Maybe if they have a kid it will make things better.


Anais Nin and her father had an affair.


Wow. So..yeah.

Sometimes I wonder about some of the letters that Dan doesn't publish.


Funny, I never thought about it before, but Oedipus was adopted, then later fell for his bio mom. I never understood how psychs use Oedipus complex to mean a dude wanting to kill his dad, fuck his mom since Oedipus had no idea he was doing such a thing and was disgusted when he found out. But GSA makes sense- meet up with hot mom later, fell for her, etc.

Yikes at this letter. I have nothing to say on the consensual incest ones. But the LW's friend shouldn't fuck up their spouse's life too- not ok to cheat on your spouse, especially not with your parent omfg.


@4: I should think by now, that Sigmund Freud is considered in the profession as kind of a nut.


Yeah when you hear someone roll out Freudian or Jungian concepts like they are real things, and not historical references or literary flourishes, you can bet they are selling bullshit not science.


How much more is everyone grossed out by the thought of a 24 year old women blowing her 40-year-old dad than of a son going down on his mother?


Sportlandia, they seem equally gross to me.

I was adopted as a baby and have never traced my birth family. Maybe this is a very good thing, reading that lot! I can definitely do without fancying a parent or sibling.


Really Dan. It’s only a few days into January and you’re onto incest letters. Pass.


@6, what? Freud and Jung were not literary figures. Guess you haven’t read the history of psychoanalysis. There were therapists and developed theories based on their experiences just like any Dr does today. Influential men in the development of understanding the human psyche.


Sportlandia @7: I think the question is why are you so much more grossed out? I too am equally grossed out. And I'm grossed out by the idea of son blowing Dad or Mom going down on daughter, which are also possibilities here. Yeah, I got nothing, except the sudden desire for brain bleach. Hope this dalliance, er, blows over quickly. Shudder.


I'm creeped out after this letter and now I need a holiday.


Your answer is good Dan, let’s hope the friend follows it.


I'll retool a piece of solid advice Dan gave years ago:
Ever since Oedipus gouged out his eyes, conventional wisdom has held that it's better to err on the side of not fucking your parents, biological or not. But since Sophocles isn't around to write the tragic ending for your incestuous affair, take what Dan wrote as being straight from Cassandra's mouth - this will end badly (still might even if you stop today what with the oral sex having already happened). So for the sake of everyone, tell your parent that you can no longer see them since your combined lapse in judgement carries too many risks for both of you.

Last note: God I hope the people involved are same sex or son and a mother beyond childbearing years since if they were to disregard Dan's advice, I doubt they have the judgement to use birth control.


"Your kink is not my kink but your kink is OK" does not apply here. This is squicky.


Huh. Today I learned about GSA all right. I learned right past my comfort zone, but oh well.

I guess it makes sense as a kind of displacement. People feel attached to their biological relative, usually that happens from birth which forms it into a nonsexual attachment because sexual is biologically ruled out for most people. Here it doesn't have that barrier so it can go down the sexual path. Many people the only strong intimate attachments they form in adulthood are sexual, after all. See the usage of "intimate" to mean "sexual".


Has Dan ever said whether he reads his own "slush" incoming mail, or a team of hapless interns takes that? Because man oh Manischewitz.


First impression: Anyone else thinks that this is not actually happening to a friend, but to the LW themself*?

Second impression: It's a fake written by someone trying to find a way to accuse Dan of depravity for somehow condoning incestuous affairs or, failing that (since Dan obviously doesn't), for having published identifying details.

*Grammar question: when "them" is used as a singular epicene pronoun, what's the correct reflexive?


If they fake their own deaths and run off to a little town in the pampas together, it might "work out" in that limited kind of way, but otherwise it will end in tears. Maybe some cum too, but definitely tears.


In my opinion, the chance of this becoming [REDACTED] depends on how often they [REDACTED] and if a [REDACTED] is involved. LW seems to like [REDACTED] more than they like [REDACTED], but if it was [REDACTED] enough they could probably [REDACTED] until their eyes popped out. Just don’t try [REDACTED]. That would be dangerous, and unnecessarily [REDACTED].


