JuliusCaesar Moderator
#1

Hi

was just wondering about this, which was something I'd read about way back when. But given the work I do, it doesn't seem to be something that is particularly effective in Ireland anyway!

Any anthropologists/sociologists have any thoughts on this? Does the "incest taboo" actually exist?

looksee Moderator
#2

Its not very clear what the question is. Are you suggesting that incest is not taboo in Ireland, or that it is practised regardless of whether it is taboo? Other than in cases of abuse I am not aware that incest is particularly prevalent in Ireland. Or am I missing something here?

It is one of the few things that is necessary to be unacceptable in society, rather than something based on religious or social customs. Even without incest Ireland has had a relatively small gene-pool which some scientists suggest has resulted in higher levels of some illnesses than the European average (I think spina-bifida is one).

#3

looksee said:
Its not very clear what the question is. ..cur.. (I think spina-bifida is one).


No clear question as you say.

And a clue to the paradigm too.

Hannibal Registered User
#4

with a name like JuiliusCaesar posting a thread about incest considering the Roman and Egyptian high society were reknowned for it

JuliusCaesar Moderator
#5

JuliusCaesar said:
Does the "incest taboo" actually exist?


I did think that the question was clear! (The rest was caused by working with people who've been sexually abused, mostly by their father.)

looksee Moderator
#6

Well yes, the question is clear enough, but in your original post it was not possible to know what in context you were asking.

I think the obvious answer has to be, yes, it does exist.

If it did not
(1) the cases you are dealing with would not be considered abuse.
(2) there would be many more cases because lack of a taboo would remove barriers. In fact they would not be even considered 'cases'.
(3) a family of both sexes living in the same house would have no reason not to engage in random sex with each other which would seriously compromise society.

There are people willing to break all other social mores and laws, just because there are some people who break the taboo - and the law - does not mean it does not exist.

krd Banned
#7

Incest is not simply prohibited by cultural taboo. Children raised together have a reverse sexual imprinting. Look up the Westermarck effect.

Incest among the Egyptian rulers may have been more to do with securing power than anything else.

In countries today where you have a lot of first cousin marriage, Pakistan for example. It's really about keeping property and wealth in the family.

I think Sigmund Freud's idea was incest was simply a cultural taboo. The Westermarck effect would contradict that assumption.

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looksee Moderator
#8

krd said:
Incest is not simply prohibited by cultural taboo. Children raised together have a reverse sexual imprinting. Look up the Westermarck effect.

Incest among the Egyptian rulers may have been more to do with securing power than anything else.

In countries today where you have a lot of first cousin marriage, Pakistan for example. It's really about keeping property and wealth in the family.

I think Sigmund Freud's idea was incest was simply a cultural taboo. The Westermarck effect would contradict that assumption.


The Westermarck effect is interesting and does make sense. I wonder though where does the 'a man marries his mother' idea come from in that case. I don't mean literally, I mean that he finds someone with similar characteristics to his mother, not a sexual judgement I think, more a cultural one. My own daughter-in-law is very similar in interests and outlook to the person I was at her age

krd Banned
#9

looksee said:
I wonder though where does the 'a man marries his mother' idea come from in that case. I don't mean literally, I mean that he finds someone with similar characteristics to his mother, not a sexual judgement I think, more a cultural one.


The classic Oedipal relationship. The man seeks out a woman who is like his mother to be his wife - because she is like his mother and not for any other reason. He rejects women who are not like his mother (who he may have a more healthy sexual relationship with - but he rejects this relationship as to him his wife should be like his mother - he wants a relationship where the reverse sexual imprinting is built in - where the sexual element feels cold distant and wrong). Near always ends horribly. Like Oedipus, the man realises he has been having sex with his mother, and is both disgusted at himself and his wife. The relationship can survive if everyone resigns themselves to their roles.

Sometimes though - the man is not looking for someone like his mother. He's looking for a surrogate to play a nurturing and kind version of his mother. If his mother was cold, distant, mean. It's still Oedipal.

There may be cultural forces, where women are expected to play Oedipal roles. This I really don't know - you can speculate but unless you have hard solid evidence, it's hard to say.

There's also a version for women. Where women marry a version of their father. It's really common for the daughters of alcoholics to marry or have relationships with alcoholic men. I think this is a combination of Oedipus and Stockholm syndrome.

You could say, in both cases, the women may mistake dependency for love.


My own daughter-in-law is very similar in interests and outlook to the person I was at her age


There could be lots of reasons - could just be a coincidence. Don't make any assumptions.

I might share a lot of interests with you, and points of view - it doesn't make me you.

People are funny. Some will chose very healthy relationships others will go out of their way to chose unhealthy ones. It's complicated.

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diddlybit Registered User
#10

As far as I have read. the incest taboo stems from patriarcal system of economics in which daughters were traded between tribes as barter or a sign of peace negociations. In order for such a system to work, the women had to be able to carry the offspring of the outsider tribe which made them a obejct of weslth, hence the barter, which gave raise to the incest taboo and also the social conditioning surrounidng the value placed upon virginity. If she, on leaving a tribe was pregnant with child, she was worthless. Therefore the incest taboo was created in order to prevent the impregnation of valubale female members by their male relations.

