Jan 04 2011

Consanguineous bonds

Email question of the day:

“So I take it you have no argument against marriage between two consenting adults, even if these adults are, for example, brother and sister?”

It’s the question of the day because it sent me off to do a bit of research on incest in order to challenge/re-affirm my position. (Freedom won again…)

I also discovered a curious thing about Rhode Island law…they have an exception to incest laws that allows “any marriage which shall be solemnized among the Jewish people, within the degrees of affinity or consanguinity allowed by their religion”.

My response to the questioner:

While I personally find the concept of marrying a sibling, etc. rather “icky”, there are lots of things that I find “icky” that aren’t necessarily immoral and that society has no business restricting. My aversion is something that most of us experience and it’s known as the “Westermarck effect” but that’s not the case for everyone.

There are certainly biological reasons to avoid inbreeding, but marriage isn’t necessarily about procreation. There are also psychological issues that surround taboo relationships (both contributing psychological issues and psychological issues that result from such unions) but we have to be very careful to distinguish between issues caused by societal disdain for something (as was/is the case with inter-racial marriages) and psychological harm that is intrinsic to the relationship (a daughter raised segregated from societal influence in order to ‘brainwash’ an incestuous spouse).

I think there’s a compelling argument that we should generally discourage incestuous marriage in order to minimize the risk of birth defects and psychological trauma, but that we are probably not justified in prohibiting those unions as a matter of law. I’m also convinced that this issue isn’t compelling enough to spend much time on…as the percentage of the population interested in such a relationship is negligible.

Our ability to discern the moral evaluation of something like incestuous marriage is restricted — we just don’t have enough information and there are too many possible scenarios. It may be that the unions are, in and of themselves, detrimental to the couples and to society – or it may be the case that there’s no significant harm. I’m not convinced that we have enough information to make any such determination, but I haven’t spent any significant time studying the subject. Until such time as we have compelling evidence (and not just a visceral aversion), I’m not sure that I can support laws against such marriages — but I’m in favor of discouraging it by education and investigating such relationships to ensure that we have true, informed consent.

Finally, there are a number of scenarios where people meet, fall in love and later learn that they are siblings or otherwise closely related. I’m of the opinion that it would be more immoral to prevent their marriage that to allow it…and that colors the entire spectrum of possible incestuous relationships…especially when you consider that some people get married, lead happy lives and find out about their kinship years later.

It may be the case that this is quite often a morally neutral issue — along the lines of a victimless crime (a term I’m not fond of, but fits as we often criminalize things which are victimless). As a matter of personal freedom, unless someone can demonstrate clear harm, I don’t see a compelling reason to disallow it.

I’ve since done a bit more thinking and I’ll amend the above a bit…

Re-reading that, it looked like I was in favor of discouraging a loving relationship between people who happened to be related and that’s not the case. The education comment was intended to address the real risks and not be a pronouncement about whom you should/shouldn’t love or marry.


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  1. 1

    Damn, I thought I was the only rational person I know of who believes that incest laws are silly. Nice to know that while I am definitely in the minority on this topic, I do have some company.For the record, I also feel that laws against polygamy and bestiality are misguided. One person's ick may be another's ideal. Let folks do as they wish, as long as no one is harmed.

  2. 2

    Just for you, little traitors…youtube.com/watch?v=6YgdmtkTwO8&feature=relatedWHAT IS WRONG WITH HENRY?we're this far from nuking all of you….the X-MAS vacuum cleaner for the atheists….shermer, randi, myers, pz, dawkins, harristhecoolgadgets.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/henry-desktop-vacuum1.jpgyoutube.com/watch?v=lz4R0GHfM-Y&why does everyone always want to PUNCH you, shermer?badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=19852

  3. 3

    Personally I'd put bestiality in the same category as pedophilia: the critter/child is not able to give consent, therefore sexual relations with them are harmful and abusive. (This is setting aside the squick factor simply to address the issue on intellectual terms, mind you.)

