Incest (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
Prohibited sexual relations between members of a close kinship group, such as between parents and children or between brothers and sisters. The term is often expanded to include not only actual inter-course but other sexual acts as well.
While the incest taboo is nearly universal and exists in nearly all societies, notions of kinship vary greatly from culture to culture. Thus, some cultures would consider sexual relations between first cousins incest, while others would not. The same premise holds true for inter-course between a stepfather and stepdaughter. The very rare exceptions to incest, such as those found in ancient Egyptian and Incan societies, usually involve mandatory incestuous unions within royal families, which may have been motivated by economic or theocratic considerations.
In classical psychoanalytic theory, the psychosexual development of children between the ages of three and five is characterized by incestuous desires toward the parent of the opposite sex. Sigmund Freud called these desires in males the Oedipus complex, referring to the inadvertent incest between the title character and his mother in the classical Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex. Freud asserted that young boys form a sexual attachment to their mothers, accompanied by resentment and hostility toward their fathers, whom...
(The entire section is 630 words.)
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Incest (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The crime of sexual relations or marriage taking place between a male and female who are so closely linked by blood or affinity that such activity is prohibited by law.
Incest is a statutory crime, often classified as a felony. The purpose of incest statutes is to prevent sexual intercourse between individuals related within the degrees set forth, for the furtherance of the public policy in favor of domestic peace. The prohibition of intermarriage is also based upon genetic considerations, since when excessive inbreeding takes place, undesirable recessive genes become expressed and genetic defects and disease are more readily perpetuated. In addition, the incest taboo is universal in human culture.
Rape and incest are separate offenses and are distinguished by the fact that mutual consent is required for incest but not for rape. When the female is below the age of consent recognized by law, however, the same act can be both rape and incest.
The proscribed degrees of incest vary among the different statutes. Some include PARENT AND CHILD, brother and sister, uncle and niece, or aunt and nephew, and first cousins. In addition, intermarriage and sexual relations are also frequently prohibited among individuals who are related by half-blood, including brothers and sisters and uncles and nieces of the...
(The entire section is 534 words.)
Incest (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
Characterization and definitions vary across cultures, but incest refers to sexual relations between close relatives. Prohibition may be according to custom or morality, and embodied in law. In psychoanalysis, the term is also and especially discussed in terms of fantasy and psychological conflict.
Freud mentioned incest for the first time in his correspondence with Wilhelm Fliess (Draft N, dated May 31, 1897), in which he explained "saintliness" in terms of its impious and anti-social character (1950a). A family primordially promiscuous would be forced to give up incestuous behavior in order to avoid being socially isolated.
Incest subsequently became a central theme in Freud's formulation of the Oedipus complex, defined as a child's conflict between sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex (the "positive" oedipal complex) and repression of that desire. The theory was put forth in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d) and in Freud's discussion of the case of "Little Hans" (1909b), among other works.
From the start Freud also discussed the incest taboo in an anthropological context, in terms of its role in the evolution of society. The first chapter of Totem and Taboo (1912-13a) was devoted to "the horror of incest" and was based on the work of contemporary ethnologists. For Freud it was important to establish that such a taboo operated in every human society. This view gained some support in the work of later anthropologists, including Claude Lévi-Strauss, who, however, maintained reservations regarding Freud's obligatory corollary, that the Oedipus complex was "universal." (See André Green  for a discussion of Lévi-Strauss's views.)
Freud held that psychic energy which accumulates through repression of sexual gratification, prohibitions owed to the oedipal situation, becomes an essential force propelling the development of civilization, especially through channels of sublimation. In "'Civilized' Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness" (1908d), Freud suggested that repression can also provoke psychological disorders through the "damming-up" of libido (the "actual" neuroses) or by substitute symptom formation (the psychoneuroses). The price of civilized morality is high when repression adversely affects too many individuals and distorts the social fabric; Freud examined these issues in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921c) and in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930a).
The incest theme has received little attention in contemporary psychoanalytic literature; an exception is Paul-Claude Racamier's interesting treatment of the "incestual" (1995).
See also: Ethics; Family romance; Framework of the psychoanalytic treatment; Law and psychoanalysis; Myth of origins; Oedipus complex; Phantom; Privation; Prohibition; Psychology of the Unconscious, The; Secret; "Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes"; Tenderness; Totem and Taboo; Transgression.
Freud, Sigmund. (1905d). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. SE, 7: 123-243.
. (1909b). Analysis of a phobia in a five-year-old boy. SE, 10: 1-149.
. (1921c). Group psychology and the analysis of the ego. SE, 18: 65-143.
. (1908d). "Civilized" sexual morality and modern nervous illness. SE, 9: 177-204.
. (1912-13a). Totem and taboo. SE, 13: 1-161.
. (1930a). Civilization and its discontents. SE, 21: 57-145.
. (1950a ). Draft N. "Impulses, fantasies and symptoms." SE, 1: 173-280.
Green, André. (1995). La Casualité psychique. Paris: Odile Jacob. Propédeutique. La métapsychologie revisitée. Paris: l'Or d'Atalante.
Racamier, Paul-Claude. (1995). L'inceste et l'incestuel. Paris: itions du Collège de psychanalyse groupale et familiale.
Simon, Bennett. (1992). Incestee under "oedipus complex": the history of an error in psychoanalysis. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 40, 955-988.
Simon, Bennett, and Bullock, Christopher. (1994). Incest and psychoanalysis: Are we ready to fully acknowledge, bear and understand? Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 42, 1261-1282.