Savage Love Letter of the Day: You Heard It Here First, Cousin


Nobody gets to tell you whether the cousin thing should or should not be a kink too far for you. It's your brain, and if this makes you that uncomfortable, it is your prerogative to end the relationship as being unsuitable for you.

From over here it looks like you may be trying to pin all your unhappiness on this one thing, though. You may as well evaluate the overall load of drama that this relationship is carrying, the cousin thing being the latest item to add to the load. You were sufficiently fed up to try ending it once already, before you ever learned about their dalliances. I predict that the overall drama level between you and her is not something that is going to age well.
I can't believe the other dozen red flags and serious issues in this letter weren't addressed. Being in love with your FWB and the libido disappearing for "months" at a time are two that jumped out to me immediately...
@2 - What I was thinking too.

Also, I don't know if this guy lives in a town of 12 people, but it sounds like everyone in his world needs to do some branching out.
This is not a legal question for LW tho, so I think Dan's answer is again off the mark. Setting aside the issues that @2/sharpobjects mentions (they're red flags with or without cousin-sucking). Generally speaking, INCEST should come up with his own answer: if it squicks you out, you have to move on. If it doesn't actually bother you, bone away. FWIW, I lost my virginity to a girl who was regularly having sex with her female cousin/roommate. Like LW, I had many other reasons to end that "relationship" that I didn't have time to consider if that was a deal-breaker for me. Turned out to be the right move - girls who hook up with their cousins, seems like there might be a lot more issues soon to bubble up.
LW, maybe her libido wasn't really lost during all those months. Maybe she was just sated by the cousin, and flat out ignored your needs. I hope not, for the sake of honesty and kindness in your relationship, but that was the first thing I thought of.
I agree with the above commenters about other red flags. It looks like INCEST has a multitude of incompatibilities to deal with. He is emotionally far more invested in her than she is him. It is very doubtful she is going to suddenly figure out he is the love of her life. And she is poly. She wants to remain free of tighter bonds.

He needs to let this relationship go.
I can't imagine having a kid, my sister having a kid, and wanting our two kids to have sex with & marry each other when they grew up. Just. No.
I try to be open-minded about this. In my multicultural family, you almost always grow up viewing your cousins as siblings. So it grosses me out on a personal level and I would not be able to get past that. But I know plenty of people whose cousins are distant relatives- or friends at best. I could see how they could meet up in adulthood and develop sexual feelings for each other, I guess. I can also understand, from a distance, that people are different and plenty of cultures see cousin hookup as totally normal. OK so I'm not about to go shame anyone or support legislation to end these people's rights, and if cousin-couples want me to recognize their relationship and rights as legit, DONE.

But if you want me to be cool with my own partner having sex with his cousin? Nope. It crosses a disgust line in me personally, and nope nope nope. I'm alright with other people doing that because I don't have to think of other people as sexual beings. But not with my own sexual partner, no no no no no no no no no forever.

Anyway, back to the other issues in this relationship, I'm confused. She's poly. They are not exclusive. They have an affectionate relationship that is not always sexual. He can sleep with whomever he wants as well right? So it's not that he's not getting laid during her months of no libido. So to me, the cousin thing aside, the problem is he doesn't have other regular sexual partners and/or he doesn't like physical affection if it doesn't lead to sex. So he needs to talk to her about not teasing him. Also maybe face the reality that it's really fucking difficult to keep casual sexual partners on the side for when your primary partner chooses (frequently) to go months without sex and so maybe this relationship is not worth the energy investment if they can't establish a more regular sex life?
You know, I really don't think the fact that he is her cousin is the problem here.
@9 +1!
Dear Dan,
I'm hung up on a woman who doesn't give a flip about me one way or the other. Sometimes she throws me a bone and sleeps with me. Sometimes she runs cold and doesn't. Sometimes she talks to me. Most times she doesn't. I try to stay away from her, and she doesn't notice. Should I give her an ultimatum that we break up if she doesn't stay away from a particular guy I don't like?

The real answer: You can't break up with someone you're not going out with. On top of that, ultimatums make even less sense under the circumstances. This letter amounts to a big dollop of what the fuck.

