What’s wrong with incest?

Nothing, according to a judge in Australia, provided the partners are “mature adults” who take care not to produce offspring by relying either on contraception or, should that fail, abortion.

Judge Nelson of New South Wales then drew a parallel I find most appropriate, though not in the sense in which he meant it: “If this was the 1950s and you had a jury of 12 men… they would say it’s unnatural for a man to be interested in another man or a man being interested in a boy. Those things have gone.”

They have indeed, evoking the mixed metaphor of the thin end of the wedge being driven into a slippery slope. The judge’s logic is unassailable: legalising first homosexuality and then homomarriage destroys any objections, present or future, to any kind of sexual activity.

Implicitly, His Honour welcomes this development, and the only possible concerns he sees are purely practical, those involving pregnancy. However, as he correctly pointed out, such problems don’t have to arise in our progressive time.

Schoolchildren these days may not learn traditional academic subjects, such as history and philosophy, and they may not even learn how to read properly, but they all take condom classes.

French letters have replaced belles lettres, and then there’s always the fall-back position of an abortion, which, when all is said and done, is but a form of contraception, a surgical equivalent of popping a morning-after pill.

Fair enough, 25 to 50 per cent of children produced by this version of brotherly love develop problems, ranging from idiocy to infertility. However, as a man of the humanities, I’m less interested in statistics than in the moral aspects of such unions.

These, as far as Judge Nelson is concerned, don’t exist. We no longer live in the antediluvian 1950s, when troglodyte laws frowned on sexual perversion, and those who advocated homomarriage were likely to be committed to a loony bin.

We live in the twenty-first century, when morality has been taken out of sex. If two consenting adults want to have some innocent fun, what’s the problem? Who’s getting hurt?

Society, would be the answer to that question, but anyone daring to proffer such a reply would be considered an objectionable fossil – and, if he speaks forcefully enough, possibly even a law-breaker.

When in 2014 our (Conservative!) PM pushed through the homomarriage law, I was writing pieces about both the thin end of a wedge and the slippery slope. Some readers took exception to such unfashionable extremism. Just because two homosexuals in love are now allowed to tie the knot, it doesn’t follow that, say, incest and bestiality will become legal as well.

I put forth all sorts of counterarguments then and could do so now. But there’s no need: Judge Nelson has done it for me.

Remove morality from it, replace it with soulless rationality, and no sane person could argue logically against any form of consensual sex. Siblings (same-sex or otherwise), parents and children – what does it matter, provided the children are grown up and a good time is had by all?

And treating consent as the absence of resistance, even poking farm animals should raise no objections. Did that ewe say no? Of course she didn’t, Your Honour. In fact, she quite enjoyed having her hind legs stuck into a pair of wellies.

This isn’t reductio ad absurdum; in modernity no such thing is possible. Nothing is any longer absurd, and even satire is left for dead. What was absurdly unthinkable or risible even 10 years ago, never mind in the 1950s mentioned by the good judge, is now legal, unobjectionable and even commendable. I’m eagerly awaiting the time when it becomes compulsory.

“Oedipus, schmedipus, as long as he loves his Mum,” we chuckle. And in my French backwater, where incest is rife, it’s referred to as le cinéma des pauvres (the cinema of the poor), much to the mirth of my Parisian friends who, like me, have their country houses here.

Laughter all around, just as Hilaire Belloc observed some 100 years ago: “We are tickled by [the Barbarian’s] irreverence, his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creeds refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond; and on these faces there is no smile.”

3 thoughts on “What’s wrong with incest?”

  1. On the other hand, it is only a year or so back that someone was convicted of hurting someone’s feelings by calling him a sheep-shagger.

    1. That’s different. Calling someone a sheep-shagger is judgemental and implicitly pejorative. The sheep-shagger’s feelings may be hurt, and we can’t have that, can we? Actually doing it with a sheep is unobjectionable to today’s lot. It’s not just this particular perversion either. Homosexuality is normal, healthy and moral. Yet calling somebody a homo (or any synonym thereof, of which English has a large vocabulary) qualifies as a hate crime.

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