Re: Incest taboos

Joseph Askew (
Sun, 7 May 1995 04:32:21 GMT

In article <3o6rom$> (Pamela N. Lindell) writes:

>: So sleeping with the wife is the cause of most arguments?

>That would explain our high divorce rate! Ha, just kidding.

Well today I was reading an article in the Spectator in which
a lawyer was quoted as saying in ten years she had once met a
man who was suing for divorce who was not commiting adultery.

>: I always thought it was one of the more prominent ways of
>: encouraging cohesion. Compare this with the obvious and
>: famously disruptive affects of marrying outside the family.

>Per sexual relations in the family, I think that if, for example, a male
>was sleeping with both his wife and his daughter, it could well lead to
>jealousy and in those terms family cohesion could be disrupted. In

Could be but so could a husband sleeping with another other wife.
At least a daughter has been conditioned to accept her role as
the child and so might pose less of a challenge to the wife in
the way a younger woman might. I believe that one of the Ptolemies
married both his Sister and her daughter (his step-daughter on
both sides) but this is not strong evidence for my case.

>some polygynous societies, there is animosity between wives so even if
>multiple spouses/partners are institutionalized doesn't neccesarily mean
>that everyone is happy about it.

I agree but consider the Chinese practise of "minor" marriage (in
the sense of the lesser of the two forms) In such a marriage the
daughter-in-law would be adopted into the family at a young age,
often while breast feeding, and raised within her future family.
Then when she turned seventeen or so she and one of the sons would
be "pushed together" (lovely phrase really) This had a lot of
advantages - it was very cheap with major marriages costing up
to a years income and the girl was available in a society where
there was a chronic shortage of females. The other major advantage
is that the daughter had grown up in the family and would not usually
challenge her Mother-in-law. Dissention among sons being the major
cause of family break up and this was usually blamed on the women
they married. Here is a case of, to all intents and purposes, incest
where the family bonds are strengthened by the close relationship
between all concerned. But not the couple by all accounts. Such
marriages had higher divorce rates. Also in the twenties in Taiwan
at least such marriages stopped presumably because the children no
longer were willing to go through with it and they had the economic
clout to force their parents to listen. This argues for a psychological
barrier to incest as there was no genetic reason why they should not
marry. Perhaps seeing your future wife in daipers just does it for
most men. Perhaps a loving relationship requires the objectifying of
the other partner which is threatened by too much reality. Maybe we
only ever fall in love with an image of someone and if we lose our
illusions, or never had any, the relationship is over.