Saturday, August 27, 2016

An Interview with An Incest Advocate

Uncommon Journalism speaks with one of the world's foremost pro-consanguinamory activists about the efforts underway to destigmatize what is often considered the ultimate sexual taboo - inter-family sexual attraction. 

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME? The Friends of Lily symbol, designed by founder Cristina Shy, has been adopted as the official emblem of the pro-consanguinamory movement - a fledgling effort to normalize inter-family sexual relationships.

By: James Swift

In Feb. 2016, 36-year-old Monica Mares and her 19-year-old son Caleb Peterson of Clovis, N.M., were arrested and charged with incest - a fourth degree felony under state law.

The two were arraigned in April, but remained in custody for breaching a "no-contact order." Originally scheduled for Aug. 25, Mares' trial has been pushed back to late October. She and her son, who is receiving a separate trial, could potentially face a maximum penalty of $5,000 or three years in prison for their offense

Although hesitant to speak with American media, the two have discussed their relationship in-depth to The Daily Mail

"I never thought I was crazy for having these feelings because I didn't see her as my mom, it was more like going to a club and meeting a random person. It didn't feel wrong, it felt normal," Peterson, who was given up for adoption as an infant and met his mother for the first time last year, told the U.K. publication. "Honestly I never thought we would get into trouble for our relationship. We were both consenting adults - when it comes down to it. She's adult, I'm adult, I can make my own decisions. I never thought it would blow up into something like this."

The case raises many intriguing - and to some, unsettling - questions about the inherent privacy rights of consenting adults. Indeed, the case has become something of a flashpoint for proponents of "consanguinamory" - what is most commonly referred to, legally, as incest. 

Perhaps surprising to some, there is a fairly sizable online contingent of pro-incest activists on the Web. Up until recently, most communities were more or less niche forums for individuals to anonymously discuss their inter-family relationships and "genetic sexual attraction" (or GSA) to their own kin. Many were hardly a step above fetish porn, with users inundating the message boards with lurid yarns instead of discussing the deeper nuances of the lifestyle. 

But now there is a growing movement for consanguinamory proponents to "come out of the closet," so to speak, and rally for GSA acceptance. They have names like Lily's Gardener, so named after a popular romance series penned by Diane Rinella that focuses on the exploits of a heroine sexually involved with her brother. Other online communities, such as The Final Manifesto and Full Marriage Equality, wrap incest under a wider umbrella alongside polyamory and same sex relationships as consensual, non-harmful adult activities they argue legislatures have no business governing. 

One of the most notable advocacy blogs on the net, simply titled Consanguinamory, is operated by a woman in her 30s in the United Kingdom, who uses the nom de plum "Jane Doe." Recently, Uncommon Journalism interviewed the founder of the site to shine more light on the blossoming pro-consanguinamory movement, outline the goals of pro-GSA acceptance efforts and make her case for why inter-family, consensual adult sexual relations should not only be legalized, but socially accepted a'la the LGBT movement.

To begin, tell us a little about your website. When did you start your site, and what inspired you to found a website dedicated to advocacy of consanguinamory?

I started setting up the website on Jan. 4, so in terms of how long it's been around, only a short time in the grand scheme of things. I've been in and out of various incest communities my whole adult life, and after a five-year hiatus from such sites after me and my dad broke up, I came back and saw that many things had changed for the better. I saw the Full Marriage Equality website and The Final Manifesto site, and that's pretty much when I decided that I had something important to contribute to the movement. I wanted to cover the topic from a personal angle, where Full Marriage Equality covers it from a more political perspective, and The Final Manifesto covers it from a more scientific angle. While the subject of the content of the websites greatly overlaps, doing it from a different angle means that collectively we appeal to a wider audience. Some people are going to prefer my style where others will prefer other styles. I was very much inspired by their work and realized that if they could set up their own websites to educate the public, then so could I.

The online communities had changed a great deal during my absence, with the GSA and non-GSA parts of the community now being united. With this new unity I felt that there was a base from which I could work more effectively.

For those unfamiliar with the term “consanguinamory,” how would you explain the concept in one or two sentences? Do you consider the terms “consanguinamory” and “genetic sexual attraction” interchangeable?

Consanguinamory is the combination of two words, "consanguine" meaning "related" and the French word "amore" meaning "love," so in the most literal way, consanguinamory means "lovers of family." It's an umbrella term for all relationships between relatives which does include those initiated by GSA, but also includes non-GSA consensual incest where there was never any separation and reunion. I would also include relationships between first cousins as consanguinamory too, although some may disagree with me on that point. So to answer your question, the terms are not interchangeable in that consanguinamory is more inclusive where GSA is specific to those who did not meet until adulthood.

