Will legalising homosexuality encourage incest?
(Authors note: Before forming judgment, I urge readers to read this article to the end.)
After the United States Supreme Court legalised homosexual marriage across America, those in favour of equal LGBT rights showed their support across the world. Here in Pakistan, Facebook users had their profile pictures covered with a rainbow filter to show solidarity with the ruling.
This upset many Pakistanis who are against homosexuality, including actor/intellectual Hamza Ali Abbasi, who feared mankind was now rolling down a slippery slope and that the backdoor to sexual deviations had been opened.
For this article, I accepted questions from Pakistani Facebook users of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, which I shall address shortly. Let’s start with Hamza Ali Abbasi.
One of the arguments presented by the actor was that if we are celebrating homosexuality, then what’s stopping us from celebrating incest next?
Let’s look at homosexuality and heterosexuality as two sides of the same coin. According to scientists, they are both sexual orientations developed by genetics.
If heterosexuality is like driving a car, and homosexuality is like driving a motorbike, then incest is like driving into a volcano. You could drive into a volcano on a motorbike or a car, but either prohibiting or allowing bike-riding will not affect the road to the volcano. It still exists.
In short, homosexuality and heterosexuality are merely a mode of transportation. If you think about it, they are only sexualities. You can be harmless or harmful as either.
Incest, on the other hand, like rape or child molestation, is a dark destination. It is only harmful.
Argument: If you legalise homosexuality, fathers will be more likely to prey on their sons and other boys in the family. Hence, legalising homosexuality encourages incest and child molestation. (Sent in by various people)
This is a common argument from heterosexual men and women. Does the legalisation of heterosexuality make underage people of the opposite sex more attractive to you? Heterosexuality is legal, yet most of you aren’t on a molestation spree, thank goodness. So why would legalising homosexuality encourage molestation or incest when heterosexuality does not?
In simpler words, heterosexuality is acceptable, but does it make the molestation of young girls at the hands of men, or young boys at the hands of women acceptable? Of course it doesn’t.
In fact, studies show incest is related to sexual suppression. It sometimes occurs in families where people do not have legal outlets. So an argument can be made that legalising homosexuality actually discourages incest.
I would like to cite an example shared with me by a user online anonymously. It is a common case in this nation. A Pakistani homosexual man married a heterosexual woman due to family pressure. He kept his sexuality a secret from everyone, including his wife. This was several decades ago in Pakistan when homosexuality was even more taboo than it is now.
Unable to find an outlet for his true orientation, this person began sexually abusive behaviour including incestuous advances towards people of the same gender in his own family. In essence, incest was inadvertently encouraged because homosexuality was unacceptable.
Argument: Child molesters are now demanding the same rights as homosexuals. (Sent by Anonymous)
As I explained above, it is not nearly the same thing. Legalising homosexuality is legalising homosexual intimacy between adults. A child molester needs an innocent young person to take advantage of. That’s illegal for any sexual orientation. A child molester can be heterosexual as well, yet heterosexuality is perfectly legal.
Argument: You say homosexuality and heterosexuality are only legal between consenting adults. By the same argument, can you not argue in favour of incest between consenting adults? If two members of the family above the age of 18 wish to be intimate, then are you in favour of them also? What’s the difference? And if you have no argument against it, then isn’t legalising homosexuality paving the road for legalising incest? (Asked by various people)
Studies show adults in homosexual relationships can be just as functional or dysfunctional as those in heterosexual relationships. Yet, studies reveal that incest even between adults is psychologically detrimental and deeply damaging.
Legalising incest between consenting adults means that those who are living in a family dynamic in a society where incest is legal, and carry such feelings, will live in sexual tension until they achieve intimacy. Some families stay together for 18 years before offspring are old enough to give legal consent or move out of the home. That’s 18 years where molestation is likely increasingly. It is a harmful environment for a child. At the very least, a father or a mother will be waiting till their child is of legal age for incest, which is deeply damaging for the family.
Writing for The Psychiatric Times, Richard P Kluft expands on the matter:
“Incest often leads to traumatic bonding, a form of relatedness in which one person mistreats the other with abuse, threats, intimidation, beatings, humiliations, and harassment but also provides attention, some form of affection, and connectedness.”
William Saletan at Slate weighs in:
“Incestuous connections lead to an overlap of family relationships and social roles and thus to a disturbance of a family bereft of (clear) assignments… Children of an incestuous relationship have great difficulty finding their place in the family structure and building relationships of trust with their next caregivers. The vital function of the family for the human community… is crucially disturbed if its ordered structure is shaken by incestuous relations.”
Argument: Well, if you can argue that legalising incest between adults encourages molestation, then why can’t you argue that legalising homosexuality between adults will also encourage molestation? Isn’t it the same thing? (Sent in by anonymous)
I’ll say it again, legalising homosexuality allows adults to seek relationships with other homosexual adults. This is the same for heterosexuality. Homosexual or heterosexual relations can be achieved with another person of any family, yet incest by definition means seeking intimacy with your own family member. As I explained above, living under the same roof for at least 18 years with another person who desires you leads to various issues, especially if incest is legal.
Argument: But alright, for argument’s sake, why should incest be illegal even between consenting adults? Let’s just talk about incest between adults.
Aside from the psychological, there are numerous biological issues resulting from incest. In Pakistan, certain diseases are already increasing in villages where the gene pool is shrinking due to marriages between cousins. Now imagine the biological complications between children of directly related parents or siblings!
Argument: What if the adults in an incestuous relationship use protection during intimacy?
Contraception isn’t a guarantee. It is a risk with grave outcomes. A child from this union has a significantly higher chance of developing grave physical and psychological problems.
Even if there are no chances for children, the consequences are grave.
According to William Saletan:
“When a young man falls in love with another man, no family is destroyed. Homosexuality is largely immutable, as the chronic failure of ‘ex-gay’ ministries attests. So if you forbid sex between these two men, neither of them is likely to form a happy, faithful heterosexual family. The best way to help them form a stable family is to encourage them to marry each other.
Incest spectacularly flunks this test. By definition, it occurs within an already existing family. So it offers no benefit in terms of family formation. On the contrary, it injects a notoriously incendiary dynamic— sexual tension— into the mix. Think of all the opposite-sex friendships you and your friends have cumulatively destroyed by ‘crossing the line’. Now imagine doing that to your family. That’s what incest does. Don’t take my word for it. Read ‘The Kiss’. Or the sad threads on pro-incest message boards. Or what Woody Allen’s son says about his dad:
‘He’s my father married to my sister. That makes me his son and his brother-in-law. That is such a moral transgression. I cannot see him. I cannot have a relationship with my father …’”
To sum it up:
“Homosexuality is an orientation. Incest isn’t. If the law bans gay sex, a lesbian can’t have a sex life. But if you’re hot for your sister, and the law says you can’t sleep with her, you have billions of other options. Get out of your house, for God’s sake. You’ll find somebody to love without incinerating your family.”
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.