Over 2600 years ago the tragedy Oedipus Rex by Sophocles touched on the issue of incest in our society.
With the high profile case of Gerry Ryan and Penny Lawrence and now Mistie Atkinson and her teenage son, it is an issue that is making headlines across the world.
In the late 1980s incest was elaborated on and a new term GSA, or Genetic Sexual Attraction was created by Barbara Gonyo, the founder of Truth Seekers In Adoption. The GSA website states “Genetic Sexual Attraction or GSA occurs between two adults who have been separated during the critical years of development and bonding and are reunited years later as adults.”
With relaxation of adoption laws in the 1970s and now with more prevalent use of sperm banks the issues of impregnating your unknown or recently known offspring or siblings has come more and more into mainstream media.
Gonyo herself met the son she put up for adoption when he had grown up and found herself sexually attracted to him. With the advances in social networking those who are put up for adoption can trace their birth parents quicker and more effectively. This was the case in both the Ryan/Lawrence and Atkinson examples.
When not growing up in the same environment the desire for a connection between family members can manifest itself in the form of the Atkinson and Lawrence/Ryan scenarios. The Westermark Effect coined by Finnish anthropologist Edvard Westermark, has found close domestic proximity between children and parents during the first few years of their lives leads them to becoming desensitized to later sexual attraction which was lacking in the aforementioned situations.
Atkinson says that “I don’t feel like I should have the charge of incest because there is something called genetic attraction that is a very powerful that happens to 50% of people becoming reunited with a long-lost relative”. Her use of the defense of Genetic Sexual Attraction more than likely will not stand up in court and she faces charges of lewd contact with a minor and distribution of lewd material to a minor.
Yet her drawing on the issue will generate further discussion on an issue that psychologists have and continue to argue over for the past three decades.
Genetic Sexual Attraction is real and it is a normal reaction to the circumstances, which are often no fault of the people experiencing GSA. It does not completely excuse that is statutory rape under California law, but it should me a mitigating factor and the appropriate response is counseling,not incarceration. As for cases where all involved are consenting adults, the law should not attempt to stop their relationship, nor discriminate against it.