Incest In Popular Culture

The taboo topic of incest continually makes its way into every day conversation—an interesting prominence for something so controversial. Yet the frequency of these taboo conversational occurrences continues to increase. In the majority of these discussions, incestuous relationships are depicted as a “reluctant sexual experience” or worse.

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Could it be that the environment of sexual censorship on television during the 1940’s, ‘50s, 60’s, and 70s required all incest to be depicted in an immoral light? However, a surprising number of consenting relationships exist as well, and more recently, the way incest is being depicted in society has started raising questions as to the possibilities of incestuous relationships being consensually romantic. Examining the motivations of each represented incestuous coupling only furthers the acceptance of incest as a whole. Whether or not someone looks for incest, it’s readily stumbled upon. In fact, the topic of incest is so widely mentioned it’s guaranteed to show up at some point.

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Schools generally require young adults to explore mythology at some point in their education. While we often find mythological gods and goddesses involved in relationships riddled with incest, often these relationships contain lessons of a significant cultural relevance in today’s modern society. The Oedipus Trilogy is often required reading at the high school level. No one objects to these stories being read, examined, and then reexamined as a culturally important work. For many, these Greek Tragedies raise questions on the acceptability and impact of incestuous relationships. And the Oedipus Trilogy isn’t the only group of stories that high schooled youth run into regarding the topic of incest. Recommended books such as The Mayfair Trilogy by Anne Rice, V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradely, and Aztec by Gary Jennings all contain incest at some level.

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Incest permeates not only our everyday culture, but our pop culture as well. We easily see this in some of today’s most popular shows and movies. Witness Back To The Future and Star Wars. The currently popular Game of Thrones television series is certainly no stranger to incestuous sex. Likewise, the cult movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show features the beloved characters of Riff Raff and his sister Magenta who many debate maintain a sexual relationship. Lolita seems to be another cult move classic that captures the story of pseudo incest well enough to figure in a variety of film adaptations. The popular shows House, Numb3rs, Sons of Anarchy, and American Horror Story: Coven all touch on incestuous relationships in a variety of forms.

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The topic of incestuous relationships between cousins can be tough to debate despite the ever growing list of its acceptance within pop culture and dramatized depictions. Sometimes movies portray cousin relationships as consensual and completely acceptable, while other times the topic is dealt with carefully to meet censorship sensibility standards. Nevertheless, many different stories touch on sexual relationships between cousins, such as, Mansfield Park and Jane Eyre, which have become great works of literature. One popular film series that touches on a cousin romance is the ever classic Godfather Trilogy. This romantic relationship is depicted in a better light, if not completely acceptable as well. More frequently today, cousin relationships are being depicted as consensual bordering on assumptions of social acceptance.

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Today we find incest brought up in many different environments, in many different ways. Often we don’t even notice the presence of incest while taking the overall story as a whole. In movies and television shows, incest means guaranteed expansion and ever growing popularity with audiences. Today’s view is changing away from the established belief of forced sexual relationships. The realistic depictions of consented incestuous romances have us asking, “Just how taboo should incest be today?” Considering the controversy surrounding incest, the taboo is quite popular and embedded into our everyday culture. Just what the future holds regarding the legality of and social acceptance of incestuous relationships remains unclear. All Lot’s Cave knows is that incestuous erotica has never been so popular.

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King Solomon Married His Mother

The Biblical kings through the line of David were required to sleep with their mother’s in order to prove their ability to fertilize the land. The entire book, The Song of Solomon is a celebration of such incest. What evidence exists to back up such claims?

The Bible claims the maiden Abishag was chosen for her beauty, to engender “heat” in the aged King David (1 Kings 1:2). This “heat” was not mere warmth, but the sacred fire of sexual potency, without which no king could be allowed to rule. If an impotent king were kept in office, his land would become barren. Hence, when David failed to “know” Abishag, a more virile prince (Adonijah) immediately prepared to assume the throne, and “exalted himself saying, I will be king” (1 Kings 1:5). David’s death occurred with suggestive promptness after his failure of the virility test.

