Incest Taboo Essay

1693 Words Jun 4th, 2006 7 Pages
Incest is a word that is often misunderstood but universally considered taboo. While incest is listed as a criminal offense, many health care professionals have no clear idea of what constitutes incest or some incestuous acts are reportable by law. There are endless academic writings on the subject, yet may confuse rather than clarify because of lack of adequate definitions. Incest may be considered one of the only universal taboos, however, there is no uniformity as to which degrees are involved in the prohibitions. Through this paper I intend to further examine the different definitions of incest and I hope to clarify what incest may or may not be.
First we must look at why incest is considered harmful to our societies. The primary
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North Carolina permits first cousins to marry unless they are "double first cousins" (cousins through more than one line). Maine permits first cousins to marry only upon presentation of a certificate of genetic counseling. The remaining nineteen states and the District of Columbia permit first-cousin marriages without restriction. (Search, 67)
According to many anthropologists, the relationship between sexual and marriage practices is complex, and societies distinguish between different sorts of prohibitions. In other words, although an individual may be prohibited from marrying or having sexual relations with many people, different sexual relations may be prohibited for different reasons, and with different penalties. For example, Trobriand Islanders prohibit both sexual relations between a man and his mother, and between a woman and her father, but they describe these prohibitions in very different ways: relations between a man and his mother fall within the category of forbidden relations among members of the same clan; relations between a woman and her father do not. This is because the Trobrianders are matrilineal; children belong to the clan of their mother and not of their father. Thus, sexual relations between a man and his mother's sister are also considered incestuous, but relations between a man and his father's sister are not.

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