Just last week, we were discussing the claim that sometimes is made that if and when a woman feels a sense of shame, regret or guilt after abortion, that's just because society made her feel that way.
I was interested to read in this article on incest that some people think the same thing about incest. In other words, they think that it is not inherently damaging to a little girl when her dad has sex with her. The little girl only feels bad when she grows up and finds out that other people are not cool with father-daughter sex.
Farrell cautions that his statistics are rough and confined just to his current sample of 200 -- including people from the unemployed, the working class, business executives, Ph.D.'s and professional athletes. But his preliminary data suggest that the taboo needs severe overhauling. Breaking down the effects into positive (beneficial), negative (traumatic), and mixed (nontraumatic but not regarded as beneficial) categories -- the three faces of incest in his subtitle -- he says that the ovewhelming majority of cases fall into the positive column. Cousin-cousin (including uncle-niece and aunt-nephew) and brother-sister (including sibling homosexuality) relations, accounting for about half of the total incidence, are perceived as beneficial in 95 percent of the cases.In case it isn't obvious, the guy is an utter nutball and I'm sure his statistics are junk. I thought it was worth noting, though, as another example of the "the act itself isn't bad, and you only feel bad about it because society says you are supposed to" line of thinking.
The father-daughter scene, ineluctably complicated by feelings of dominance and control, is not nearly so sanguine. Despite some advertisments, calling explicitly for positive female experiences, Farrell discovered that 85 percent of the daughters admitted to having negative attitudes toward their incest. Only 15 percent felt positive about the experience. On the other hand, statistics from the vantage of the fathers involved were almost the reverse -- 60 percent positive, 20 percent negative. "Either men see these relationships differently," comments Farrell, "or I am getting selective reporting from women."
If she is unaware of society's taboo and if the mother does not intervene, she has no reason to suspect the enormity of the aberration. But when she grows up and learns of the taboo, she feels cheapened.
Farrell also hopes to change public attitudes so that participants in incest will no longer be automatically perceived as vitims. "The average incest participant can't evaluate his or her experience for what it was. As soon as society gets into the picture, they have to tell themselves it was bad. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy."