Genetic Sexual Attraction

We humans are designed to survive.  That means we are instinctively driven to reproduce to continue the species.  Successful reproduction thrives on a variety of  gene mash ups happening in our families.  This means we need new genes constantly, genes that come from outside the family.

Here’s the thing: we are naturally and instinctively ,sexually and emotionally attracted to people with whom we have most in common.  People tend to select mates that are like themselves; this is known as assortative mating. This holds both for physical appearances and mental traits. People commonly rank faces similar to their own as more attractive, trustworthy, etc. than average. Perhaps people have even told you that you and your partner look alike- is that by chance? Not according to science- its your way of natural selection to increase and enrich the gene pool and its the face with which you feel most comfortable.

Think of a family. You are thrown together 24/7 in an incubator in which you have so much in common, a huge sense of familiarity and spend a lot of time together. All this equals great intimacy. To ensure continuation of the species, nature and man have  ways of stopping the natural desire to be sexual with a family member. Yes Im talking about incest.

One way of ensuring this is a strange phenomenon called the Westermark Effect.  This is a hypothetical psychological effect that suggests people who live in close domestic proximity during the first few years of their lives together become desensitised to any later sexual attraction. Plus Universal incest laws are created by men to ensure we survive  and to keep order in families,by making  it illegal to be sexual with a close family member. as the emotional consequences are seen to be monumental.

Enter a new phenomenon , namely Genetic Sexual Attraction.  GSA is sexual attraction between close relatives, such as siblings or half-siblings, a parent and offspring, or first and second cousins, who first meet as adults.  This is incest and in South Africa  since 2007, incest is  defined as the sexual penetration between persons who are related as follows:

  • lineally, that is, if one person is a direct descendant of the other.
  • within the first degree of consanguinuity, that is, where one person is a direct descendant of a parent of the other; this category includes siblings as well as an uncle or aunt with a niece or nephew.
  • within the first degree of affinity, that is, where one person is the direct ancestor or descendant of the spouse of the other person.
  • as adoptive parent and adopted child.

Open adoptions have triggered this new phenomenon. In the late ’80s, the founder of a support group, Barbara Gonyo,  for adopted children who had recently reconnected with their biological relatives coined the term “Genetic Sexual Attraction” (GSA) to describe the intense romantic and sexual feelings that she observed occurring in many of these reunions. According to an article in The Guardian, experts estimate that these taboo feelings occur in about 50 percent of cases where estranged relatives are reunited as adults

People who experience GSA have supposedly not had this critical period of Westermark effect of desensitisation together. And so when they meet , there is a strong attraction due to the familiarity, both emotionally and physically, of the newly found relative.

I ask you to consider, not judge, merely consider , your feelings about GSA.

* What makes you feel uncomfortable about siblings meeting up after years apart due to adoption , divorce of parents, and having a sexual relationship, even children?

* If these two people are not in other significant relationships , and are adults and choose to be together, what is the harm?

* Do you think people who engage in GSA deserve the prosecution, persecution, discrimination, prejudice, bullying, or ridicule they receive?

* Do you consider this child abuse?

* It appears that father -daughter relationships are the most contentious,  as it is often assumes the daughter must have been abused in childhood, do you agree or do all GSA relationships feel uncomfortable and unacceptable to you?

* What do you think should happen to the children born of GSA relationships?

Forums exist to support people in GSA relationships. They re fighting for their right to “marriage equality” and to consanguinamory (romantic or sexual love between close blood relatives.)

From reading the forum pages, people choosing GSA relationships fall into two extremes. Both choices destroy familial bonding. Either people walk away from GSA because of inappropriate or confusing  feelings . The GSA community believes this choice is a bad one as it “ deepens the void that was created by separation from those we were supposed to bond with from infancy through death” . And the second reason , the opposite extreme,  those who have abandoned their spouses, their children, and society’s value system to begin an inappropriate physical relationship with the person they are convinced is their soul mate.

Forums exist to support people in GSA relationships. They re fighting for their right to “marriage equality” and to consanguinamory (romantic or sexual love between close blood relatives.)

Two years ago, when I first discussed this topic, I was publicly  opposed to GSA.   Working with  non familial relationships all day , I see the struggle people have with jealousy, extended families , integrating into each other’s worlds, disappointment that love is not reciprocated and difficult sexual negotiations.  I can only imagine how two people who are siblings, or parent-child can hold this  delicate space of love and sexuality. And bring children into the equation.

My work in #TraumaIntimacy has taught me just how traumatising adoption, fostering, separation from a parent and even a sibling can be. The need for healing this wound is profound . GSA may well be one way to manage such a deep wound. It is a solution that brings so many further traumas.

.  Today I am less uncomfortable with GSA. Like  with pedophilia, I prefer management over criminalisation . People involved in GSA relationships must reach out for clinical assistance rather than hide, isolate and risk harm to themselves, their families  or children.

If you find yourself in a GSA relationship, or preyed on by a close family member , consult with me.




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