What is incest?

Anastasia Toufexis

Woody Allen is not Soon-Yi's biological father; he is not married to her adoptive mother Mia Farrow; and he did not live in their home. Moreover, Soon- Yi is a consenting adult. But if the Woody-Soon-Yi affair is not legally out of bounds, it is hardly innocent. At the very least, a man who sleeps with his ex-lover's daughter appears predatory and manipulative.

But the relationship shades into indecency with the claim by Soon-Yi's siblings that Allen has been a father figure to the entire Farrow brood ever since Soon-Yi was a preteen. Isn't that bringing sex a little too close to home, close , enough to raise the issue of incest?

Defining the ancient taboo becomes hard in an era of recombinant families created by divorce, remarriage and adoption. The traditional stricture -- no carnal relations between parent and child or brother and sister -- still holds, but how does it apply to today's blended and extended families, where blood ties are often thin or absent?

Historically the taboo has had a scientific rationale: that inbreeding drains the gene pool, greatly increasing the chances of mental and physical defects in offspring. But modern geneticists have found that such dangers are overstated; it would take generations of inbreeding for such problems to surface regularly. A more important reason for the taboo is cultural: incest has been banned to preserve family harmony by keeping disruptive rivalries and jealousies at bay. It has also helped to strengthen kinship clans; by forcing members to marry outside the group, the clan expands its wealth and allies.

Today the most significant damage from incest is psychological. The heart of a family, say experts, is not the bloodline but the emotional connection. "Proper human growth involves gradually separating emotionally from your family so that you can go off and start one of your own," stresses child therapist Carole West of Beverly Hills, California. "Incest disrupts that process."

The surge in nontraditional families increases the risk of disruption. "There are more incidents of incest reported in stepfamilies than in biological families," observes Lynn Reynolds of the Institute Against Social Violence, in Briarcliff Manor, New York. Adopted children may be particularly vulnerable; no matter how well they are treated by their adoptive families, they frequently struggle with feelings of abandonment by their biological parents.

"Anyone who comes into a marriage with a teenage child needs to exercise extra caution about incest," warns psychiatrist Domeena Renshaw of Loyola School of Medicine, in Chicago. "That child is beginning to blossom, and will sometimes compete with the natural parent." Freudian theory holds that the earliest erotic impulses are incestuous; young boys unconsciously rival their father for their mother's affection, while daughters covet their father, a normal process in development known, in boys and girls respectively, as the Oedipus and Electra complexes. One therapist wonders whether Soon-Yi may never have resolved such early longings and might now be replacing her mother as the father's lover.

The courts may not call it incest or child abuse, but the relationship is surely an abuse of power. "Does anyone really see Soon-Yi as a consenting equal?" asks West. "Would she feel free to say no to the great Woody Allen? Is she intellectually mature enough?" One reason the taboo of incest has endured so strongly is the understanding most people have that the complex emotional bonds and power relationships that exist within a family -- even an extended one -- should never be abused.

With reporting by Andrea Sachs/New York and James Willwerth/Los Angeles

Find this article at: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,976395,00.html

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Consenting adults

Boy, I had to laugh at the sick irony reflected in the following statement: 

"Does anyone really see Soon-Yi as a consenting equal?" asks West. "Would she feel free to say no to the great Woody Allen? Is she intellectually mature enough?"

In terms of child placement and adoption, what child has consenting powers, and what child doesn't feel like submission is the only route?!?

Who would say "No" to a famous American film-star seeking a child to adopt? 

Consenting equals only exists when both members have equal power. 

What disturbs me the most about adoption-incest issues is how few people discuss the realities behind family abuse, the powers that rule an individual, and the ease in which an innocent child can get placed and LOST in a corrupt system that is indeed a form of child trafficking.  [Yep, the moral-people at CPS and adoption agencies come to play, once again.]

Take the children produced from incest... where do most of them go?   Many get aborted, many get kept, and the rest, I imagine, get placed through an adoption agency.

The ultimate taboo here being "no one is to find out about this family secret".

GRRRRRREAT...

So what happens when an adoptee isn't told about the birthing-relinquishment circumstances, and isn't told how many other siblings have resulted from either parent's sexual relationships?

Read about finding love in all the wrong places here:  Genetic Sexual Attraction [http://poundpuplegacy.org/node/18699]

A problem that seems not to have bothered the British government

So what happens when an adoptee isn't told about the birthing-relinquishment circumstances, and isn't told how many other siblings have resulted from either parent's sexual relationships?

Not a problem that seems to have much bothered the British government until very recently, unless of course two siblings did actually discover themselves to be in that situation at which point they suddenly become criminals

Where paternal siblings are concerned, it seems, Barnardos (or Barnardo's) the agency that arranged my own adoption, it still doesn't much matter if siblings who are adopted separately know they are siblings or not

Makes me wonder...

who's job is it to care if an adoptee gets hurt from the long-term consequences of child placement?

It seems the term "neglect" works only when it's the natural parents at fault.  [Seems a bit one-sided, wouldn't you say?] 

'Intending to marry', a bit too late by then?

From Section 79 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (England & Wales)

QUOTE

(7) On an application made in the prescribed manner by an adopted person a record of whose birth is kept by the Registrar General and who—

(a) is under the age of 18 years, and

(b) intends to be married,

the Registrar General must inform the applicant whether or not it appears from information contained in the registers of live-births or other records that the applicant and the person whom the applicant intends to marry may be within the prohibited degrees of relationship for the purposes of the Marriage Act 1949 (c. 76).

(8) Before the Registrar General gives any information by virtue of this section, any prescribed fee which he has demanded must be paid.

END QUOTE

"Intends to be married" Isn't that a bit too late, don't you think? Shouldn't we all know who we are related to BEFORE we get to the stage of "intending to be married" to them?

It's amazing isn't it, that this law was passed less than 6 years ago?

The lengthy process that people over 18 in England & Wales have to go through to get their original birth certificate and adoption files probably means that few bother to do so simply for the purposes of entering it to a marriage or sexually active relationship

And this is in a relatively civilised country compared to the United States of America where civil rights surrounding adoption is often sub third world standard

Moral codes of decency

Robin, thank you for that good laugh!  I think more people intend to have sex than get married, but then such a comment must mean I'm not a very moral-minded person.

Funny how marriage vows include the part, "let no man tear apart what God puts together", yet it's fair to tear a child from a loving mother or father... all because those two are not legally married.  [Yes folks, not ALL children placed in orphanages or CPS services have been abused by their natural parents!]

Perhaps our governments would like it if we all apply for a license to have sex, that way marriage can be the second relationship-option a consenting adult can make.  It could be the new Sex Tax!

I bet such a license would make the job at Planned Parenthood much easier!  [See this video for the story:  "Planned Parenthood Conceals Statutory Rape, Sex Exploitation"]

... ooops, mums the word on that one! 

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