Dan's answer: A bunch of fairly interesting statistics about cousin marriage.
Is the girlfriend talking about marrying her cousin? Maybe I didn't read carefully enough, but I didn't see that. And anyway, I had the idea that as long as the sex is consensual, and everyone is 18 or over, and there's no ethical abuses going on (doctor/patient, etc.), then you can have sex with whomever you want.
INCEST, you've bigger problems than your FWB fucking her cousin (which is a little outside of social norms (OK, MORE than a little) but far from the worst thing she could do – not like she's marrying him.) Think her losing her libido for months at a time, three months of constant teasing with no sex, and the fact that she doesn't hangout with anyone besides you and her male cousin (who she is playing "hide the salami" with.) Think you putting up with that shit and pushing for more! She doesn't want to "formalize the relationship", she's polyamorous and bisexual. From my view in the catbird seat there's a whole basketfull of disfunction in this "relationship" and it's hard to say whether you or FWB can lay claim to the lion's share. I suggest each of you separately A) Work with a counselor to straighten out your own lives/expectations and B) Try to find a partner who is a little less loony.
I don't think the woman needs help at all. She knows what she wants and she has set boundaries and stuck to them. The LETTER WRITER on the other hand, needs to deal with the fact that he wants an exclusive relationship WITH SOMEONE WHO DOES NOT WANT THAT AND WON'T WANT IT ANY TIME SOON. HE needs to get in with a therapist and find out why he insists on this. Cousin or no cousin, she is OPEN in her relationship. He needs to get a life.
@11 Fichu, Oh my that's a good summary of events. And funny too.
CraZ cakes. Both of them, but a bit more on the LW's side.
The information about cousin marriage's effects on the genetic make-up on offspring is interesting, but people often forget that cousin marriage doesn't just concentrate genes (good and bad), it also concentrates wealth. I'm speaking in highly unscientific and broad terms here, going for brevity at the expense of accuracy, but follow my reasoning anyway. If every marriage yields exactly 2 children who survive to adulthood and have exactly 2 children, with no cousin marriage, each adult has 8 grandchildren they leave their money too. Or perhaps in the culture they only leave their wealth to their sons. That makes girls a tricky proposition. You invest in raising them, but then they go off and leave. Look what happens with cousin marriage. Each adult has 6 grandchildren, and the investment in girls stays in the family. In some circumstances that's more than enough to offset any genetic disadvantage, especially in instances where gross genetic abnormalities don't survive to adulthood anyway.
@17: I'm not going to delve too deep into the actual statistics but if I recall correctly first cousins don't have a very high rate of genetic aberration. Distasteful but not a guaranteed problem.
The sexual acts with her cousin is not the issue here, dude.
@18 – According to ABC News...a new groundbreaking study funded by the National Society of Genetic Counselors revealed that some beliefs about cousin marriage were unfounded.

Robin Bennett, who headed the study, told ABC News that the risks of having a child with a cousin were about "2 [percent] to 3 percent" above the average population's risk for having a child with birth defects or mental retardation.…

(but first tell the cousins not to have any kids....)

Maybe I'm squicked out also because.I didn't like any of my cousins.
LW is allowed to be squicked by whatever squicks him. He's allowed to draw a boundary (don't sex your cousin or we're done) and she's allowed to not agree to that boundary and end the sexual nature of her and LW's relationship.

This might be a case of a mismatch in relationship goals, and LW is probably best served by calling a halt to their sexing. He wants a dating relationship, and she does not. He views months of make-out sessions with no orgasm as teasing, and she views it as her libido being on a downturn but still having a good time. Walk away, bud. Date others.
The LW is not ordinarily judgmental and not ordinarily possessive. There is, in his mind, one particular thing he recoils at. He has a right to this, and a right to get out of his friendship on this basis. But everyone else is, of course, right--he wants more than a FWB, and she doesn't.
At least pegging won't get him pregnant, so there are no genetics issues to worry about.

Anyone else puzzled by what a "sexual but with no sex" relationship constitutes?

LW: Your relationship is open. Find someone else to supplement -- if not supplant -- your on-off FWB.
Donny @13: Polyamorous bisexuals can have formalised relationships. I know many who are married.

This polyamorous bisexual does not want to formalise the relationship with LW.
Frankly I'm more squicked out by his characterizing what happens when her libido shuts down as "teasing" than by the cousin thing.

