Genetic sexual attraction
Genetic sexual attraction (GSA) is sexual attraction between close relatives, such as brother and sister, who first meet as adults. The effect is also seen between cousins.
GSA may occur as a consequence of adoption, when the adopted children knowingly or unknowingly encounter biological relatives. Although this is a rare consequence of adoptive reunions, the large number of adoptive reunions in recent years means that a significant number of people are affected. It is generally highly distressing to both parties, as this sexual attraction is contrary to their socialized sexual and moral structures (the incest taboo).
When children are raised together in early childhood, this effect is reversed by a form of imprinting known as the Westermarck effect, which results in reduced sexual desire between the siblings; examples exist in Israeli kibbutzim and, formerly, in Chinese arranged marriages known as Shim-pua.
Several factors may contribute to GSA. People commonly rank faces similar to their own as more attractive, trustworthy, etc. than average. Heredity produces substantial physical similarity between close relatives. However, Bereczkei (2004) attributes this in part to childhood imprinting on the opposite-sex parent. Shared interests and personality traits are commonly considered desirable in a partner. The heritability of these qualities is a matter of great debate; to whatever extent they are heritable, they will tend to cluster in close relatives. In cases of parent-child attraction, the parent may recognize traits of their sometime mate in the child. Such reunions typically produce complex emotions in all involved.
In popular culture
The numerous versions of this phenomenon testify to how it resonates.
- The story of Oedipus in Greek mythology is perhaps the most famous example of Genetic Sexual Attraction.
- In Greek mythology, one version of the story of Narcissus has the young man fall in love with his twin sister. The more common version has him pining for love of his own reflection. Both versions emphasise the dangerous attraction of the similar. It would be wise to remember that Narcissus became love-struck only after the introduction of Cupid's dart, a ruse concocted with the help of the nymph Echo, who could speak only what had been spoken to her. The plan was that Echo would present herself to Narcissus immediately after his being pierced by the dart, at which point he would regale her with his undying love with which she would ecstatically concur, repeating his words that were the expression of her own passion, thus fulfilling her heartfelt desire. The dart indeed found its mark, but instead of espying Echo, Narcissus' gaze fell upon his own reflection in a sylvan pool and he accordingly was smitten with himself, such that he could not leave his reflection and wasted away on the bank to the point of death when the Gods took pity on him and changed him into a flower, that to this day gazes at its own reflected image.
- In the medieval legends of King Arthur, collected by Sir Thomas Malory under the title ''Le Morte d'Arthur and retold in the 20th century by T. H. White as The Once and Future King'', King Arthur is seduced by his half-sister Morgause, who subsequently gives birth to Mordred. This is one of the key elements in Arthur's downfall.
- In Wagner's opera Die Walküre, based on the Norse myth, twin brother and sister Siegmund and Sieglinde meet as adults and fall in love; Sieglinde later gives birth to a son, Siegfried. This tale influenced "The Blood of the Volsungs," a 1905 short story by Thomas Mann that concerns the relationship between a brother and sister.
- In Finnish mythology, Kullervo unknowingly seduces a beggar-girl who is his sister. When the girl finds out Kullervo is her brother, she commits suicide.
- In Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's 18th century Nathan the Wise, Nathan's adopted daughter Rachel is rescued from a house fire by a passing knight templar. They immediately fall in love - only to find out that they are brother and sister. This is, however, revealed before their relationship develops significantly.
- In John Ford's play '''Tis Pity She's a Whore'' a passionate sexual relationship develops between the siblings Giovanni and Annabella resulting in Annabella's pregnancy. The play concludes in a bloodbath of revenge and passion, and is considered one of the most controversial works in English literature.
- Vladimir Nabokov's novel '''' recounts the incestuous life-long romance of Van and his sister Ada, who initially think they are cousins.
- In Arundhati Roy's Booker Prize winning novel The God of Small Things, Estha (male) and Rahel (female) are twins who are separated at a young age, then reunite as adults, when (pp 310-311) "...they broke the Love Laws. That lay down who should be loved."