  4. 4

    I don't know the details in the U.S., but here in Germany, it's actually quite a serious crime to have intercourse with a relative. The courts have been very cautious about actually imposing jail sentences, but it happens, and not very long ago our Supreme Court, in a very poorly reasoned decision, upheld the law because of the possibility of birth defects (which would at most justify a law against incestuous procreation, not any intercourse) and – it would be funny if it wasn't so sad – to prevent child abuse within families (as if that wasn't a crime in itself…).It's shameful.

  5. 5
    Matt D.

    Muriel,I read about that case today. He's up for trial again…and has voluntarily had a vasectomy in the hopes that it will sway the court. There's also a section of the German legal code up for review…I'm hoping they finally just let this guy and his wife live.(Though I do think it was irresponsible for them to have 4 kids, 3 of which were so seriously disabled that they had to be cared for by the state)

  6. 6

    I also thought I was the only one who thought this. A vasectomy is definitely the thing to do for such couples, but it does make me wonder how strongly incestuous relationships should be discouraged and how strongly birth control should be pushed on them.

  7. 7

    @MartinI have to agree 100%. While incestuous relationships are considered by many to be wrong there is still the very real issue that (for the sake of argument) two consenting adults have the right to be with each other. This could also, rightly, be argued for polygamy. All of this, however, is based entirely on active, self-aware consent of all parties. Bestiality and pedophilia are markedly different. In both cases the second party (second party being the child or animal for arguments sake) is both dependent upon another and incapable of making the informed decision required for consent. Relationships of this kind are intrinsically abusive, and in the case of pedophilia, typically lead to serious psychological damage.

  8. 8

    I recently had to admit of the same conclusion myself. Dealing with debates about gay marriage (on the pro side, of course), polygamy and incest come up a lot as potential slippery slopes. The polygamy argument doesn't get much traction because I don't and really have never seen a reason that it should be illegal. There would be some logistical hurdles to iron out (child custody, next of kin, property rights, power of attorney, etc), but that's no good argument for a legal prohibition, any more than the challenges of a three-entity business partnership should make them illegal. I've tried to pretend that incestuous relationships are somehow different — the potential birth defects, etc — but as you say, I can't honestly argue that the inability of gay people to procreate is not relevant to the issue of marriage, but procreation is somehow relevant to the issue of incest. The squick factor is still REEAALLLLLY high, for me. I'd never want to do it. But that isn't (or at least ought not to be) the way we make our laws.

  9. 9

    Just as a character side note :PWhile I support personal freedoms with regard to areas that the government has no business interfering (this pertaining to relationships between consenting adults) I do feel that such relationships should be discouraged. In the case of incest this is due to both the ick factor and the high rate of birth defects. With polygamy there is the ick factor and the assumed convoluted dynamics involved in relationships with multiple parties.extra addendum: I'm neither an expert, nor have I done any in-depth study except in the case of pedophilia which I made a cursory examination in order to comment on a similar discussion in the League Of Reason forums.

  10. 10

    The people asking this question are throwing red herrings. They are trying to trick you into validating their "slippery slope" argument against gay marriage: "Golly," they ask, "if we allow two MEN to marry (since marriage isn't about procreation), shouldn't we allow BROTHERS to marry?"Ignoring the fact that we don't see a nationwide (or indeed WORLD wide) movement of people fighting for "incest rights" (as we do for gay rights), the fact is that the gay-rights movement's push for marriage equality is an attempt to provide the security and protection for one's family, the same as is provided via marriage for any heterosexual family. Brothers, sisters, cousins, etc, ALREADY have their familial bonds recognized and protected by the government, simply by the virtue of BEING FAMILY. My brother could have more claim over my inheritance than my partner does, even if stipulated otherwise in a will. My sister (if I had any) could visit me in a hospital room, where my partner may be denied access.There is no fight, anywhere, for any "incest rights", and it does not support any argument to pretend that there is one. And there WOULDN'T be any such fight, because the bonds of family are already stronger than any rights that could be granted through marriage. This "argument" is nothing but a distraction tactic to make same-sex marriage sound illicit and immoral.

