How common is sibling attraction? (+questions about sibling incest)

How common is sibling attraction

In this article, we answer some common questions about incest: How common is sibling attraction? Are sisters attracted to their brothers? Why am I sexually attracted to my brother? Can a brother fall in love with his sister? What happens when siblings mate? Is incest a crime in the UK? What about other countries? Keep reading to find the answers to all of these questions, and even more – the reasons behind sibling incest. 

How common is sibling attraction? 

If you investigate the subject beyond the surface, you find that incestuous relationships are more widespread than you think and, in many cases, not only consensual but also motivated by the same things as conventional adult relationships: love, need, desire, loneliness and attraction. 

This raises many ethical questions about consent, victimization, legality and morality, but also a very important one: can someone have a healthy, consensual relationship, both sexual and emotional, with a close relative?

It is difficult to persuade psychologists to officially talk about incest outside the abusive context because they fear that it would legitimize it and that would undermine the victims of cases of non-consensual incest. 

But the general opinion is that one of the important factors of consensual incestuous relationships seems to be both the fractured nature of modern families and their closeness to other families.

How common is sibling attraction? (+questions about sibling incest)

Are sisters attracted to their brothers?

There are enough cases of romantic and passionate love between brother and sister to convince us that yes, it can happen.

The first and most important thing is to try to understand the nature of your feelings and why brotherly love seems to have turned into romantic, passionate love.

If you feel that you have fallen in love with your brother or sister, it is very possible to try to deny your feelings, to ignore them, to try to find other explanations than that you really love your brother or sister in a way that is socially unacceptable. It is important to know that denying what you feel does not help you most of the time – it can even hurt you. 

Although it seems an impossible, unnatural situation, it sometimes happens. Therefore, it is important to know, analyze and understand your feelings, to try to find out how a brotherly love becomes more.

How common is sibling attraction? (+questions about sibling incest)

Love and physical attraction between brother and sister can be a form of co-dependence.

If you feel that you have fallen in love with your brother or sister, it may be the strong, deep feelings of co-dependence. When two brothers go through many things together, usually through difficult situations and stay close to each other, protecting and comforting each other, they may begin to feel dependent on each other, needing to be with each other to feel safe.

When the brother or sister is the only person who has offered love, closeness, security, protection and support, there is this need to be with him / her, to always rely on him / her. Addiction that is extremely similar to passionate love, in which you feel that you need the other more than anything else.

The older brother or sister often feels a deep protective love, taking care of the youngest, while the latter learns to depend on the former. A deep co-dependence is created, and the siblings may feel that they cannot bear to live separately, to live with other people (in this situation a psychologist can help: no type of co-dependence relationship is healthy!) .

All this shows that love between brother and sister can take various forms for various reasons; of course, often love is felt only by one of the brothers, the other unaware of the existing feelings. Many people say either that a romantic, passionate, physical love between brothers and sisters is impossible, or that it is about unnatural exceptions. 

And yet, it happens: and the simplest argument to prove that yes, there may be such a kind of love between brother and sister lies in the very taboo of incest!

If naturally there was no physical attraction between first-degree relatives, then why, since ancient times, human societies have felt the requirement to strictly impose the taboo of incest, to clearly regulate the rules, to impose severe punishment? 

Because this attraction may exist – but given the fact that it is neither socially nor biologically desirable (children from such unions are at extremely high risk of genetic defects) this taboo was created and imposed in all human societies, this prohibition of incest (of course, in some cultures this taboo referred only to parents and children, brothers being allowed to be together).

How common is sibling attraction? (+questions about sibling incest)

Why am I sexually attracted to my brother?

In psychology and psychiatry, it is often discussed about an extension of the famous Oedipus complex; more precisely, romantic love and sexual attraction do not go to the opposite-sex parent, but to the opposite-sex brother. This generally happens when the brother of the opposite sex has largely taken over the role of the parent, raising, protecting and loving his younger brother/sister. 

Therefore, the person sees in the figure of his brother/sister in fact a reflection of the paternal/maternal figure.

If you feel that you have fallen in love with your brother/sister, it may be this brother or sister complex. Think about what your brother or sister meant to you, what made you close and unique, what you find and love in his person. 

Many times, if it is about this psychological complex, your love becomes rather an obsession: you can only think about him/her, you do not feel attraction towards anyone, apart from him/her, you just want to be with him/her. 

You also become extremely jealous, wishing all the attention and love of your brother or sister. When feelings are obsessive, you can find support and understanding by calling a psychologist (no obsession is healthy, especially if we are talking about this complex of brother or sister).

How common is sibling attraction? (+questions about sibling incest)

Can a brother fall in love with his sister?

Psychologists talk about multiple cases in which a brother and a sister who grew up separated in childhood meet again and fall in love with each other. If you are in this situation (you did not grow up with your brother/sister) and you feel that you have fallen in love with him, it can help you better understand why this is happening.

It is perfectly explainable why a person can fall in love with his or her brother or sister once he/she sees him/her again after a long separation. It’s about what you recognize in that person – you recognize parts of yourself and your parents, you recognize aspects that are so familiar and yet new. 

Every person is attracted to certain traits similar to his own (and siblings have similar traits, even similar levels of intelligence, even similar interests and abilities), but also traits that seem familiar (these are traits that the person remembers to loved ones in childhood: parents, grandparents, other significant adults in the life of the young child). 

Therefore, this similarity and familiarity suddenly found in a person gives birth to an intense attraction, an attraction that takes the form of romantic or passionate love, even if normally a brother and a sister would not have such a connection.

Why does it happen most often that someone falls in love with his brother or sister after they have been separated for a long time? Simple: when a brother and a sister grow up together, share the same house and sometimes even the same room, there is a so-called “desensitization” of the attraction. It is an effect that is believed to be naturally programmed to prevent incest. 

