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View Full Version : Legality of underage incest in fiction?


sunandshadow
06-30-2007, 02:48 AM
:Shrug: So today a fun idea for a novel plot, complete with an actual ending, pops into my head. It's a sf world where the race of people are born male then become female around age 30. But, the plot involves parent/child incest, and the numbers make the most sense if this would be a 15-16 yr old son siring a child on a 30 yr old 'mother' (the person who sired the child as a 15-16 yr old male himself and who has since turned female). So, in the US, is it actually illegal to publish content like that? Should I push the ages up to 20 and 40 even though those ages don't work as well with the character personalities and the tribal/clan way their culture works?

Sean D. Schaffer
06-30-2007, 03:08 AM
I don't know whether it's legal or not, but if it were me, I would probably raise the ages just to be on the safe side. Like the old saying goes, 'Better safe than sorry'.

I don't know if this helps or not, but I hope it does. Best wishes with your work.

MarkEsq
06-30-2007, 03:14 AM
So, in the US, is it actually illegal to publish content like that?

No, not illegal. Not even close.

MargueriteMing
06-30-2007, 10:11 AM
Well, if the species isn't human, I don't see how laws would apply, to however the race is defined in its alternate procreative strategy.

kristie911
06-30-2007, 10:36 AM
It's not really the ages that would bother me because they're not really a human race. The mother/son thing would squick me out a little more.

sunandshadow
06-30-2007, 11:48 AM
It's not really the ages that would bother me because they're not really a human race. The mother/son thing would squick me out a little more.

My intention is to do it in a cheerful/comic sort of way. And this is not a 'mom' who has played any role in her son's life, it's an ex-man who is startled to find out that 'his' years-ago sowing of wild oats resulted in a child, and when 'she' sees 'her' teenage son 'she' sees the male version of the spitting image of the woman 'he' had a mad crush on so many years ago...

akiwiguy
06-30-2007, 11:54 AM
It's not really the ages that would bother me because they're not really a human race. The mother/son thing would squick me out a little more.

Yes, I've always been surprised at the amount of interest in incest material on the web. I suspect there must be quite a market, though I too find that it is one of the very few themes that "squicks" me out a little. But that's just me personally. The context of another race might be interesting in terms of readability for people such as myself who would have a bit of difficulty otherwise.

kristie911
06-30-2007, 02:05 PM
I generally don't read SF anyway...so take my view with a grain of salt. :)

veinglory
07-01-2007, 09:48 PM
If it's fantasy I don't think it matters unless it somehow accidentally comes across as a thinly veiled excuse for pedophilia.

Maryn
07-02-2007, 07:04 PM
I suspect that any incest and any underage characters in a sexual context, including comedic and fantasy, is going to result in some closed doors when it comes time to market your work. Of course, those may be publishers you wouldn't want anyway, but a large number of erotica publishers include incest and sexual activities featuring underage characters on their list of no-no's resulting in automatic rejection.

So tread carefully.

I'm wondering if the reason for 16 is so compelling that you couldn't make the young man 18 instead, or better, extend their life spans to make it a 32-year-old "boy" and his 60-something mother, neatly sidestepping the whole age thing.

Maryn, attempting to neatly sidestep her own age thing

sunandshadow
07-03-2007, 01:50 AM
I suspect that any incest and any underage characters in a sexual context, including comedic and fantasy, is going to result in some closed doors when it comes time to market your work. Of course, those may be publishers you wouldn't want anyway, but a large number of erotica publishers include incest and sexual activities featuring underage characters on their list of no-no's resulting in automatic rejection.

So tread carefully.

I'm wondering if the reason for 16 is so compelling that you couldn't make the young man 18 instead, or better, extend their life spans to make it a 32-year-old "boy" and his 60-something mother, neatly sidestepping the whole age thing.

Maryn, attempting to neatly sidestep her own age thing

Well I was thinking of ending it by 'looking forward' to a third iteration, the newly-pregnant mother happily imagining that after the baby is born and grows up she will bear his child. If I did that with your suggestion that would make her like 90 by that point. :eek: Even 20 40 60 is pushing it, while 15 30 45 makes the most sense biologically. (With human biology anyway. I wasn't intending to make them that different from humans - skin colors like those of cats or horses maybe, and the gender switch, but otherwise I wanted fairly typical bronze-age tribespeople.)


