Savage Love Letter of the Day: Should They Tell Their Third They're Cousins?


Like someone who is interested in a threesome is going to care.

Besides, isn't a threesome with third cousins​ considerably less icky than a threesome with, say, identical twins? And wouldn't most people jump at an opportunity for a threesome with identical twins?
Oops, sorry​, I guess I misread that headline. Nevertheless the same principle applies; cousins are still less close than identical twins
@2 Unless they're both Patty Duke.
I think the advice not to disclose is pretty disgusting, personally. Dan admits that "we still live in world where cousin-fucking world is taboo." That means that a lot of people, rightly or wrongly, aren't interested in it. As in, if they knew, they would choose not to give their consent to having sex with two cousins simultaneously. Not disclosing something for the express purpose of having sex with someone who wouldn't consent to having sex with you otherwise is gross and strikes me as a little rape-y (to be clear, I'm not saying it's rape, I'm saying it's part of the same problematic culture--one person should not get to substitute his judgment for that of another man or women simply to make it easier to get himself laid).

As for the idea that no harm comes from it...would it be ok for someone who somehow knew they were biologically related to someone else to have sex with them without disclosing that they're actually their long long brother or uncle or dad or whatever? After all, no harm if you wrap it up, right?
Oh please, not siblings. Or children. Cousins? No way would I have been interested in any of my cousins and it's a close blood tie. That's the difficult factor for me, not whether it's legal or not. I'd say disclose.

LouChe @3, TouChé! Of course this script would never have passed scrutiny by the 1960s TV censors, but otherwise it would fit right in on the Patty Duke Show.

This sounds quite similar to the letter from a few weeks ago about two brothers, one gay and one straight, who wanted to arrange a sexual foursome with a man and a woman so each brother could have an outside partner suiting his sexual preferences. Unclear to me then, and still unclear to me now, is what added value these brothers or cousins would provide to the third or the third-and-fourth that they invite to attend their family mini-reunion, or why they would want to have sex in the same room (or even zip code, as Dan pointed out last time) with a blood relative. I truly don't find anything remotely sexy in this fantasy - maybe it's just that none of my cousins or siblings ever rang my bells that way, and my (very limited) youthful experimentation with group sex proved that I am far too distractable to be able to focus on either my own pleasure or that of my partners in that sort of scenario. But if other people find it titillating, I certainly don't see how it causes any harm to any of the players involved.
In some cultures in the Middle East marrying a first cousin is often the standard and the expectation. It has been going on for hundreds of years, and the rationale behind it is business and heritance.
On a personal level, one of my first cousins married their own first cousin. They have two children, and unfortunately the first one is not well due to the limited gene pool. The younger one is amazing.

As for the case in hand, I’d say that for a one-time bar pick up there’s no need to disclose. If it’s an ongoing thing then you might consider.
I also think that the cousins’ gender and whom they pick up is relevant to the question. I suspect that same sex cousins, regardless of who the addition is, will have a better chance to be accepted since there are no potential offsprings involved..

What’s your problem? Having kids with siblings and first cousins is all part of our history in America. Folks in the Oklahoma land rush of 1889 included an estimated 50,000 people lined up for their piece of the available two million acres. As long as they improved the land they could get the title. These folks were ISOLATED. Just who did you think they had kids with?

Same thing with all first settlers. You married your cousin or older sibling. Some lonnnng winters. I have good friends who are Mormon (I’m an atheist--but no one cares.)and their families were the first to come overland to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. My friend’s family settled the valley where Utah State is...up by Bear Lake and Logan, Utah. She does a lot of genealogy and dox show that MANY first cousins married each other. Then with polygamy--well anything went. (BTW--Yes people like Brigham Young had 16 wives...but twelve of them were widows--husbands died from accidents, sepsis, shooting each other. He simply brought them into his multiple homes on Temple Square to care for them along with the other sister-wives.) I read a lot of history books..many NOT written by Mormons.

As far as “inbreeding” bringing out genetic defects? The odds of passing on recessive genes is 3-4% for non-cousins and 4-7% for first cousins and remember that a lot of folks remain childless so who cares?

“20 percent of marriages around the world are between first cousins, that Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin married their first cousins, and that first-cousin marriage, while prohibited in half the United States, is legal in Canada and throughout Europe.”…

I wouldn’t touch my brothers (OR my twin sister) with a ten foot pole, but some folks actually like/love their siblings and cousins. BTW--what’s with the “identical twin” crap? Why on earth is that a fantasy? Unless you like women who bitch at each other constantly which is what most NORMAL twins do.

