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Oedipus Complex 2.0: Like it or not, parents shape their children’s sexual preferences


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On June 6, 1969, a detective in southern Michigan, apparently sensing some scholarly significance in the unusual case report before him, sat down at his desk and typed up a matter-of-fact, single page cover letter to an associate at the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University in Bloomington. The detective was writing with regard to a male patient who was being held voluntarily at a Kalamazoo psychiatric ward, a polite, self-confessed “rubberphile” who, in the darkest burrows of his own deep shame and mortification, with the electric summer hum of cicadas, the shrill of rusted gurney wheels and the groans of fellow patients as an orchestra for his thoughts, had for several long weeks before sat hunched over in his bed trying furiously to expurgate his sexual demons through his pen. “ This report is my soul and will save my life ,” wrote the patient. And it’s this report that came to land soon after on the detective’s desk, was looked at askance and stuffed in a manila envelope, borne off by airmail to Bloomington and eventually shelved discreetly with tens of thousands of other such reports in the Kinsey Institute’s unpublished archives.

Forty years later, under the soft glow of fluorescent lighting in the Institute’s library, I happened across this fetishist’s handwritten sexual autobiography—along with the detective’s austere covering note—while working on my new book Perv, and I must say that this man’s presentation of his condition was an articulate, startling self-exorcism. In a document still effervescent with fear and spanning some fifty pages of lucid, densely packed prose peppered with biblical scripture, this tortured forty-one-year-old rubber-lover—who’d been arrested for various rubber-related crimes, the most minor of these being his making thousands of indecent phone calls to department store saleswomen, inquiring about rubber bikinis for his imaginary wife while fondling laminated advertisements of elastic-clad models with one hand and himself in the other—worked feverishly to understand the origins of his own insatiable desire for rubber and flesh. To the best of his knowledge, it all started when, at the age of seven, he’d stumbled upon his mother’s glistening white rubber bathing suit hanging on a clothesline on the back porch, an arousing event that coincided with his first becoming aware of that strange stirring in his loins.

What began as an innocent enough youthful peccadillo, however, would eventually grow horns and become a highly fetishistic—and criminal—adult sexual identity. “He would type on a 3X5 card that he liked to squirt sperm into rubber caps or rubber girdles,” wrote the detective, who in clichéd administrative dishevel left the signature stain of a coffee mug on the police station memo. “Then [he would] place the cards in the victims’ mail box and sometimes under the windshield wiper of their cars.” You may think this pathological rubber-lover is an extreme case of sexuality gone awry, which it may very well be. But in studying the sexually abnormal, researchers can gain unique insight into the nuanced, otherwise hidden mechanisms of standard human sexual development and psychosexuality. The rubberphile’s early childhood exposure to his mother’s bathing suit, an impossibly white piece of material still beaded with lake water and fragrant with her perspiration, was perhaps simply coincident with a happenstance erection. Yet this alchemy was so powerful that once he massaged that elastic between his little thumb and forefinger, all was forever lost.

This basic developmental system, one in which certain salient childhood events “imprint” our psychosexuality, may not be terribly uncommon. In fact, that early childhood experiences mould our adult sexual preferences—specifically, what turns us on and off, however subtle or even unconscious these particular biases may be—could even be run-of-the-mill. And just like the institutionalized rubber-lover, the more carnally humdrum and vanilla among us might also owe our more secret preferences in the bedroom to our becoming aroused, at some point in the distant past, by our own parents, relatives or childhood friends.

Consider the case of a 29-year-old woman reported in an old Archives of General Psychiatry article, who noticed to her dismay that she wasn’t averse to a bit of sadomasochism and penis-gazing when having sex with men. On accounting for these strong erotic triggers, the woman recalled: 

 

When I was four, my father once caught me masturbating. He put me over his knee and smacked my buttocks. He was in pajamas, and the slit in front of his trousers opened widely, so that I could see his big penis and dark scrotum moving quite near my mouth each time he raised his hand … Ever since, I subconsciously connected the smacking of my buttocks with the view of his penis and my first sexual excitement.