- In Jeffrey Eugenides' Pulitzer Prize winning novel Middlesex, a brother and sister move from Greece to the U.S. in the 1920s and start a family. Later in the novel their son marries his second cousin.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Children of Húrin the main character (Túrin) falls in love with his estranged sister (Nienor), who had been bewitched by a dragon (Glaurung) to forget her past. Neither recognizes the other due to early separation.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's novel Time Enough for Love, a pair of twins who allegedly share no genetic material marry and have children, then have to be talked out of letting their children marry each other.
- In J. V. Jones's trilogy The Book of Words, Jack, the boy of the prophecy, discovers that he was in love with his half-sister, also a bastard of the late king.
- In V. C. Andrews's Dollanganger series, two children, Cathy and Christopher, end up being sexually attracted to each other and engage in sexual activity. This is due, in part, to their seclusion from the outside world. They, in turn, were the production of inbreeding.
- In Cassandra Clare's novel City of Bones, main characters Clary and Jace are romantically attracted to each other. At the end of the book they are revealed to be full siblings.
- In Patrick Augustus's ground-breaking novel about Black British men, Babyfather (1994), one of the marriages the narrative is working towards is put on hold when a character is told by his father that his fiancee is really his half-sister.
- In Beryl Bainbridge's novel An Awfully Big Adventure, a man has a one-night stand with an underaged girl he later learns was his daughter.
- In Caroline Graham's first novel in the Chief Inspector Barnaby series, ''The Killings at Badger's Drift, the motive for the murders is the desire of siblings Michael and Katherine Lacey to hide their incestuous relationship. This relationship is also portrayed in the first-season episode of Midsomer Murders'' of the same name as the novel.
- In Donna Tartt's novel "The Secret History", fraternal twins Charles and Camilla are revealed to have been engaged in a long-time incestuous affair.
- In Daniel Defoe's novel "Moll Flanders", the protagonist unwittingly marries her brother whom she had never met. Upon learning the truth, she becomes disgusted and distraught.
- In Eça de Queiroz's novel "Os Maias", the protagonist Carlos has a romantic relationship with his sister Maria, without knowing that she was his missing baby sister that their grandfather was searching for years.
- The film Oldboy tells the story of a man who falls in love with a girl who turns out to be his daughter, in a trick played on him by an old rival, who was previously in love with his own sister.
- In the film Code 46, William Geld falls in love with Maria Gonzalez who is a genetic clone of his biological mother.
- In the movie The House of Yes, fraternal twins Marty (Josh Hamilton) and "Jackie O" (Parker Posey) engage in explicit incest, which started when they were pre-adolescents, though could probably be traced back even in infancy. According to their mother (Genevieve Bujold), "Jackie was holding Marty's penis when they came out of the womb..."
- In the movie Blue Lagoon, two young children, cousins Richard and Emmeline Lestrange are the survivors of a shipwreck in the South Pacific. Both teens' bodies mature and develop, and they are physically attracted to each other. They have sexual intercourse and Emmeiline gets pregnant.
- In Lone Star, the instant and deep attraction which Sam Deeds and Pilar Cruz feel towards each other is ultimately connected to the fact that they are unknowingly half-siblings. Despite this they decide to continue their relationship. This matter has large metaphorical significance with regards to the primary theme of the movie, race relations in the small town.
- In the movie Back to the Future, the main character, Marty McFly, goes back in time and accidentally meets his mother when she is a teenager, who is very attracted to him until they kiss, at which point she compares it to kissing her brother.
- In the original Star Wars movies, Luke Skywalker and his twin sister, Princess Leia, who meet as adults not knowing their connection, arguably experience a form of GSA, although primarily on Luke's part. In '''', they share a kiss, although Princess Leia did so for the sole purpose of infuriating Han Solo, to whom she was already clearly attracted, and long before she realized that she and Luke were siblings.