When you hear the term “incest,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? To you, what are the big differences, conceptually, between “consanguinamory” and “incest?”

Consanguinamory refers to the relationships and the feelings behind them, where incest is the action of having sex with somebody who is closely related. Sadly when the word "incest" is used, a lot of people tend to assume that it's child abuse or rape being referred to, which is not the case at all. It doesn't help when the mainstream media reports that somebody has been arrested for incest, and doesn't even bother to report whether the participants were consenting adults or whether it was a case of an adult abusing a child. The two things are very different.

Can you give us a brief account of your own experiences with consanguinamory? How long have you had a consanguineous relationship, and why did you ultimately decide to go public about your experiences?

Well, I fell in love with my dad back when I was 19. It wasn't something either of us had planned, it just happened. I mean, we had always been very close as father and daughter, and were good friends. We just began seeing each other in a different light, and it seemed to progress naturally into us having a relationship. I wanted to go public about it on my site because I think it's important for people to understand that these things do happen to people, and that even non-GSA parent/offspring relationships can be healthy and loving, same as any other type of relationship. We had eight years together, but sadly he broke it off with me. Part of this was fear of us being discovered and part of it was that he was dealing with a lot of misplaced guilt over our relationship. That's extremely common for parents to feel that way because of what society says about incest being inherently unhealthy. The majority opinion on the matter is actually based on a lot of ignorance and fear, and that is what I am trying to tackle with my website, by giving people the facts.

My full story is here.

Generally, are the individuals you encounter who are in consanguinamorous relationships more interested in normalizing genetic sexual attraction or do they intend on remaining “in the closet,” so to speak?

There are many people who would love for these relationships to be normalized and understood, but understandably there is a lot of fear about coming out because of the legal trouble it can bring into people's lives, so there really is a mixture of opinions on this. On the whole, non-GSA people are much more likely to remain in the closet, and I think this is because they are, by and large, assuming that people are going to be less understanding of how it works than they would be of GSA. I think maybe more regulars can understand the reasons for the absence of the Westermarck Effect for GSA people because they were not raised together, but it is much more difficult to get them to wrap their heads around the idea that some people just lack the Westermarck Effect for whatever reason (I myself would love to know why, but sadly none of us do), and that for this reason some people are actually more drawn to those who are close relatives.

Did you experience any conflicted emotions during your consanguineous relationship? Did you ever experience guilt or confusion, and was there ever a point where you finally “accepted” your relationship and your genetic sexual attraction?

I did experience a lot of conflict at first, like I was telling myself off for even thinking it, like saying, "He's your dad, what are you thinking!" Like most people, I had accepted the idea that "incest is bad and abnormal," and yet here I was falling in love with my dad and it felt so normal and natural. So when we were in a relationship at the very earliest days I figured that we must have been somehow exceptions to the general rule. Then I decided to go online and look for others, and back then the community was a very different place. GSA people had their own separate forums, and non-GSA people pretty much had to find each other using porn forums that we were sharing with the fetish communities. Took me a little while to find other genuine people on there, but once I did I realized that for one of us, I was actually pretty normal, indeed. So the process of finding others helped me to accept myself as I am and to realize that sometimes, society can be wrong about things.

What can you tell us about the online consanguinamory community? How long did it take you to find fellow individuals who engaged in consanguineous relations, and at what point did you become inspired to advocate for consanguinamory acceptance?

The current community is composed of both GSA and non-GSA people, and we have a forum on which I am one of the main administrators and we require our members to post a brief introduction before we can upgrade them to see the rest of the forums. This means we can weed out any potential spies, trolls or underage users, while at the same time providing a safe space where people can discuss their relationships. The servers are in France where incest is legal, meaning that the governments of less liberal countries cannot just subpoena the forum contents and locations of members. I also encourage people to use Tor for security reasons, too. I am also one of three admins at the I Support FULL Marriage Equality! Facebook group, and I post links to my articles in there.

Back when I was new to online incest communities it took me quite some time to find other genuine people, mostly because of the fact that the old forums were shared with fetishists who posted complete nonsense. This time around it took me a day because the forums aren't shared with idiots and it's pretty much just genuine people and some allies.

This time around when I realized that we had a proper genuine community now and that the GSA and non-GSA communities were now united and not separate, and I saw the Full Marriage Equality and The Final Manifesto websites, I realized I had a lot to offer to the community and it took less than a week before I took the plunge and set up my own site. It all happened very quickly because between signing up for the forums and setting up my blog it was a matter of four days, and within three weeks I became an admin at the forums.

Just how common are consanguineous relationships? Do you have any sort of statistics for the percentage of Americans who are or have engaged in consanguinamory?

