Science provides us with an insight to why people sometimes experience genetic sexual attraction. Why they do and a few real life examples follow.
We bet you’ve heard this story before: a man falls in love with a girl. Romance ensues. It eventually ends in tragedy after they learn they are actually siblings separated from birth. While most would consider this a tad too melodramatic to happen in real life, the intricacies of human biology say otherwise. Blood relatives are likely to get sexually attracted because of a process known as genetic sexual attraction.
What you need to know about genetic sexual attraction
Is your skin crawling yet? Incest is indeed a tricky topic to discuss. There are those few who say that it is completely acceptable in special situations. However, the rest of the world, legal institutions included, believe this is both a social and biological taboo to be completely forbidden.
#1 What is genetic sexual attraction? Genetic sexual attraction is a phenomenon that describes the overwhelming physical and sexual attraction that develops between two close blood relatives who first meet as adults. This happens in very special cases where both siblings are unaware that the other is actually their relative yet are instantly sexually attracted to the other.
In most cases, genetic sexual attraction happens when two siblings are separated from birth *usually from adoption* and are unaware of the other’s existence until they meet for the first time during their adulthood. The term was first used during the late 1980s by Barbara Gonyo, founder of Truth Seekers in Adoption. An organization advocating for adoptees and their new-found relatives. [Read: The 6 types of attraction you didn’t know about but should]
#2 What causes genetic sexual attraction? For non-related individuals, similarity is one of the important factors associated with emotional and physical attraction. People with similar interests and tastes usually get along together and easily form a bond that eventually matures into a romantic relationship.
On the other hand, those blood-related share a great deal of traits through heredity. Aside from acquiring similar physical features such as complexion, hair, and eye color, they develop similar hobbies, interests, and tastes even if raised in entirely different environments. And if by chance they meet as adults as total strangers, this similarity gives way to sexual attraction. [Read: Have you ever been sexually attracted to your mother?]
#3 How come siblings who grew up together don’t have genetic sexual attraction compared to those who grew up apart? Because of evolutionary mechanisms, siblings who grew up together rarely develop genetic sexual attraction. A process known as the Westmarck Effect or reverse sexual imprinting prevents family members who lived together for a long time from developing sexual attraction to their immediate family.
This process, along with social learning, makes genetic sexual attraction exclusive to close blood relatives who lived apart from each other.
#4 Real cases of genetic sexual attraction that escalated to incest. As the conditions required for genetic sexual attraction to happen is extremely specific, the chances of it occurring is very rare amongst the population. However, there are actual cases of blood relatives getting into a sexual relationship and even having children of their own.
**The case of Patrick Stubing and Susan Karolweski**
Patrick Stubing is a German locksmith born from a low income family. At the age of three he was sent to foster care after an incident involving him being attacked by a knife by his alcoholic father. His sister, Susan was born four years later just as their biological parents divorced.
The siblings first met in 2000 and started a sexual relationship six months after they met. Their relationship produced four children. Since their relationship is illegal under German law, Stubing was convicted and fought for an appeal to overturn his conviction.
**The case of Steven Walter and Katie Pladl Rose**
Steven Pladl and his wife had a baby named Katie Rose. They gave her up for adoption a few months after she was born. When she reached adulthood, she used the internet to find Steven and reconnected with her biological parents.
Soon after, Steven and Katie began a sexual relationship which resulted in Steven’s wife moving out of the home. When the father-daughter couple had their own child and made plans to stage a wedding ceremony, Steven’s wife informed the authorities. This resulted in the father-daughter couple’s arrest for incest charges. [Read: 9 big signs you need sex therapy and how to face it]
**Kathryn Harrison and her father**
In 1997, author Kathryn Harrison published a memoir depicting her four-year sexual relationship with her father when she was 20 years of age. The affair started when they shared a kiss described as “sexual” when Kathryn dropped her father at the airport. The relationship deteriorated after her father became controlling. He demanded sex which escalated into rape. It only ended after she cut ties from him.
#5 Is it a disorder? No. Genetic sexual attraction is a mechanism that explains why blood relatives who meet as adults are likely to develop sexual feelings towards each other. Usually it causes distress for those involved due to the legal consequences of incestuous unions. Paired with the social stigma associated when the relationship is made public.
#6 What are the legal consequences of pursing a relationship based on this attraction? As shown by the aforementioned cases, incestuous relationships pose a problem as most countries have laws prohibiting and penalizing incest. Even if marriage happens before they become aware of their familial ties, the marriage is usually voided by law.
Unfortunately, it is still a new concept. It needs further research and has no legal weight for any institution to allow a sexual relationship or marital union between immediate family members. [Read: How to know if you relationship is toxic]
#7 What to do if I experience genetic sexual attraction? There are only two options for a situation involving a possible incestuous relationship. One, pursue it with the capacity of a consenting adult and aware of the possible consequences. Or practice restraint and seek further assistance from a professional therapist.
Seeking help gives those experiencing genetic sexual attraction full understanding of their situation. Particularly if it causes significant emotional and mental distress.
Most people are taught that having romantic and sexual feelings towards a family member is forbidden. But in some cases where people meet their own blood relative as a stranger, attraction is more than likely.
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Paul Timothy Mangay
Paul aka Morty is a keyboard-pounding cubicle-dweller based in Manila where he occasionally moonlights as a writer for anyone in need of his mediocre word-strin...