- Say It Isn't So is a comedy film starring Chris Klein and Heather Graham about two young lovers who come to believe that they are actually siblings.
- The Ballad of Jack and Rose is a 2005 drama film starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Camille Belle who share a father daughter kiss.
- A 2003 storyline in the BBC's flagship hospital drama Casualty involved GSA, when staff nurse Anna Paul (played by Zita Sattar) began a relationship with house officer Merlin Jameson (played by first Orlando Seale then Sebastian Dunn). After telling Anna that he was adopted, she encouraged his search for his birth parents, only to discover his mother was Anna's mother. This revelation caused both characters great suffering and virtually destroyed Anna's relationship with her/their mother, but her feelings had grown so strong for Merlin that she continued it, eventually getting pregnant. The baby was never born, however, as she was involved in a train crash at the start of the following series, and after first having both legs amputated, she eventually died of her injuries. The characters of Merlin and his/Anna's mother did not continue after her death.
- In the episode of My Name Is Earl in which Joy's marriage to "crabman" is revealed to her parents, Joy's father explains that he is not a racist, but that he objected to Joy dating a black boy in high school because she was his half-sister.
- In the House, M.D. episode "Fools for Love", House treats a married couple whose uncannily similar symptoms suggest shared exposure to an environmental factor, but they turn out to be half-siblings suffering from the same rare genetic disorder.
- In the Futurama episode "Roswell That Ends Well", Fry has sex with his grandmother after the death of the man he presumed to be his grandfather, and becomes his own grandfather
- In The Simpsons, in the episode "The Regina Monologues", Homer Simpson meets his half-sister Abbie- conceived during Grampa's time in Britain during the Second World War- for the first time and seems to display a sexual attraction to her, despite, or maybe because of, the fact that Abbie looks very much like a female version of himself.
- In BBC mystery drama Jonathan Creek, the Christmas special "Black Snow" features a young man being manipulated into killing a famous actress he was in love with, Jonathan Creek later deducing that the man was actually the actress's long-lost son, given up for adoption years ago.
- In an episode of ''That '70s Show'', Eric finds himself attracted to his visiting cousin.
- In an episode of Friends, Ross Geller becomes smitten with his and Monica's gorgeous blonde cousin. Thinking she is trying to send him signals, he tries to kiss her; she is revolted, and flees.
- In Strangers With Candy Jeri Blank falls for a boy in her high school that she learns is the son she gave up when she was younger. Despite this revelation she still wants to get in his pants.
- In an episode of Aliens in America titled "Purple Heart", the kids in school think Justin Tolchuck wants to sleep with his older sister because, to cheer her up after a very nasty breakup, he gives her a special school-sponsored Valentine that usually only couples exchange. After a particularly loud (and coupley-sounding) public argument the two make up and even dance a little together. One of the popular girls muses that perhaps the Tolchuck siblings "really are dating". Her friend then feels free to confess that she "hooked up" with her cousin recently. The other girl looks repulsed.
- In an episode of King of the Hill Bill Dauterive begins dating a young single mother of two. Dale Gribble notes how similar the girl looks to his own son Joseph Gribble, erroneously thinking that she is his daughter, fathered by a sample of his sperm cultivated by aliens. Joseph, meanwhile, becomes smitten with the girl, unaware they are half-siblings.
- In a brief storyline in Australian soap Neighbours, Serena Bishop fell in love with a young man named Luka Dokic, only to learn that he was her half-brother; their mother Lilijana had been told by her mother that he had been stillborn.
- In Green Wing, Joanna Clore has sex with a son that she gave up for adoption several years ago, Guy Secretan, who both only find out the truth when Martin Dear (her other son) interrupts them with the news they are all related.