This is all too likely to be a real letter: had an extremely fucked up neighbor -- who found his biological mother at 18 and...I don't have to draw you a picture, do I?


Did folks look at the articles Dan linked? I know my first reaction was "ew ew ewww" too, but this seems to be an attraction that happens to some people. And adoptees ought to know to recognize this (and not act on it) if it happens to them.


Incestphoboia is just another manifestation of western imperialist cisnormative culture we must destroy.


18- Ricardo: "themself"


Yeah, they are asking for their "friend." Uh-huh.


If LW’s friends has kids and this comes out, they will lose custody to wronged spouse and may also end up being subject to an investigation by the police and child services.

Incest is criminal even among consenting adults in all but two states. While prosecution is rare, I have seen it prosecuted “to make an example’” of parents who pursue this.

Where I’ve seen it come up a great deal is in dependency/neglect/abuse courts. Wronged spouse could find out about this and call the authorities. Next thing LW’s friend knows, they lose all rights to their kids. Permanently. Have seen it happen and know of cases where it has happened.

LW’s friend has to ask themself: Is this worth losing my kids, being arrested, and being permanently ostracized? Because those are the stakes.

This isn’t a garden-variety kink. This isn’t even a varsity kink. This is criminal, lose your kids type of kink.

I’m not going to argue whether or not it should be. I’m telling you that it is.


“all but two states (and the special case of Ohio, which "targets only parental figures"[1]), incest is criminalized between consenting adults. In New Jersey and Rhode Island, incest between consenting adults (16 or over for Rhode Island, 18 or over for New Jersey) is not a criminal offense, though marriage is not allowed in either state. ”

Incest partners likely wouldn’t be prosecuted, but this would be fodder in divorce or child custody cases. And even the most sex-positive judge would hold it against the participating party and for the spouse/parent of minor children.


@21 It’s far more common than people think.

Having decades of court experience, I can tell you that a lot of the things people think only happen in books and movies actually do happen, but get hushed up or the victims get shamed or bullied into silence.

Humans are a sick lot.


I was already spinning then I think I blew a gasket when I read the friend is married, and now all I can think about is concern for their spouse. And screaming.

"yeah. It was a mistake for your friend to do oral sex to/with their parent."

Agreed, and it was an even bigger mistake for the parent to do so (as a responsibility comes with reproduction).

@8 busy_quilting "Sportlandia, they seem equally gross to me."


@14 unknown_entity "'s better to err on the side of not fucking your parents..."

Thank you for the much-needed LOL.


this is the classic "a kink too far".


@11 I'll be honest, I find the thought more absurd and funny than gross. The amount of damage that two consenting adults having sex can do, even if muey icky, is pretty low. The stakes her, as long as no one gets pregnant, are zero. They get to do their own gross things with their own bodies at the end of the day.


Ew, ew, ew! I hope those people are at least using birth control consistently and correctly each time. Otherwise we could have a repeat of Deliverance or The Hills Have Eyes on our hands.


Attraction happens in all sorts of inappropriate situations. Straight people are sometimes attracted to same sex. Young people are sometimes attracted to old. Non-genetically related step-siblings are often attracted to one another. I've awakened to odd disturbing sexual dreams to talk show hosts. The list goes on. Because attraction is so widespread, I'm not surprised that genetic relatives are sometimes attracted despite adoption having separated them. It makes a certain amount of sense. If you spend a lot of time in your head imagining a warm relationship with someone, if you finally meet that someone and don't quite know what direction that relationship will take, if you're likely to be attracted to people in general, then it makes some sense that some of those feelings will land in the sexual realm.

Dan sites information that as many as 50% of these connected after adoption relationships involve sexual attraction. But for a lot of us, there's sexual attraction in almost every relationship even those with total strangers who aren't genetically related. Dan says that genetic sexual attraction is a real theory, then links to a wikipedia page saying that the theory is widely criticized as pseudo science. Put me in the thinks it's pseudo science camp.