Odysseus Registered User
#11

JuliusCaesar said:
I did think that the question was clear! (The rest was caused by working with people who've been sexually abused, mostly by their father.)


Well you know JC as I'm a psychoanalyst I would agree that it exists and that for Freud it was a cultural taboo. For Freud a lot of the symptoms we see where cause due to the conflict between unconscious desires and the limits imposed upon us by society. Totem and Taboo is where he describes the myth of the father who kept all the women for himself, and that the sons eventually killed him in order to access the women, which is where the taboo originates from.

It is a myth, but we work with a lot of myths in psychoanalysis. It's actually a while since I read it, but your post has reminded I must re-read it.

With the cases you describe psychoanalytically the father who more than likely be seen as a pervert, which would be a structural diagnosis rather than the descriptive meaning often used to signify a meaning solely related to sexual behaviour.

Their will always be those who go against cultural or moral taboos; it is interesting the amount of people that we see in our profession where the incest taboo has been broken in one way or another. In my service, I work for the addiction services for those who don't know me; I see a lot of it. Quite a significant amount of our patients have experienced sexual abuse as a child, it is not a case of it being a causative event as many people are abuse, but yet don't develop addictions. However, it is a significant event that is often associated with addiction.

Thanks to the other posters who noted the Westermarck effect, I must have a luck at that.

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Odysseus Registered User
#12

krd said:
The classic Oedipal relationship. The man seeks out a woman who is like his mother to be his wife - because she is like his mother and not for any other reason. He rejects women who are not like his mother (who he may have a more healthy sexual relationship with - but he rejects this relationship as to him his wife should be like his mother - he wants a relationship where the reverse sexual imprinting is built in - where the sexual element feels cold distant and wrong). Near always ends horribly. Like Oedipus, the man realises he has been having sex with his mother, and is both disgusted at himself and his wife. The relationship can survive if everyone resigns themselves to their roles.

Sometimes though - the man is not looking for someone like his mother. He's looking for a surrogate to play a nurturing and kind version of his mother. If his mother was cold, distant, mean. It's still Oedipal.

There may be cultural forces, where women are expected to play Oedipal roles. This I really don't know - you can speculate but unless you have hard solid evidence, it's hard to say.

There's also a version for women. Where women marry a version of their father. It's really common for the daughters of alcoholics to marry or have relationships with alcoholic men. I think this is a combination of Oedipus and Stockholm syndrome.

You could say, in both cases, the women may mistake dependency for love.


There could be lots of reasons - could just be a coincidence. Don't make any assumptions.

I might share a lot of interests with you, and points of view - it doesn't make me you.

People are funny. Some will chose very healthy relationships others will go out of their way to chose unhealthy ones. It's complicated.


From a psychoanalytic viewpoint, well a Freudian/Lacanian one it about trying to re-create the symbiotic relationship between the child and the primary care taker; generally the mother.

As you noted yourself the Oedipal situation can play out in many ways it not just a case of marrying one parent and becoming like another, although the amount of moment I seen who had an abusive father and just keep going from one abusive partner to another is quite sad.

As you said some it is based upon assumptions in a way, but therapeutic there will always be some from of assumption; especially when you view thinks with the unconscious in mind and the again some people would hold different viewpoints and not see the unconscious playing a role in anything.

Relationships as you noted a very complicated thing. From the Freudian viewpoint our personal is based upon those we had loved or had a significant relation said for example teachers. We have identified with them on some level and introjected certain aspects of them, which in turn make up our psyche.

#13

This kind of discussion reminds me of why Richard Feynman saw psychiatry as a pseduo or cult science. Things need be stated, not proved with empirical evidence.

The first case to be made against the cultural aspect of the taboo is why animals have the taboo. They leave home and find mates. The taboo is genetic across all sexual species, otherwise animals would impregnate their mother when of age.

As far as I have read. the incest taboo stems from patriarcal system of economics in which daughters were traded between tribes as barter or a sign of peace negociations. In order for such a system to work, the women had to be able to carry the offspring of the outsider tribe which made them a obejct of weslth, hence the barter, which gave raise to the incest taboo and also the social conditioning surrounidng the value placed upon virginity. If she, on leaving a tribe was pregnant with child, she was worthless. Therefore the incest taboo was created in order to prevent the impregnation of valubale female members by their male relations.


I despair.

#14

I always assumed that the taboo was based on direct family rather than extended seeing as so many cultures accept "Cousins" and such to get married etc.

prodigal_son Registered User
#15

Well science says the taboo is there, As we grow and as we watch a child grow from baby electrical pathways build in our brain that tell us "this person is family" and our sexual attraction for them is gone.

However we are attracted to people that look like us, This is why some people who have grown up and never known they had a sister have fallen in love with that person later. They never had the pathways build in their brain and they see the person as a sexual object.

Debating what freud would say is interesting, but since science has proven the existence of the pathways its largely irrelevant what he thought.

A normal healthy human will not have sexual attraction to close relatives, Animals use the same process to protect from incest as someone above said.

It may be more culturally acceptable to be with cousins, but this probably stems from the fact that we may not live with our cousins, so never build the pathways that see them as non sexual objects.. Some of us will, some of us wont.

If you have sexual desire for close relatives then your brain isnt sending signals down the right electrical pathways, youre sick.

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