What is Incest?

What Does Incest Mean

We explain what incest is and biological and social explanations for its prohibition. Also, what is exogamy and what does it consist of?

Incest is culturally condemned, tabooed, and even legally prohibited.

What is incest?

Incest refers to consensual sexual relations that involve individuals belonging to the same family , that is, who share a direct blood bond, such as siblings, parents and children, grandparents and descendants, or any other biological link between the two.


In some cases this concept even extends to relationships between cousins, but the greater their blood distance, the less the relationship will tend to be considered incestuous.

Incest is a culturally condemned, taboo and even legally prohibited practice in almost all civilizations , which have always preferred exogamy to inbreeding.

However, there were famous cases of incest in the history of civilization, such as eccentric rulers or very closed aristocratic castes, who sought to preserve the "purity" of their lineage. Even in these cases they are mentioned as something extravagant and morally reprehensible.

A biological explanation for the prohibition of incest would point to the fact that individuals with close blood ties share a high percentage of their genome, which is why their union would impoverish the genetic pool of the community , that is, it reduces the genetic diversity of future generations. , increasing the probability of diseases, mutations or hereditary defects.

Another way of explaining the prohibition of incest has to do with the fact that it breaks into the harmony of the family structure , which is usually also hierarchical: the older ones rule the younger ones and so on. Seen this way, incest deteriorates the culturally constituted order and subverts archetypes ancestrally associated with civilization.

A final explanation, of a population type, would be that, if we evaluate primitive human societies , we will see that they were semi-nomadic hunters and gatherers, with very high mortality rates among young and old, which would require greater protection of the offspring by mothers, which would make them old by the time the new generation reached sexual maturity. Thus, young people would have had to find a partner in other social groups.

See also: Otherness

What is exogamy?

Inbreeding tends to the impoverishment of genetic material.

Exogamy (with the prefix exo , foreign, from outside), as opposed to inbreeding, consists of the search for viable partners to undertake love or sexual relationships outside the immediate family environment, that is, between strange or unknown human groups.

Exogamy is a central concept in the constitution of human populations and of our civilization , since we are gregarious beings (we tend towards the group) and we seek to maintain a genetic, cultural and linguistic diversity in our populations , which enriches our possibilities.

Inbreeding (with the prefix endo , internal, from within), on the other hand, is the tendency to reproduce or join only with those considered equal, or those belonging to the same social or family group.

It is a conservative trend, which perceives diversity as a threat and not as a gain, and therefore tends to impoverish (for the sake of preservation) the genetic material of the community .

Both terms can be used not only for genetic or reproductive issues, but also as a political, social and cultural stance in life , depending on whether people prefer the richness of hybridity or the impoverishment of the pure.

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