Why does Israel permit(ted) incest???
The general prohibition against incest with one’s “near of kin” (Lev. 18:6) has been held to be limited to the following degrees of consanguinity: parents (18:7); mother-in-law (20:14); stepmother (18:8); sister and half sister (18:9) (but not a stepsister as the Karaites maintained); granddaughter (18:10); aunt (18:12–13); wife of father’s brother (18:14); daughter-in-law (18:15); brother’s wife (18:16); stepdaughter and step granddaughter (18:17); and wife’s sister during the lifetime of the former (18:18). This list is exhaustive and may not be added to by analogies (Sifra, Aḥarei-Mot 13:15), since creation of any criminal offense requires the express pronouncement both ofthe conduct prohibited and the resulting punishment (see *Penal Law; cf. Ker. 3a; Sanh. 74a). A list of another 20 degrees of consanguinity was later drawn up, however, by way of analogy – albeit not to create additional criminal offenses, but as additional prohibitions of intercourse and impediments to *marriage (Yev. 21a; Maim. Yad, Ishut 1:6).
The punishment for the various offenses of incest varies – while biblical law prescribed death by burning for incest with one’s mother-in-law (Lev. 20:14), it did not prescribe any particular mode of execution for other capital offenses of incest (Lev. 20:11, 12, 17, 19, 20, 21), some of which were clearly to be visited with *divine punishment (*karet; Lev. 20:17, 20, 21). In talmudic law, the offenses of incest were eventually classified as follows:
(1) those punishable with death by stoning – incest with mother, stepmother daughter-in-law (Sanh. 7:4);
(2) those punishable with death by burning – incest with stepdaughter, stepgranddaughter, mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law, daughter, and granddaughter (Sanh. 9:1); and
(3) all other offenses of incest to be punishable with karet or *flogging (Maim. Yad, Issurei Bi’ah 1:4–7). As several of the offenses are threatened with both judicial and divine punishment (e.g., incest with mother and stepmother; Ker. 1:1), the rule was evolved that capital punishment would be imposed judicially only where the offense had been committed after previous warning that it was punishable and in the presence of witnesses; while divine punishment was deemed to apply where the offense had been committed without such previous warning and without witnesses being available (Yad, Issurei Bi’ah 1:2–3). Flogging came to be administered not only by way of punishment for such incestuous acts as had been made criminal offenses, but also by way of admonition and rebuke (makkat mardut), for incestuous acts which were not criminal (Maim. ibid. 2:8). Occasionally, capital offenses were reduced to offenses punishable with flogging, as in the case of incest with one’s wife’s near relations after her death (ibid.)
Incest is a capital offense only where sexual intercourse has taken place (Shab. 13a), although complete penetration is not a required element (Maim. ibid. 1:10); but the prohibition to come near anyone of one’s “near of kin” was interpreted to render any bodily proximity, within the prohibited degrees of kinship, punishable with flogging (Maim. Yad, Issurei Bi’ah 21:1) – except kissing or embracing one’s mother, daughter, sister, or aunt, or such other relatives who do not normally arouse the sexual urge (ibid., 21:6; and see *Sexual Offenses). The offense of incest is committed by the female as well as by the male participant (Yev. 84b; TJ, Sanh. 7, 9, 25a; Ker. 2:4; Maim. Yad, Issurei Bi’ah 1:1); but where the offense is committed upon an infant or upon a person asleep or by a person unaware of the incestuous relationship, only the initiator of the act is punishable (Ker. 2:6).
Each single act of sexual intercourse amounts to a complete commission of the offense (Maim. ibid. 3:12). The turpitude of this kind of offense is stressed in the Bible by such epithets as “wickedness” (zimmah, Lev. 20:14; Ezek. 22, 11), “corruption” (tevel, Lev. 20:12), “shame” (ḥesed, Lev. 20:17), and “impurity” (niddah, Lev. 20:21). Incest is one of the three cardinal offenses (together with murder and idolatry) which a man may not commit even in order to save himself from certain death (Sanh. 74a; Yad, Yesodei ha-Torah 5:2); nor in order to save another person’s life (Tosef. Shab. 15:17); nor can there be any justification for its commission on any medical grounds (TJ, Shab. 14:4, 14d; Pes. 25a). Opinions are divided among medieval scholars as to whether a woman, as well as a man, must choose to die rather than commit incest. Some hold that a woman, being the passive partner, may submit to incest rather than be killed (Rashi to Yoma 82a; Isserles, YD 157:1 and cf. Tos. to Av. Zar. 54a), while others maintain that she should prefer death (ET, 6 (1954), 110). It is also maintained that the female’s enjoyment is tantamount to the male’s action (Tos. BK 32a), constituting “an overt act” for which her punishment is flogging.
