Do People Have a Natural Attraction To Incest?

Dr. Susan Forward is said to be a principle authority on sexual abuse and incest. She and Craig Buck propose in their book, Betrayal of Innocence, that the aversion to speaking about, or hearing of incest, comes from a natural attraction to it.

In biological terms it would be a logical reaction for people who live in the same home, share in activities, and who are tied together by emotions… to also be sexually attracted to each other.

This can be true in many cases.

Forward and Buck write, “Incestuous desires are in us all, though we engage a variety of unconscious mechanisms to deny them.” 1

I am not certain if I agree with the authors here, but it is possible.

In many cultures, and in third world countries, incest is openly practiced. 2 In early historical times and in pre-literate groups, maternal incest and pederasty were common. Have humans really changed that much? We have amended and created laws in order to protect children, but this has not stopped people from committing the acts. In America, incest is almost always hidden behind the facade of a “good” family and most likely happening just as much as it is in other cultures. The only difference in America, is that it is a well kept secret within the family.

Pornography generates billions of dollars a year globally and the United States is the biggest distributor. The Internet provides a vast amount of positive things for freedom of speech and for information, but unfortunately the Internet has also brought child pornography out of hiding and allowed it to flourish.

There are bulletin boards on websites for sexual deviation which display messages from people who want to swap their children with like-minded parents for sexual purposes. These child pornography rings sexually abuse children of all ages, and are forced to have sex with their own parents. Internet users request sexual acts to be perpetrated on the children and the order is filled by the child’s parents. In some cases the parent arranges for their son or daughter to have sex with another adult. 3

Prior to the 1950’s when the FBI had little information on sex crimes, and many agents were turned on by child pornography. This aided in keeping important information out of law enforcement and away from the general public. Over-excited officers were stimulated by the material or were too eager to interview victims. Some agents even made copies of evidence for their personal use. The problem in the FBI was later reduced in the late 1970’s when Kenneth Lanning, Roy Hazelwood, and a few other agents cleaned up the FBI training course. 4

But what is most disturbing, is a survey conducted in order to study the pedophilic tendencies and sexual attraction to children in young male adults.

The study was done on 193 male undergraduate students. The results were that twenty-one percent of these young men reported that they were sexually aroused by small children. Nine percent admitted to having sexual fantasies about children, five percent have actually masturbated to these fantasies, and seven percent revealed that if they would not be caught or punished they would probably have sex with a child. 5


1. Betrayal of Innocence: Incest and its Devastation, Dr. Susan Forward and Craig Buck, Penguin Books, 1988, page 7

2. Speech given at the National Parenting Conference in Boulder, Colorado, on September 25, 1997 The History of Child Abuse by Lloyd deMause The Journal of Psychohistory 25 (3) Winter 1998

3. CNBC News August 9 2002

4. The Evil That Men Do: FBI Profiler Roy Hazelwood’s Journey into the Minds of Sexual Predators, Stephen G. Michaud with Roy Hazelwood, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1998, pages 16, 87-89

5. University males’ sexual interest in children: Predicting potential indices of “pedophilia” in a non-forensic sample. Briere J, Runtz M.  Child Abuse Neglect 1989; 13(1):65-75.

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20 Responses to Do People Have a Natural Attraction To Incest?

  1. paul says:

    according to buddhism any form of sex which harms the interest of any other person is a sin and this applies to incest as it harms the interests of others in their social life

  2. paul says:

    buddhist view on sex is it is desire and desire is based on greed,ignorence etc.however it being a component of nature to help in procreation, it is permissable so long it does not harm yourself anyone else.harming the interest of any other person is a sin, becase it give shame and pain to others.this is why incest is considered a sin.

  3. talkingbook says:

    To me the question is, is the desire really natural even if it seems spontaneous. Alcoholism is genetic and it is inherited, not a spontaneous mutation, but isn’t addiction an unnatural tendency. People who admit they are addicts admit that at first their addiction is easy to control, and then gets unreasonable and out of hand and almost impossible if not impossible to control. They either have to quit altogether or keep drinking and die or be institutionalized.

