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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Nature Abhors a Motherfucker

posted by on April 9 at 12:23 PM

You’ve always known that envisioning sex with your dad/mom/sister/brother makes you want to die, now ABC News tells you why:

[R]esearch suggests that the vast majority of us are hard-wired for revulsion when it comes to the idea of sex between a father and daughter or other family members…Evidence of such an inherent distaste for incest can be seen in studies on chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary relative. While chimps are known to be promiscuous—arguably even more so than humans—several studies have shown that they will also avoid having sex with other chimps with whom they can sense they are related.

At the heart of this tendency to avoid sibling incest is a principle known as the Westermarck effect. For reasons not yet completely understood, boys and girls involved in frequent rough-and-tumble play in childhood tend to not be sexually attracted to one another later in life. Though little research has been done that would suggest this effect also applies in father-daughter relationships, [researchers] believe that this is a distinct possibility—in other words, fathers who spend time raising their daughters from infancy are probably less likely to develop a sexual attraction toward them later.

All very interesting, but what about the recent case from Australia, where “John Deaves, 61, and his daughter Jenny, 39, have a 9-month-old daughter but have been banned from having sex after a court convicted the pair on two counts of incest”?

As sociology professor Jonathan Turner told ABC News, the Deaves’ aberrant behavior “could be linked to the fact that [the father] left the family home when his daughter was only an infant and that he did not see her for the next 30 years. Any Westermarck-like effect that could have existed between the father and daughter would therefore not have had the opportunity to develop.”

Yet another reason for fathers to avoid deserting their children: Not only might you saddle your offspring with paralyzing abandonment issues, you might end up boning them down the road.

Full story here.

P.S. The whole concept of inherent incest revulsion reminds me of an old Last Days item I wrote about a pair of teen brothers, one of whom raped their drunk-and-unconscious mother in front of the other, as some sort of punishment. Terrible, yes, but still I was surprised by the violent disgust the item inspired, particularly in straight male readers. Was mother-fucking really more disturbing that broiling a newborn or being surgically removed from a sofa? Apparently, for straight males, the answer was an unequivocal, visceral YES—and when I asked my fella Jake why straight guys were so disgusted by the idea of boning their moms, he offered some wisdom I’ll never forget: “Not everyone’s mom is as sexy as yours.” After I stopped vomiting, I asked him to marry me.

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Posted by elenchos | April 9, 2008 12:27 PM

Yes, but this theory does not account for nor justify the continued existence of Your Mama Don't Dance.

Posted by kid icarus | April 9, 2008 12:35 PM

anecdote that points to exception invalidates entire theory? cmon schmader.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 9, 2008 12:36 PM

What about the Ancient Egyptian pharoahs who were expected to marry their siblings and produce offspring? They somehow overcame the revulsion.

Posted by Johnny | April 9, 2008 12:39 PM

3: You're projecting. The story of the Australians is presented as support for the theory.

Posted by David Schmader | April 9, 2008 12:42 PM


Posted by Mr. Poe | April 9, 2008 12:45 PM

@4-- I bet they raised the boys and girls mostly apart as children.

Posted by hmm | April 9, 2008 12:47 PM

4, for all we know, the court customs kept the siblings fairly isolated from each other socially, which would have eliminated the revulsion. these sorts of domestic details weren't recorded.

and natalie angier writes about female chimps taking huge risks to sneak off and mate among exogamous male chimps in other chimp tribes, thus exposing themselves and their offspring to male wrath within their own group. there's something driving them to broaden the gene pool. i wonder if this urge is stronger in females than males, as angier does not write about male chimps doing the same thing, but rather, pressuring the females to do the opposite.

Posted by ellarosa | April 9, 2008 12:48 PM

There's a follow-up story on the Australian couple that indicates they didn't tell the whole truth. Apparently they first met when she was 15 (not 30) and they previously had a child that died from congenital heart problems.

Posted by facts | April 9, 2008 12:55 PM

Bonobos are an even better example than chimps, because they fuck all day long, and they've also been observed to refrain from incest. Also, the females have an instinctual urge to leave their home group when they reach puberty, and find an unrelated group to join.

Posted by julia | April 9, 2008 1:17 PM

The Westermarck Effect fucked with Israeli kibbutzim, too, since in most of them, all children were raised together in one house. Therefore, they couldn't imagine fucking one another, and if they liked the kibbutz lifestyle, had to seek a mate in a different one, kind of like the bonobos @10.

Posted by Gitai | April 9, 2008 1:40 PM

Raping for REVENGE? Yes, that's pretty fucking disgusting, terrible, and disturbing. It's better than broiling a newborn, but definitely worse than melding your ass to a sofa.

Really? Ass on a sofa is even close to revenge-raping your mom to get back at your brother? I think this is the first time that I may believe you really hate fat people, Dan.

Posted by Gloria | April 9, 2008 1:44 PM

Dan? Dan???

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 9, 2008 2:04 PM

@12 KeeRazy, FTW!

Posted by NaFun | April 9, 2008 2:08 PM

12: I'm the other Stranger homosexual with the initials "DS". Also, my comparison wasn't based on which act was morally the worst, I was just name-checking those items that seemed to haunt peoples' brains with upsetting imagery. (And the lady on the couch was definitely one of them.)

Posted by David Schmader | April 9, 2008 2:12 PM

Schmader: Help us out; please post some photos of your mom.

Posted by Olo | April 9, 2008 2:14 PM

@15: Oh, sorry, David. When I see incest, I think Dan.

I guess I have no point then.

Posted by Gloria | April 9, 2008 2:15 PM

And yes, I know you write Last Days.

I am crazy. Does a FTW mean just the win, or do I get a candy bar, or slap upside the head, or what?

Posted by Gloria | April 9, 2008 2:17 PM

Yay, I get such a boner for stories that deal with ev bio intelligently.

8, that would square nicely with the Claus Wedekind study which found that women prefer the smell of men who are genetically dissimilar to them. Since it's the females who invest more in reproduction, they would be expected to be the ones who would make sure they're not bearing substandard fetuses. If a male impregnates his sister, it's not much of a loss to him in terms of genetic fitness, but it's a huge loss to her.

Posted by Sister Y | April 9, 2008 2:33 PM

@18, it means you get to fuck like a bonobo for the rest of the day. Just not with your father.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 9, 2008 2:51 PM

If your friend's mom is sexier than your own, you're normal.

Posted by Sirkowski | April 9, 2008 2:52 PM

How in the world can this story include no mention of the Oedipus complex or the relatively 'common' practice of sexual molestation of one's own children?

Posted by johnnie | April 9, 2008 3:11 PM

@22-- actually its common for men to molest their step-children. Its much more rare for them to molest their own children that they've raised since infancy.

Posted by hmm | April 9, 2008 3:15 PM

On adoption sites, they warn about moms-sons and fathers-daughters reuniting after being separated since birth and being sexually attracted to each other. I should note the sites suggest NOT acting on those sexual urges. I think. And who hasn't had a crush on a cousin or three?

No analysis -- just observation.

Posted by idaho | April 9, 2008 10:39 PM

Actually, many studies suggest we're wired to be attracted to people who share around approximately the same amount of genes with us as our first cousins. Jared Diamond's "The Third Chimpanzee" is a good reference. Apparently we search out people with a certain amount of similarities (explains all those couples who look like brother and sister), even in terms of things we could only notice subconciously such as middle finger vs. index finger length ratios, or the minute differences in distances between eyes. But I suppose other factors such as the one mentioned here help us to make the distinction in between people with "just enough" similarities and too many.

Posted by mintygreen | April 10, 2008 10:30 AM

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