Two people in this room are in love. Years pass until he finally proposes to her, she says yes, and the air feels alive. Two days later, they discover they’re cousins. Suddenly their life is cast into doubt. A shadow follows them forever.
Everyone has a hot cousin. But if they happen to fall in love, the world curls its upper lip. In parts of the U.S., cousins who fall in love are stigmatized, and incest between consenting adults is illegal. The prevailing opinion is that incest is gross, so it should be illegal. But at certain times in history, people considered gay marriage “gross,” interracial marriage to be “gross” and royalty marrying commoners “gross.” Times change, and attitudes change along with it.
Incestuous marriages appear throughout history: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Prophet Muhammad and Edgar Allan Poe all married their cousins. Einstein himself was the product of a cousin relationship and married his cousin. The father of evolution, Charles Darwin, and his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood, remained a loyal husband and wife.
Today, however, American cousins looking to tie the knot face a much different scene. Opponents argue that incest increases the chance of genetic defects in childbirth. For first-generation incestuous first cousin couples, the chance of genetic defects is increased from the baseline 3 — 4 percent to about 4 — 7 percent. However, this is still less than the chance of genetic defects in a child birthed by a 40-year-old woman, at about 6 — 8 percent — and no one totes signs over genetically blind couples who want a child. These practices are legal and generally acceptable, yet incest isn’t.
But, others protest, incest is bad because the chance of genetic defects compounds over time as the family inbreeds. However, not everyone will continually partake in incest, even with hot cousins. Known as the Westermarck effect, children raised together, regardless of genetic relation, up until the age of six tend to feel no sexual attraction toward each other later in life. It’s likely you would only develop feelings for a hot cousin you weren’t raised knowing. The compounded chance typically becomes dangerous in cultures where incest is common, expected, and part of the culture. Humanity’s defense against the perils of continual inbreeding already arrived a long time ago.
Now, times are changing. Currently, in some states like New York, California and Florida, marriage between first cousins is legal. Others have conditional requirements for marriage: In one example, Arizona allows marriage if both are over 65 years of age or if one is infertile. The U.S. is the only Western country to ban cousin marriage. Clearly, the U.S. has the increased chance of genetic defects in mind.
But honestly, other things are more important: your child dealing with emotional trauma, having a poor education, finding himself or finding love. No couple can guarantee a good life for their child, but parents who care for each other is a fine start. In the end, love is love.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Reporter.