My Conversation with a Professor (on queerness and consensual incest)

I wanted to share an experience which I found to be inspiring and insightful and is on topic. For the sake of privacy, I’m not going to give details like names or titles.

I was once part of a group of queer people that were having a discussion about intersecting identities and queer history. A professor that teaches queer theory and feminism was there to lead the discussions. At one point someone in the group mentioned that certain places in the world have bans on media. Among the list of banned subjects are Incest and anything LGBTQ. This person was really upset about this because they did not see how those subjects were in any way connected…

I was upset too, but for a different reason. Although it’s not surprising to me, it still bothers me deeply that I have to censor myself even in a space where we’re supposed to be sex positive and have rational discussions about oppression.

After everyone left the room for the day, I went up to the professor and asked if I could speak to them privately.

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I began by saying that I was upset at the thing that the other person had said. I expressed that no one ever talked about this topic from a consent perspective and that when consent is involved, it is a whole other story… I acknowledged that incest is a very complex topic and that there’s a lot I still don’t know, but that I knew of people that were in consanguineous relationships (cousin couples for example). I expressed that it bothers me that this is never talked of, even when consanguineous relationships and marriages are everywhere in society (just hidden in many cases). I gave examples of the few I knew about in real life.

I was really nervous because I’m not the kind of person who is good at talking out loud about sensitive subjects…I prefer to write. And I had no idea what the professor would think of me.

I told them that I’ve been researching cousin/cousin relationships for awhile on my own for my writing, and that sometimes in queer spaces I feel like a ‘double agent’ because I can’t help but apply the things I am learning (about queer history) to the stuff I am learning about consanguineous couples – that while acknowledging there were differences, I couldn’t deny the similarities between them.

The professor was surprisingly open to what I had to say. They listened attentively to my breathless ramblings and told me that they didn’t have an issue with incest as long as it’s consensual and safe (Between adults. Or teens close in age). They said the only thing they don’t support is pretty much things that don’t involve consenting human beings or… toilet play (as an example of something that can cause health problems, is unsanitary and not safe).

They said one of the reasons people might have a strong reaction is because when the word “Incest” comes up, people automatically think of a man abusing a little kid.

The professor even went so far as to ask me if I’d like them to bring up the topic of incest (the consensual kind) with the other youth in the group. I said no, because it’s a sensitive topic for me (and I didn’t feel the others were ready to talk about it from that viewpoint). I thanked the professor so much for listening to me and left soon after, kind of shaking…. because I’m not used to talking about taboo subjects with people face-to-face. So that was scary for me, but also exhilarating.

The thing that moved me most was that the very next day (which was our last day gathering as a group) the Professor, while introducing our assignment, made note that we can use anything as research material except things like bestiality where there is NO consent, and that they are OK with anything that involves Consent. I felt like this was another reassuring comment directed to me, building on the private conversation we had the day before. The people didn’t seem to take anything by that comment (maybe they got what was meant, who knows.. lol) but I was so happy.

This incident was really special because not only was it the first time I dared to speak about it to a stranger directly, but because the Professor’s reaction showed me that there are leaders in the queer community that are intellectually consistent, people who would try to at least be neutral towards consenting incestuous couples and who won’t judge allies for their views, because they’ve already challenged their own minds and given it thought – as anyone who cares about human rights should.

This is also great for related couples because it means they DO have allies in the queer community after all, including allies who are leaders. That is pretty amazing.

[I have made the details of the professor vague on purpose to protect their identity for this post. This is still a taboo subject and I don’t want to negatively affect their career in any way.]

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