With the likes of Days of our Lives, traditions that force people to marry within their own families and low-profile celebrities writing books about their sexual involvement with parental figures, one can hardly say society isn’t aware of incest.

Incest is the practice of sexual relations between blood relations, a practice that is illegal in most places in the world.

From Greek mythology to the Bible, incestuous relations have existed throughout the ages. One of the most famous Greek incestuous stories is of Oedipus unknowingly killing his father so that he could marry his mother, only to have his eyes gouged out as a form of punishment from the gods. This is from where the term “Oedipus complex” was coined: when a boy is unnaturally obsessed and attracted to his mother.

One of the most obvious incestuous Biblical stories is that of Lot having had sex with both his daughters in order to preserve the family lineage. Ironically, this happened shortly after the party fled from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were destroyed by God for their shameless acts of immorality.

This act has been seen repeatedly in many cultures, where small and isolated societies, in the aim of preserving family purity, inter-marry. This unfortunately results in mangled genes, which have served as the best physical evidence of this now outlawed practice.

With the growing and open conversation around incest, Perdeby sought to find out what Tuks students felt about incestuous relationships, and whether such activities have become slightly more acceptable.

“If we look at past culture, you will see that our grandfathers and their grandfathers married their cousins. What an old person would tell you is that, traditionally, if your family chose a partner for you, they were most likely to choose a cousin for you to marry. It would be sad if the child or children came out disfigured or somehow disabled,” commented Khotlello Moka, a BA student.

Until the late 1970s and the early 1980s, incest was believed to be exceedingly rare and one of the greatest social and cultural taboos.

Most Tuks students interviewed said they did not know of anybody who was/is involved in an incestuous relationship. The truth would have been appreciated though, because according to recent South African statistics, 15% of the population have had at least one incestuous encounter before the age of 15.

While incest may be a social and moral phenomenon for most, it is a mere form of “genetic confusion”, scientists say. “Genetic sexual attractuion” is most apparent in  relationships between older “perpetrators”, normally an estranged father, uncle or grandfather and their younger female “victims”.

Incestuous relationships are categorised as either cross-generation incest, peer incest,  same-sex incest or multiple incest, where one person is involved in incestuous relations with a number of family members.

South African law states that a relationship is only classified as incestuous if there is one degree of separation between the two people. So, technically, or at least legally, you are allowed to marry your cousins.

There are two sides to a pendulum swing, and in this case, there is the genetic attraction and the traditional obligation where people are meant to uphold and maintain bloodlines, contrasted with the moral, societal and legal objections. Though some may say that these are ties that bind, they could just as equally be the ties that break.

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