Definition of Incest Taboo
Example of Incest Taboo
Incest Taboo Pronunciation
Syllabification: in·cest ta·boo
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /ˈɪnˌsɛst tæˈbu/
- British English – /ˈɪnsɛst təˈbuː/
- Plural: incest taboos
- A prohibition against incest exists in all current societies but the particular relationships prohibited varies with place and time. The most commonly prohibited relationships are a child and a parent such as father and daughter or two siblings such as a brother and sister. A marriage between cousins—either parallel or cross—in some societies and cultures are required due to marriage system rules, in other societies and cultures they would be considered an incest taboo.
- Why the incest taboo is universal has been studied and debated by anthropologists and sociologists for several centuries.
- The incest taboo typically extends to anyone marrying into or adopted by a family.
- The incest taboo can be enforced by custom or law.
- The incest taboo is an example of an exogamic rule and helps avoid role confusion. Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908–2009) contended that incest taboos helped build alliances in “Family,” a chapter of Man, Culture, and Society (1956), edited by Harry Shapiro (1902–1990). The incest taboo is considered a basic social fact in alliance theory.
- Additional scholars of the incest taboo include Bronisław Malinowski (1884–1942), Lewis Henry Morgan (1818–1881) and Edvard Alexander Westermarck (1862–1939).
- Variant spelling: incest tabu
- Sexual relations between a mother and son are (adjective) incestuous.
- “According to traditional Chinese Buddhism, a man who commits incest with his mother will be punished in seven different hells. The consequences are not so severe, however, if he lies with his sister. In order to be reincarnated, many Buddhists will have to spend a certain amount of time in heaven or in hell depending on the extent to which they have followed Buddhist rules, and sexual prescriptions are of particular importance. When sexual behaviour can lead to consequences after death, it means that we are operating completely within a religious world view. But the fact that proper or improper sex can lead to salvation or damnation does not mean that sex is in a class of its own – a whole host of other activities can have similar consequences” (Endsjø 2011:218–19)
- “Since all known kinship systems impose an incest tabu, the transition from asexual intrafamilial relationships to the sexual relation of marriage – generally to a previously relatively unknown person – is general. But with us this transition is accompanied by a process of ’emancipation’ from the ties both to parents and to siblings, which is considerably more drastic than in most kinship systems, especially in that it applies to both sexes about equally, and includes emancipation from solidarity with all members of the family of orientation about equally, so that there is relatively little continuity with any kinship ties established by birth for anyone” (Parsons 1943:32).
- Family and Kinship Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Sex and Gender Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Word origin of “incest” and “taboo” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
Endsjø, Dag Øistein. 2011. Sex and Religion: Teachings and Taboos in the History of World Faiths. London: Reaktion.
Parsons, Talcott. 1943. “The Kinship System of the Contemporary United States.” American Anthropologist 45(1):22–38. doi:10.1525/aa.1943.45.1.02a00030.
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Schaefer, Richard. 2013. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W. Greene. 2003. Sociology and You. New York: Glencoe.
Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Tischler, Henry L. 2011. Introduction to Sociology. 10th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2015. “incest taboo.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved January 22, 2020 (https://sociologydictionary.org/incest-taboo/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
incest taboo. (2015). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/incest-taboo/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2015. “incest taboo.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed January 22, 2020. https://sociologydictionary.org/incest-taboo/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“incest taboo.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2020. <https://sociologydictionary.org/incest-taboo/>.