Now on to to legality. This is tricky. When a child is adopted, that individual becomes the legal child of the adoptive parents. The biological parents have their parental rights severed. (Usually severed. There's grey area with foster parents, some parental rights kept intact, etc.) To the best of my knowledge (not a lawyer), the laws forbidding incest don't address these genetic-only, no-legal-relationship, relationships.



As a lawyer who has been there, yes those incest laws do still include genetic relationships severed by adoption. I wish I didn’t know that, but I do.

If you want to go down the rabbit hole, go to Wikipedia and type in laws on incest in the USA. See how many cover both legitimate or illegitimate children and mention both blood (I.e., genetic) and legal parent-child relationships. So, no, adoption and termination of parental rights doesn’t mean it isn’t legally incest.

Several states don’t even require that you know someone is a blood relative for it to be a crime! Now, I’m not sure that would withstand scrutiny if someone were convicted and appealed....but I wouldn’t want to be the test case.


Isnt this a case of abuse since rhe parent is in a position of power ? Power because they are the god damn PARENT of the abandoned child ?

Im also surprised DAn didnt mention any youporn channels for Incest. Missed a chance for a plug there!


Incest rarely "works out", unless you're a character in a Robert Heinlein story (yeah, pretty much every one of his books, beyond the youth sci-fi once in Scouting's Boys Life Magazine). So if you're 2000 years old, related to most of humanity, incredibly rich, and have futuristic geneticists and super-smart but well-meaning AI on call (e.g. Lazarus Long, a.k.a Woodrow Wilson Smith, a.k.a. The Senior), then go for it.

Maybe because I read a lot of those as a teen, I'm not feeling "ick" about any of this. It's not my thing (thankfully), but I put it in the two-consenting-adults category, albeit one with potentially huge social, familial, legal, and therefore financial risks.


The more the attracted/confused person talks about this, whether privately with a well-trained specialist and/or a group where anonymity is assured, the more likely they will diffuse some of the attraction and realize how damaging such relationship can be.

The friend may offer the person in need to be able to call them anytime in case the urge is there.
Another bursting bubble method I applied in other situations was masturbating to the idea and see how I feel about it later.
If you are ashamed and disgusted once it’s over you know it’s something you shouldn’t pursue.


@35 how is the (biological) parent in a position of power? They're two adults who'd never met before.


Sometimes I think people forget that they don't have to bang everyone they find attractive.

It's perfectly acceptable and in some cases preferable to not bang that person and just go home and masturbate to them.


@10, Freud routinely threw away facts that didn't fit his theories. Jung was an enormous improvement, yet still made little to no effort to corroborate his theories with new or additional evidence. They were not scientists; they were poorly skilled philosophers. The /only/ thing Freud did for psychology that remains standing is getting everyday people to think about how people think.


This letter was obviously written by one of the participants, whether parent or child. It was written by the one who wants to continue the affair -- possibly to get Dan's seal of approval to convince the more nervous party. No friend on earth would be this blasé & supportive.


@41 Layla89
Not disagreeing, but why would the "one of the participants...who wants to continue the affair" provide so much identifying [REDACTED] info? (OK, maybe because we already know they aren't in good working order.)


@40; I’m not going to argue with you on this thread. You speak bs.


@42 Why would they? It's axiomatic among defense attorneys that that the hardest part of the job most of the time is getting your client to STFU.


Pardon him. Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.


But yeah. "Asking for a friend." Right.


Fichu @24 agreed, just as we say yourself/yourselves for singular/plural of the second person.

Also, in Dan's shoes I would have made the first line "[they were] adopted."


@41 my first thought on reading this was 'Fake'. either way, i think Dan missed an excellent op for 'Pics or it didn't happen' reply.


As for the LW, in case they are neither of the principals, I would advise them to tell their friend: "my advice is to end things permanently, but if that's not possible, my advice is to tell me (and anyone else you've told!) that you've ended things permanently and stick to that story."


@ 33 fichu “Put me in the thinks it's pseudo science camp.”