At any rate, I don't think I'm actually going to write this idea. Mainly because I can't make myself take it seriously enough, it doesn't inspire my sense of literary merit. *shrug*

akiwiguy
07-03-2007, 01:56 AM
The context of another race might be interesting in terms of readability for people such as myself who would have a bit of difficulty otherwise.



Just to clarify what I mean here, as a father I've always found that incest themes immediately put a big barrier up because of the no-go (in fact wouldn't even start to conceive of) aspect of the real-life. It's not so much that I have some big moral issue to do with what other people tend to regard as fantasy. So it's possible that the context of "another race" could actually emotionally detach me, so to say, in a way that the theme could be interesting but not down-right challenging. It would be truly fantasy with no connection to this realm. If that makes sense?

scarletpeaches
07-03-2007, 01:59 AM
I don't understand this aversion to underage sex or incest. I mean, it's fiction, people. That means it's not real.

akiwiguy
07-03-2007, 03:21 AM
I don't understand this aversion to underage sex or incest. I mean, it's fiction, people. That means it's not real.

Yeah, but as in all fiction you tend to identify with characters... or not.

The Grift
07-03-2007, 03:42 AM
Legal? Sure.

V.C. Andrews - Flowers in the Attic
Arundhati Roy -The God of Small Things
Gabriel García Márquez - One Hundred Years of Solitude (I think...I didnt read it.)
Sophocles - Oedipus

Acceptable to an audience or publisher? Who knows...

scarletpeaches
07-03-2007, 03:43 AM
Yeah, but as in all fiction you tend to identify with characters... or not.

Do you?

I read books about, for instance, murderers. Doesn't mean I condone their actions, or want to indulge myself. It just means I find their lives interesting.

Julie Worth
07-03-2007, 03:57 AM
But, the plot involves parent/child incest...So, in the US, is it actually illegal to publish content like that?

You will get a tearful call from your mother, and your father will disown you, but it's fine with the government.

veinglory
07-03-2007, 04:05 AM
None of the examples given are erotica. If it is written largely to titilate with a focus on the sex not the scenario parent-child incest is an issue. Not impossible, just an issue because most publishers have it on their public *don't* list.

If it is fantasy, drama etc, no problem.

The Grift
07-03-2007, 05:00 AM
None of the examples given are erotica. If it is written largely to titilate with a focus on the sex not the scenario parent-child incest is an issue. Not impossible, just an issue because most publishers have it on their public *don't* list.

If it is fantasy, drama etc, no problem.

Good point. As someone supposedly trained as a lawyer, I should have noted the distinction

Still, it would be a tough argument to make that the story was written to satisfy incest-fetishists, given the bizarre sic-fi'ish world it is set in.

My guess is is would fall into the same category as underage sex being represented, meaning that it is all about how realistic the visual representation is. A statute like that is designed not as a moral police statute, but rather to protect minors against sexual exploitation. Given the fact that there is no possible way minors were sexually exploited to write a story like this, constitutionally I don't see how there could be a problem. The protected class isn't even present.

Let me just add the disclaimer that this is not legal advice and it is based on my own personal opinion and first impression.

shakeysix
07-03-2007, 05:08 AM
there is a passage in heinlein's "farnham's freehold" where a daughter tells her father that he can have her if he wants. of course there are like ten people left on earth at the time. farnham turns her down but only on the grounds of genetics. the son had a major mother- hang up going, too. he never acted on it--but he got his eventually. so sixties pop mores--son loves mom too well-- despicable! buxom teenaged daughter has the hots for old dad--well, icky but fascinating--s6

veinglory
07-03-2007, 05:48 AM
I am not thinking of whether you will be prosecuted (unlikely but not impossible as sex with children is considered obscenity in the US and has been so prosecuted), but whether any major press will opt to publish it. Most erotica publishers obey a list or don'ts partly based on customer taboos and partly a precautionary approach to the law. And parent-child incest to titilate is a don't. (Sibling incest is less of an issue.)