She doesn't owe him sex, so if she wants to continue a physically affectionate relationship while not having sex, that's not teasing, that's just what she wants. He's free to not like that and walk away, but she's not doing anything wrong.

Since some men are quick to accuse women of teasing for any action on their part that arouses him but doesn't get him laid (such as, oh, being attractive and in the same room) that word is almost always, if not a red flag, a sorta pinkish one.
BiDan@26 That's what I was trying to say, mostly that she's got a lot of other options that she seems more interested in.
Agony @27: That's what I was querying about "the relationship is sexual but there's no sex." Is it sexual or not? Is she teasing or is he acting entitled? Saying no is not teasing. But it's impossible to tell from the letter whether she is teasing or whether he's just not happy with no as the answer.

Donny @28: Your comment read as if you considered "polyamorous and bisexual" and "wants a formalised relationship" as mutually exclusive. That's not always the case.
EmmaLiz @8: "it's not that he's not getting laid during her months of no libido."

I believe that this is indeed the case. He isn't getting laid with her or anyone else, even though he has the option. He should be spending his time finding others to fuck rather than complaining that she's "teasing" him.
@24: "The LW is not ordinarily judgmental and not ordinarily possessive. There is, in his mind, one particular thing he recoils at."

That he's disgusted with the incest portion but still angry with her and persisting shows some bizarre possessive tendencies.

Any well adjusted person would just move on.
To all the people saying 'marriage or sex between cousins just squicks me out': Erm, don't we remember a lot of puritanical straight people saying that about other sexual preferences in the recent past? Don't some of them still say it. Didn't we agree they were bigots? One is free to oppose something, but only if one can show evidence that an act is manifestly dangerous and harmful. The science seems to suggest procreation between cousins is a lot less worthy of negative judgement than say ... smoking, which lots of people still do.

For those that care, the church for much of its history took a fantastically hypocritical view of the 'laws of consanguinity'. Pretty much anybody could marry anybody (siblings excepted), as long as they paid the church to get a remission of the insanely extensive incest rules. For aristocrats in an age when divorce was technically illegal, it was enormously helpful, and common, to suddenly find you were too closely related to your wife, and therefore had to get divorced ... say after 5 unhappy years of marriage, or when a richer wife with a better dowry came along. And if you were an aristocrat you were pretty much guaranteed to be too closely related to anyone you married ...

The problem with cousin marriage comes not, however, with the first generation, but repeated generations of intermarriage. When the children of cousins who married have children, and those cousins marry too. Ask the Habsburgs. Ask a pedigree dog with hip displasia and chronic skin problems. But that manifestly harmful and dangerous practice is actually still legal in most of the world.
Further to what I said in 32 (and the misleading headline quoted in 22), Darwin worried about the effects of marrying a cousin for exactly that reason. He knew that the Darwin/Wedgwood families were *already* closely interrelated before he married his cousin Emma Wedgwood, and that he had added a another big dose of interrelation to an already overly-related pot. That's probably what caused several of his children to die young and for others to seemingly to have been sterile.

On the other hand, the whole interrelated bunch produced Darwin, 10 Fellows of the Royal Society, and a bunch of artists, poets, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, and the founder of the Wedgwood pottery. So swings and roundabouts?
BDF - yup probably right. Sounds more trouble than it's worth for him. If he likes the gal and wants to keep her as a fwb sometimes, OK but probably he should be putting his main energy into looking for other partners. Also I get the sense in the intros that he is not poly, she is, and so maybe he'd rather be in a more regular and exclusive kind of thing. But I guess if he's seeing nothing as an alternative, that could be a scary thing to go for.


Let's not drag out that analogy. It grosses me out to think about shoving my face in a vagina too, but I'm not grossed out by the reality that plenty of other women want to do that. Free to oppose something- uh, we are talking about whether or not someone's sexual preferences bother you sexually, not whether or not we are going to oppose them. We are people and we have cousins, and for many of us, this is a close familial sibling like relationship for which there is a big NO FUCKING WAY taboo when it comes to sex. I can intellectually understand that other people in other cultures have a different relationship with their cousins, but it doesn't change the yuck factor for me personally in the groins. This is not puritanical- in fact weren't puritans more likely to come from cultures that were down with cousin marriage? For those of us who grew up with close cousins, sibling relationship cousins, a sexual partner who screws his cousin isn't too different from a sexual partner who screws his sister or his mom. Im sure that a a grown man and his mom can screw in a consensual relationship with no possibility of procreation and enjoy themselves- the world is a big place and it must be happening somewhere. I'm not saying those people should be arrested or prevented or opposed. I am saying that I'd stab my eyes out before I'd enter into a sexual relationship with a man who likes to screw his mom. Ditto sister, cousin- just no no no no.