    So I would say alcohol addiction is unnatural even if a person is born with it.

    I am 52 years old and I didn’t remember almost all of the incest that I suffered for many years until I was 49 (both parents, a grandparent, and aunt and her violent boyfriend, brothers, etc., not just incest but sexual abuse)So how is a person of 13, 14, 15 or whatever supposed to remember every major influence in their life? How can a person necessarily speak about what makes them attracted to a certain gender or age or other feature in a person that that turns them on?

    I sure have had a lot of what I now consider unnatural desires–such as promiscuity–but when they first manifested I thought it was just me, “just the way I am”.

    So what do we mean by natural–born with it, and or acquired at an early age through socialization? Or is natural what evolution really means to program us with–a wholesome and nonabusive childrhood?

    “Born and/or raised this way and I can’t do much if anything about it by myself,” that I can see, but how could incest be natural? Except that perhaps people have had to mate with relatives in case of death of spouse and unavailability of other mates. But raping children, wanting to have sex with them? Surely things are just mixed because we inherit all kinds of stuff from our ancestors, who all lived in an imperfect society.

    I have heard that those who molest children tend to have been themselves molested, and are also usually mentally ill to some degree. So it’s natural in the sense that “shit happens”. People have their ability to think naturally taken away, so they react in a sick manner to life’s occurrences.

    • little nel says:

      “People have their ability to think naturally taken away, so they react in a sick manner to life’s occurrences.”

      I would have to agree somewhat.

      I would have to add that people who have ongoing stress stemming from childhood abuse have an inner anger/fear that causes them to have a warped perspective towards life.

      How can they react in any other way until they find recovery from the effects of child abuse?

      Resentment is the poison that a person drinks while expecting someone else to die from it.

      I resented my abusers for what they did and I never found relief from the abuse. It was a never ending path of guilt and fear for me until I found a solution. The solution included admitting that I was abused and that I did not deserve it. That “I DID NOT DESERVE IT” was the hardest thing to accept for me.

    • Alethea says:

      “People have their ability to think naturally taken away, so they react in a sick manner to life’s occurrences.”

      True. Or they are conditioned through the media, tv, and films to think unnaturally and eventually they no longer even know what natural is, and they react and act in unnatural, and sick or dysfunctional ways.

      For the past fifty years, society has been SLOWLY re-conditioned to think, behave, and feel in unnatural ways. The only thing not yet corrupted, is society’s understanding that for an adult to have sex with children is NOT okay. The ‘powers that be’ try, and try and try. But thank goodness, so far, society is not buying it.

  4. little nel says:

    I believe that those who lust after children have a type of contempt for them.

    • Alethea says:

      Yes, very true Little Nel. This also goes for the women who choose their man over the child. The women that I interviewed for my book, who had mothers who chose the man, all said their mothers never wanted kids to begin with. My mother never wanted any of her children either. Me especially, because I came along so late in her life….oh, and I wasn’t a boy.

      • mary says:

        You’d think that if they didn’t want kids, if they knew they didn’t have the capacity to give them the love and care they require, that they would do the responsible thing and use birth control or get their tubes tied. :\

      • little nel says:

        Let me guess, “If it wasn’t for you kids I would not have had any marital problems because everything was fine until I had kids.”

        Both of my parents involved themselves with this type of resentment. It gave them permission to punish and neglect because they were “stuck” and did not want to be tied down.

        I was the baby that ruined my mother’s “best body on the beach” so she couldn’t achieve the movie “stardom” that she craved.

        • Alethea says:

          Hi Little Nel. I don’t have memory of specific things said to me, or to my sisters, but my mother outright admitted to all of us a number of years ago, that she never wanted any of us. One of my sisters told me my mother had some resentment over me not being a boy. I wish I could remember all of this stuff, but I blocked my entire childhood OUT. Lots of trauma caused this.

