Incest is one of the most interesting taboos of our time. The definition of incest is a highly controversial topic. Yet, the definition of incest is one of the most important definitions for the people involved, though the legal and psychological meanings are not much the same. Incest needs to be similarly defined for the incestuous parties, both by the law and by psychologists. The definition of incest should be determined by the cases of incest. The people who commit incest and the types of incest should be considered when making this definition for the law. Why incest occurs has a great deal to do with the people and the types of incest. With the definition dissimilar between the law and psychologists, it is very difficult for the involved to do anything about it. The definition is both stated as wrong by law and by most religious morals.

According to psychologists, incest is defined as: A) any intimate physical contact that is sexually arousing between non-married members of a family. (Justice, pg 25) What this is interpreted as is that sexual intercourse does not need to occur for a situation to be considered incestuous. Stroking, fondling, or even intimately kissing can be considered incest. This is not all true for the legal definition. In Georgia, incest is defined as any sexual intercourse between known relatives, by blood or by marriage, (meaning a step-parent and step-child.) Incest laws basically exist to prohibit marriage or inbreeding between family members, and the sentences are almost never carried out. (Kosof, pg 53) So incest is stated as wrong, but not enforced.  The Bible states that incest is wrong, just as the law does. A Cursed be he who has relations with his father’s wife… Cursed be he who has relations with his sister or half-sister! (Deu 27:20,22.) Therefore, the definition can be altered to fit the needs of the definer.

The different forms of incest are as follows: father-daughter, mother-son, brother-sister, and father-son. Conditions of incest don’t always involve intercourse, but still hurt the included. So, the conditions should help to define the firm meaning.

“But surely at fourteen, I should have been capable of escaping…” (Armstrong, pg 7)Father-daughter is the most common form of incest. Three-fourths of all reported cases usually involve dad and his oldest daughter. It is usually non-violent, and the daughters usually feel unattached to their mothers. (Kempe, pgs 48-51) Sometimes the daughter may act in a seductive manner toward her father, or the father might act as a big brother forcing his little sister to misbehave. (Armstrong, pg 235) If the daughter is seductive, then she might gain power over her father. This is not always true for mother-son incest.

Mother-son incest is usually brought on as a way to highly express love, “sex education”, or the mother is promiscuous. If the mother feels like she is expressing her love to her son, then she uses sex as a means of closeness. (Justice, pg 102) There is either no husband or a passive husband. The mother can be very seductive and encourage the son to have sex with her and limits the son’s social life. She acts on a “don’t leave me” attitude to keep her son tied down. Sometimes the son gets aroused my his mother and then becomes the aggressor.(Justice, pg 103)

If he isn’t attracted to mom, why not be attracted to his sister? This is the case in brother-sister, or sibling incest. It is less traumatic and the male participant may be proud about it. The brothers can become violent and force their sister to join in, although usually the sister is willing to participate. (Justice, pg 105) When both of the children are shy, the girl sees him as the only boyfriend she will ever have and becomes flirtatious. The two could also have mutual admiration, and then become sexually attracted to each other. This leads into the most rarely reported incest of the four.

Father-son incest is rarely reported because it violates two taboos, homosexuality and incest.(Justice, 196) Males want to protect their masculinity, so they will not tell anyone. They pretend to like girls, and they date them, but tend to be attracted to boys. When they move out of the house, they sometimes choose to be a male prostitute. The fathers can be alcoholic and very abusive.

The fathers of any incestuous relationship can have psychopathic or symbiotic personalities. Him who has a psychopathic personality seeks stimulation, and has a “get even” aggressiveness. No feelings of guilt and a powerful need for aggression seem to happen often in most cases. “I literally could not walk out of the house without my father wanting to know where I was going, with whom, and when I would be back.”(Kosof, pg 17) He may be promiscuous or pansexual, (meaning that all he can think about is sex. Everything is a sex object to him.) (Justice, pgs 83-85) The father with a symbiotic personality hungers for intimacy. The only way of expression he knows is through sex. There are four types of symbiotic personalities. The introvert, the rationalizer, the tyrant, and the alcoholic. The introvert is very protective toward his family and fells Aunder attack. “He cannot trust people and is easily disappointed.” The wife usually denies him sex. The rationalizer shows what “love” is, or teaches “sex education” to his daughter. The tyrant is the authoritarian; he uses threats and physical force to get what he wants. He pretends to have everything under control and hides the problem at home. His daughter “owes” him sex. He is very jealous and paranoid. The alcoholic is a dependant, although he tries to hide it. 10-15% of incest committers are alcoholics. Mothers share most of the characteristics of the father.

The mothers may be promiscuous and long to be taken care of. Incest might begin as innocent sleeping with her son and then drifts into more physical things. She is not likely to have intercourse with her son, but she implies that someday she will give herself fully to the son, which can lead to the son being a violator, which is rare because the children of incest are mostly victims. (Justice, pg 145)”Sex is not sex for the incest survivor.” (Blume, pg 207) Different children of incest act in different ways. It mainly depends on how the incest was brought about. Some may act untouched by the experience and seldom are able to defend themselves. When they reach adulthood, the might start experiencing flashbacks or amnesia. They live in denial and have an emotional shutdown. (Blume, pg 322) Sometimes they result in schizophrenia or multiple personality disorders. They also seem to have sexual shutdowns and are uncomfortable with it. But why does this occur? Incest usually occurs when sex stops between mother and father. Mom either denies dad sex, there is a major life crisis, or opportunity knocks. The opportunity for incest occurs when mother is gone all the time and so the daughter assumes the role of the mother. When this happens, there is a need for treatment. This is when the definition of incest is most important. The children are very scared and need confidence. If he/she tells a psychologist or teacher, that person is required by law to tell the authorities. (Kosof, pg 53) When the authorities are contacted, the definition comes into play. The child wants to feel safe, and if their definition of incest doesn’t live up to the law’s, then the charges could be dropped and the child gets into more problems with incest. Therefore, the background of the incest is very important to the law’s definition. By the people involved, the form, and why it occurs are critical to helping the child out when defining the term. The definition of incest by the law should be closer to the definition of psychologists in order to help out the family. “It is evident that we still know very little about how to treat the sexual offender and the abused child effectively.” (Kempe, pg 109)

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3 Comments on "Incest: Causes & Types"

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Alise J.

I just wanted the causes and the types!

Jahne. S



Doesn’t brother-brother or sister-sister incest also exist? I remember reading an article about a book where an incestous brother-brother relationship was discussed.