Maybe it’s being a doc and an atheist but I see NOTHING wrong with any type of consensual sex. Paraphilia is here to stay--including urolagnia. (I SO want the sex videos of Moscow coming out!) Hell I see nothing wrong with a guy screwing his horse. (I guess the horse gives “consent” if she doesn’t kick him to death.) I’ve lived in some pretty isolated places.

Hey live and let live. We are SUCH Puritans!

I have nothing of value to add because I am not sure. However, I have a cousin I'd do because she is hot.
I don't think that COUSIN needs to disclose, as I don't think that a casual sex partner is interested that information. In the unlikely event a relationship is formed with this third, I don't see the failure to disclose being fatal to the prospective friendship.

Based on Dan's response, it appears that the cousins may be men. If the cousins are proposing M-M action and their desired third is a woman, I do think COUSIN should consider disclosing that the offered threesome will include M-M sex. Some women may find that a real turn on, but for others I think anything other than incidental contact will be a turn off. In any other configuration of genders for the cousins and their third, I think the cousin-cousin sex will be irrelevant.
BTW regarding recessive genes and disease. We DO have genetic if diseases such as thalassemia, sickle cell, cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs etc are part of family history they CAN get tested.

@4 But I don’t think your “ick” factor has anything to do with genetic diseases....
Like there aren't enough potential sex partners out there that one has to try to hook up with their uncle's or aunt's kids? I am very open on sex freedom but geez, it seems like there's no end to the kink shit people come up with. Not a Puritan by any stretch but sorry Dan, I just think it's a creepy fetish. Isn't anything sanctified anymore? Ugh.
"Besides, isn't a threesome with third cousins​ considerably less icky than a threesome with, say, identical twins? And wouldn't most people jump at an opportunity for a threesome with identical twins?"

Like, fantasy twins. Maybe that look alike or have the same hair color. I don't think the abstract idea is actually intending to watch kinfolk fuck.

This was a letter where it was never explicitly stated, what the genders of the threesome (or putative threesome) are. If the cousins are one male and one female, then there's a potential ick factor due to breeding issues. If everyone is male, or everyone is female, cousinage is a non-issue. I don't think I've ever seen or heard anyone raise the issue of "gay cousin marriage" and whether it's better or worse than "straight cousin marriage", depending on one's particular bigotry.
Unless you're planning on having kids, if you didn't grow up together it's not really that weird at the end of the day. It's just unusual and a taboo and essentially arbitrary reasons. It's only the past 100 years or so that families were as scattered as ours is today, having cousins in different cities and states and such. Cousins used to be your neighbor, backup brothers and sisters. Most of us don't have that relationship with our cousins now.
Just as long as one of the identical cousins speaks in outdated slangy-Americanese and one speaks with some weird, affected, Britishy accent, it's all good.
@3: Do we need to make the "a hot dog makes her lose control" joke?…
It's one rule for Targaryens, another rule for everyone else.
Seatackled @1: Exactly. Anyone adventurous enough to have a threesome with two randos they just met at a bar will probably find it even hotter to learn they are cousins!
Welcome back, DarkHorse!
Originalcinner @14: I don't know about you, but in my experience threesomes and breeding have zero crossover.
Um, Dan? You sounded kinda rapey in your advice there. You basically said that "yes, that seems like a thing you should disclose, but then I polled the room and it seemed like everyone agreed that this was a big enough deal that they would want to have informed consent about it... so no. Don't disclose because too many people will consider it a dealbreaker, so letting them know will hamper your chances of sex - and in the balance of getting laid vs. getting informed consent, getting laid should always win out!"

Can you see why that's a little icky? You're basically advising them to try and get their third to do something sexually that the third might be very uncomfortable with, if the third actually knew what was going on - something that, if the third found out about it later, might make them feel extremely creeped out and regretful about the sexual encounter. That's not cool. Consent should be freely given, not tricked or weaseled out of someone through lies of omission.
My feeling is that you ALWAYS disclose information that you think might change someone's mind about whether or not to sleep with you. I believe that I am not allowing someone freedom of choice if I deliberately withhold information that I believe would alter their choice.

That means I get less sex than I otherwise might. Some people don't want to have sex with me when they find out I'm a prostitute*. (Sorry, sex worker.) Some people don't want to have sex with me when they know I'm 33. (They always seem to think I'm 10 years younger. I think it's the Korean skincare.) Some people don't want to have sex with me when they know I have a boyfriend, or that I'm bisexual, or that I have internal scars that sometimes bleed, or that there's a bullet fragment in my ass. And that's fine. I would rather miss out on sex that I wanted than deceive people and push the lines of informed consent.

Yeah, you can argue that people should be responsible for asking about things that bother them, but when you KNOW that something about you or your relationship will squick a lot of people, I find that disingenuous at best. Especially when it's something unusual enough that not many people will think of asking. (Seriously, has it ever occurred to you to ask a couple you're having a threesome with if they're related?)