The trouble, of course, is that childhood sexual experiences, and in particular their causal relationship with adult human sexuality, is an elusive topic to study, at least in any rigorously controlled sense. It’s also an area of research that a prudish society—or at least one that views an individual’s sexuality as appearing out-of-the-blue with the first pubescent flush of hormones (or, alternatively, as unfolding in some highly innate, blueprinted sense impenetrable to experience, e.g., “the gay gene”)—prefers to look away from, in spite of its centrality to the human experience. Unlike, say, studying children’s acquisition of language, examining the precise developmental pathways to adult sexuality is more or less impossible. That’s not because it’s empirically impossible but rather only because childhood sexuality is one of those third-rail topics that gets zapped by the electric fencing of university ethics boards and is therefore at risk of always remaining little understood. So as intriguing as retrospective self-reports like the ones above may be, they are, alas, little more than anecdotes.

But never underestimate the cleverness of a good experimentalist. Although examining the precise causal links between early exposure to specific stimuli and later adult sexual preferences is not exactly amenable to experimental manipulation, there may be ways yet to explore some more general developmental mysteries of sexuality using controlled laboratory methods. For example, for many investigative purposes, children are easily enough replaced by rats, and that’s just what Yale University researchers Thomas Fillion and his colleague Elliot Blass did in a now-classic study showing just how important early developmental experiences can be in shaping adult sexuality. As reported in their 1986 study in Science , Fillion and Blass took three female rats that had just given birth to a litter of pups and experimentally altered the mothers’ odors in different ways. One of the rat dams had her teats and vagina coated with a lemony scent called citral; another dam had only her back coated with the same citral scent; and finally the third mother rat went lemonless—instead, her teats and vagina were simply painted with an odorless isotonic saline solution. So, if you’ll follow this through, once the dams were placed back with their suckling babes, the females’ litters of pups differed from one another with respect to the particular odor—or at least the location of the odor—emanating from their mothers while she nursed.

Once they were weaned, the young rats were removed permanently from their mothers and went about doing things that juvenile rats do (such as playing and, apparently, laughing). Then, at about 100 days of age, the sexually mature male rats from these initial litters were introduced, individually, to one of two receptive female rats. Here’s the trick, though. Prior to their introduction to the males, Fillion and Blass had coated one of these females perivaginally with citral scent, and they left the other with her vagina smelling au naturel. Although the citral-scented female genitals made little difference to males from the two other litters—they were happy to have sex with either female—those males that, as pups, had suckled from a mother whose teats and vagina were redolent with lemon ejaculated significantly faster when they were now paired as adults with a lemony female sexual partner. In fact, the investigators reported that these males even had trouble achieving orgasm when mating with the odorless (or at least, odorless as far as rat vaginas go) females.

But can we generalize these Oedipal rat findings to the development of human sexuality? As far as I’m aware, similar studies have not been done with our own species—although it is interesting to speculate on the possible effects of human breastfeeding on the sexual preferences and biases of adult men. (I have oftentimes wondered how many exclusively gay men there are out there who were bottle-fed as infants and whether or not, as one factor among many in such a complex phenomenon, male homosexuality is more frequent in societies in which bottle-feeding is more routinely practiced.) Tethered as we are to the idea that children are asexual, however, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever know for certain whether or not these data have any analogues with human sexuality; and furthermore I’d imagine that it would be a real challenge to find mothers willing to tinker with their child’s development in this shame-ridden domain. Turning one’s son into a fetishist with an unhealthy attraction for reproductive organs that smell like Lemon Pledge may well be going above and beyond the call of scientific duty, even if it is done for admirable humanitarian reasons.

Yet there is at least one recent study that hints at related mechanisms in our species. In a forthcoming report in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign psychologist Chris Fraley and New Mexico State University’s Michael Marks—a study that would make Freud smile in his grave and give a long-fingered salute to his many critics—these investigators show that sexual attraction to one’s own biological parents isn’t as deviant or abnormal a thing as you might assume. In fact, evidence of these hidden desires, say Marks and Fraley, raise important questions for traditional psychological accounts of incest avoidance.

First, a quick primer on incest avoidance theory. Over the past few decades, and in contrast with Freud’s psychoanalytic model, most evolutionarily-minded researchers have argued that human beings possess evolved psychological adaptations designed to avoid incest. Steering clear of biological kin as sexual partners makes good sense in this respect, because having intercourse with someone who shares too much of your own genetic material tends to produce offspring with various abnormalities hindering their reproductive potential, and thus you’re compromising your own overall genetic fitness. And, indeed, numerous studies, in both our own species and others, reveal a so-called “Westermarck effect,” the alleged adaptive system named after the late-19 th century Finnish anthropologist, Edward Westermarck, who was the first to use Darwinian logic to account for the culturally universal taboo against sex with close relatives.