Sadly, there isn't a great deal in terms of statistics for obvious reasons, a lot of people will not want to admit to having incestuous relationships. That said, we can look to the fact that other non-standard forms of sexuality run at about 5 percent of the population. About this number of people are LGBT, about this number are polyamorous, and so it stands to reason that 5 percent of the population are consanguinamorous. In real terms that is about one in 20 people who has either had an experience with consanguinamory or has wanted to. This means that everyone knows somebody who has been involved at some point in their lives. So it isn't uncommon, it is simply not talked about because of the taboo, and the lack of communication makes consanguinamory appear to be rare when in fact it is not.

Is there any variety of consanguineous relationship (parent/child, sibling/sibling, etc.) that tends to occur most often?

Yes, it is most common between siblings. I'm actually running a survey at the moment which is running until May 25 to find out some demographic data on us, along with people's general attitudes and feelings within the community and the impact that discrimination is having on their lives and well being. You can always get back to me after that date for the results of the survey, I will publish them on my website, anyway.

Is genetic sexual attractions something that, from your experiences, tends to occur disproportionately among individuals who grew up adopted or separated from their family (as with the Clovis, N.M. case?) If so, what do you think may be some of the underlying factors for this?

It is currently estimated that around 50 percent of reunited relatives will experience feelings of GSA, whether or not they choose to act on them. It's a known fact that most people are to some degree drawn to people which they are similar to, but usually the Westermarck Effect prevents people from becoming attracted to close relatives. In GSA, that had no chance to develop and so when people are reunited they see all these amazing similarities and in the absence of the Westermarck Effect it can and does lead to relationships being formed.

As an activist for consanguinamory, what exactly are you rallying for, in terms of legislative changes and efforts to promote cultural acceptance?

We would like to be fully integrated into society as one minority group amongst many, with full equal rights including marriage rights. The only way this can be achieved is to educate the public about consanguinamorous people, and to get them to see us as normal people and not as weirdos or perverts. It's pretty much the exact same battle as the LGBT community had to fight to get equality, and believe it or not most of the objections to consanguinamory are identical arguments that were used historically to oppress gay people. So while the battle may look pretty bleak to some, it is far from hopeless and all it takes is time and education.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a consanguinamory advocate? Generally, how accepting is the American public to consanguinamory, and what do you feel is the most difficult aspect of changing cultural attitudes about genetic sexual attraction?

I think that the hardest part is getting regulars to see us how we really are not not as they fear us to be. There is a lot of misinformation out there about consanguinamory, and the hardest part is getting people past the typical knee-jerk reaction that incest is somehow inherently wrong or bad. Most people are grossed out by the idea, which is fine, but it's a case of getting them to see that jailing people for doing something that some other people find gross is not a good basis for sound lawmaking.

How do you respond to those who say that consanguinamory should remain illegal for health reasons and to safeguard children from abuse?

Actually, I am glad that you have asked me that, because it is one of the most common and emotionally charged objections that are raised. First of all, we're talking about incest between consenting adults, we are not talking about sex with minors. The age of consent should remain the same, and should protect all children from predation by adults both related and otherwise. We do not argue that all sex must be bad because of a schoolteacher who seduces an underage student (which is the non-incestuous equivalent), likewise we should not condemn all consanguinamory because of a parent who seduces their underage offspring. We can and should keep the laws against child abuse, if anything such laws should be fortified with harsher penalties for those who do molest children. Also, criminalizing consenting adults does absolutely nothing towards protecting children from sexual abuse.

Are there any other “marriage equality” factions your cause has received support from? What sort of interaction are pro-consanguinamory advocates having with LGBT and polyamory activist groups, for example?

Currently there isn't, mostly because LGBT communities fear that supporting us would harm their own cause. It's funny you should ask this question about it at this time, because I wrote an article on this very subject [recently]. I would very much like to hear from other advocate groups and to network with them. I believe that only if all of us stick together for the rights of all consenting adults can true equality be realized in society.

And lastly, what’s your number one reason why you believe consanguinamory should be legal across the nation? For those who are vehemently opposed to genetic sexual attraction, what would you like to say to them to explain your argument for why consanguinamory should not only be legal, but considered culturally permissible?

It should be legal because it is immoral to discriminate against people who are not causing any harm to anyone and who simply want to live their lives in peace. I would argue that it is very easy for people to pass a judgement on others that they do not understand, and that society does not gain anything by oppressing minorities. If they could for even a moment put themselves in the shoes of somebody who has fallen in love with a family member, who then must hide their love from the world on pain of being jailed - how would anyone feel about such unfair treatment? Empathy is the key to understanding us and accepting us. We are more similar to everyone else than we are different, and once that is understood we can build on that common ground and become accepted.

Uncommon Journalism, 2016.

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