(Actually, in some places you might. My ex is from Iceland, and he says that the population is so low that when you meet someone in a bar, it's not uncommon to discuss your family before hooking up, just to make sure you're not cousins or something. But I don't think Iceland is the norm.)

*All forms of sex work are legal in my country, though our government is cracking down on consensual BDSM. Go figure. Still, plenty of people won't have (free) sex with someone who does it for pay.
I, for one, don't dig incest porn.
Sea @ 1 - "wouldn't most people jump at an opportunity for a threesome with identical twins"

I once knew twin brothers who were regulars at a bathhouse I enjoyed visiting whenever I could (now closed, unfortunately). They never had sex together (as in "touching each other"), but not being what one would call conventionally attractive, they understood that coming as a pair available for threesomes was their best bet for frequent sex with highly enthusiastic guys. It worked. They were in very high demand. And the couple of people I know who recounted their experience with them to me only had one negative comment about it: the twins wouldn't suck or fuck each other.

So yes, I'd say a lot of people would jump at the opportunity. I sure would have if they hadn't been so scrawny.
Disclose. As others have pointed out, knowing that a lot of people might opt out means you tell them so they can decide for themselves, not that you don't tell them to avoid the declines.

I look forward to more variations of this letter ("I'm the youngest of a lot of kids and I was born at the same time as my oldest sibling's baby. When my niebling and I go to bars to pick up thirds for threesomes, do we have to disclose our familial relationship first?") so we can find out the incest squick gradient.
I'm a little surprised that so many people are squicked out by this, in a place that tends to be remarkably unsquickable, usually.

I've got nearly sixty first cousins - my parents both came from large families, and many of their siblings had large families. Some of my cousins I knew quite well, growing up, some I've never met - we also have big age gaps, so some were grown and married by the time I was born.

One of my sisters has been fucking one of our cousins for years - they're both in the "like to have someone in my life, but god knows I don't want to get married again" time of life. They were a little discreet about it for the first year or so, but eventually everyone in the family found out, and so far as I know, nobody really gives a shit. I certainly never heard anything, and they're mostly a fairly conservative, Catholic bunch - talkative, too, so if there was talk, I'd have heard it. It's' just really not that big a deal.

My vote is for disclose, just because obviously some people have a weird thing about it, so let them opt out if they want to. I can't imagine caring, myself.
@ 26 My niece who is two years younger than I am partied together quite a lot when we were teens, and tended to date guys who were friends with each other. While there were no threesomes, well, judging by the heavy breathing, it's entirely possible that she and I both got laid in the same car at the same time, one couple in the back seat, one in the front. I never thought of it as something that would squick someone out before - it was just the harsh realities of finding someplace to have teenage sex.
Sati @23: Wins the thread.
Lance @24: Thanks for sharing.
Ricardo @25: From the female-child-of-the-80s perspective, three words: Gene Loves Jezebel.
And a big YGG, said in Venn's voice, to the twins in your story. Good on them for using what nature handed them to get lots of sex.
Nah, if you are having casual sex with someone then it's very likely there are all sorts of things about that person that you might find out later that could make you feel ick. That's just what casual sex is- you take the chance because you are having sex with a stranger. Really- what you might feel about it is entirely subjective. Objectively, there's nothing wrong with it. It's not illegal, no one is being coerced, it can't cause any harm to anyone. Therefore, I don't see why you'd have any obligation to disclose during casual sex. It can cause no harm to another person. You are not having another person engage in something that is illegal or unethical.

Cousins also, not for me, but I've had to think about this prejudice a bit. As CMD says, in plenty parts of the world it's the norm. IIn India (or at least in parts, big place) it's a major taboo for Hindus who see cousins as siblings. It's totally normal for Muslims for whom it's a norm. Therefore, lots of Indians grew up with prejudices and slurs against Muslims for this. You might be surprised to know that at least among people my age, it was common to think that Americans marry their cousins too- it was a stereotype, ha ha.

An analogy is that some people likewise find bisexuality offensive. Do bi people therefore have an obligation to disclose their sexuality during a het casual hook up just because there are people out there who might feel icked out to know that they screwed someone who screws other men/women? What about open relationships? Political affiliations? What if you are pregnant? I ask that seriously- a friend had casual sex with a woman who knew she was in early stages of pregnancy. She did not tell him. He found out later and he was upset that she didn't disclose even though it was a one-weekend thing. I just think we can't expect disclosure of everything that might bother us when we are having casual sex. That's what dating first is for. You aren't asking the third to fuck his/her OWN cousin without disclosure.