Over the years, scientists have worked to refine Westermarck’s basic idea, with many arguing that our species has evolved something of an unconscious kinship calculator to estimate the likely genetic relatedness of others in our environment. If the calculator produces too high a hypothetical figure in its shared genes number-crunching, then disgust and sexual aversion kicks in. For example, being raised in close proximity with another person of similar age means—to your unconscious brain that has evolved to detect such patterns, anyway—that there’s a good chance that he or she is your biological sibling. This is often cited as the main reason that cultures with “minor marriage” practices, where young girls are raised together with their future husbands in preparation for their later matrimony, tend to produce barren households, since these individuals feel little to no sexual desire for one another as adults.

The trouble with adhering too rigidly to such Westermarckian ideas, say Fraley and Marks, is that people very often end up with spouses that resemble themselves along a variety of physical dimensions—a widely observed phenomenon known as homogamy . This seems to be a matter of sexual imprinting rather than a simple preference for others who resemble us. In one study, for instance, adult married women who’d been adopted as young children were asked to bring to the lab a photograph of their adoptive father along with a separate photograph of their husband. Another group of participants, naïve to the purpose of the study, were able to match which husband went with which adoptive father at a level better than chance.

Homogamy doesn’t apply to every couple, of course, and in fact my own partner is Mexican and, fortunately for him, couldn’t look less like me—or my father, for that matter. My brother and his wife, however, could easily be mistaken for fraternal twins, and their children are perfect miniatures of the Bering-esque gestalt. Empirically, there’s no accounting yet for such individual differences in same/different erotic preferences (although, ahem, my own taste for Latinos may be due to my spending many formative years in South Florida).

While there are always exceptions to the rule, Fraley and Marks have produced a set of startling findings that have temporarily hobbled conventional Westermarckian notions . First, when college students were asked to judge photos of strangers on a scale of sexual attractiveness, the faces in the photos were seen as being significantly more appealing when they were preceded by photos of the student’s own opposite-sex parent via subliminal primes (rather than the face of another student’s opposite-sex parent). That is to say, the participants were more aroused by strangers when the image of their mother’s face (for males) or their father’s face (for females) were still burning unconsciously in their mind’s eye.

On a similar task in which participants were again asked to rate the sexual attractiveness of strangers, individuals got more hot-and-bothered by faces that were morphed with their own faces than they did for faces that were morphed with an unrelated face. In fact, the more that the participant’s face was morphed with that of the target, the more sexually attractive the participant felt the target was. Since we share 100% of genes with ourselves—a sort of experimentally created identical twin, in this case—such findings raise some intriguing new problems for traditional kinship calculator models of incest avoidance, which are often said to factor in salient physical cues reflecting likely genetic relatedness. But interestingly enough, when participants were explicitly informed that their faces had been morphed with that of the target image, this led to “diminished feelings of desire” for their own hybridized face. When individuals were made consciously aware what exactly it was that they were getting aroused by, the “incestuous” effect flat-lined. As the authors point out, it was only once Oedipus Rex—the most famously literal mother-f’er of all time—discovered that he was sleeping with his mother that he gauged out his own eyes.

Based on these findings, Fraley and Marks conclude that, although cultural taboos against incest continue to serve an important adaptive function in preventing our having sex with people that are too closely related to us,

 

 

the so-called Westermarck effect is not a result of innate mechanisms that inhibit desire for individuals with whom one was raised but is instead a result of [cultural] habituation … beneath the surface, those early experiences are setting the stage for a set of preferences that essentially co-opt early attachment and caregiving experiences in the service of sexuality, leading people to find attractive in others features that are shared by their family members.

If only that long-forgotten rubberphile knew of such curious mechanisms of sexual imprinting in humans and other animals, he may have found some solace in science rather than being relentlessly hounded by feelings of religious guilt. What an unfortunate thing to be the same in underlying principle but, owing to something largely out of one’s control, so different in technical expression.

Actually, perhaps it’s not too late for him after all. In his 1969 cover letter, the detective wrote that our rubber-lover was presently in the psychiatric ward, “ where he hopes to spend the rest of his life and he wishes to live to be a real old man.” According to my calculations, the fetishist would be eighty-two years of age today. If the Kalamazoo hospital staff was ever computer savvy and liberally-minded enough to permit their inpatients to browse online, I do hope he lived long enough to experience the sexual Renaissance of the Internet…he’d have found tens of thousands of others like him who would have happily indulged his fantasies without his resorting to criminal activity.

