I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I am not the gate-holder to anyone’s life, but I feel that because I run this blog I have a kind of responsibility to make some kind of statement about where I personally would ‘draw the line’ in my support of cousins-cousin pairings.
In other posts, I try to be as neutral as possible but this post is largely my personal opinion. If someone out there lives differently I won’t demonize them, but I want to express my personal feeling on ‘limitations’ to reproduction. There is more I need to read to understand this topic more in depth but from what I’ve read so far, including from the real life examples I know of, this is the opinion I’ve formulated for myself:
I repeat this all the time: if you ever plan on making kids with your first cousin or any other cousin, you should try your best to go to at least one genetic councilor to get a better understanding of where you stand with regards to your reproductive risks.
I am very much against the custom of arranged marriage (and by that I mean, the custom of pressuring, forcing, or manipulating two people to marry against their will). Here I am talking about mutually consensual love.
I feel that there does need to be limits to reproduction, even for cousins. I think their risk level is low enough to justify them taking the risk in a single generation, BUT, my opinion is that a “line” should be drawn directly after that first generation has children.
Here are my reasons for thinking this way:
- The stigma that is attached to these relationships comes largely from observations made about inbreeding depression – when several generations inbreed, there are a series of consequences that can occur. All you need to do is have a glance at the family tree of King Charles II of Spain. It is downright horrifying what can happen with several generations in a row of inbreeding. This is an inescapable fact.
- I say a line should be drawn in terms of reproduction only, and only after the first generation. If someone whose parents are already cousins ends up falling in love with their cousin I think they have every right to be together, however, I don’t think they should have children. If this 2nd generation marries outside the family, this wouldn’t be an issue and they wouldn’t have to worry about the risks rising.
- I feel that those consang couples who should have children (if they want to) are cousin couples that do not have incest in the last 4 generations or so in their shared lineage, and an overall healthy family tree (with their own health also being evaluated). This is to ensure that there is enough genetic diversity to afford them the lowest possible risk level in conceiving their own children with each other.
- I think the cut off mark needs to be drawn directly after this first generation, because from that point onward the baseline risk for further incestuous relationships begins to increase. Yes it’s possible that there would still be enough genetic diversity left over to allow for healthy kids in this 2nd generation as well, but I feel that the more inbreeding occurs in a single family line, the higher the chances of their children growing up and thinking no harm would be done in making it a ‘tradition.’
- I don’t think cousin marriage should ever be a cultural or family ‘custom’. I think that is dangerous and can easily turn into the Charles II family tree a few generations down the line. I think cousin marriage should be an ‘exception’ made for those few people that truly feel their cousin is the only one they want to commit to.
- My argument is not based solely on risk level because it’s possible that the risk is still low for a consanguineous couple even at that 2nd generation. I just think that if someone is going to make a gamble like this they should do it under circumstances where the odds are undeniably in their favor, and get out early in the game. This is the best way to keep the good and leave out the bad. The more generations that take the gamble the higher the stakes get, to the point where more is lost than gained.
- My uncle had 3 children with his first cousin. They are healthy. But there is also the fact that we do not have incest in our family line as far back as 4 generations on my grandmother’s side (don’t know beyond that) and 2 generations on my grandfather’s side (don’t know beyond that). So when my uncle had kids his risk level would have likely been the best it could be for two first cousins.
- I don’t know why no one talks about this issue of generational inbreeding when supporting cousin marriage. For any freedom to be enjoyed there NEEDS to be some kind of limit.
- If there is a set pattern like this, where only those cousin couples that don’t have incest in the past 4 generations make kids, and only the ones that truly want to, then we wouldn’t have the inbreeding depression problem – because cousin marriage would happen less often and when it does, it would occur only under the safest conditions.
People often rely on the worst case scenarios to argue against cousin marriage. They point to things like Charles II’s family tree… When ignorant people see this they don’t look any further into genetic possibilities because they get scared off. And who can blame them? Charles II was thought to be one of the most inbred people in the world, with very little diversity in his gene pool. If those who fall in love with their cousins follow a set of limits such as that I mentioned to regulate their risk level and keep it consistently small, then there would be no more murky examples like that for opponents of cousin marriage to use against them. This would not only help drastically reduce health risks for children, but it would leave us with better examples to help fight the stigma long-term.