Sex before eight or else it's too late.
-Slogan of the
Rene Guyon Society
MANY parents avoid dealing with their children's eroticism because of conscious or unconscious fears of incest. Many fathers recoil in dismay at a partial erection while wrestling with a daughter, or-even more disquieting-with a son. Yet children continue to rub, hug, and feel parents. Parents react by limiting the amount and kind of contact. They shun kissing children on the lips, remain fully clothed when youngsters are about, and avoid prolonged physical contact. Kissing becomes a conventional gesture-limited, predictable, and safe. This is necessary, at least for the comfort of the parents.
Do early sexual experiences erode children's morals, increase criminal behavior, and promote indiscriminate lust? These are commonly held assumptions. Data from other societies indicate that these dangers are grossly exaggerated. But what of our own culture? The slum and the commune are scarcely typical of our family structure. There is one event that occurs in all strata of society and that provides young sters with intense erotic stimulation-incest. While incest can lead to serious problems, it is not always harmful. (Finch, 1973; Sarles; Yorukoglu, 1966; Rassmussen, 1934; Bender, 1952; Schlacter, 1960) A study of incest aids in our understanding of children's sexuality.
Incest taboos are the strictest and most ubiquitous moral constraints known. (Henderson, 1975; Murdock, 1949) They exist not only in human society but also in chimpanzee and monkey groups. For instance, male chimpanzees living in the wild do not copulate with their mothers. Brother and sister chimpanzees may mate with each other, but less frequently and less enthusiastically than with other chimpanzees. Father chimpanzees apparently do not recognize their offspring and may couple with their own daughters. (Jensen, 1972; Goodall, 1958) Human cultures are analogous in that only mother-and-son incest is universally prohibited.
Legends and plays have depicted incest throughout history. Marriage between brother and sister was not uncommon in ancient Egypt if the children were related only through the father. It was prohibited if the two were born of the same mother. Cleopatra was a product of a series of such incestuous marriages and eventually, in spite of Caesar, did marry her brother. Among the ancient Greeks and Hebrews, marriage among family members was permitted in order to conserve wealth and power. The Bible describes incest between Lot and his daughters after the death of Lot's wife. Salome had an incestuous relationship with her stepfather, who was also her uncle. In Greek mythology, Zeus married his sister Hera to produce a family of lesser gods. The legends of Oedipus and Phaedra warned of the inevitable death and destruction which would ensue after the rupture of the incest taboo.
Most cases of incest are never reported, and accurate statistics are not available. It appears to be most frequent in overcrowded dwellings and in isolated rural areas. (Lutier, 1972; Lustig, 1966; Weinberg, 1955) Alcoholism, poverty, retardation, emotional deprivation, and difficulties in sexual adjustment are also implicated. (Tormeys; Weiner, 1962) Immediate factors, such as the mother's absence, increase the likelihood of father-and-daughter incest.
According to Weinberg's study of 203 cases, 78 percent of incest occurs between fathers and daughters or stepfathers and stepdaughters. Eighteen percent is between brothers and sisters, and one percent between mothers and sons. The remaining three percent are multiple relationships. Sibling incest is least often reported and is usually handled within the family. Incest between prepubertal children commonly follows a pattern of normal sex play, leading eventually to heterosexual intercourse with no particular emotional damage.