Interrogating Incest: Feminism, Foucault, and the Law

Interrogating Incest: Feminism, Foucault, and the Law

Interrogating Incest: Feminism, Foucault, and the Law

Interrogating Incest: Feminism, Foucault, and the Law

Synopsis

Winner of British Sociological Association Philip Abrams Memorial Prize 1993 Within feminism incest has often been subsumed under a discussion of sexual violence and abuse. Yet, important as this is, there has been little account of how feminist work itself relates to other ways of talking about and understanding incest.
In Interrogating IncestVikki Bell focuses on the issue of incest and its place in sociological theory, feminist theory and criminal law. By examining incest from a critical Foucauldian framework she considers how feminist discourse on incest itself fits into existing ways of talking about sex. Closely surveying the historical background to incest legislation and the theoretical issues involve, Vikki Bell delineates their practical implications and shows what uncomfortable questions and important dilemmas are raised by the criminalisation of incest.

Excerpt

The more I read, and the more that women talked to me about their experiences, the more it became clear that not only was I looking at father-daughter rape, but also at a phenomenon of epic proportions…an enormous proportion of girl-children raped, molested, abused and used by their father, stepfather, de facto father, grandfather, uncle, brother; the whole hidden from view by the resounding silence of the ‘incest taboo’.

(Ward, 1984:3)

This book arises out of the observation that within feminism incest has been subsumed under a discussion of sexual violence, which, whilst politically important, has meant that not much time has been spent considering how feminist work relates to other ways of talking about incest. These other ‘understandings’ of incest have been depicted as myths that maintain a silence about the realities of sexual abuse within the household. the notion of the incest taboo and the issue of consensual incest, which once attracted the attention of the ‘founding fathers’ of sociology, have been defined out of the remit of the feminist work, not because of a refusal to acknowledge their existence, but because they have not presented themselves as feminist issues. But suppose we put the feminist work ‘back’ into the sociological debates around incest. How would a feminist perspective refigure those sociological debates? What impact would such an exercise have on the feminist position?

In 1989 the Sunday Mirror reported the following case, that of a woman who

Ditched her husband and deserted her family to start a new life with her father…. She said: ‘it seemed the most natural

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