          It’s frustrating sometimes.

  5. little nel says:

    I think the question should be, “Do some males have an un-natural attraction to incest?

    Yes, when they are not comfortable with adult relationships and feel that their lust for their children is justifiable.

    My father thought that it was natural, normal, and thought that he was doing a good thing, while at the same time making us keep it a family secret.

    He believed his lust and violent control tactics were more important than any law or moral code because he believed that it was inherent or natural. He made his own rules, not God, judges, or laws because he knew that he would get the benefit of all the legal protections. Others had to prove his guilt and he could “outsmart” them before he was ever charged with a crime, therefore he was justified in his own mind.

    His favorite saying was, “Women were put on this earth for one thing… and that is to please men.” (He was implying sexually).

    Another one was, “If I’m doing something illegal, why don’t they arrest me?

    He was a bully who knew how to manipulate us with fear, guilt, and rewards.

    • Alethea says:

      “I think the question should be, “Do some males have an un-natural attraction to incest?”

      Thanks Little Nel. Right you are. Except it should read, “Do some people have an un-natural attraction to incest?”

  6. mary says:

    I believe that the denial that translates into tolerance and pratical acceptance of pedophilia in some families is why it penetrates through the ages. in regards to your previous post, i believe the media and society can create that interest in some people where that incestual and pedophilic influence isnt present in their family lives. Even if individual families do not reflect society’s ideals, as a society we need to keep discouraging & stimatizing the practice of incest& pedophilia. If a child grows up being molested by their parents, i know something in their gut tells them its wrong but without society reassuring the kid its wrong or outside influences showing them even a glimmer of whats right, they would live life thinking that the abuse is normal, acceptable and maybe go on to practice it themselves. Not all do of course, i just noticed that in abuse survivors, some become the complete opposite of their circumstances, some become the kind that tolerates it, and others become the kind that abuse

    • Alethea says:

      You’re right on Mary. The media, tv and film industry absolutely encourage, promote, and even deliver incest as sexy, stimulating, or ‘something to try.’ Sometimes it is even normalized. Good point!

      And yes, many children know instinctually that it is wrong, even if no one tells them so. I knew instinctually that it was wrong. No one had to tell me. I remember knowing, as it happened, that it was wrong…even when it felt good.

      As I understand it, in ancient times, the Romans openly practiced incest and felt it was perfectly fine, but had to stop when so many children were born with defects, or died as a result of in-breeding. I think life/nature/God has a way of showing humans that something is not okay. Birth defects and infant deaths, are all indicative that incest is unnatural.

  7. A few things come to mind – Jordan Minnesota, please check it out it appeared to be paedophilia ring with parents, money and attorneys became involved, lawsuits and it was all swept under the rug, no charges, and even Midwest Resources was condemned and children’ s statements thrown out. This case plagues others if you ask me. Not to mention Minnesota’ s incest exception clause. This clause is many states and Protect has removed in quite a few, like California. All these things relate to your post. Thanks

  8. mary says:

    It’s true that pedophilia&incest does not discriminate by cultural, national or social class. i just dont think that fact should imply that it’s “natural attraction” when its universally damaging to the psyches of children from all backgrounds. Animals do not engage in sexual acts with children, and it’s because animals sex drives are guided by pheromones they smell&give off that signify sexual maturity, fertility. However, they can engage in incest, but only if the offspring have reached sexual maturity and typically if there is no other creature to mate with. Im not making an argument for incest, but im just pointing out that humans are the only ones who create these psychological fetishes and paraphillias, attaching their sex drives to everything from shoes to children to all kinds of things not inherently sexual.I believe society,media, and family teaches individuals what to sexualize&at impressionable ages, puberty esp, they leave a psychological imprint that stays with the individual for life.

    • talkingbook says:

      And also, we all have hormones and just having another human being around could be the start to a sexual attraction to them. Curbing an incestious or inappropriate desire may feel unnatural, but to me it’s the healthy thing to do, therefore natural.

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