Ok, now I wanna run a randomized double blind experiment to see if biological relatives are more likely to fuck each other. Maybe Trump will pay for it. He reportedly has his own issues with GSA.


"My Friend Is Having an Affair With Their Parent—Will That Work Out?"



2CV @35: "Abandoned"? Wow. The parent didn't abandon the child, they placed zir with loving parents who raised zir and cared for zir until adulthood. Also, agree that there is no "power" here. If anything, it's the child who has the power because ze took the initiative to find the parent; the parent is not allowed to initiate contact with a child they put up for adoption.

Oddly, after reading these comments I've come to the weird theory that if Child weren't married, and if breeding weren't a possibility, perhaps this relationship COULD work out. These two are genetically related, yes, but otherwise they are complete strangers. One of them is 15+ years older than the other, but relationships like that "work out" all the time. We're all squicked by it, but so long as the couple didn't tell anyone else about the shared DNA, no one else would be. And perhaps move to one of the two states where their relationship would be legal.


But yeah. My gut advice is still "ewww, run."


I haven’t read the letter. I’ve read Dan’s response. Of course there’s a power dynamic. The Parent is the Parent. The child didn’t go looking for the parent hoping to suck his dick.
No. This is all on the Parent, they should know what the boundaries are. They should know their child is longing for a connection to their blood.


Fool him, going to lose his child again.


34- Slow-- Thanks for that information. Glad I didn't have to look it up myself.


Lava @54-55: Why are you assuming the parent is a man? Most of the time when someone goes looking for a birth parent, it's their mother. Who didn't put her child up for adoption in order to incubate a lover for the future, either. This "child" is old enough to be married, so not vulnerable. The parent should know better but the child is cheating on their spouse. Gender is irrelevant and both are to blame.


Like everyone, my first thought was “gross, is this for real?” I had never heard of GSA or statistics that indicate that incestuous attractions are so prevalent under certain circumstances. With that knowledge, I actually feel badly for people caught up in this situation more than I do grossed out.


Dan forgot to mention the Westermack effect. This is well documented in many species and in humans, prevents most people from wanting to fuck anyone they grew up with. Evolutionary benefit is fewer genetic problems, emotional side-benefit, we don't get fucked up in the head. The issue with adoption is you didn't grow up with the relative and so Westermack effect isn't there, but you can still get fucked up in the head fucking up someone with all those familial ties and once you are reunited - now they are family!

@15,26,30 - this isn't a letter about incest kink at all - that would be largely a fantasy about the idea of sex with a relative you've always known, this letter is about actual sexual attraction to a single relative the LW did not grow up with.

@5,6,40 - a bunch of ideas Freud originated are now standard fare in psychotherapy: transference, denial, projection (the bigger the asshole, the more they project and think others are in the wrong - Trump does this all the time!). Even behavioral therapists acknowledge that client feelings and patterns of behavior in life can become shifted onto how the client interacts with the therapist = transference. Reaction formation explains much homophobia: the biggest homophobes are often closet cases, empirical science shows this. Many of Freud's theories are untestable or haven't been supported, but some were sound and still contribute to the practice of psychotherapy, he is far more than a historical / literary figure.


@59 myself: spelling! Westermarck effect


I think people are projecting their (our) own experiences of having been raised by our own parents onto this situation, in which the two protagonists had never known each other. In which case, attraction is attraction, no matter what is causing it.
I feel only sympathy for the people involved (including the other family members). But if this pair ultimately decide to throw away all else to be together, well, that's their choice, right? They'll have to live with the consequences.
I guess it's heartening at least that even at Savage Love there are still certain lines that shant be crossed.


@44 slomopomo
"It's axiomatic among defense attorneys that that the hardest part of the job most of the time is getting your client to STFU."

I'll buy that, I know everyone isn't sufficiently circumspect (perhaps few less so that a child-parent-fucker). And some are plain crazy (ditto my perhaps), but the letter even offering 'OTHER details that might be helpful'

@54 LavaGirl
"I haven’t read the letter. I’ve read Dan’s response."

I wish I'd done that with yesterday's letter!

@59 delta35
"Dan forgot to mention the Westermack effect."