Abishag’s name might be related to the Hindu Abhiseka ceremony, the anointing of kings with the sacred fluid of the Goddess Sarasvati.[1] Front China to the Mediterranean, ancient kings derived their legitimation from a mating with the Goddess through her priestess surrogate.[2] Mesopotamian kings and their deified souls, the gods, were constantly described as “beloved” of the Goddess known as creatress of the earth and “maker of fate, she who decrees the fate of men and gods.”[3] Like the eastern Goddess, Abishag represented the land in the same was as Solomon’s bride, whose mating was chronicled in the requisite intimate detail by the Song of Solomon.

After David’s death, the queen mother chose between rival candidates Solomon and Adonijah. She crowned Solomon with her own hands (Song of Solomon 3:11), after the custom of royal women whose business it was to enthrone or depose kings, as in India, Egypt, and the lands of the Fertile Crescent.[4] However, Adonijah still had designs on the throne, as shown by his request for the hand of Abishag in marriage. To prevent this symbolically and politically significant marriage from taking place, Solomon had Adonijah murdered (1 Kings 2:17-25). The Bible fails to explain Solomon’s strangely violent reaction to Adonijah’s request; but it can only have meant that the crown was at stake. This in turn shows that the sexual union with his mother, Abishag, was a prerequisite for royal office.

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The Bible shows instance after instance of incest. Yes, all incest except between father and daughter appears to be banned by Mosaic Law, but I cannot find one example anywhere out of over 600 places in the Bible where incest is discussed that God in any way punishes it. In fact, as often as not, he seems to bless any offspring resulting from the union. What’s up with this?


[1] Gaster, 514.

[2] Boulding, 191.

[3] Pritchard, A.N.E. 1,65; 2, 17, 21, 135, 202.

[4] Boulding, 210.

Defining Incest

Ask anyone what incest is, and the answer will be almost immediate. Most people would consider incest any sexual act between biologically related family members. The definition is so ingrained in our culture, in which many people don’t even think twice about such definitions. While relationships between step-siblings or step-parent and their adult child, may not be culturally acceptable, most people would not consider it incest. There’s a standard, a line, which if crossed by biologically related individuals, constitutes incest. Whether the relation by blood was known prior to the act or not, it is still considered taboo. What’s actually surprising however is this cultural definition of incest isn’t always correct. We have to take a step back from what we’ve accepted, to truly understand what incest is.

The technical definition of incest is any sexual intercourse committed by people who otherwise would be too closely related to be married. While this definition at first seems obvious, in practice, it causes some issues to arise. First of all, it’s worth noting that any relationship between step parents, step siblings, or any such relation is completely permissible and legal as the two people can marry. Such a standard isn’t a problem, especially given the cultural acceptance of such relationships; the problem is actually in the definition. Marriage laws are determined by the individualized states, leaving different legal precedents, as well as exceptions. What happens is actually different definitions of incest variant by the state in which one lives. This can create quite the problem in actual practice.

For example, in over twenty states, marriage between first cousins is legal. That means that in those twenty some states, first cousin relationships are not classified as incestuous. The standard then for these relationships gets extremely difficult to navigate. Consider the difficulty of changing laws, let alone the varying difference between states. There’s not a single steady standard. It’s also worth noting that in almost every case, coming to the wrong conclusion of the law, can get one arrested. Incest is still a crime in many states, with severe consequences. Many of these legal standards are setup in order to prosecute violations of the law. In some cases, exceptions can be made, mainly due to religious reasons, making prosecuting these crimes even more difficult.

Problems don’t end though with the criminal difficulties. When it comes to the practical definitions for incest, they’re cut and dry. People within society don’t care if the behavior is legal, particularly if it goes against their moral standards. Because of this, societies have acceptable legal relationships that are persecuted because of ethics. In most cases, this prejudice can be harmful, with no real reason for the stigma. When it comes to incestuous relationships, there isn’t really a true reason to see it as taboo or unethical. Consented adult relationships hurt no one, and so the choice should be between those two individuals. Society however, often weighs in on these choices.

Defining incest, at first, seems easy enough. Making a true effort to look at how incest is defined however, leads often to confusion and dismay. The standards for incestuous behavior vary state to state, and may or may not be prosecuted. In society, incest is a topic that retains its taboo nature. Consented adult incestuous relationships that are legal in some states are looked up with stigma and prejudice. In some cases though, the taboo nature that has so captured incestuous behavior is lessening. People are starting to truly challenge the unconventional definitions of incest. With a new definition, often comes a better understanding.