And maybe, just maybe, he’s reading this article right now, thinking fondly of his mother clad in white rubber.

 

 

In this column presented by Scientific American Mind magazine, research psychologist Jesse Bering of Queen’s University Belfast ponders some of the more obscure aspects of everyday human behavior. Sign up for the RSS feed, visit www.JesseBering.com, friend Dr. Bering on Facebook or follow @JesseBering on Twitter and never miss an installment again. For articles published prior to September 29, 2009, click here: older Bering in Mind columns. Jesse’s first book, The Belief Instinct (Norton) [The God Instinct (Nicholas Brealey) in the U.K.], will be published early February, 2011.

Image ©iStockphoto.com/Grafissimo

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  1. 1. Tucker M 4:56 pm 08/17/2010

    Jesse,

    You just get better and better. No one else makes me laugh this hard while learning so much. Besides which, the fearlessness with which you plunge into taboo topics is incredibly refreshing, and the pearls of insight you uncover are priceless.

    Thanks.

    Link to this
  2. 2. OneEye 5:43 pm 08/17/2010

    If the rubber-lover’s attraction for rubber should be judged as proper and legitimate because he came by it "naturally", then surely his feelings of self-loathing and moral disturbance should also be judged as proper and legitimate.

    People who stray from the straight-and-narrow sexually often feel a sense of self-loathing and an innate moral condemnation. Shouldn’t we regard these natural and normal negative feelings as being just as valid and true as the sexual urges such people experience?

    Of course we should! But social trends and political correctness nowadays direct us to think of moralism and guilt as inherently "bad", and to think of any sexual urge as inherently natural and normal.

    That this modern manner of thinking is completely unbalanced and totally dysfunctional is immediately apparent to everyone except the utter libertine. Unfortunately, utter libertinism is the mode du jour. Hence, we live under the nonsensical notion that sexual desire is always good, and any restraint of sexual desire – especially, any cultural restraint – is always bad.

    When will we escape this madhouse?

    Ironically, Dr. Bering’s writing is helping to expose the serious flaws in our modern amoral foundations. So, for that, thank you, Dr. Bering!

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  3. 3. aprilstarchild 6:29 pm 08/17/2010

    OneEye:

    All sexual urges are just fine with me–as long as everyone involved are consenting adults. THAT is true morality.

    I don’t have a problem with the poor guy’s fetish, just that he inflicted it on others.

    No one should feel guilty for sexual fetishes that don’t hurt anyone.

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  4. 4. oldvic 4:37 am 08/18/2010

    Let me be slightly off-topic to say that the fact that sex is so often wrapped in shame is the real shame.

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  5. 5. K.H. 4:44 am 08/18/2010

    OneEye: Unlike your straw man, most thinking people in our ‘libertine’ society don’t actually believe that the expression of any sexual desire is always good, and the key thing is whether that act is consensual or non-consensual.

    The above rubber-lover’s acts were wrong because he involved people without their consent. Rape is non-consensual by definition. Child molesters are wrong because we consider children to be unable to give consent, and are more vulnerable to coercion. Etc, etc.

    Likewise, most of us believe that guilt is sometimes a useful feeling. If you selfishly hurt someone, you should feel guilty about it. But what use was this rubber fetishist’s guilt? If he hadn’t lived in a society that believed that his fetish was sinful in and of itself, he could’ve dealt with it in ways that didn’t hurt anyone, or maybe found someone else who shared it.

    It’s not morally inconsistent to draw a line between a kink that hurts nobody – or even hurts those who make an open eyed choice to be hurt – and something that hurts people who made no such choice.

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  6. 6. mapper_guy 9:38 am 08/18/2010

    Agreed! I learn something different and interesting each time I read Jesse’s articles. Keep up the great work Jesse!

    —mapper guy

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  7. 7. JamesDavis 10:13 am 08/18/2010

    "Tucker M", that’s because Jesse is gay, and every gay person I have ever known have always been very creative and artistic. After all, gay people have to be experts in communications – both verbal and physical. -You are a good boy Jesse, keep up the great work-

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  8. 8. enternewid 11:05 am 08/18/2010

    Ah, it’s now proven why gay couples should not adopt children!

