"The Ick Factor"--Is there a right to consensual incest?


David Epstein, a Columbia poli sci professor, was just arrested for have a consensual sexual relationship with his 24 year old daughter.  His lawyer wasted no time making a Lawrence v. Texas style defense of his client's alleged act, according to this ABC news video report, which raises a new public question: do we all have a right to commit consensual adult incest?

The interesting thing is the response by progressive pro-gay marriage family law professors.  How do we explain why we criminalize incest?  "The ick factor" is the best Prof. Joanna Grossman can come up with (inherently coercive might do for fathers, but surely  not for sisters, say).

Over at Discover magazine, they rely on a more sophisticated-sounding form of the Ick Factor.  Natural sociobiological aversion.  But of course if the aversion is natural why does the law need to be involved?  Incidentally adult consensual incest has, according to ABC News been legalized in a variety of developed countries.  And the sky has not fallen.  It never does.

I always avoided all these slipperly slope arguments because to me the rightness of our marriage tradition does not depend on the idea that changing the law's meaning and purpose will lead to a possible right to  polygamy or a public debate about a right to  incest.  But it does seem to be happening, rather more quickly than anyone imagined.

I wish Grossman and company well in coming up with a more coherent explanation for why the Constitutional right to have sex and intimate relationships and indeed marriage with anyone you want, or the one person you fall in love with, can be cabinned in principle by anything other than irrational moral disgust aka "the ick factor."