- In Hollyoaks, in a 2007 storyline, popular character Rhys Ashworth began a relationship with Beth Clement, before realising they share the same father. Rhys continued to struggle with his feelings for Beth as she became a part of his family life, and they had sex again during Christmas. They started to see other people but eventually gave in to their love for each other. They ran away with each other but whilst driving away from Hollyoaks Beth died in a car crash, Rhys managed to survive but was left devastated. Some years earlier, character Kate Patrick met and fell in love with a young man who turned out to be her brother.
- In the HBO series "Six Feet Under", main character Brenda Chenoweth and her younger brother Billy Chenoweth are often accused of having 'too close' a relationship. In an episode in season three, Billy kisses Brenda, Brenda immediately leaves and this leads to their one year estrangement. In the fifth season, after the death of her husband, Brenda then has dreams that she and Billy should marry and raise her two children together. She also dreams that they have sex.
- In daytime soap All My Children, a mid-1970's storyline featured Erica Kane meeting and falling for a man named Mark Dalton. Erica liked him so much that she introduced him to her mother, Mona. Mona noticed a birthmark on his hand, and after they left, recalled that Erica's father had the same birthmark. Mona stopped them right before they had sex, and they learned they were brother and sister.
- In daytime soap Young and the Restless, teenagers Mackenzie Browning and Billy Abbott met and fell in love amidst the backdrop of a long-running feud between his mother Jill and her grandmother Katherine. They broke up, only to reunite and marry in 2003. Around the time of their wedding, Jill and Katherine learned that they were mother and daughter. Jill raced to the church but was not in time to stop their wedding. She found out their hotel suite and barged in just before they were going to have sex. The devastated young couple parted ways.
- In Dynasty siblings Adam and Fallon Carrington meet before knowing they are related and are attracted to and flirt with each other.
- In the fifth season of F/X series Nip/Tuck, Matt McNamara's sudden, intense relationship with one of his father's patients is disrupted when it is revealed that she is his half-sister.
- In The World of Krypton (vol. 2), John Byrne wrote of the planet Krypton's ancient past in which a culture of near-immortals thrived by storing sleeping clones of each citizen to harvest for replacement body parts as needed. One of Superman's ancestors was involved in a massive controversy when she broke the law by bringing one of her own clones to full sentience and attempting to get her unwitting son to marry it. This double taboo-breaking added was the trigger for a gathering civil war over clone rights which would eventually decimate the planet for generations.
- In the manga Ayashi no Ceres (English title Ceres, Celestial Legend) by Yuu Watase, twins Aki Mikage and Aya Mikage share a somewhat incestuous relationship once their 16th birthday passes and they both awaken the personalities of their past lives (Ceres for Aya and Mikage for Aki). Aki, the aggressor, attempts to rape his twin at one point in the series while possessed with his family founder's spirit, Mikage.
- In the manga Angel Sanctuary by Kaori Yuki, the main characters, Setsuna Mudo and Sara Mudo, both share romantic feelings for each other despite being brother and sister. Like in Ayashi no Ceres, their affections are manifestations of feelings remaining from their past lives.
- The BBC reported in January 2008 a speech by British peer Lord Alton, which referenced a case in which a judge had annulled the marriage of an unnamed couple, who had discovered that they were twins separated at birth and adopted separately. "They met later in life and felt an inevitable attraction, and the judge had to deal with the consequences of the marriage that they entered into and all the issues of their separation.". However, no corroborating evidence has been provided for the story, which bears many of the hallmarks of an urban legend.
- The Australian reported in April 2008 about a father and daughter who allegedly met for the first time as adults and within two weeks had sex; and that same couple was reported to have had a daughter together by Hearldsun.com.au. However, whether or not this is a genuine GSA situation is open to doubt as it has now been reported that this father and daughter had actually been in contact several times during the daughters' childhood when she stayed with her father and step-mother. They had also spent time together on a trip away from the step-mother on at least one occassion. This story was further reported on by 60 Minutes, with the two discussing their relationship publicly for the first time.
- Cousin couple
- Phenotypic matching
- Kin recognition
Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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