  11. 11

    cursory examination being wikipedia >.<"I can't help but feel a little put-off by the topic, even sideways association based on a minor amount of research makes me feel icky >:\

  12. 12
    MI Dawn

    I don't have the exact numbers at my fingertips (got rid of my genetics books about 6 years ago) but if I recall correctly, the "unknown" risk of birth defects due to familial marriage (sibling, parent/child) is about 10% (and I may be recalling incorrectly and it might be 10% greater than the usual risk of about 3% in the general public marriages). Of course, that is an increase of risk. But so is the marriage of 2 persons with sickle cell trait. We don't demand those people not marry. We don't say Ashkenazi (sp?) Jews not marry within the group, although they have a higher risk of birth defects. We don't require anyone get genetic testing. So why keep incestuous marriage illegal? The "ick" factor isn't enough; there was a huge "ick" factor when Loving vs Virginia took place (blacks and whites marry? Oh, the horror!)I don't want to marry my brother OR my sister, but if siblings wish to marry, are aware of the possible risks, and both are consenting adults, they should have the right to do so.

  13. 13

    I agree that people should have the right to do whatever they want. If siblings want to marry, let them. I do have an issue with people having a child that has to be taken care of by the state because of disabilities, or because the parents are unable or unwilling to take care of them. If we feel the state has the right to take children away from their parents, the state should have the right to prevent parents from having children for the same reasons. In that sense, I think the risk of birth defects in children from siblings et cetera are too high. If society pays that price, it should have a say in having the child.

  14. 14

    @ DawnRead your comment after I posted my first. I thought the risks were much higher. 10% is not THAT much, so in my opinion the risk is not high enough to forbid siblings having children. I retract my former statement.

  15. 15

    @ MartinIt seems hypocritical to me that it is ok to kill animals and eat them, but it's not ok to have sex with them. As long as the animal is not caused any physical or emotional pain, I'm ok with bestiality (at least in the moral and legal sense, otherwise: eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeuw).

  16. 16

    I believe Le Sexoflex covered this topic quite nicely.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1w62NiULUTI(kinda nsfw)

  17. 17

    Just for you, little traitors…youtube.com/watch?v=6YgdmtkTwO8&feature=relatedWHAT IS WRONG WITH HENRY?we're this far from nuking all of you….the X-MAS vacuum cleaner for the atheists….shermer, randi, myers, pz, dawkins, harristhecoolgadgets.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/henry-desktop-vacuum1.jpgyoutube.com/watch?v=lz4R0GHfM-Y&why does everyone always want to PUNCH you, shermer?THE HIGH PRICE OF REVOLUTIONyoutube.com/user/xviolatex?feature=mhum

  18. 18

    MJ: It isn't "hypocritical," because we don't do sex the same way we do food. (Wisecracks about the sexual uses of cucumbers and such notwithstanding.) Biologically we are omnivores. But there are precious few species with a biological urge to mate outside their own species, and homo sapiens isn't one of them. Eating isn't fucking.

  19. 19

    my first ever blog post covered very similar ground – lamenting the fact that so many laws are based on evolved instincts that on closer, rational, inspection are not justified.i think (hope!) any civilised society will gradually move to a more rational basis for law. we humans may be slow, but there's no doubting we have made good inroads.

  20. 20

    @MJ "I agree that people should have the right to do whatever they want."When I read that big red flashing error signs went off in my brain. Human impulse and inclination is far ranging and in many cases purely detrimental, and while I'm sure you had them, without caveats that statement is wholly wrong.Also, I'm going to have to agree with Martin again. Dietary habits and sexual proclivities are not comparable activities.

  21. 21

    @Martin, haven't you ever had a dog try to hump your leg? Animals often attempt to mate outside their species, esp mammals.Also, we kill animals just so we can wear their fur. We torture animals for medical testing. We cause a lot of pain and death to animals that they don't consent to. Why is sex an exception, besides the ick factor?

  22. 22

    Sexual relations with partners who cannot consent is a wholly selfish act. The primary goal for the one imposing his/her self on the recipient is personal gratification without concern for reciprocation or physiological consequence. That is why it is rightly called rape.Animals do not have the higher brain capabilities to decline advances (outside of violence). That inability to give consent in what should be a mutual activity is why it is wrong.Where food is concerned. Consent is neither asked nor required. We, being omnivores, require the proteins that meat provide, and how we go about obtaining it is simply a matter of capability.