There are, of course, exceptions.

kristie911
07-03-2007, 09:37 AM
I think the biggest distinction here is whether is commericial fiction or written as erotica. As erotica, I think readers (who aren't into incest as a fetish) might shy away from the work. But as straight fiction, it would probably work. Without the idea of the graphic sex, it doesn't seem so icky to me. But again, that's just me! :)

sunandshadow
07-03-2007, 10:19 AM
If I wrote it it would be erotica, I only write romance/erotica. Yeah, all in all this idea sounds like a long shot that I would have to work hard to get published, and since it doesn't strike me as an idea of greater-than-usual merit I'm not interested in working that hard lol.

Jamesaritchie
07-03-2007, 10:03 PM
Sure it's legal. But if you want it to be realistic, make sure you show the ramifications of incest. It doesn't take very long for incest to do horrible things to DNA.

veinglory
07-04-2007, 04:24 AM
I would assume that a species based on this practise would have mechanisms to prevent inbreeding depression, like gene-swapping viruses or a mix of child breeding and stranger breeding.

sunandshadow
07-04-2007, 04:45 AM
Veinglory - This particular species is not usually incestuous, they are usually exogamic, the main character is just a perv.

James - since when is sff erotica particularly realistic? But, it's outside the scope of the story which would cover at most a 2-year time span.

But lemme repeat, I'm not going to write this, so there's not much point discussing it further.

javili
07-04-2007, 11:16 PM
Sure it's legal. But if you want it to be realistic, make sure you show the ramifications of incest. It doesn't take very long for incest to do horrible things to DNA.

Actually, that's something that gets blown out of proportion in the popularization of science.

In fact, breeding siblings is a major route to improving stock, as any breeder can tell you. There can be problems if you are squeamish about keeping the favorable phenotypes and dumping the ones what don't work out.

The Hawaiian royalty promulgated by sibling incest. The result was the distillation of the top genotypes. The failures were exposed to die.

People only talk about the unfavorable genes, but its a breeding technique that cuts both ways. Ask any breeder of race horses, fighting cocks, or show dogs.

Julie Worth
07-04-2007, 11:39 PM
It doesn't take very long for incest to do horrible things to DNA.

That's some new science.

Jamesaritchie
07-05-2007, 01:49 AM
Actually, that's something that gets blown out of proportion in the popularization of science.

In fact, breeding siblings is a major route to improving stock, as any breeder can tell you. There can be problems if you are squeamish about keeping the favorable phenotypes and dumping the ones what don't work out.

The Hawaiian royalty promulgated by sibling incest. The result was the distillation of the top genotypes. The failures were exposed to die.

People only talk about the unfavorable genes, but its a breeding technique that cuts both ways. Ask any breeder of race horses, fighting cocks, or show dogs.

No, it isn't blown out of proportion. Inbreeding really does improve stock, and humans, but only for so long. If you continue to inbreed beyond this point without bringing in new DNA, very bad things begin to happen. The same process of incest that temporarily improves a breed will also destroy it is it's carried on for too many generations. Eventually, pretty much every birth will be a failure.

Jamesaritchie
07-05-2007, 01:51 AM
That's some new science.

It's not new at all, and it's been proven over and over with actual incest of human populations.

Julie Worth
07-05-2007, 03:15 AM
My point is, James, that incest doesn't do "horrible things to the DNA". It doesn't do anything more than ordinary mating. Recessive genes might be more likely to pair up and be expressed, but as javili pointed out, that's also an effective way to get rid of them.

veinglory
07-07-2007, 04:24 AM
You don't get two-headed babies over night, but most of our inbreed lines of animals have serious problems of one sort or another whether it is ewes who ignore their lambs or dogs with bad hips. You do need to throw mutts in the mix occassionally ;)

Anthony Ravenscroft
07-09-2007, 10:07 AM
It's hardly been "proved" in any sense. Sure, there's predictable levels of inbreeding depression (where undesirable recessive traits come to the fore), but there's outbreeding depression as well when the two populations are too diverse.

Everyone seems to comment on unfortunate examples within European royalty, but the example that comes readily to my mind is the Jews, who have had limited breeding permeability for, what, a couple thousand years? I'm not gonna be the one to suggest that the culture's populated with sports, freaks, & mutants.