It's come up before and is well-enough known that I think he could take for granted that his audience saw that GSA occurs in the absence of the Westermarck effect.


@59 FTW. I was going to type something up but then read yours and didn't have to. It's also important to view Freud and others through the lens of their time (much like Abraham Lincoln). There weren't the scientific standards that there are today so expecting them to rigorously test their ideas would be preposterous. Science was a gentlemen's club and people put out theories and expected others to test and shape them. This led to some weird concepts (eugenics) and it's good we have a scientific process today but we can't fault Freud for not being a time traveler.


Thanks, Dan, for the insight on GSA (and everything else you cover!)

Adoptee (gay) here, I first met my birth mother at age 19. She came to my city for an in-person meeting shortly after we first connected by phone and one night I took her to a gay club for drinks and dancing. Imagine my surprise when she rammed her tongue down my throat on the dance floor.

A few months later (I was living with a partner at the time), she offered to pay for a female sex worker just in case I might not really be gay... at the time, I thought this was a manifestation of her general homophobia. Now (GSA), I am starting to think she may have been trying to fuck me by proxy.

No, we are no longer in contact and my Gold Star status is secure!!


Sublime-58-- This is the tricky business about statistics that you see everywhere. Let me prove my point with an example that I hope is judgment free. Let's say there's a particular Humane Society Shelter with a lot of dogs in it. Let's say that someone observes that 80% of the mixed breed intact males lick their balls and that 85% of the golden retrievers do also. Let's say that someone who knows nothing about dogs hears that statistic and runs out wondering what it is about this particular shelter has all those dogs licking their balls. Is it the heating system? Is it the flea shampoo? What's going on?

All that's the wrong question. What you really need to know is how many dogs that AREN'T in that humane society shelter lick their balls. If it turns out that 78-88% of all male intact dogs do the same, the statistic is meaningless.

I ran into the same thing when I read Dan's statistic about genetic attraction. It seemed wildly high, but that's because I assumed that it should be low. I read the wikipedia article he linked to. The question that no one has answered is what the rate of attraction is among people who AREN'T genetically related. If that's equally high, then the whole subject is stupid.

Remember that we're talking about attraction, not acting on the attraction. It's pretty easy to count if someone has had sex with someone else. They both know it. (Let's not get off track with rape and date rape drugs.) But attraction? That feeling when you see a stranger on the subway and maybe feel a little turned on? The feeling of seeing your college professor on the first day of the new semester? How the hell do you measure that in a large population? The only way is self-reporting, and people are going to self-report when there's something about the situation that stands out for them. I think if we really tried to measure attraction in the general population, we'd find that everyone is a little attracted to everyone else. (More or less. Some people aren't attracted to anyone, and some people are just gross.) But my point is that comparing the 2 groups, those who are genetically related but separated by adoption and those that aren't is a comparison no one is able to make.


@64 Friartuck
"I first met my birth mother at age 19. She...rammed her tongue down my throat"

I'm so sorry that happened to you!

The Westermarck effect is now my favorite "effect".


The damage they can do to each other- well they are consenting adults. But the adult child in this situation has a spouse. The damage they can do the spouse is at stake, so let's not pretend it's totally a case of consenting adults doing what they do. The spouse has not consented to being in a sexual relationship with someone who is fucking their parent.

Also the fact that it's more common than we'd think, has a cause, etc does make the situation sympathetic, but sympathy and disgust are not on the same spectrum. I can be disgusted by something while still feeling sympathetic. Sort of like when I see a person plagued with parasites- full sympathy for that person, also it's disgusting to see maggots in human flesh. And the ethics/morality of a situation has nothing to do with either. You can make the case that since it's two consenting adults who enjoy what they do and understand it, etc, then it is not immoral or unethical (except to the unknowing cheated on spouse), and so fine. That doesn't change the fact that it disgusts me. Like the dog-fucking discussion.

Dan's response here is good, and it looks like I'm not the only one that learned something- the world is fascinating and weird.