  23. 23

    I would add that I'd also be opposed to gratuitously cruel treatment of animals in other contexts, but in each situation meaningful distinctions can be made. I don't think using animals for medical research is a negative, because the results of that research have saved both human and animal lives. I do, however, object to testing frivolous things like cosmetics on animals. I don't object to raising livestock as food, with the by-products of that process resulting in, say, leather for clothing and shoes. But I do object to animals like minks, who have no value as food or anything else, being raised in tortuous conditions simply to be skinned for their fur, when we have innumerable alternative options (even synthetic ones) for the kind of clothing that's more about vanity than keeping you warm anyway.So as much as you're tempted to make simple black-and-white arguments for these things, the reality is much more complex. I wouldn't compare shagging an animal to eating it, but I would compare it to other acts of needless cruelty.I'm aware that there are people in the PETA camp and elsewhere who consider all human use of animals to be cruelty in some way, and they choose to forego any kind of animal products in their lives. That's their choice and it's fine. Maybe it's the case that most people are able to compartmentalize in their minds, and classify certain acts as cruel and others as not so much, even though the end result in both cases is a dead animal. But again, I don't see that as an invalid process, just more of an indication of the complex way that humanity's relationship to the animal kingdom has evolved. Some animals we love as pets, some we use as beasts of burden, some we eat. "Screwing" is an activity that the vast majority of us have classified under the "not with Fido" category. That's basically it.BTW, when your dog humps your leg, it's because he's reaching doggie puberty and his undeveloped little brain is going wild with hormones. It isn't because he's exploring an alternative lifestyle.

  24. 24
    Thy Reaper

    @Daemon6We can eat plants for the protein we need. Killing animals is hardly necessary, and wasteful in terms of food energy from the land. There is no way an animal can give consent to being killed, so the same logic extends to banning animals as food.

  25. 25

    "We can eat plants for the protein we need."This is not necessarily true. There are proteins, such as B-12, which are not readily available in plants. However, even if this was true (which I'm not fully denying since I have no expertise in the subject) it is outside of my intent."Killing animals is hardly necessary, and wasteful in terms of food energy from the land."I'm not sure this is true, nor am I certain what it means."There is no way an animal can give consent to being killed, so the same logic extends to banning animals as food."As I said, in matters of diet, consent is neither requested or required. The issue is one of purpose vs. cruelty. We are biologically equipped to process living tissue. As such it is within our purview, as a top predator, to kill and eat prey animals.All of this is a side issue and is completely derailing to main topic…As Martin stated in a previous post, and I expounded on in mine, dietary habits and sexual proclivities are not comparable activities. One is a necessary (arguably) part of biological life, the other is a wholly selfish that involves abuse of another living creature for personal gratification.I would like to add that I am not, nor would ever be, in favor of cruelty.

  26. 26
    Thy Reaper

    @Daemon6Wikipedia cites animal products as a source of B12, which does not require killing animals. Further, I'm aware of a large segment of the population that avoids eating animals, so it must be possible (even if difficult or impractical).http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_B12Animals require a long time to develop to an edible state, all the time themselves needing to be fed by sources other than light and ground nutrients. I could be wrong, but it seems incredibly unlikely it isn't less efficient.And this is related, as it is the groundwork for clarifying that this isn't a necessity, and is indeed selfish to kill animals, as it is optional.And when is killing not cruel?

  27. 27

    Okay guys, this is quite enough thread drift and I'm cutting it off now. The original post was not about vegetarianism-vs-carnivorism. Somehow we went from gay marriage to incest to bestiality to general animal cruelty to nutrition. Let's get back on topic or disemvowelings will commence. Thanks for understanding.

