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

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

18
Brother-Sister Incest: Breaking the Myth of Mutuality

Much has been made of the fact that in a few societies, marriage between siblings was permitted or even required, as among the royal families of the ancient Egyptians and the Incas (e.g., Ford and Beach 1951, p. 112). Even in these cultures, however, brother-sister incest was not tolerated outside of the royal families.

Journalist Philip Nobile blithely maintains that "brother-sister relations are attended by fewer complications [than father-daughter cases], since domination is not a factor" ( 1977, p. 157). Author Warren Farrell--whose still unpublished research involved advertising for accounts of incest experiences, especially positive ones--reported that "the overwhelming majority" of the two hundred cases he analyzed were positive. More specifically, he claimed that "cousin-cousin (including uncle-niece and aunt-nephew) and brother-sister (including sibling homosexuality) relations, accounting for about half of the total incidence, are perceived as beneficial in 95 % of the cases" ( Nobile 1977, p. 126; emphasis added). It turned out, in fact, that it was frequently the perpetrator who perceived the experience as beneficial ( Herman1981).

Social anthropologist Robin Fox, one of the few researchers to give attention to brother-sister incest and to develop a theory to try to explain it, appears to assume that all sex between prepubescent children is harmless mutual sex play ( 1980). He also implies that incest occurring after puberty is equally mutual, though he does not say whether or not he regards it as innocuous.

Even David Finkelhor, one of the finest researchers on child sexual abuse, contributes to this sibling-incest-is-positive point of view. For example, he writes:

-270-

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