The constant closeness leads to saturation of stimuli and too much familiarity between brother and sister, which kills any attraction.

This can be seen even in people who are not relatives, but who grow up in the same house: for example, children who are raised together, once adults, do not feel attracted to each other, looking for more distant partners. They have simply become too familiar, too close, so they feel brotherly love and not a romantic and physical one.

On the other hand, if two children grow up separately, once they see each other again, they can feel that deep connection given by genetics and can interpret it as romantic love (there is the feeling that you have found your soulmate because a brother or a sister does not only share common traits but also share something of your being, genetic material and maybe spirit). 

There is a certain familiarity, but there is no saturation of stimuli – on the contrary, this familiarity is paradoxically perceived as new and exciting. 

Brother and sister are instinctively attracted to each other and because there is no saturation of stimuli to kill any trace of physical attraction, they will fall in love with each other romantically and passionately (there is that unique connection that exists between any brother and sister, but is doubled by attraction). 

The relationship is new, the deep connection between them is old, from their birth.

How common is sibling attraction? (+questions about sibling incest)

What happens when siblings mate?

When siblings mate, meaning having sexual relationships, perhaps the biggest consequence could be the birth of a child. From co-consanguinity (n.r.- sexual intercourse between people with the same blood) there are born children with numerous genetic diseases. 

The resulting children may have malformations, retardation, Down syndrome, depending on the recessive genes. They can appear from visible organic malformations to some detectable only through investigations.

Incest is mostly accepted in the porn industry, where it is the most consumed type of pornography. However, incestuous relationships – even consensual ones – can have dire long-term consequences. That is why there is little chance that incest will ever be accepted as normal or a comfortable topic of discussion.

How common is sibling attraction? (+questions about sibling incest)

Is incest a crime UK?

Yes, according to the Sexual Offences Act 1956, Incest is a crime in the UK.

Incest

Incest by a man

(1)

It is an offence for a man to have sexual intercourse with a woman whom he knows to be his grand-daughter, daughter, sister or mother.

(2)

In the foregoing subsection ” sister ” includes half-sister, and for the purposes of that subsection, any expression importing a relationship between two people shall be taken to apply notwithstanding that the relationship is not traced through lawful wedlock.

Incest by a woman

(1)

It is an offence for a woman of the age of sixteen or over to permit a man whom she knows to be her grandfather, father, brother or son to have sexual intercourse with her by her consent.

(2)

In the foregoing subsection ” brother” includes half-brother, and for the purposes of that subsection, any expression importing a relationship between two people shall be taken to apply notwithstanding that the relationship is not traced through lawful wedlock.

Speaking of other countries, however, incest between parent and child is universally seen as abuse, due to the unequal power dynamics between parent and child that does not allow for informed consent. But the dynamic between the brothers revolves in more turbulent waters, from a legal and ethical point of view.

For example, in the case of an incestuous relationship that resulted in four children, the German Ethics Council concluded in 2014 that “the right of adult siblings to make decisions in a consensual relationship weighs more heavily than the abstract good of the family.”

Although no data on consensual incest has been collected anywhere in the world, the statistics are quite surprising. In the United States, in the 1990s, it was estimated that between one hundred thousand and one million cases of incest occurred annually. 

The scale of global incest varies depending on the numbers you look at – generally due to the very private nature of the phenomenon that prevents accurate data collection – but it is believed that between ten and twenty per cent of the population have incestuous relationships. In Brazil, the incest rate ranges from 0.05 to 21 per cent.

How common is sibling attraction? (+questions about sibling incest)

Conclusions

In this article, we answered some common questions about incest: How common is sibling attraction? Are sisters attracted to their brothers? Why am I sexually attracted to my brother? Can a brother fall in love with his sister? What happens when siblings mate? Is incest a crime in the UK? What about other countries? 

Even more, we described the possible reasons behind sibling incest. 

As a summary, there are enough cases of romantic and passionate love between brother and sister to convince us that yes, sibling incest can happen. The first and most important thing is to try to understand the nature of your feelings and why brotherly love seems to have turned into romantic, passionate love.

If you have questions or comments on the content, please let us know!

FAQ on How common is sibling attraction

Are sisters attracted to their brothers?

There are cases when sisters feel attracted to their brothers, however, this is not common! Sometimes, when siblings grow apart, they later meet and fall in love. The reason behind this is the familiarity of their traits, that makes them believe they have found the ideal partner. 

Is it normal to be attracted to family members?

It is not normal to be attracted to family members, however there are enough cases out there to prove that this happens. There is even a term for this, called Genetic Sexual Attraction, or GSA. 

Why don’t we find our siblings attractive?

We do not find our siblings attractive because we grew up too close to them. The constant closeness leads to saturation of stimuli and too much familiarity between brother and sister, which kills any attraction. This can be seen even in people who are not relatives, but who grow up in the same house.

What is it called when you are attracted to your sibling?

When you are attracted to your sibling, you may speak of Genetic sexual attraction. GSA means that a strong sexual attraction may develop between close blood relatives, but only when the two first meet as adults. In other cases, we speak about incest. 

Is it illegal to sleep with your cousin?

In most countries, yes it is illegal to sleep with your cousin, parent, grandparent, sibling. 

What is it called when a daughter is attracted to her father?

When a daughter between the age of 3 and 6 is attracted to her father we may speak of the Electra complex. 

References

DeYoung, M., & Lowry, J. A. (1992). Traumatic bonding: Clinical implications in incest. Child Welfare: Journal of Policy, Practice, and Program, 71(2), 165–175.

Pendergrast, M. (1995). Victims of memory: Incest accusations and shattered lives. 

How common is sibling attraction? (+questions about sibling incest)

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.