How Have Anthropologists Attempted to Explain the Universality of the Incest Taboo, Including Rare Instances Where Brother-Sister Marriage Is Broadly Favored?
It is the mandate of the family to increase both, either by accumulating property or by exogamy (marrying outside the family). Clearly, incest prevents both. It preserves a limited genetic pool and makes an increase of material possessions through intermarriage all but impossible. Once allocated, the family is an efficient venue of transferring material wealth, as well as transmitting information and messages horizontally (among family members) and vertically (down the generations).
For those focusing on the biological consequences, the sexual aversion hypothesis of the anthropologist Edvard Westermarck has played a central role through seemingly providing an empirically grounded, causal link from the phenomenal level of behavior to the ideational level of culture. Yet the matter is not so simple and requires rethinking of what we mean by kinship and how our ideas about kinship relate to the widespread occurrence of incest taboos and the extensive variability in their content.
This attention has risen from the recognition that incest is the most prevalent form of child sexual abuse (Hendricks-Matthews, 1991). This abuse is a violation of the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing and it has far reaching consequences in the future of the abused child. Recent research has found that juvenile female prostitutes more often than not have a history of sexual abuse. A study indicated that nearly 70% of girls who were institutionalized for sexual delinquency or immorality were victims of incest (Pasko, 2010). A common after-effect of incest is negative attitudes towards sex by the victim. As a result of incest negative connotations such as fear, revulsion, and a sense of powerlessness are associated with sex by the victim. However, some of the victims of incest react by becoming overly active sexually.
As noted by War, this isolation was not only for the present life but also for the life hereafter.
Hendricks-Matthews, M. (1991). Conversion disorder in an adult incest survivor. Journal of Family Practice, 33(3): 298-303.
Pasko, L. (2010). Damaged daughters: the history of girls’ sexuality and the juvenile justice system. The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 100 (3): 1099-1130.