which the taboo is expressed, emphasis on its universality and hence on universal explanations, is probably misplaced. Greater emphasis on why particular societies designate particular relationships as incestuous and not others may be a more fruitful line of inquiry.

References in periodicals archive ?
As Judith Butler notes, the incest taboo encompasses a taboo against homosexuality as well, presumably to maintain a culture that seeks to reproduce itself (99).
It has been argued that the incest taboo is so widespread that
61) Mitchell's theory counters generations of psychoanalytic and Freudian theory that have reinforced the incest taboo as being vertically enforced by parents.
Charles Darwin, whose family was notorious for first-cousin marriages, speculated that natural selection preserved the incest taboo, but early studies provided few answers.
In all societies, incest taboo defines the closest marriageable kin.
The incest taboo, however, remains, for the most part,
What will be surprising to many readers is the emotional power of the book, the graphically described sex acts between siblings, and the lack of discussion of the incest taboo.
Joan Copjec makes use of their theories and the incest taboo in discussing Antigone in "The Tomb of Perseverance: On Antigone.
Harkins notes how the incest taboo both regulated and normalized certain sexual relations prior to second wave feminism, and that to this day, incest continues to define moral boundaries regarding sexuality.
Nor does Whittier engage arguments from libertarian-leaning feminists such as Judith Levine, who say that our insistence in seeing children as asexual can also harm them, or Judith Butler's provocative rereading of the incest taboo.
Apart from the danger of the doubling-up of bad genes and their effects should there be a conception; there is a normal, built-in, human abhorrence for such couplings: incest taboo.
Breaking the incest taboo helps suggest this asymbolic lawlessness, but it also points to the proximity of the law that must be reinvoked by such an act.