I’m with MartyVega @ 61 regarding sympathy for those involved. Admittedly this is a very icky situation, yet apparently more common than we think and extremely tricky for those involved.

Friartuck @ 64 reminded me of “The Kiss (memoir),” a book by Kathryn Harrison about a similar incident with her bio father that developed into a full fledge relationships.
The book came out few years after the first kid was born and I remember being troubled by it.
I was never sexually triggered/attracted to any of my off springs, yet when one of them was a teen I remember waking up few times remembering some dreams in which we had sexual interactions. That certainly bothered me, though once again there was never any attraction in real life. It reminded me of Ruth Westheimer answering a similar questions few years earlier, talking about dreams as unfiltered ideas and thoughts that often have nothing to do with reality. (My unintentional contribution to the Freud discussion.)
Those dreams went away few months later and never came back.


Yep They were influential gentlemen philosophers throwing out theories based on the very limited information they had at the time that they had no ability or inclination to prove in a way that we would now consider scientific. Which is why everything I said up above still stands despite your misreading and bitching about it Lava.


drjones @69 and you too talk bs. They were therapists, Freud was also a trained medical Dr. They both saw patients, and not for five minutes to write a script, for many hours over yrs. Of course the talking cure is not given a lot of time these days given how easy it is to pop a pill and it can be expensive and it takes time. Freud and Jung were giants in the field, and you ignorant lot need to read more.


If it wasn’t for the revolution of looking at humans, and their dev, which these men and many other pioneers thru the last century did, we would not have the understanding today or many of the terms we use. Yrs, a lot of what those men saw and said was of their time, just like the mental health today is of it’s time.
Those guys would meet with analysts all over the world, regularly to hash out theories and ideas which they came to thru their therapeutic work. Books have been written about the passion and dedication of these people.
They believed the mind could be healed by a good therapeutic relationship, via transference and countertransference, over time. Modern Drs charge the earth for that time, so they give out drugs instead.


Mental institutions were closed down worldwide in the west, in the 70s, because of the understanding of mental illness first closely analysed by “Freud and his followers”, pretty sure that’s one of the books I’ve read; many of you guys haven’t lived with Psyche bins just up the road, hundreds of people with mental distress and disabilities hidden away and drugged to the eyeballs.
It saddens me greatly to see how verbal therapy, which I know helped me greatly when I went to my amazing therapist in my twenties, has been discounted by modern medicine. It’s all brain chemicals they say; Yes, of course, our thoughts and actions create our brains.
And the chemicals in them.
With all those very unwell patients thrown out into the world, promises of great community housing never materialising, western medicine went for broke finding drugs to control the disturbed mind. And they have greatly eased a lot of extreme mental illness, some of which no amount of talking can cure.


@64 Friartuck. Thank you for sharing your experience, that was brave. I’m sorry it happened to you.


@62, I had never heard of the Westermarck effect, so I'm glad @59 brought it up. I had also never heard of GSA, so good on Dan. That is one of the reasons I continue to read Savage Love, to be exposed to new ideas although that is sadly rare these days because many of the letters are the same old trope and don't seem as kinky as they once were. Westermarck and GSA are pretty specific topics in psychology, so if one only has incidental contact with the subject of psychology in general (such as an article on one's social media that rouses further curiosity, etc.) then one may never stumble across such information. I think it's easy for people who are very interested in a field to think that what is common knowledge in the field is general knowledge. It's certainly a mistake I have made more than once.


DonnyKlicious@20 wins the thread. The prize is a lifetime supply of [REDACTED], which they can pick up at [REDACTED].

There's a John Sayles movie ([REDACTED]) in which two characters who have become lovers discover at the end that they are long-lost siblings. Thanks to the fact that [REDACTED] there happens to be no chance of children, and since no one else knows about their genetic relationship, they decide not to let it stop them. Worked for me, but it was definitely a controversial ending.


Curious @62: I'd never heard of the Westermarck effect, so I don't think it's as widely known as you imagine.