  28. 28

    I mean no offense by this, but are you trolling me?This is all off-topic but I'll reiterate.. again.. We are omnivores. As such we are predators, capable of digesting living tissue in order to survive. As I said before the issue is sexual proclivities versus dietary habits. The issue I was trying to raise was purpose versus cruelty… You say that it is selfish to kill animals for food, but people must eat and animals ARE A FOOD SOURCE. Death happens, I'm sorry if that makes you uncomfortable but it's a truth. Animals eat other animals, another fact. In the wild such things are far more cruel than our own methods (preferable methods). You may view it as arbitrary but I am capable of drawing a line at what I consider necessary cruelty with regard to a food source. Forcing oneself sexually on another who is incapable of consent is unarguably unnecessary. There is no justification within any decent society as it serves no purpose but to personal gratification. It is cruelty without any redeeming purpose.

  29. 29

    While I agree that the drift was getting out of hand I do have to say that the original argument got pretty boring :(. I think everyone is pretty much on board with mutual consent.What we need is a fundie that we can rail on >.<".However, there is an interesting issue concerning public interdiction with regards to off-spring from incestuous couples. Being that they are consenting adults (for arguments sake) can we, in good conscience, say that they are not allowed to bear children?I saw that several people state something along the lines of mandatory vasectomy, and can't help but think that that's far over the lines of acceptable practice by a government (at least in a free society).

  30. 30

    The Hawaians, for a long time, bred their next generation of King & Queen from the fusion of young brother and sister.If the 'issue' was born defective, it was placed on a beach for "the gods to tend". Shades of Spartica.But – correct me if you know better – I think that there is too much focus on the dysfunctional outcomes of consanguinity.I think some "law of breeding stats" asserts that it is equally (?) likely that the issue could be a "sport", a biological term meaning a child of exception, physically, intellectually, etc.Anyone got precise and informed links on this topic ?

  31. 31

    Well, given that the whole discussion is mostly academic (considering that there isn't exactly a cultural groundswell of support for incestuous marriage or incest in any form, and so we're not really dealing with real-world problems likely to crop up with any frequency), it occurs to me that, above and beyond cultural taboos, most people are aware of the dangers of inbreeding. For most people, that fact plus the fact that too few people desire sexual interaction with their blood relatives for it to be a concern, keeps consanguineous bonds from being something needing vigorous law enforcement intervention. But the birth defect risk ought to be enough to discourage the activity among those rare folks to whom it does appeal. And why assume intervention in those cases would be inappropriate? After all, it's consenting adults who shoot up heroin with dirty needles and spread HIV. Many people willingly consent to things that can have long-ranging harmful consequences. That don't mean we cross any lines when we step in and prevent it. A "free society" doesn't mean a lawless one, or one so caught up in hedonism and libertinism that we just don't give a fuck.

  32. 32

    @MartinThough perhaps not directed solely at me, I would like to say that I in no way would support a lawless society. I understand and freely that a cohesive society requires that we curtail some freedoms in order to provide a framework for a healthy civilization. I also concede that consent is not license.My point was directed at situations such as government enforced medical procedures in specific contexts; this being a direct response to statements about required vasectomies. Conjecture this may be, bu it seems to me that such intervention would be much harder to justify for a threat that was far less immediate and assured than the one you put forth. As I stated in an earlier post, I'm certainly in favor of discouraging it, and I can't say that I would object on a personal level, to preventing such births, but direct government intervention? I'm not quite sure how I would feel about the issue and am very thankful that such a situation will likely never be a problem. For the sake of argument though, I think my main concern would be precedent.

  33. 33

    "freely accept"I wish there was an edit function :(

  34. 34

    Yeah, I totally agree that forced vasectomies would be a major overreach.

  35. 35
    Leisha Camden

    if siblings wish to marry, are aware of the possible risks, and both are consenting adults, they should have the right to do so. The problem with this is that the risks involved aren't taken by the consenting adults, but by their children.

  36. 36

    @ Martin, 12:14amUmmm, not really critiquing you here mate, but in the interests of gender equity, should you not have included "tubal ligation" along with "vasectomies". Not saying that you are a misandrist of any kind, but we ought strive for gender equality – in every way we can.Perhaps such drastic action could be slightly supported, along the lines of "for the general good of society", just like we impose all sorts of other laws for that mission. Road law, Corporate Law, OHS, Food handling, …However, it seems that nearly everyone here has committed the logical error of mandating :"my preferences (moral, ick, genetic ..) should be made general law."What if a pair of siblings signed legal agreements that they would 100% support the outcome of their breeding together?Since no one else in society then becomes afflicted in any way, what right have we to impose our moral preferences upon these breeders? Or our impose our aesthetic preferences?Egoism is NO BASIS for imposing universal moral (or any other kind of) laws!

