May 24, 2004

Cousin-Lovin' Haiku

by peterb

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
genetic makeup?
inbreed, inbreath, well
both are pressing needs, so come
let's press nether parts
sprite writes
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?
jch writes
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
kosak writes:
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.

Posted by peterb at May 24, 2004 04:13 PM | Bookmark This

Wow, when a 2-3% risk of problems grows to a 4-6% risk problems, that is *doubling* the risk factor! That's not just significant, it's astounding.

Percentages can be confusing, especially for those most likely to marry their cousins. ;-)

Posted by Phillip Winn at May 24, 2004 05:58 PM

I do kinda wonder what makes the cousin-lovin' folks waste so much time posting 'facts' in a stranger's weblog.

The internet's pretty huge. No matter what your pet issue is, you're not going to convince every random guy with a website that you're right.

Move on already, people.

Posted by Nat Lanza at May 24, 2004 06:07 PM

I was going to post the dialogue from the episode of the Simpsons where it is revealed that the town of Shelbyville was founded to provide a place for people to marry their cousins. (It's "Lemon of Troy", first broadcast in 1995.)

But then I just decided to move on.

Posted by Shelbyville Manhattan at May 26, 2004 09:01 PM

Percentages can be confusing, especially for those most likely to marry their cousins. ;-)


Ayup. That's why I ran out and bought TWO lottery tickets - I wanted to DOUBLE my chances of winning. ;)

And as for posting to a stranger's weblog, ignorance is best fought at the source, don't you agree?

... moving on ...

Posted by Edward McCain at July 24, 2004 08:55 PM


i thought i was the only one who felt that way about my cousin..see,i've known him for 4yrs and we have been sleeping for 4 long years..and because of other people's bad comments and speaking of comments,resulting in humiliation,i thought i was going to loose hope.. and because of that,he even showed everyone he had a new girlfriend so no one could humliate us anymore..see,its just so sad,because our love can never be allowed to other people's approval,but i know he still loves me..and no matter what,we will always have a bond that no one could ever take away..see,i just need help on how i could continue my relationship with him,when none of our parents even know about it..we kept it for 4long years..

Posted by anonymous at April 18, 2005 11:47 PM

to the last person who posted anon (april 18 2005), please visit and you will find lots of infomation and true facts there.

Posted by mandy at July 8, 2005 10:00 AM

to the last person who posted anon (april 18 2005), please visit and you will find lots of infomation and true facts there.

Posted by mandy at July 8, 2005 10:04 AM

Here you go again, you don't have to be convinced that cousins being together is a good thing. Fine, I don't have to be convinced you are a human being either.

Moving on and on and on----with my cousin!!!

Posted by Jennifer at August 25, 2005 02:42 PM

I understand your views. I shared them at one point.

But then I fell in love with my cousin, I'm still very upset and sad that this could happen to me. I love her very much but I will never tell her how I feel. I couldn't do that to her or my family, our family.

I'm 27 and she's 24. I'm not some sicko pedophile or anything. I've had beautiful, successful girlfriends in my life, but this girl is special. I love her in a way I didn't think was possible.

I do agree it's wierd. I wish I didn't feel this way, it would save me a lot pain, but what can I do? I try not to judge people anymore. Society tells me I'm wrong, but I no longer believe that my feelings are sick or twisted.

I love this girl with all my heart. I only want what's best for her even if that means I can never tell her how I feel or be with her. I date other girls, I have plenty of fun with them, but I know I will never feel so strongly about anyone else.

It somewhat annoys me that you feel this is so wrong, but you have a right to your opinion. My feelings are not sexual in nature. It's simply that I really really care about this girl. I would do anything for her, I would suffer any pain for her. I'm suffering for her now.

I've never felt a love that was so unconditional. Maybe I am sick, maybe I'm an evil twisted bastard, but in light of what I said here do you really think so?

Posted by Guy at September 28, 2005 12:02 AM

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