The Incest Taboo

The incest taboo is one of those tricky moral question for people who don’t accept some sort of divine command form of morality. Consider this case from Gawker:

David Epstein, 46, a political science professor at Columbia University, was arrested and charged with a single felony count of incest on Wednesday. He was reportedly engaged in a three-year-long consensual sexual relationship with his 24-year-old daughter.


Given that the relationship (apparently) ended a year ago, and it was (apparently) consensual, and the woman was (apparently) over 18 when it began, it’s unclear what prompted the investigation, or why Epstein was arrested now, or whether or not his daughter is or was also under investigation.

How do we feel about this? Other than “eewwwwww!” For the sake of the discussion, let’s assume that the bare bones story is accurate and that there was no harm done, no pregnancy resulted and everything was consensual. Granted, there’s the issue of adultery, but the professor likely wouldn’t have been arrested for that.

Or how about this case of a mother breastfeeding her six year old son from the Daily Mail (sorry custador, but at least it’s not one of their editorials.):

The love between mother and son is ­tangible. But there is something intensely uncomfortable about this scene — a child big enough to prop himself up to suckle, jostling at his ­mother’s breast with his infant brother.

William is a baby, completely ­dependent on his mother. Jonathan is a small ­person, rapidly becoming a bigger ­person, and at his age many little boys would grimace at the thought of ­suckling at mummy’s breast, let alone competing with a baby sibling.

Many mothers, too, will find ­Amanda’s decision to breastfeed a six-year-old and a five-month-old simultaneously ­shocking and even distasteful.

This caused a pretty intense reaction from the folks at Scotteriology, where you’d think repeated viewings of the New Mystics would have deadened their sense of horror.

This is clearly against tradition and triggers some worries about incest, as well as a sense of revulsion from many. (That said, breast feeding seems to set some people off for some reason.) But by what rationale could we say that it is immoral?

And no, I don’t think I’m going to give this post an image.

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