Upon hearing the word “incest” the gut reaction of basically every person with ears is first to cringe, emit a noise that sounds something like “blekghhh,” and then to make some played-out “kissing cousins” joke at the expense of the entire state of Kentucky. Well guys, it’s time that we reevaluate how we look at this last vestige of sexual taboo, because the stigma we place on incest can actually be extremely dangerous.
Sibling incest at a young age is much more common that you’d probably think. Sexual play between the ages of 3 and 6 is a perfectly healthy, developmental activity. As much as society shies away from it, children are innately sexual - just look at how many kids grow up “playing doctor.” Children naturally engage in sexual play with the children they spend the most time with. For some this means the boy or girl next door, but for many , it means their closest childhood companions: their siblings. As young children, both boys and girls are likely to engage in some kind of “incest” with their siblings.
Despite the prevalence of childhood sibling incest, there is still a very real stigma surrounding it. This stigma comes from a combination of two factors: one, societal disapproval of adult incest, and two, our unwillingness to acknowledge that children are sexual beings. If we are able to come to terms with these two facts of life, then we should be able remove the stigma from childhood incest, which ultimately is a very good and necessary thing.
First, and probably most problematically: society’s disapproval of adult incest. Adult incest hasn’t always been stigmatized (Fun Fact: Abraham Lincoln was married to his first cousin,) but with the advent of modern genetics came the realization that children borne of incestuous relationships are much more likely to have any number of birth defects. Children engaged in sexual play are, almost uniformly, incapable of reproducing (especially when you consider that the majority of sexual play does not include full intercourse,) so this concern is almost nil in children. Why then, would we extend this stigma to kids? Short answer: we shouldn’t.
Second, and quite simply put, children are sexual beings. Anyone who took Psych 101 (even if you slept through it) could tell you this. It is very natural for kids to engage in sexual play, and moreover it is natural that they engage in it with the child they spend the most time with. It is only logical that in some cases this would be a sibling. Almost every mammal has some sexual contact with their siblings at some point - it is a very natural expression of love - and humans are no different.
So, why is it so important that we talk about this? Because there are thousands, if not millions, of people who suffer depression, anxiety, and shame surrounding their childhood incestual experiences. Teenagers who confided in their friends are taunted and bullied. Adults are haunted by repressed memories. Annually there are hundreds of suicides per year thought to be triggered by the shame a person feels about their childhood sexual experiences. Shaming people about their childhood incest is immoral, and it needs to stop. Childhood incest is normal, natural, and without a victim, so let’s please stop victimizing those who experienced it.