If You’re Going To Tell Us Banging Your Dad Is Okay, Please Be An Actual Adult
New York magazine’s splendid “Science of Us” section released a whopper of an interview today, talking to an anonymous female who was in a sexual relationship with her father. The opening narrative of the article focused on “Genetic Sexual Attraction,” a phrase coined by an incest support group to describe the relationships between adopted children and the biological relatives they’d reconnected with later in life, before jumping into an interview with the anonymous woman, who New York assured readers was a consenting adult. And while the girl in question is technically a consenting adult, the biggest takeaway from reading the article wasn’t the intricacies of her taboo relationship: it was how young she was, clocking in at just 18-years-old.
Not one to shy away from controversy, Science of Us has pushed uncomfortable boundaries exploring taboo relationships before. Late last year, they released an incredibly in-depth interview with a man who had engaged in consensual (or so he says) sexual relationships with horses for decades. Despite the presumably flippant premise, the article was informative, exhaustive, and served to humanize the man in question, as well as his proclivities, without outright making a case in favor of zoophilia. But this interview with the young girl in question didn’t do that. Eighteen may be a legally consenting adult, but the interview makes it abundantly apparent just how young she is, despite her legal age. It opened on her tumultuous family life — her father was around until she was five, before contact was cut off (for reasons unstated, but related to the rocky relationship between the birth parents). In the time since her father left, she had a strained relationship with her strict mother, and a handful of traumatic adolescent relationships: a boyfriend in the fifth grade who impregnated a classmate, a middle school relationship with another girl who would cry and read Bible verses every time they were intimate – all things that would be scarring on their own, much less when added all together.
She mentions that her father had tried to get in touch in her teenage years via Facebook, though all attempts had been thwarted by her mother. That’s where things get murky. The father and daughter reunited when she was 17, at first via Facebook, before she went to go spend a week with him. Within a few days their relationship became sexual.
“Sleeping in new places makes me very anxious so I asked him to stay with me in case I had one of the terrible nightmares I usually experience. The second night I had him sleep on the couch again and then the third night I fell asleep with him on the floor lying on his chest, in his arms. The fourth night rolls around and we ended up on the floor again. This time we actually cuddled. When he woke up, we were spooning. I didn’t know this at the time but later, after we admitted our feelings, he told me he had had ‘morning wood’ and had gone to fix it.”
Their relationship quickly grew sexual and she lost her virginity to her father — another experience that, despite being an “adult,” she describes in fawning adolescent terms (discussing how perfect it was, and how it lasted for hours —
Science of Us questioned the veracity of her claims, but she stuck by them). The interview winds on, discussing how father and daughter now live together (with his ex-girlfriend, who calls herself Mommy, no less), and are engaged to be wed.
Personally, I can’t stand for incest. But when I came to this article, expecting to read about consenting adults discussing why a familial relationship works for them, I expected to at least have my horizons expanded as thoughtfully as the previous zoophilia article had done. I didn’t feel any urge to rush to my local barn, but I did gain a deeper understanding for alternative lifestyles. But this article didn’t feature a consenting adult. It featured a technical adult who is still a child by any other means — just a young 18-year-old girl, who grew up with an incredibly difficult life filled with abandonment from male father figures.
The article may not be exploitative (that sin should be reserved almost entirely for her father, who chose to engage in a sexual relationship with a struggling teenager who he should have been protecting), but to really have the debate that Science of Us was hoping to start, they should have looked for a pair that didn’t have a handful of other issues mired into their relationship. When The Guardian covered genetic sexual attraction, they showcased consenting adults who met when they were truly adults — in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.
It’s fairly easy to assume that when it comes to incest, the majority of us will come down on the side of “firmly against, and in the future could you please not describe it in depth while I’m eating,” but given how underreported it is, it stands to reason that it’s not a completely obscure phenomenon, and a taboo well worth looking further into to truly understand the psychology behind it. But doing it at the expense of basically a child, and dressing it up as a story of two adults? Not the way to go.