This Strange Word Incest

Jaime and I are more than brother and sister. We are one person in two bodies. We shared a womb together. He came into this world holding my foot, our old maester said. When he is in me, I feel… whole. – Cersie Lannister, Game of Thrones, Season 1 Cersie, a major character in the first 4 seasons of Game of Thrones, is in an incestuous relationship with her twin brother Jaime Lannister, and bears three children with him, despite being the wife of the King of the Seven Kingdoms. A “controversial” passionate scene on them left me wondering about the nature of incest and how it’s perception has changed from being a necessity to being unnatural and wrong. The Romans did it, so did the Egyptians.  Cleopatra married her brother, apparently. The Roman Emperor Caligula is rumoured to have been in sexual relationships with his three sisters. Hawaiian royalty was known to practice close incest as well. The Japan royalty considered incestuous marriages sacred as well. So why did so many cultures around the world practice Incest? The answer is pretty obvious, to keep the crown “in the family”. Only the king’s immediate family would have the claim to the throne and take part in his riches, because Hey, he married his sister! Perhaps, incest even set the royal families apart from the mundane crowd! If the Gods did it, why shouldn’t they? Bible contains quite a few instances, like Abraham and Serra, and that instance where two daughters make their father drunk and engage in sexual activity, because they cannot find any man to make sons with. Moab and Ammon are born as a result. What’s more, the Zoroastrians believe that only a priest born of incest is a wise one. In fact, Incest seems to be so cloaked in the aura of antiquity that  TV shows like the Game of Thrones, True Blood and movies like Star Wars portray at least one incestuous relationship. Despite of all this, if we delve into etymology, we find that Incest is derived from the Latin word incestus, meaning impure/unchaste. So how did the connotation change? How did it come down from being a Royal Right to the top of the list of social taboos even defeating cannibalism?

“My sister in law is one of 5 kids, 4 girls and 1 boy. Her father never touched any of them. But he did force himself on his granddaughter when she was just 10 years old. Knowing this has made me a little paranoid as no one saw it coming. Someone they loved and trusted did this, he had never done anything to them. His granddaughter is his only victim, he spent 5 years in jail and is out. It makes it very hard to know who is safe because people do not advertise and you never know. Someone who was safe may end out not being as safe as you thought.” – name withheld

This really happened.  And this is just one example of how things changed. Incest started being used as a pretext to fulfil your hunger for sex. Can’t score a girl? Bleh, what’s my sister/daughter for?! Extreme as it may appear, it’s the truth. Children should be made to understand the difference between good touch and bad touch. Between a brotherly hug and groping. Between a peck on the cheek by a doting father or a forced sloppy kiss. This is the reason that led Saint Hoax to design “shocking” images of Disney Princesses being forced to kiss their fathers. There are sex-driven predators out there who wouldn’t even spare their own daughters, but at the same time, there are cases when siblings and cousins themselves enter into a consensual relationship. “It’s easy”, says an acquaintance, who has an acquaintance who has been in a relationship of such kind. “You go out to watch movies, stay back at home when your parents go out, do whatever, nobody ever asks!” Yeah, right. And no I did not judge him (not that he particularly cares, he wouldn’t even know who I am). A person should have the right to do whatever she/he pleases to, and with whoever she/he pleases, as long as the other person mirrors the same feelings. Oh, and just in case you were wondering: There are still instances of “family cults”, like the one recently discovered in some hidden valley in Australia, where families have been purposefully engaging in inbreeding. Children born of such unions are many-a-times cognitively impaired, physically handicapped etc. because the high rate of genetic overlap.


 What is surprising is that, even today, nobody talks about it, nobody discusses it, and nobody accepts it. Yes, there is a serious problem if it is forced, but what if it is consensual? Is it something that needs to be “cured”, or can we really choose to love whoever we love?


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