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August 1, 2002
Well, well, well. Dan Savage gets all squirmy and horrified about incest. You came down pretty hard on PLEASE HELP! for having sex with his sister. But can you tell me why incest is any more horrifying than male homosexuality? At least incestuous intercourse follows the natural function of the sexual organs!
You may reply that incest causes genetic problems. However, statistically, the danger of that is far less than AIDS from gay intercourse. In the gays I have known, I have often sensed a deep personal dishonesty, and part of that may be the refusal to acknowledge that homosexuality is in fact abnormal.
-You're The Freak
Whenever the subject of incest comes up--incest being one of the very few things I strongly disapprove of--I get a lot of irate mail from incest fans. Curiously, all the incest fan mail I receive is from straight men. Many, like YTF here, would have us believe that their desires for their moms or sisters or grandmas are much, much healthier than my desire for, say, Ashton Kutcher. Since their incestuous desires involve "natural" penis-and-vagina intercourse, and not "unnatural" my-penis-and-Ashton-Kutcher's-mouth intercourse, I'm the sicko. I don't think so, YTF.
First off, YTF, pointing out that homosexuality isn't normal doesn't wound me. While homosexuality is a naturally occurring abnormality, I'll cheerfully admit that it is an abnormality. As for the relative dangers of gay and straight sex, an individual gay man's sex life is only as dangerous as he decides to make it--and, hello, I get hundreds of letters every day from straight people whose sex lives are infinitely more dangerous than mine. Okay, on to incest....
Incest fans would have us believe that since gay people rejected the ancient taboo against homosexuality, any gay person who supports the taboo against incest is a hypocrite. This stance presumes that all taboos are created equal. Not so. There's an important distinction between homosexuality and incest, one that defensive incest fans can't seem to grasp. To wit: Homosexuals are people, and incest is an act. The taboo against gay sex was irrational because it denied gay people the right to any sexual expression or romantic attachment, and consequently the taboo against homosexuality was as unjust as it was unenforceable. The cultural taboo against incest, however, is not an attempt to deny a group of people any and all access to love and intimacy, but an attempt to direct sexual feelings toward healthier, more appropriate targets.
I don't see how anyone has the right to tell any consenting adults what they can and cannot do sexually. I have no personal interest in incest, but I would never tell a happily fucking brother/ sister, mother/son, grandpa/grandson, etc., to quit screwing around.
-Fuck And Let Fuck
I would, and I did, and I'm not taking it back. I will, however, amend my advice to PH. The following short paragraph appeared in the original draft of my advice for PH, but I removed it because I had to get my column down to a publishable length.
"If, after you've moved out and spent some time away from your sister--at least a year--you decide you simply can't live without her, and if by some chance she feels the same way, you can do what other siblings in your shoes have done. Move far, far away from your parents and everyone you know, cut off all contact with your immediate and extended family, change your names, and live happily (if creepily) ever after."
I'm surprised at you, Dan. Sure, you or I may not want to make it with a sibling, but then you or I may not want to make it with a member of the same sex. That doesn't mean people who do are sicko. Sicko sex abuses trust or power: between an adult and child, for example, or between an armed man and a woman walking alone. Two consenting adults, regardless of their bloodlines, can get up to whatever they agree to--even if it shocks the rest of us. The incest taboo is so much social conditioning.
-Surprised At You
Yes, yes: The incest taboo is so much social conditioning. But just because we're conditioned to view some things as disgusting and immoral doesn't mean that some things aren't, in actual point of fact, disgusting and immoral. Human sacrifice, for instance. Or cannibalism. Or Ann Coulter.
What you don't seem to understand, SAY, is that the incest taboo is all about protecting people from the abuse of trust and power. All families--even the healthiest families--are swept by swirling currents of obligation, guilt, mind games, and emotional blackmail. How can children--even adult children--freely consent to sex with their parents? Likewise, older or more domineering siblings can hold enormous power over their brothers and sisters. How does one divine consent when one sibling is having sex with another, or a son is having sex with his mother, or a father is having sex with his daughter? In those situations it's simply impossible to define where "family life" ends and "consent" begins.
Your advice to the Frenzied Adopted Guy missed an important point.
I too am adopted and gay and met my natural parents and siblings a few years ago. At the time, I was 18 years old. And I distinctly remember how I was very conflicted over what seemed to be a sexual attraction I was feeling to my biological father.
And then I did some reading. These feelings among adopted kids who find their biological families (straight and gay kids) are VERY common. It seems that [having] sexual feelings for recently discovered family is a subconscious reaction of an "adult child" who feels disconnected from a family he never knew. It's very emotional and very confusing to finally meet the family you never knew. I doubt it happens to every adopted person who is reunited, but clearly it happens to a lot of us. I never did anything sexual with my biological father, and it's too bad FAG had sex with his brother. Maybe the brother he slept with will feel sorry for him some years down the road, and decide to take some responsibility for the incident. Maybe then they can try to start building an adult relationship as brothers.
-Used To Be Frenzied But Now I'm Way Over It
Thanks for sharing, UTBFBNIWOI. Another reader--the lovely Jenni--directed me to The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (eesh!), which has a name for what you and FAG experienced: genetic sexual attraction (GSA). "GSA is an overpowering, almost electrical grip of emotion, associated with an inability to keep away from the other person and an almost primordial sense of having belonged together all their lives.... [GSA is] particularly noted in the case of adopted children who are subsequently reunited with the biological parent or sibling." People who experience GSA are not advised to "consummate the relationship," thank god, but instead to recognize that their feelings are not abnormal--unlike the feelings of, you know, the gays.
Okay! Enough with this creepy incest stuff! Savage Love readers have one more week to vote in the "My Man Sure Looks Hot in His Tighty-Whities" contest at www.tightywhitiesarehot.com. I'm not related to any of the contestants, so you can feel free to send me to Vegas with someone who looks really good in his TWs!