A number of people have commented on my mockery of “Cousin Lovin’ Poetry,” responding with detailed and impassioned screeds about how I don’t understand genetics, how the Bible thinks that people who have sex with their cousins are morally superior to those that don’t, how in Saudi Arabia cousin-lovin’ is the norm, how Europeans are so much more sophisticated than Americans about this issue, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum. The lack of perspective on this is hilarious.
One poster says:
There are no contemporary studies that indicate cousins have children with significantly higher than normal birth defects.
And then, two paragraphs later, says:
Fact: Children of non-related couples have a 2-3% risk of birth defects, as opposed to first cousins having a 4-6% risk.
On my planet, that’s a pretty significant additional risk. As one of the commenters below observes, it is in fact double the risk of birth defects.
But I don’t want to get bogged down in the genetics argument. It is, frankly, a sideshow. Let me be perfectly clear: my main concern is not that you will create a child with genetic defects by marrying your cousin, but that by breeding you might pass on your condition that results in your having a complete lack of any sense of humor.
I think that revulsion of cousin couples in the US is based not in some sort of genetic fear, but in more commonplace concerns: the mores and traditions of the culture in which we actually live (yes, yes, I’m glad for you that inbred Hapsburg royalty married their cousins, but we’re not in Austria). Citing the Bible on this topic is just silly: frankly, I’m not about to take any moral cues from a book that says we should kill gays and witches, but handing your daughters over to be raped by ruffians is just fine.
There are any number of different cultures which have varied and differing approaches towards marriage. I’m not a fan of arranged marriage in general, but I know quite a few couples who have had them. They love each other; they learned to love. And I think that learning to love someone is indeed possible; I’m inherently suspicious of some versions of romantic love because it is accompanied by much braying and posturing about how this person is the only person I could ever possibly have fallen in love with, and they are unique as a special little snowflake embossed with pink unicorn designs. So when I hear someone talking about their cousin this way — someone in our culture, in our times — I go straight to the conclusion: “This person didn’t get out of the house very much.”
To be more specific, I think that you are projecting your anima (or animus, as appropriate) on a close relative specifically because you’ve had projections on non-relatives dissolve, leaving you feeling betrayed and empty (“How dare that person not match the image I had of them?”). In many (not all, obviously) cousin relationships, the female cousin is much younger. This is not a coincidence: a man’s anima image will typically be of a younger woman, representing the sacred feminine he was forced to abandon during adolescence, while a woman’s animus will be of a father figure, representing the force that forbids that has always seemed beyond her control. Eventually, over time, those projections too will dissolve (as they must), leaving you no nearer wisdom then you were when you decided “Hey, it would be a really good idea to marry someone I’m closely related to.”
That will be $135, please. Make the check out to Dr. Jung.
There’s another issue lurking in the background, which is that there are areas in which family members look out for one another and try (one hopes) to build trust. Most of the child sexual abuse in America is not performed by gay boy scout leaders or priests molesting young children. Most of the child sexual abuse in America is committed by family members against younger family members. Courtship and mating rituals in our culture can at least try to provide some protection for those participating in them by balancing the interests of each (potential) lover’s family. When one’s son is out on a date with someone not in the family, presumably everyone is aware and somewhat on guard. When he is merely “playing with his cousin,” that’s less likely to be true.
So to that extent, I have an instinct that some “cousin couples” are exploiting the trust that comes with a family bond with potentially disastrous consequences. Obviously, we can always construct counterexamples (“I’m 35, my cousin is 38, and we’re both divorced, grown adults…”) but given that many of the cousin couples I see do, in fact, have at least one partner who is a minor, I think sexualizing this relationship in our culture is fraught with peril. And is very unwise.
So in honor some of this topic rearing its ugly head again, I am posting: Cousin Poetry II: Electric Cousin Haiku!
The first ones are my fault:
Uncle’s daughter laughs
our love no one understands
snow falls on sorrow.
My one true lover
If we were fraternal twins
That would be sooooooooo hot
There’s a place for us
Our love can speak its name there
sweet West Virginia
Anonymous contributor #1 writes:
Daughter of my aunt
Will you give me a son?
Please don’t tell me no
Can our hearts be far
when we share a quarter of
inbreed, inbreath, well
both are pressing needs, so come
let’s press nether parts
Three hundred percent
(of toes) comes to dozens and
dozens. Quod erat.
who needs statistics.
drink, smoke, eat mercuric fish,
have your cousin’s kid.
Anonymous contributor #2 writes
Oh how I wish to
Kiss you gently cousin
What, is that so wrong?
spring is sprung, the grass
is riz, come my sweet cousin,
i’m dyin’ to jizz
(“What, you don’t like rhyming haiku?”)
no-one can deny
our child has both our eyes. and
extra fingers too.
star-cross’d lovers we
but shakespeare said nothing ’bout
having cross-eyed kids
You are so lovely.
You remind me of myself.
Our kids: of E.T.
If you like, you can read the original article that spawned this controversy.