Besides, why do so many people make the instant leap from sex to breeding? Last I checked, we've somehow arrived in the 21st century, & I'm hoping the confusion could get cleared up any day now. If a brother & sister are sexually involved, & one of them's sterile, does that mean it's okay?

And this forum's about erotica, not romance. The assumptions of characters' mindset, which affects their actions, are somewhat different -- as a fellow writer put it, there's set differences between bodice-rippers & shunga-shunga.

gingerwoman
07-09-2007, 01:54 PM
You need to make it 16 and with an English publisher.
16 is the age of consent there.
You'll find all USA erotica book and e-book publishers will not accept sex with minors and some say if they recieve such a manuscript they will turn it over to the police.

shakeysix
07-09-2007, 08:32 PM
if you don't believe in breeding can turn ugly in just three generations you should teach in my last county--s6

javili
07-09-2007, 11:09 PM
If you continue to inbreed beyond this point without bringing in new DNA, very bad things begin to happen.
Beyond what point?

You do need to throw mutts in the mix occassionally

The person is asking about a single instance, not building a world based only on inbreeding. Hey, I'm a Mexican. We're all mutts and hijos de la Chingada. We get by.

Dusk
09-09-2007, 02:26 AM
sunandshadow wrote:

"so there's not much point discussing it further."

But others might face this issue too, so I will. :)

The issue of the legality of underage fiction got hashed over a lot at LiveJournal recently (because of recent policy changes there), which added to the knowledge I acquired when covering this topic as a journalist (though I'm not a lawyer, I emphasize). Some helpful info:

1) The federal child porn law does not cover text. Some state child porn laws do. Anyone considering writing underage erotica needs to check their state's Website for the relevant laws on sexual crimes.

2) Erotica is not illegal per se in the United States. Obscenity is. The more non-mainstream the erotica is, the more likely prosecutors are to classify it as obscene.

3) Other countries, such as Canada, include text in their child porn laws. When American editors decide whether to accept a novel, they have to take into account whether it will be legal in Canada, since that's a major place for them to market books.

4) In recent years, there has only been one case of someone being arrested for producing erotic text that was declared to be obscene under federal law. That case (the Red Rose case (http://truetales.org/writings/breakingnewsarchives.htm#redrose)) involved underage characters, and the federal prosecuters emphasized that it was because the characters were underage that they went after this particular author. As far as I know, that case has not gone to court. Commentators at the time were somewhat skeptical of the idea that the courts would rule in favor of the feds.

5) Those were contemporary stories. You can get away with a heck of a lot more in science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction than you can with contemporary fiction, because readers and editors tend not to assume that, if you've written about a non-contemporary society where underage sex takes place, that means you're in favor of underage sex in our society.

6) What is legal is not necessarily what is saleable. But see #5.

7) What is legal and saleable is not necessarily going to be accepted by readers as ethical. I'd say this about any subject matter, whether mainstream or non-mainstream: when deciding what to write, an author should think hard about whether, if someone influential posted a prominent Web notice stating that the author is writing immoral works, the author would be proud to stand by their writings. If the author would, then that's the most important fact, to my mind.

MargueriteMing
09-09-2007, 07:24 AM
It should be mentioned that the Red Rose case isn't just about underage sex, it's about the kidnapping, torture, rape, and murder of young children. I can't think of anybody offhand who wouldn't find that obscene, to me the way a LOT of violence is protrayed at least borders on obscenity.

Dusk
09-09-2007, 08:48 PM
Without going into the ethical issues of writing about torture and rape (as I've been known to do in my erotic fiction), nor the First Amendment issues (despicable speech is generally protected by the U.S. Constitution; despicable erotic speech is generally not), I can say that one troubling historical fact is that prosecutors generally start with the "easy" cases, then use those to set legal precedent for going after borderline cases.

At any rate, I'll emphasize that this is an isolated case. Until we see how this plays out in court, I don't think that erotic writers need to panic. However, the latest news (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07243/813617-85.stm) on the Red Rose case, which I just turned up, is that the author is still set to go to trial.