Fichu @65: "I think if we really tried to measure attraction in the general population, we'd find that everyone is a little attracted to everyone else." Nope. The number of people I'm attracted to is far lower than the number of people I'm not in any way attracted to, which is perhaps similar to the number of people I'm actively repulsed by. Perhaps that wasn't what you were trying to say?

Lava @70-@72: You are discounting the fact that not all mental health issues are the same! Some issues, yes, result from trauma or a bad family situation causing a person to feel confused, have low self-esteem, have distorted ideas about relationships, etc. This, I agree, should be addressed in therapy -- mindfulness, CBT, etc. I have no more professional psych training than you have so I'll leave the specific vocabulary to any experts on the board. But. There are also medical conditions such as depression, bipolar, dissociative disorder, which CANNOT be talked out. They are caused by chemical imbalances and must be treated with meds. Often the patient may not know the difference; often people are misdiagnosed. I agree that, particularly in countries with for-profit medicine, drugs probably are over prescribed. But an attitude of "get everyone off the meds and talk to them instead" is dangerous and dismissive of people with real mental illnesses.


76-BiDan-- Right. Not what I was trying to say. All I was trying to do was to compare the amount of attraction between genetically related individuals to the amount of attraction between non-genetically related individuals to find out if there's any remarkable difference.


@76 BiDanFan
"I'd never heard of the Westermarck effect"

Maybe you've missed the numerous columns in which Dan mentioned it; I think a couple times in the last couple years, once within the last year. Or maybe it understandably slipped some people's minds. In either case yes Dan coulda dropped it in again.

"There are also medical conditions...caused by chemical imbalances and must be treated with meds."

BiDanFan is correct. Think of it as the person missing a piece to their internal biochemical puzzle that the right med can make right (In "Eden Express" Kurt Vonnegut's son Mark explains it that way; the book does a great job of sharing with the reader what it's like to be schizophrenic, both the joy in that reality for him, and the loneliness of it being a reality of one.) Of course not uncommonly no med is the perfect puzzle piece, and the journey to finding that med can be difficult. But results are I think mostly worth it. (And I'm generally //extremely// critical of the pharmaceuticalization of medicine.)

There's something in LavaGirl's POV that I embrace too, like this: In many such cases ideally I would advise at least some talk psychotherapy first, before seeing a psychiatrist, to see what can be peeled off without turning to meds to do so.


Thought: perhaps this is a function of the peeps who give kids up for adoption?

Who are those people? Are most biological parents of adopted children simply too poor to sort a child? Extremely young and unmarried? Have drug or criminal issues that make them inappropriate parents?

Like, I and almost all my friends are pro choice. Whenever I've had the discussion with a female partner about it, privately, they've all said "I'd never have an abortion" with an answer that boils down to a take on personal responsibility. None of them mentioned adoption. These are childless women, without the biological attachment to their imaginary child, which I would assume would only make them more likely to keep their baby.

I'm also reminded of the crack baby epidemic, it turned out, crack use by a mother had no noticeable long term effect on their children. You know what did? Crackheads who have babies were/are generally poor, black, young, drug addicted, and have little education - and THOSE certainly have an effect on the lives of their children. But the crack apparently doesn't have an effect.

So perhaps the Westermarck effect is a result of "people who give up their children for adoption are rarely in perfect working order themselves"


@79 Sportlandia
First, I don't think things you mentioned like being "too poor" and "extremely young and unmarried" deserve your final paragraph's "rarely in perfect working order".

Second, in your last paragraph I think "GSA" was meant appear where you wrote "the Westermarck effect".

While I don't think being being "too poor" and "extremely young and unmarried" in themselves don't make one more likely to fuck a bio-kid, more importantly many haven't used birth control/safe sex despite not wanting to get pregnant. So in that they haven't exercised good judgement. Maybe that lack of good judgement is related to their ending up fucking their bio-kid, where others would (with the same attraction in the absence of the Westermarck effect) not do so.

(I had written a comment that disagreed, but when I saw the common thread of lack of good judgement I deleted it.)


@80 ah yes, i kind of flipped the definitions in my head. I muddled the point by including many of the common reasons people give children up for adoption, but yeah, as a population I think you could find that there are some significant (mathematical) differences in their mental health from those that haven't.