The arguments/discussion about genes are totally irrelevant to how I feel about it. I mean, if it turned out that fucking my brother would produce offspring that were super healthy superhuman, I would not suddenly find the concept of fucking my brother any less vomit inducing.You can't science talk your way around the emotional impact of taboos- you can only science talk your way around the practicalities of legislating against taboos.
@31 Undead. The 'possessiveness' is roughly as we might expect if he were in a monogamous relationship. It's akin to his partner cheating on him, his being pained by it but cutting her some slack and forgiving the lapse. 'Just this once...'. But that isn't _their_ relationship. She's signed up to nothing in that regard and has no obligations not to stray.

I meant he wasn't possessive in the sense that he's reasonably relaxed when she sleeps with another guy. (Presumably he has sex with other women and has implicitly accepted the terms of the deal). He says nothing disgusted or panicked about her bisexuality (which would be a possibility in other cases). But he wants more, and this isn't what's on the table. You could call this 'possessive' or 'controlling', or it has the potential to be. It will be hard for him, but he needs to back off.
Thanks fred2 @ 32 &33. Interesting reads.
I'm with you EmmaLiz, it's a nasty thought, fucking one's cousins. Not that I was close to any of mine, the idea of sex with someone in the family is gross.
BDF @25, "Anyone else puzzled by what a "sexual but with no sex" relationship constitutes?"

I took that to mean she's flirtatious during the dry spells. While her libido may wane (more likely, her libido for HIM wanes), she likes the attention of her lap dog.

This is clearly not working for him - he wants more. (The straight-ish!, FWB!, non-exclusive!) LW is getting on a moral high horse about a little cousin-pegging because it lets him vent his jealousy and also his "frustration" (really hurt) about the long dry spells.
>fred2 @32 "The problem with cousin marriage comes not, however, with the first generation, but repeated generations of intermarriage. . . ."

Yeah. Where I'm supposed to have 64 ancestors, I've only got 63. And it just gets worse from there on back. On that 200-person island so far off the Norwegian coast that they speak their own dialect, and there are clearly not enough different genes to go around. Striped pigment in the irises and various other quirks are very common. But maybe hard lives spent farming and fishing culled more hemophiliacs, etc, than in royal families?

Eh. Over 7 billion people on the planet and she's gotta mess around with her cousin? She needs to get out more, is what she needs to do.
As an MD I don’t see what all the squeamishness is about first cousins having sex? Our DNA is quite complex and we won’t be having little “monsters” running around.

Look at how America got started. Just a few folks coming over and setting up communities. There were MANY who married first cousins.

Or the pioneers who moved west--small communities set up far away from each other. showed a LOT of first cousins marrying. It’s still seen in many polygamist compounds in rural Utah, Nevada, Idaho and so on. Even half-brothers and half-sisters marrying and procreating. I personally knew one polygamist in Utah with seven wives. The “sister-wives” were lawyers, MBAs, and so on. GORGEOUS women! They lived in one compound with four large homes...last count they had more than 40 children!

The husband/wife team who did handyman stuff around my newly bought home were first cousins and they had ten kids--all fine and healthy! QB on the high school team, valedictorian and all got academic scholarships to college.

So calm down--your ancestors are probably quite “close.”
BTW--got my #ITMFA t-shirt and cap today. Will wear it under my lab coat tomorrow--but the letters are large enough that it will be seen by all! Patients and colleagues.
This has nothing--NOthing to do with the first cousin angle.
LW I gotta agree with avast. I can understand why the cousin thing is a boner killer but that's not the real problem. The problem is that this woman is flaky and selfish, who leaves you sexually derprived for months at a time, and magically find her libido again after you made it clear you weren't going to put up with her shit. And she seems to rely on you for all her social interaction.

Now you find out she's messing around with her cousin.

Look breaking up was a good idea. Stick with that. You're too old for this crap and she's also to old for this crap.