Anyway, as with most taboos, it's a good idea to check your prejudice and see what it's about. It's not really about your concerns for breeding since we aren't talking about reproduction here- we're talking about casual sex in a threesome. I suppose if we were talking about whether or not someone should have a child with their cousin, these discussions might be relevant, but not with casual sex. Older women ALSO face a higher than average rate of birth defects if they become pregnant. Likewise younger women with much older men. But we don't go around saying these things should be considerations in casual hookups. So I think the "oh the birth defects" stuff is pearl clutching.

I'm with Dan from an earlier column that I can't imagine having sex with my siblings in the room, so no way would I be interested in identical twins and I don't see why anyone else would either. But whatever if that's your thing. And YES it's always a good time to talk about how a hotdog makes her lose her mind. Why were they identical COUSINS anyway instead of sisters? I've never before thought about how weird that show is.
@Sati, I feel about the same way myself because I think it spares drama later. I like to be upfront about things. I like other people that are that way as well. But I think this is more individual preference than general best practice. Sometimes you don't really have any serious conversations with people with whom you have casual sex. Sometimes there's a language barrier (or maybe that was just me!) So I don't think there is an expectation that hookups require disclosure of any of those things.

As for general best practice in a hookup, I think it's on the individuals to ask what they want to know and to not lie about things when asked. My rule was to never lie, but I wasn't going to walk around with a list of things that a potential hookup might find objectionable. Like everything else in human experience, in reality, what I disclosed and what I didn't had more to do with the situation than anything else. In some situations, you are going to talk a lot and spend the day (or weekend) with someone else. Good idea to work those things into conversations. in others, you are just going straight to bed and will never see the person again afterwards. It would be weird to stop everything and be all "BTW, my partner is my cousin" or whatever.
Uggh at all the talk about disclosure being different depending on gender. What if you know you have a family history of a genetic disease? Should you have to disclose this before every het hookup because there is a potential for breeding? What if you have a family history of breast cancer or schizophrenia or Alzheimers? Should older het women have to tell their hookups that their age is correlated with Downs children or heart defects should they become pregnant? Should older men who are about to hook up with young women tell them their age is correlated with autistic children?

No one worries about these things in hookups until we start talking about cousins. Then everyone is all “omg inbreeding! Smaller gene pool!” They aren’t looking for a parent. They are looking for a threesome. This handwringing about genetics is a rationalization of our feelings of ick because of the taboo.

People here saying it makes a difference if the threesome involves het sex are just reaching for an explanation of their feelings. And even that doesn’t make sense because even if the threesome did result in a child, for the genetic risk to be relevant, it would have to be a child between the two cousins, not the third, in which case it has nothing whatsoever to do with the third anyway, who- if it were casual sex- would probably never even know that he/she was present at the time of conception.

Since this taboo exists in some cultures and not others, our feelings here are created by culture, not by some objective situation. In casual hookups in diverse societies, I don’t think we have to pussyfoot around every single thing that someone might find ick because of their own socialization. If it’s very important to you that your sexual partners share your cultural taboos, then you probably shouldn’t be looking for casual sexual partners in a diverse society in the first place.

Sorry to beat a dead horse but I just couldn't stop thinking about how silly the reproduction concerns here are.
My squick is generally the close family involved.

The genetic material is varied enough in the case of cousins and chance of abnormality isn't significantly higher.
If these folks were trying looking for a more emotional, attached relationship or one that they are hoping one day would produce offspring (which I assume is not the case here), then I think telling the potential partner is a must.
But in a one-night stand or casual relationship where the goal is simply to get one's rocks off, I say that they might want to keep this info to themselves. It's nobody's biz in that this type of situation.
Like someone else mentioned, the lure of this type of sex is the mystery. There's no baggage attached to it. I never wanted much info on my casual sex relations. If they would have started that nonsense, I would have given them the boot out the door.
Just remember to use the appropriate safety measures. The worst baggage is the one that needs antibiotics to unpack.
I think you have a responsibility to disclose for one reason, which is simply the potential repercussions for the third person via reputation. It shouldn't matter, and they might not care, but you are unknowingly placing them in a "taboo" situation that others might judge them for - which could have consequences for their job and/or social life, particularly in a small town (not that it said they were, but it can happen in cities within tight social groups too).
Implexadyth @35: Really? You think there would be significantly less damage to someone's "reputation" if word got round that they went home from a bar to have a threesome with two strangers, than if those strangers turned out to be cousins??

Emma @30-@32: Agree with all you've said. Personally, I would much more inclined to disclose that I'm bi to a female hookup than a male one, because lesbians are far more likely to have bisexuality as a dealbreaker than men are, generally speaking. (Lesbians are also far more likely to want to continue the sexual relationship beyond the first shag.) I disclose to everyone that I'm poly. Because, generally speaking, I want to continue sexual relationships beyond the first shag.