We here at BUST work really hard to promote an inclusive, sex-positive mindset in what we read and write: We believe once you’re an adult, your decisions are entirely your own, so long as they are consensual and don’t harm anyone else. But sometimes we come across something that is so…what’s the word…icky?...that we just don’t know what to do with ourselves.

We’re talking about this New York Mag article in which an 18 year-old woman details her romantic relationship with her biological father.

Regardless of feelings, this can never be a healthy, progressive, respectful relationship. Even if their parent-child dynamic doesn’t exist to them on the surface (which it does; in the article she clearly outlines how she compartmentalizes the different aspects of their relationship), it’s there. Even if you don’t take on the responsibility of parenting, you’re still responsible for the very existence of the child. It’s like he has this power dynamic card in his back pocket; even if he doesn’t use it, it’s there.

The woman in this article speaks of her sexual relationship with her father, how he kept asking if she wanted to stop, or if she was uncomfortable at all. Consent is vital to any sexual relationship whatsoever. But if you were partaking in an act of sex that you believe to be actually consensual, would you feel the need to continually ask for permission in this way?

We are only getting one side of the story, so it’s hard to fully analyze either party’s psychological situation. But what about the woman’s struggle with depression (which she openly discusses)? It’s hard not to take that into account. 

Teens are allowed to make mistakes. The woman’s explanation of her attraction to her father read like the naïve reasons girls tell their high school friends why they like a person: “We chitchatted online for a few days and found out we were similar. We shared the same favorite TV shows — The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory — and we both love to draw…[if we broke up] I wouldn’t be happy or confident.” We would probably want to stop any 18 year-old from jumping into a marriage or committed partnership after giving this kind of reasoning, let alone one with her father.

It’s such a conflicting thing to read because so many parts of this woman seem so progressive: she doesn’t believe “you need a piece of paper to prove that you want to be with the person you love,” and she openly identifies as bisexual. She seems open and honest and like a good person to talk to (until, of course, you realize she’s talking about her father). Her disappointment with the state of the law—causing her and her father/fiancée to move to New Jersey, where adult incest is apparently legal—could register similarly to a person with a non-heterosexual identity wanting to marry their partner.

But unlike other relationships that have been persecuted in the past, this one could actually cause harm. Her grandparents are excited for them to have grandchildren, but what’s going to happen to those children? The harmful genetic effects of incest are well documented, even if this woman and others who identify as GSA (“Genetic Sexual Attraction”) seriously downplay them. This is one taboo that exists for a reason.

Image c/o New York Magazine

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