The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women

By Diana E. H. Russell | Go to book overview

3
Can Incest Be Nonabusive?

In their classic work Patterns of Sexual Behavior ( 1951), Clellan Ford and Frank Beach point out that "among all peoples both partners in a mateship are forbidden to form sexual liaisons with their own offspring. This prohibition characterizes every human culture" (p. 112). In addition, they maintain that "strict regulations against intercourse between brothers and sisters are nearly as universal as those prohibiting parent-off spring relations" (p. 112). While Ford and Beach acknowledge that sexual intercourse between siblings does of course occur in this and many other societies, they contend that "it is always condemned and is believed to be relatively uncommon" (p. 112).

Patterns of Sexual Behavior was published in 1951, and it can no longer be said that brother-sister or even father-daughter incest is always condemned in the United States. For example, the René Guyon Society, with its slogan of "sex by age eight or else it's too late," doesn"t appear to be concerned about whether the participants are related or not ( Rush 1980). Dr. Alayne Yates, in her book Sex Without Shame ( 1978), argues more specifically that "incest between prepubertal children commonly follows a pattern of normal sex play, leading eventually to heterosexual intercourse with no particular emotional damage" (p. 114).

In his keynote address to the first national conference on the sexual abuse of children, held in 1979, LeRoy Schultz, a well-known expert on child sexual abuse, startled his audience by declaring that some incest "may be either a positive, healthy experience or at worst, neutral and dull" ( Janus 1981, p. 126). He is also quoted as saying that "there is no research to support the belief that the trauma of incest often results in neurotic or psychotic behavior" ( Janus 1981, p. 126). On the other hand, Dr. Suzanne Sgroi--also a well-known expert in the field--maintains that she has "never knowingly talked to a happy, well-adjusted, unconcerned incest

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