In the State of Israel there is no statutory prohibition against incest as such, but it is an offense, punishable with five years’ imprisonment, for anyone to have sexual intercourse with an unmarried girl below the age of 21 who is his or his wife’s descendant, or his ward, or who has been entrusted to him for education or supervision (Section 155, Criminal Code Ordinance, 1936). Apart from this particular provision, it would seem that sexual intercourse within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity described above is, indeed, left to divine punishment.
In the 10th century, Pope John XII is said to have taken his niece and his mother as mistresses. Despite anthropologists insistence that the incest taboo is fundamental to human nature, clearly people have been at it forever. Freud famously argued that everyone’s first sexual desires are directed toward their family, while Melanie Klein considers sexual relations between siblings to be virtually the norm. The real taboo is in mentioning that perhaps it is not a taboo at all. Historian Lloyd DeMause argues that incest is universal. He cites examples throughout the world and refers to the old Indian proverb (“For a girl to be a virgin at ten years old, she must have neither brothers, nor cousins, nor fathers”) as an example of how common incest has been. His examples are endless and worldwide: tribes who have sex dormitories where older adolescents initiate younger siblings into sex; households where parents incorporate the children into their sexual activity in one happy family orgy; fathers marrying daughters when the mother dies, and sons marrying mothers when the father dies. While I can’t verify every one of DeMause’s claims and references, clearly it gets darker than sitting on granddad’s knee. The recent case of the German couple, Patrick and Susan, who were separated as children and later met and fell in love, has made headlines. They’ve been together for nine years and have four children, three of whom are in care. He has served time in prison fighting for his right to love his sister. While my gut reaction is this is monumentally fucked up, why is it illegal? The obvious answer is that it increases the chances of passing down bad genes. But by that logic, everyone with a genetic condition should be outlawed from having sex–which is rude. In fact, the impetus behind the 1908 Punishment of Incest Act was just that–the proponents of the act were the same people who advocated the “sterilisation” of the “feeble-minded”. Siblings generally don’t fancy each other due to something call the Westernak effect: Being reared together forms non-erotic bonds
Rape and Incest
It is clear from research findings that rape and incest share many similarities but also have some differences as well. The differences are found in threeareas: the duration and progression of sexual activity over time; coercion;and consent. Most incest involves multiple acts of sexual violation over time, ranging from several months to many years. The usual pattern is for the sexual activity to escalate. In addition, most incestuous relationships begin not as the result of physical force and violence but rather under the guise ofaffection or education. Frequently, the perpetrator offers the victim the opportunity to be involved in a special relationship with a known and valued adult. Usually the coercion is subtle, especially at first. However, it may intensify over the course of the incestuous relationship. Threats, lies, and manipulation are often used to ensure secrecy and continued involvement.
While neither women who are raped nor incest victims willingly give consent,the child’s experience differs because of the adult’s authority and importance in his or her life. The perpetrator gains access to the child by betrayingthe child’s special trust and by exploiting the child’s powerlessness. Thus,incest can be viewed as a form of rape (sexual penetration through the use offorce with lack of consent on the part of the victim) within the family, with the added potential for psychological damage to the victim due to the relationship between the child and the adult.
Sexual behavior can raise questions about an individual’s reliability, trustworthiness, and ability to protect classified information when it: involves a criminal offense, indicates a personality or emotional disorder, reflects lack of judgment or discretion, or it causes an individual to be vulnerable to undue influence, exploitation, or duress. No adverse inference concerning the standards in this guideline may be made solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual.
Most scientific research and past espionage cases show that the connection between sexual behavior and personnel security is far more complex than the simple notion that “normal” sex is acceptable and “nonconforming” sexual practices are a security risk. Self-control, social maturity, strength of character, and overall psychological adjustment are more important security indicators than the specific sexual practices in which people engage. Sexual orientation or preference may not be used as a basis for disqualification in adjudicating eligibility for security clearance.
A common error in thinking about sexuality is to reason that “since I’m normal, most other normal people must think and behave more or less the way I do.” Actually, “normal” human sexual behavior is far more diverse than most people realize, and many seemingly unusual behaviors have little or no relationship to security. What is considered normal in one realm of society may be distinctly abnormal in another