Re: Inbreeding (was Bestiality in Prax?)

From: Andrew Larsen <aelarsen_at_YWyCpEDcqAkujTK85BNaNppsfWw_eu3R69RFwD5PIkHMij01gxN1byQhY6yHdADKgV_>
Date: Mon, 20 Feb 2012 06:48:01 -0600

On Feb 19, 2012, at 10:43 PM, Peter Metcalfe wrote:

> On 2/20/2012 1:13 PM, Andrew Larsen wrote:
> > It's worth pointing out that different cultures use different definitions of incest. Our modern definition tends to emphasize close blood relationship. Sex between siblings is definitely incest, sex between first cousins is probably incest, sex between second cousins probably isn't. Sex between step-siblings, or step-parent and step-child (like Woody Allen) isn't incest, but seems close enough to it to be creepy.
> > For comparison, the 12th century Church definition of incest was very different. Seventh cousins were unable to marry for reasons of incest. Fictive ties such as a marriage and god-parentage also applied, so that one could not marry the sister of your sibling's spouse. Nor could you marry someone related to your godparent or the priest who baptized you, or the relatives of anyone you had had sex with (so sleeping with your wife's sister is incest).
> The medieval church definitions of incest were largely an artifact of
> church lawyers having far too much time on their hands.

interesting fact, given that the expansive definition of incest predates the concept of canon law as a field of study. The former is 8th-9th century, the later 11th-12th century. There were no 'canon lawyers' at the time these rules were developed by various meetings of clergy. And there's been a good deal of scholarly debate about why the 8th century Church suddenly promulgated a much more expansive notion of incest than it had accepted before. The state of the debate, the last I read about it (which was about 15 years ago, admittedly) is that it's a problem in need of a solution.

> What the Church
> said and what it was capable of enforcing were two different things. An
> expanded definition of incest was only significant at the upper levels
> of society and even then from the examples I've seen, it was used mostly
> as a reason to annul marriages (ie a "get out of marriage free card")

Yes it was frequently waived, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't taken seriously.

> rather than a prohibition on impending marriages (cf the Hapsburgs which
> is replete with first cousin and uncle-niece marriages).
> Most european
> christians operated with the standard definition of incest, ie having it
> off with your family is disgusting.

Out of curiosity, what is your evidence for this claim?

        And even if I grant you this, which I don't, it doesn't refute my point that definitions of incest vary from culture to culture. If you want a few other examples, Jewish laws on incest (which vary from code to code) are different for men and women--a man may marry his deceased grandfather's wife, while a woman may not marry her deceased grandmother's husband, for example. In Islamic law, you are considered related to any person who nursed from the woman who nursed you and therefore may not marry them. I believe Hinduism considers incest to be anything closer than 7th cousins, much the way the High Medieval Church did. In the US, the legal definition of incest varies from state to state--in Alabama it's only incest if you are aware of the relationship (so if you sleep with your long-lost sister not know who she is, it's not incest).

	My point is that given the enormous variations from one Gloranthan society to another in things like how women are treated, how marriage operates, and how the gods are understood, it's sort of silly to think that there would be only one definition of incest that was used universally. I'll bet the Pelorians are much more finicky about this than the Sartarites are.
	It's also worth pointing out that most social scientists no longer see incest taboos as being ways of preventing the biological effects of in-breeding.  It's generally seen as a way to prevent sexual jealousy and rivalry between males of the same family.  Without prohibitions like that, sexual rivalry between fathers and sons would become a regular source of conflict within families.  

Andrew E. Larsen

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]            

Powered by hypermail