Skip to content

An Example of Consensual Incest

Twin Brothers in Almost Lifelong Relationship

Though I don’t read “Dear Prudence” letters, I was struck by a recent headline on Slate (which I do read). ‘Brotherly Love: My twin and I share an earth-shattering secret that could devastate our family—should we reveal it?’ Here is a clear example of a consensual, incestuous relationship between two adult men. They appear to have had a lifetime (quite literally, considering they were born on the same day, from the same mother) of mutual affection and love for one another.

They are now adult men, who live together as a monogamous couple. Nothing indicates  immorality in their actions. Or least nothing immoral by a reasonable standard of that term. Sure, perhaps we can say it is “wrong” that they might upset their family and so on, but that’s hardly a basis for moral action. Simply being gay, discarding monotheism and marrying a person of a different race upsets plenty of families, too, but these are not immoral actions in themselves.

What troubles me, concerning this gentleman and his twin, is that there are possible legal ramifications for their relationship. Emily Yoffe said in reply:

I spoke to Dan Markel, a professor at Florida State University College of Law. He said that while incest is generally illegal in most jurisdictions, the laws tend to be enforced in a way that would protect minors, prevent sexual abuse, and address imbalances of power. Those aren’t at issue in your consensual adult relationship, but Markel suggests you have a consultation with a criminal defense attorney (don’t worry, the discussion would be confidential) to find out if your relationship would come under the state incest statutes. Either way, it’s better to know, and if it is illegal, as long as you remain discreet the likelihood of prosecution is remote.

It is at least comforting to note that the laws are focused on protecting minors, sexual abuse and imbalances of power. After all, these should be the focus for nearly all major laws that aim at prosecution. What this should tell us, and what confirms my previous post about incest, is that there is nothing special about incest relationships, per se. These relationships, like any relationships, only should become of concern to others when there are abuses of power, a real danger to minors and so on. Again: It’s not the incest that matters but the protection of innocents and preventing suffering.

There is no case for that here. Indeed, there is no reason for them to them to be discreet, except for the existence of possible backward laws, which keeps in check most people’s horror rather than keeping in check reasonable applications of law. We should not be appalled at the relationship.

Rather, we should be appalled at the fact that these two consenting, monogamous and loving individuals need to check laws in order to not be prosecuted. That this still occurs is terrible, but confirms yet again that individual liberty requires constant engagement, from all sides. We overcame this backward thinking, this idea that consensual adult love requires state permission, with miscegenation and we’ve almost done it for homosexuality. There’s no reason I can see for not bringing consensual incest into this bracket of sexual relations that require defence, too.

Image Credit: Fribus Ekaterina/


Up Next