Genes, Siblings, Secret Lovin'

This morning my alarm woke me with news- big news! Well, it always does this; around the time I get up WNYC is playing BBC World Service. The news always sounds much bigger when delivered with a British accent.

But the story this morning was about an incestuous couple in Germany. The brother/sister kind of incest. They were seperated at birth, were reunited, and now have children. Sorry that I can't find the report online to link to it, and the details are a bit hazy as I was waking up at the time.

But I wanted to post more generally on the topic of incest, genetics, and morality. It seems that they are all strangely linked in the minds of some genetic-moralists, whose opinion forms the majority opinion of our society.

Firstly, say what you want about child/parent incest. It seems obvious to me that quality sexual relationship could not really form with the child/parent relationship in the way, and if it did, then there would obviously be too much of a power relationship overshadowing the sex. Maybe if in our society parent/child relationships were different, then there could be a possibility of a sexual relationship, but as it is, it strikes me as a bad thing for the same reason that there are statutory rape laws. Not because a child can't make decisions you understand, but because between an adult and a child there are ulterior power relationships that would necessarily interfere. Similarly, why sex between a prisoner and a guard is rape by statute: even if they somehow did find "true love" in each other, the power relationship would interfere to an extent that the sexual relationship would become a problem to the well-being of both, in that they are who they are.

But as far as sibling incest goes, the fact that it is prohibited by statute seems to me to be totally bizarre. The traditional moral argument aside, (while bother to argue against a textual moral argument? "but it says this...") the issue is preventing the creation of genetic "monsters". Abominations. Now, let's bracket for the moment the fact that this culture over-privileges genetics as moral determination (the similarity between Darwinism and Creationism is a topic for another post). The genetic fact is that the reason that interbreeding between siblings is "bad" is because there is an increased chance of occurences of double recessive traits. Now, agreeing that our hypothetical incestuous couple wants to and does spawn children, the justification for the law is to "ensure a better a chance of Darwinian fitness".

WTF? Are sibling incest laws one fancy Darwinian dance-step away from eugenics? Since when was it the place of the state to be the life guard of the gene pool? Why don't we then make laws prohibiting people with poor genotypes or genetic disorders from breeding? Or restrict breeders from breeding with people who may be at risk for harboring similar recessive traits? There are tons of people walking around with disabilities, disorders, and just plain dislikable distinctions, but we don't make laws against them, because it is fascist, and because that is part of the beauty of the human species and the risk of life and breeding. I really can't believe that genetic-moralists can speak out of both sides of their mouth like that, glorifying "natural selection" and then trying to make "natural attractions" illegal. Who is playing "prime mover" now?

It seems simple to me; if we are going to let people make their own breeding choices, given that they decide to do so at all (a strange decision in itself) then we have to let them make their own choices, for good or for bad. If they decide to consult with a doctor, then the doctor should tell them whatever s/he wants to tell them about their possible offspring. But the state should stay out of it.

As far as the sex, proscribing the sex just because it might make a child with epilepsy is ridiculous. Any limits on breeding should be made universally, otherwise it strays into the above territory. And without the genetic-moral argument, there is no argument whatsoever, because sexual preference has been protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Due process clause, jerk. And as for marriage between siblings (or other taboo couples for that matter), I think there is a slightly different but related argument, that yet draws the opposite conclusion. I'm going to write about that soon though, so I'll hold off for now (lucky you!).

The absolute weirdest part is, the genetic-moralists have gone so far as to produce a diagnosis of sibling incest. They call it "genetic sexual attraction". I think using Foucault could develop a more nuanced argument here, but I'll just cut it short by saying that the genetic-moralists really think they have it all down, don't they? When they can classify something, they own it, theory-wise. The medical discourse maintains control, because it can diagnose a sexual relationship according to theory, and thusly, can maintain juridico-discursive control over its domain. You see, incestuous siblings don't "really" have a relationship, the only "suffer" a pathology of GSA. How convenient. Remember, homosexuality was in the DSM until 1973.

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