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  9. 9. c.harvey 2:13 pm 08/18/2010

    @enternewid: I don’t see how you get that out of this article. Parents might influence their kid’s sexual preferences — kinks and fetishes, etc. — but that doesn’t necessarily translate to creating their sexual orientation (turning them gay or straight).

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  10. 10. jgrosay 6:08 pm 08/18/2010

    Although some said that the psychodynamics of homosexual drive were quite simple: a brutal male parental figure that induces the desire of posession in the offspring for gay men, or the same kind of male parent in lesbians, that induce a conditioned rejection af all males, or the rejection of the male parent by the female parent, elliminating the possibility that the child uptakes the male figure role traits, uptake that is probably done thru the female parent.
    As sexual drive overcomes self-preservation will, and once you have had any kind of orgasmic reward, a positive conditioning almost impossible to surpass is stablished, one of the personality traits that may perhaps influence the sex autocrine loop is the learnt trait of going from drive to action, a behavioural feature that may have many influences. What about the possible orgasmic experience linked to circumcission?

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  11. 11. Sez Me 9:16 pm 08/18/2010

    Oh, OneEye,
    What a slippery slope you tread!!
    To carry your "logic" to the next step, then the "libertinism", deriving as it does from the ‘backlash effect’ of too much guilt and self condemnation, or our modern society is the "natural and proper" response that normal and healthy people ought to have.
    Yeah, I know….. I offer no support for any of this by way of research. But then if you can make it up as you go along, surely I can do the same.

    I’ll bet a dollar to a dime that you’re on your knees on a regular basis, praying to be forgiven for your "urges", "naughty thoughts" and perhaps "masturbation to those thoughts".

    I’ll bet another dollar to another dime that you’re male, unmarried, and living a pretty dead-end kind of life.

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  12. 12. catibar 11:42 am 08/19/2010

    It stands to reason that if our parents shape our personality, and a lot of other things like our view of the world, our eating habits, our beliefs, and other preferences (that sometimes we change when we grow up) then they would shape our sexual preferences as well. The key word here is "preference", it is not in the genes, it is something like a pavlovian response then that can be overcome if we realize the origins of our fetishes?

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  13. 13. EricMJohnson 1:58 pm 08/19/2010

    Another excellent discussion. When I was doing my bonobo research I was disturbed by the amount of incest taking place between siblings. No intercourse that I could detect, but certainly lots of sexual play. A close friend once told me the story of her younger brother and sister whose parents caught them naked and playing a sexual game in their room. They were seven and eight. They were severely punished for offending God. I haven’t made up my mind on this question but given the acceptance of childhood sexual behavior among indigenous societies (such as the Sambia of New Guinea where boys felate older males to ingest their manhood so they can become men themselves: http://j.mp/bMTej0) I wonder if it’s out sexually repressed society that is what is truly unhealthy.

    A really wonderful read. Thank you very much.

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  14. 14. EricMJohnson 2:01 pm 08/19/2010

    Another excellent discussion. When I was doing my bonobo research I was disturbed by the amount of incest taking place between siblings. No intercourse that I could detect, but certainly lots of sexual play. In contrast, a close friend once told me the story of her younger brother and sister whose parents caught them naked and playing a sexual game in their room. They were seven and eight. They were severely punished for offending God. I haven’t made up my mind on this question, but given the acceptance of childhood sexual behavior among many indigenous societies (like the Sambia of New Guinea, just to cite one example, where boys felate older males to ingest their manhood so they can become men themselves: http://j.mp/bMTej0) I wonder if it’s our sexually repressed society that is what is truly unhealthy.

    A really wonderful read. Thank you very much.

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  15. 15. Carlton Van Nostrand 4:08 pm 08/19/2010

    @enternewid: Funny, the fact that both of my parents are straight didn’t make me any less gay.

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  16. 16. Carlton Van Nostrand 4:09 pm 08/19/2010

    @enternewid: Funny, both of my parents are straight, and it didn’t make me any less gay.

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  17. 17. Chryses 3:17 pm 08/21/2010

    Carlton Van Nostrand,

    "… Funny, both of my parents are straight, and it didn’t make me any less gay."

    So you disagree with the author of this article?

