Incest: a Family Activity, Child Sex the World Over

This is a short post on incest and child abuse from different cultural perspectives

I was reading a post (Hassidic Sex Abuse), which should please other religious groups as it changes the focus from priests to guys with curls on their ears.  In commenting on it I got one telling reply.

Post:  I’ve just taken a cultural anthropology class (which makes me an authority on nothing). It would appear to me that it will be seen that incest is far more common than we used to think.

Family ties and shame might be seen as a cover for the vast majority of incest that occurs. It might be called the “silent shame.” Things really have to be bad to send a relative to jail – it destroys the family. And then there are degrees. Were the kids just fooling around or was there adult coercion? Was it a one-time lapse or was it an ongoing thing. It’s all the same to us. And it could mean a life of wearing an ankle bracelet – that’s how serious we take it.

Reply: – Evil knows no boundaries…Degrees of incest? One time lapse? Huh?Once is enough, isn’t it?

Post:  I was speaking about the pressures within a family context for not reporting. I don’t have much interest in incest except in the historical sense. In the world there are matr-, patri-, and bilateral kinship lines. We have a bilateral system: any one of our mother’s or father’s blood relatives is a blood relative and unmarriagable out to first cousin.

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In a patrilineal system any of your mother’s nieces is not in your lineage. Of course, historically none of this made any difference among the royal families of Europe, The royals were intent on maintaining their class control.

The Egyptian Ptolemies were another:  Cleopatra VII was married to her younger brother, Ptolemy XIII. Her mother and father, Cleopatra V and Ptolemy XII, had also been brother and sister. In Ancient GreeceSpartan King Leonidas I, hero of the legendary Battle of Thermopylae, was married to his niece Gorgo, daughter of his half brother Cleomenes I

In Rome, Caligula is rumored to have had sexual relationships with all three of his sisters (Julia LivillaDrusilla, andAgrippina the Younger).  Of course Caligula had other issues.  

Wikipedia, the workingman’s encyclopedia, has some  interesting articles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incest

I was not really surprised at the reply (from a respected acquaintance because there are few things that make people go bonkers like sex with children. Perhaps even one’s own children.  When I was growing up in the ‘50s incest was a mythical activity.  We knew it possible but who could get excited about someone whose dirty shorts one has seen innumerable times?

Wiki -Research indicates that 46% of children who are raped are victims of family members (Langan and Harlow, 1994). The majority of American rape victims (61%) are raped before the age of 18; furthermore, 29% of all forcible rapes occurred when the victim was less than 11 years old. 11% of rape victims are raped by their fathers or step-fathers, and another 16% are raped by other relatives.

The total number of rape victims, of course is difficult to know.  The most salient point of contention, I think is the notion of sex with children.

The Maasai, for example have no restriction for girls eight to first menses  having sex with young warriors up to 30.  They just may not get pregnant because at puberty they must marry an older man (30+) who has cattle for brideprice.  Apparently, the girls treat the warriors like rock stars.

In Papua New Guinea.  The Etoro, or Edolo, are a tribe and ethnic group of Papua New Guinea. Their territory comprises the southern slopes of Mt. Sisa, along the southern edge of the central mountain range of New Guinea, near the Papuan Plateau. They are well known among anthropologists because of the ritualhomosexuality practiced between young boys and men of the tribe. The Etoro believe that young boys must ingest the semen of their elders to achieve adult male status and to properly mature and grow strong. All Etoro believe themselves to contain a certain amount of life force, the highest concentrations of which is supposedly contained in semen. This life force is believed to pass between members of the group through sexual relations. As mentioned, when young, males have it passed to them through sex. Women are seen to waste the life force if they do not get pregnant through sex. As people get older and their bodies weaken this is attributed to a depletion of their life force. Homosexual behavior, particularly oral sex, is encouraged throughout youth for males, with different sexual roles fulfilled by adolescents of different ages. Heterosexuality is permitted only during a distinct time period of the year (about 100 days) and only in certain places (neither in sleeping quarters nor in the fields, but only in the woods). A woman who enjoys sex too much is seen as a witch trying to steal the life force from a man. Similarly, boys who grow too quickly are assumed to be sapping the life force from other boys. Seen as too sex-hungry, he might be shunned as a witch.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etoro_tribe

Well, this has been an interesting, if abbreviated, tour of sexual customs treated in any undergraduate cultural anthropology course.  I have no interest in incest or sex with children and only seek to contrast our Western cultural perspective with those of other societies in history. 

Feel free to comment but try to avoid profanity:  I may not know all those words. – carlos

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About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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