  37. 37

    marriage and procreation are not the same thing. there are many married couples who never have children. Adoption is also an option.

  38. 38

    Incestuous marriages tend to pop out defective kids. Period. Imagine the fun the religious right GOPunks would have trying to legislate who can/can not procreate. Simpler to forbid those intra-family marriages.

  39. 39

    @OzoggI believe that vasectomies are not only easier, cheaper, require less recuperation, can be reversed easier and have much less risks of complication and side effects then tying tubes.If you have a choice between 2 surgeries to force on people do the same thing (essentially) you would probably choose the equally effective, cheaper, less risky procedure.

  40. 40

    @OzoggI realize that this was directed at Martin, but I can't really tell what you're going on about..Sorry, man, but your post seems pretty off-base, and reads like you very quickly, and inefficiently, skimmed the last few posts.

  41. 41

    The gut reaction to the question is "No! Gross" but we think with our brains not our guts so uon furthur investigation the only 'victims' could be any offspring produced. The congenial defects for cousins having children is about 5%, seems high until you learn that non-cousin rate is 3% I didn't find a rate for siblings though I suspect it higher than 5%. I doubt that there are a lot of these relationships so legaising it would have minimal consequence. And although I'm not allowed to comment- I do think Martin skeptically challenged on bestiality.

  42. 42

    @Matt D.: No question it's irresponsible. Although not more so than for any other couple with genetic defects…I'd really like to know where you read about that, because I haven't been able to find it.

  43. 43
    Geth Jones

    To open another perspective on the topic, there was a recent documentary in the UK about the tradition of first cousin marriage in the British Pakistani community. This is encouraged by the close family systems and religous traditions of the community.The medical experts consulted by the programme gave the risk of offspring with genetic disorders as 4% for 1st cousin marriages (as opposed to 2% for non-related marriages), but also stressed that the risks could be higher if there has been a peristent practice of cousin marriages.I don't know if the URL can be accessed from the US, but it does have some interesting information:http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-68/episode-1

  44. 44

    @ Deamon6 Although not explicitly stated, what I meant was that people can do whatever they want, as long as they don't infringe on the rights of others. Limiting people in what they can and cannot do can only be with good reasons.

  45. 45

    From what I understand about genetics, which honestly isn't much, the increased risk is directly related to lack of genetic diversity. Which leads to another interesting, and hilarious, hole in christian dogma. How can they even remotely argue again incest when, according to their own scriptures, the entire human race must necessarily be the product of incest.Interesting non-sequitar: Cheetahs suffered a near cataclysmic reduction in numbers some ten thousand years ago resulting in in-breeding in order for the species to survive. Every cheetah alive today can rightly be called related to every other.

  46. 46
    John K.

    Always tricky to decide when the government should step in. How great a risk are we willing to accept in a behavior before we outlaw it? Purely genetically, incest increases chances of birth defects. Does this infringe on the rights of others enough to outlaw it? By the same token, should smoking or drinking alcohol while pregnant be outlawed? Should prenatal vitamins be mandated by law?I personally like to err on the side of less government intervention, since broad reaching policies enacted by too few people often result in glaring oversights. I say do not bother to outlaw incest and by extension marriage between siblings. People should be smart enough not to do these things on their own, and responsible enough to deal with the consequences if they do.I want responsible laws in place, just not a nanny state that legislates things like sex and happy meals for "my own good".

  47. 47
    John K.

    Great discussion topic by the way. I really enjoy reading debates on these matters in an intelligent and logical way without anybody telling me what Jesus has to say on the matter.

  48. 48

    @MattWas there any response from the e-mailer? I'd like to know what his reaction was to yours, and if he's this his response to this thread as well.

  49. 49

    if he's seen this*

  50. 50
    Justin B.

    "Great discussion topic by the way. I really enjoy reading debates on these matters in an intelligent and logical way without anybody telling me what Jesus has to say on the matter."This.

