incest: sexual contact customarily or legally forbidden on the criterion of the close kinship of the two people, variably defined on the basis of genealogical or totemic descent, or by reason of marriage or adoption [from Latin, incestus, unchaste]. Sexual intercourse between persons to whom it is locally forbidden by law or custom because of their relatedness as kinsfolk to totemic clanfolk. The degree of relatedness varies among societies, and the relationship need not be genealogical.

Dictionary of Sexology Project: Main Index

I live in the incest belt of America, that begins with southern Illinois and Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky and tends to move southward. I used to believe that I lived in a place far, far away from the problems that I learned about in the news papers and on the television, but then my perfect "redneck" image of my backwards town was dispelled, by of all people, my father.

No, this isn't a personal story about my struggles with incest. Then again, it is. I can say that I have never had to deal with the pain, and I thank God every day for that. Yet, not all is settled within myself, for I have the haunting knowledge of the ghosts within the community.

Just to start off, I don't intend to help anyone out. I don't intend to give you insight or comfort. This is just something I have to do. It wasn't too long ago that my eyes were opened to a new, disturbing aspect of the culture in which I was raised. Very few arrests pertaining to child molestation and incest had ever been made in my town and surrounding areas. I took this as a sign of absence; I couldn't see the sadness, and I couldn't hear the cries.

I don't know what took my dad so long to tell me about the problems. I don't know if he intended to shelter me or if he merely didn't think of it as extraordinary. Sadly, I believe it was the latter. Sometimes it would come up in casual chat about his work (he worked for many, many years as a school counselor), but he would always mention that the cases reported were very few. Then, one day, he just talked about how many grown women and young girls had not come forward, in order to protect their families, to hide their shame. From there he went on to tell me of friends of his who had suffered, how many of them were taught to respect their abusers, to accept their cruel fates, and to act as if nothing was happening. That was the first time I had felt physically ill due to a thought.

Among the hundreds of variations of poker, one of the most nail-biting and unpredictable is called incest. It is a hi-lo game, which means the pot is split between the best and the worst hands. (The best low hand in poker is either A,2,3,4,6 with at least two different suits showing, or, if straights and flushes are discounted, A,2,3,4,5 with any combination of suits, including all the same.)

Each player is dealt two cards face down and then selects one to expose. The hidden, or "down" card and all cards of the same denomination subsequently dealt to that player are wild, which means you can play them as any card you like. (So if your first two cards are paired, you automatically have two wild cards, which means you will end up with three of a kind, or "trips" at the very least). A round of betting follows. A third card is dealt down and again players choose which card to expose and again the card that is left hidden (which can change over the course of the hand) is wild. The process is repeated until five cards have been dealt to each player, four of which are exposed, the fifth hidden and wild. After another round of betting, each player is given an opportunity to change a single card. If an exposed card is changed, the fresh card is dealt face up. If a down card is changed, the fresh card is dealt down. This draw can, and usually does, change everything, often turning an outside-chancer into a surefire winner or busting a would-be low hand. There follows a fifth and last round of betting (by now the pot is usually quite large). Finally, those players still left in the game must simultaneously declare (by, for example, revealing one, two, or three chips hidden in their fist) whether they are vying for the highest hand, the lowest, or both. If a player declares "both" he must win both. If he/she loses either, he/she wins nothing.

While incest is legally defined in many places as sexual activity between people who are closely and biologically related, in casual speech it often refers to the sexual abuse of a child.

Survivors of Incest Anonymous offers one very inclusive definition, defining incest as

a sexual encounter by a family member, or by an extended family member that damaged the child. By 'extended family' member we mean a person that you and/or your family has known over a period of time. This may be any family member, a family friend, clergy, another child, or anyone that betrayed the child's innocence and trust. We believe we were affected by the abuse whether it occurred once or many times since the damage was incurred immediately. By 'abuse' we mean any sexual behavior or contact with the child. Sexual contacts may include a variety of verbal and/or physical behaviors; penetration is not necessary for the experience to count as incest.

The purpose of such a broad definition is not to suggest that the laws regarding incest of any kind should be changed or that all acts of incest are the same. The broader definitions of incest are used in self-help, therapy, and other situations where the emphasis needs to be on acknowledging the effect of the abuse on a child. In that context, it becomes important to think about the connections between sexual abuse from a teacher and sexual abuse from a parent, as well as the differences.

This broader definition is also useful because it allows room for people who don't know who their abuser was, only that they were abused, or for people who need to heal from the betrayal of trust and the physical and emotional results of being abused by anyone in a position of power. It creates an inclusive atmosphere, where otherwise there might be no support for people who had been sexually abused by someone who happened not to be in their immediate family. Survivors of Incest Anonymous also has an excellent page describing the effects of abuse at

Creation explained

At first there was light, i.e. a multitude of photon-analogous members of the boson crowd. And then came stuff, i.e. these fermion types. Shortly after Adam and Eve appeared. Subsequent to a few incidental troubles involving a snake and a fruit, Cain and Abel were born, a wee distance from Eden. Finally, from these four people, the whole of mankind was created. Nice, clean fun.

But hey, wait a minute -- how could that be? We have a slight problem here: Adam's and Eve's offspring were boys. Two boys can hardly beget babies. A further (but admittedly lesser) problem is that Cain got rid of Abel, sort of. Anyway, he did, according to the Scriptures. So the tough task of creating mankind fell on merely 3 people -- 2 males and 1 female. Or, to put it in another way, 2 parents and 1 son.

So, whichever way you cut this crap, it's obvious that you can't deal the cards without involving certain tricks that some might consider dirty. Consequently any true literalist believer of the Bible knows the answer to the most important demographic problem of mankind, the very first one. It is, evidently -- incest. And there are some people alive who seem to be ardent readers of Holy Books.


The Holy Bible

In"cest (?), n. [F. inceste, L. incestum unchastity, incest, fr. incestus unchaste; pref. in- not + castus chaste. See Chaste.]

The crime of cohabitation or sexual commerce between persons related within the degrees wherein marriage is prohibited by law.


Spiritual incest. Eccl.Law (a) The crime of cohabitation committed between persons who have a spiritual alliance by means of baptism or confirmation. (b) The act of a vicar, or other beneficiary, who holds two benefices, the one depending on the collation of the other.


© Webster 1913.

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