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  18. 18. jca488 9:10 pm 08/23/2010

    Right, as stated one on a viral youtube video.
    "gay parents will only raise gay kids" just like "straight parents only raise straight kids"
    Great article, I have been reading your Blog for a while and its always so intellectually challenging. Even better, you always provide great research along with it.
    I actually wrote a piece because your article and this other article triggered me to. So thanks for challenging me. Im an amateur so dont expect too much btw.

    http://jca488.blogspot.com/2010/08/we-hate-discrimination-but-deep-down.html

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  19. 19. MikeJ 7:47 pm 08/24/2010

    I’m surprised you didn’t site the study which asked young women to rate the attractiveness of various men’s sweaty t-shirts. It turned out that the women were more attracted to those from men who were more genetically distinct from them, as measured by their major histocompatability complex. MHCs seem to affect under arm odor.

    It seems likely that there are many different forces influencing our attraction to others. We could be attracted to people like our parents, but other factors, such as that mentioned above, would tend to help them from mating with someone who is too closely related.

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  20. 20. gardenerman 12:55 pm 08/25/2010

    Freud discovered that a fetish is the last thing a boy sees before he discovers that women do not have penises. The case in question suggests that the boy saw his mother taking off the bathing suit and repressed it. Apparently the pleasant sight of his mother pulling the bathing suit from her breasts, followed by the horrible realizaion that his mother had been castrated, was banished from his memory. All that was left was the fetish; the comforting sight that preceded the shock. Kinsey never thought about such things because he didn’t think Freud *scientific* like he was.

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  21. 21. otakucode 6:11 pm 08/26/2010

    I can’t help but think that our social approach to child sexuality helps to amplify and cement these sorts of fetishes into place. A child has an experience, and is only able to fixate upon it as a characteristic of themelves because they look around and NEVER see mention of their sexual nature. If they came up with any conclusion other than that they are a complete freak, there would be reason to worry.

    Every fictional character they see is called "human" but has no genitals. Every fictional story they see is about "people" and never involves sex. Their parents teach them about everything, but clam up when it comes to that. They pick up on that. And they become convinced that whatever they are experiencing is unique to them. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that they would have to integrate that into their personality or else live a life trying to deny it in some way or another.

    On the topic of homosexuality… the idea that homosexuality as a preference is genetic was created by modern society (and didn’t exist in any other culture in history). Homosexual activity went on all throughout history. In fact, if you take an honest biography of any person from any society at any point in time, the most accurate conclusion would be ‘bisexual’ as gender lines were crossed constantly. The idea was created in modern times because society was starting to rely on science instead of religion, and had views that it was not OK to discriminate against someone based upon something they had no control over. That gave the gay community a rallying point, it provided them much-needed defense against the christofascists who sought to change them and control them, etc. It doesn’t make it true. In truth, the natural capacity of everyone is to be capable of sexual attraction to pretty much everyone else. Cultural influences, life experiences, etc set what a persons idea of masculinity and femininity are and they differ from culture to culture. The intertwining of sexual desire with these traits cannot be biological in basis. Yes, there is a very strong learned response, but that doesn’t provide any evidence of genetic influence one way or the other. We don’t think it is OK for people to be harrassed for making a choice, whether it is conscious or not, and people are willing to die for it in the case of religion, so as I see it, the ‘but I’ve always been this way’ and ‘I couldn’t change if I wanted to because I tried’ arguments can all be applied exactly equally to religious affiliation.

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  22. 22. gardenerman 8:00 pm 08/26/2010

    It’s nice to see that thinking people sometimes read *Scientific American!*

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  23. 23. gizmo 9:31 am 10/1/2010

    I wonder if this is why my soon to be ex husband and I do not get along and have not much sexual chemistry. We are total opposites in looks and personalities. Yet my new beau is very much like myself, and we are so alike in other ways, I just can’t help myself.

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  24. 24. jules111 4:35 am 02/9/2011

    I wonder why, if rats (and maybe other animals), who, unlike humans, do not have insect taboos, do not engage in sexual relations with their parents then? This would be the consequence of what the experimenters think is the basis of the observed behavior?

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  25. 25. gardenerman 3:40 pm 02/9/2011

    All animals do incest. If you have domesticated animals you should watch them closely. See if your cats and dogs don’t do it when the opportunity arises. They even do homosexual incest. Humans are the only species that have prohibitions against such things; and common sense will inform you that prohibitions are unnecessary for things that nature finds abhorrent.

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