  51. 51

    Since we're on the subject, I'm curious about small gene pools. We'll say that the only two people you can procreate with are your sister/brother and your cousin. Your sister is more genetically different from you than your cousin by chance due to the random recombination of genes, but you've lived with her all your life. What would you weigh as more important, genetics or living life with somebody new? To keep it simple, we'll say that it's a monogamous situation.There's a broader question of whether not not to procreate with somebody who's ethnically similar to you. Here, recessive genes start coming into play more in terms of traits people possess. It's good to swap genes, but if too many people procreate with partners from other different ethnicities, the variety starts leaving the gene pool.I personally think that incest isn't desirable, for a relationship or for the health of a children.In regards to the Rhode Island law, it clearly isn't just to allow one group of people to have certain decisions over sexual partners and not anybody else, religious group or not.

  52. 52

    The original email snip didn't mention procreation, just marriage. One could argue that married or not, if they want sex, they will have sex. So, is this an issue of procreation or of legal rights as a married couple?As Weedwhacker pointed out there would already be certain rights in place simply because they are family, but not all the benefits of a married couple.As a number of people have said here, there are plenty of marriages without any children. There are also plenty of children that are not the result of marriage, some even from incest.

  53. 53
    John Stabler

    We discussed this very thing ages ago on our Podcast, the second ever episode.http://stabler.tv/post/Episode-2-Ive-been-thinking-about-incest.aspxIt's at 51:24

  54. 54

    You're right, MAtheist, seeing as your reply somewhat addresses my post indirectly. I'm not talking about the same issue. I should have been clear about that by prefacing my comment. Considering the issue at hand, I'll have to reword the content of my last two sentences to explain how I feel about the issue as brought up.1.I don't consider an incestual marriage, procreation or otherwise, to be particularly valuable for more reasons than one. I don't believe that incestual marriage should be outlawed, because it's a violation of individual rights and it interferes with the progression of people's relationships.2. I consider the Rhode Island law on marriage to be unjust because it's favored towards particular groups of individuals.

  55. 55

    Sex with animals is just plain horrific and should not be desensitized by removing the stigma. Try being the recipient of worms or other such VD from someone who seemed ok who got it from an animal.No, this didn't happen to me. I'm not a free-spirit and keep my dalliances to a few important people. But seriously… that's not "ick" it's freaking… there is no word for it.And for the same reasons, incest should be outlawed. My condolences to the brother and sister who unwittingly fall in love and cannot marry. But seriously… that's LIFE.

  56. 56

    By the way, anyone who thinks effing farm animals is "up to the individual, not for me to outlaw": I challenge: take a microbiology class and tell me you still think it's OK to desensitize the common psyche and that it won't hurt anyone else. I mean, let alone the poor little farm animal penetrated by a human penis. Seriously. Much respect otherwise, but on this: What are you people thinking?

  57. 57

    Johannthecabbie, dogs often hump to show domination. My chihuahua used to hump my forearm when she was a teeny puppy. It wasn't because she was ready to breed (as many idiots on craigslist think what it means as they try to pimp chihuahuas out as puppies). She was a dominant dog, so she humped via reflex.

  58. 58

    Oops, maybe my follow-up comment about bestiality was accidentally too graphic because it's gone now. But suffice it to say, I encourage everyone who thinks bestiality is a matter of personal preference and that it hurts no one, to take a microbiology class and try to come out of that still believing bestiality is a victimless, private issue from public health.And just the actual mismatching of species is cruel on the non-human. Sorry if I got too literal or maybe incredulous on my previous comment. I was caught in shock. I will check myself next time.

  59. 59
    March Hare

    There are two dangers from allowing incest:1. Birth defects. This has been adequately covered so I'll leave it as is.2. Power. Everyone thus far has been assuming sibling relationships (which also have a power dynamic that can be seriously one sided) but what about parent-adult offspring incest? I can well imagine a parent raising their kid in such a way that the only persona they'd ever want to marry when they grew up would be that parent. As an adult they are doing it entirely by choice, but that decision was massively influenced by the brainwashing that happened while they were growing up.

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