Incest the Taboo Subject

A Subject We Must Talk About

Shirley J. Davis


Photo by Zika Radosavljevic on Unsplash

There is possibly no topic more controversial or taboo than speaking about incest. Culturally, there are strong emotional and moral limits to incest, and many adverse effects are associated with it.

This article will not describe the acts involved in incest except to acknowledge they happen. Instead, we will focus on what incest is and the many ways it is harmful.

What is Incest?

Incest is sex between family members too closely related, such as father/daughter or son, sister/brother, or first-cousins. Some psychologists believe that children have an inborn incest taboo that keeps them from finding one another as sexy or desirable. However, this is only a theory, as incest ranges from 5 to 20%, suggesting there is no neural adaptation to prevent sex between related children.

According to the most available statistics, incest occurs as a form of child sexual abuse, with 80% happening between an abusive parent and an underage victim.

Incest between two consenting adults is prohibited in all 50 states except Rhode Island and New Jersey. While sexual relations between consenting adults who are closely related are legal in these two states, marriage between two close relatives is not. However, marriage between distant relatives, such as second and third cousins, is primarily legal in the United States.

There are differences in how incest is handled in the states. Punishments vary from the length of the criminal sentence and how many fines must be paid. North Dakota bans incest between first cousins while other states allow it.

The Psychological Costs of Incest

Unfortunately, most cases of incest do not happen between two consenting adults. Instead, adults abusing children is the most common form of incest (Maltz, W. (2002). Childhood sexual abuse is a human rights violation often committed by a close relative or someone else who is intimately involved with the child and/or their family.

Because the people who perpetrate incest on related children cause a great deal of psychological distress, as is determined by women who grew up with such relationships, research has found that…



Shirley J. Davis

I am an author/speaker/grant writer in the U.S. My passion is authoring information about mental health disorders, especially dissociative identity disorder..