Wow. This reminds me of another Savage Love letter to Dan from long ago by a guy age 32 (at the writing), having an affair with his mother solely because "they were good looking" and "it was just sex".
The LW asked if Dan could direct him and his then 51 year old mom to a support group for those in incestuous relationships---or if they should just form some sicko organization of their own "after combing the Earth to no avail".
Dan's very apt response: Sometimes I think I should boil my mail before reading it.


@69 drjones: Congrats on scoring the Lucky @69 Award! May an abundance of riches come your way soon.


Dan. Please. I sent you several emails. GSA is NOT AS BAD as it seems. I have spent my entire life fighting for the rights of people like you to be married to whom they want to be. It truly is nobody else’s business who I or anybody else fucks. Or falls in love with. How the hell can you judge me for who I want to be married to? The keyword is CONSENTING FUCKING ADULTS. And this is obviously a very important topic to me. Seriously. I would love to explain to you how this thing works. Are you even interested??? Or do you want to just take your judge mental self and go about your merry way??? And fuck any other adult who happens to fall in love with the “wrong” person. Remember sweetheart. It wasn’t too long ago when people treated you like the way you just treated me. I’m trying not to sound angry. I’m really trying very hard. But do not pretend to understand, or judge what you do not know about. I will be happy to explain it to you. In a way that it will make sense. Check your emails. They’re there.


@84 CaptainDebby
I was thinking that there must be people with GSA reading this column.

"Check your emails."

Wait, you have our emails?

"I would love to explain to you how this thing works. Are you even interested?"

I think we understand, Debby. (As much as we need to anyway.) Since your relationship was not subject to the Westermarck effect, you have this attraction (that apparently would be common without the Westermarck effect).

"How the hell can you judge me for who I want to be married to?"

Well, we /have/ been subject to the Westermarck effect, so not only do we 'feel' it's unbearably icky, we also have the fact that the Westermarck effect was created by nature (to avoid genetic inbreeding issues) to make our feelings (er) 'feel' justified.

But, you might say, we get that and won't reproduce. That would be a very good rejoinder I think.

I upthread entertained the proposition that GSA couples aren't exercising good judgement, but you have caused me to wonder what I based that upon if they are committed to avoiding and are not interested in reproducing. Certainly not (as you are implying) the disapproval of society, your argument makes clear that's not a good motivation.

That leaves me to wonder if I was simply expecting you to be conscious of, and correct for, the absence of the Westermarck effect upon your GSA. Even though the Westermarck effect is there for a good reason, if a GSA couple is committed to not reproducing, I can't think of a reason to correct for the lack of it if that good reason (genetic inbreeding issues) will be prevented from being an issue.

While constructing this reply (and casting about for reasons GSA would constitute poor judgement), I remembered Dan mentioning people's interest in being able to be public about their relationship; certainly a GSA relationship gives that up. But I can't argue that since it's a backwards argument: if the cause of public disapproval of GSA has no sound foundation then the public, not you, are to blame for you not being able to be public with your relationship.

And whatever else is true, that's sad. I must concede that I was wrongly judging you. Now I just feel sympathy for the predicament you're in. (Please try to understand that we have the Westermarck effect making us feel our feeling of revulsion [which naturally I still have, sorry: Westermarck effect] is logically justified.)

I'm a bit shocked to have come to this, and I imagine everyone who hasn't read carefully or who doesn't think like me is judging /me/ now. Which wouldn't seem fair either. If after reading why I stopped judging Debby you can give me a reason I didn't think of to start judging her, maybe I'll change my mind again. (Oh, and don't bother to compare GSA to bestiality, that's not gonna fly (and that dog won't hunt) and please, I've got better things to do than go there again.)


@78 - thank you for mentioning "Eden Express". It was a really evocative depiction of the time period it described. Dr. Vonnegut was my son's pediatrician for a while, and we found him really grounded and perceptive. His musings on brain chemistry, nurture, and "talk therapy" still come to mind many years later.



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