The Role of Taboo in Society: Examining Incest Stories

Vishal Show
5 min readSep 12


The Role of Taboo in Society: Examining Incest Stories
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Taboos are an intriguing aspect of human culture and society, serving as boundaries that define what is considered acceptable or forbidden behavior. These taboos can vary significantly across different cultures and eras, reflecting the values and norms of the society at any given time. One of the most enduring and controversial taboos that have captivated human curiosity for centuries is incest. In this blog, we will delve deep into the role of taboo in society by examining the controversial realm of incest stories. Through this exploration, we will uncover why society finds such narratives both repulsive and compelling, and what these stories reveal about our collective moral compass.

Understanding Incest: A Universal Taboo

Incest, defined as sexual activity or marriage between individuals who are closely related by blood, is considered a universal taboo in most human societies. While the specifics of what constitutes incest vary from culture to culture, the underlying principle remains consistent: the prohibition of sexual or romantic relationships between close relatives. This taboo can be traced back to ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians and Romans, where incestuous relationships were often associated with corruption and moral decay.

The taboo surrounding incest is deeply rooted in the fear of genetic abnormalities and the potential harm to family dynamics. Incest stories, whether found in mythology, literature, or modern media, have always been shrouded in controversy and intrigue. Let’s delve into the reasons why these narratives continue to capture our attention.

The Allure of Forbidden Love

One of the most compelling aspects of incest stories is the portrayal of forbidden love. Human beings have a natural fascination with things that are considered off-limits or prohibited. Incestuous relationships are the ultimate forbidden fruit, and this element of transgression sparks curiosity and interest.

Literature and popular culture have often exploited this fascination, portraying incestuous couples as star-crossed lovers who must navigate societal norms and family opposition to be together. Think of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” or the Greek myth of “Pyramus and Thisbe,” both of which involve lovers defying their families for the sake of their forbidden love.

The Tension of Taboo

Taboo subjects are inherently provocative, and incest stories are no exception. These narratives create tension and conflict that keep audiences engaged. Readers and viewers are drawn into the emotional struggle faced by the characters as they grapple with their illicit desires and the consequences of their actions. This tension serves as a powerful storytelling device, making incestuous relationships a common theme in literature and entertainment.

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Exploring the Dark Side of Human Nature

Incest stories also provide a lens through which we can explore the darker aspects of human nature. They raise questions about the boundaries of morality, the complexities of family dynamics, and the consequences of breaking societal norms. By delving into the forbidden, these stories force us to confront uncomfortable truths about human desires and the lengths to which individuals will go to pursue them.

The Complexity of Family Relationships

Incest narratives often delve into the complexities of family relationships. They explore themes of power, control, jealousy, and rivalry within families, shedding light on the intricate web of emotions that can exist between relatives. These stories challenge our preconceived notions of the idealized family and highlight the imperfections and conflicts that can simmer beneath the surface.

The Role of Incest in Mythology and Literature

Incestuous relationships have a long history in mythology and literature, dating back to ancient civilizations. In Greek mythology, for example, the gods themselves were not immune to incestuous relationships. Zeus, the king of the gods, married his sister Hera, and they produced several divine offspring. The Egyptian pharaohs often married their siblings to maintain their divine lineage.

In literature, incestuous relationships have been explored in various forms. William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” delves into the complex dynamics of the Compson family, where incestuous desires and relationships are central to the narrative. In Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the d’Urbervilles,” the titular character faces the consequences of a family secret involving incest.

Modern Media and Incest Narratives

The exploration of incestuous relationships has continued into modern media. Television series like “Game of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad” have featured storylines that include incestuous elements. These narratives are often met with controversy and debate, with some viewers finding them unsettling while others are drawn to the complexity and moral ambiguity they present.

One of the most famous examples of an incestuous relationship in modern literature is Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita.” The novel tells the story of Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged man who becomes infatuated with his adolescent stepdaughter, Lolita. While the book does not explicitly depict incest, it explores the dark and morally reprehensible desires of its protagonist, challenging readers to grapple with their own discomfort and moral judgments.

The Psychological Impact

Incest stories also provide a platform to examine the psychological impact of taboo relationships. Characters involved in incestuous relationships often grapple with guilt, shame, and internal conflict. These narratives offer a window into the emotional turmoil experienced by individuals caught in the web of forbidden love, allowing readers and viewers to explore the human psyche in the face of societal condemnation.

The Impact of Taboos on Society

Taboos, such as the one surrounding incest, play a significant role in shaping societal norms and values. They serve as a form of social control, guiding behavior and preserving the stability of families and communities. The taboo against incest, in particular, helps maintain the integrity of family structures by discouraging sexual relationships between close relatives, which can lead to genetic disorders and disrupt familial harmony.

However, the impact of taboos on society is not limited to their practical function. Taboos also shape our collective consciousness and influence the narratives we create. They provide rich material for storytelling, forcing us to confront our own values and moral judgments.

End Note:

Incest stories, despite their controversial nature, continue to be a prominent theme in literature, mythology, and popular culture. They tap into our fascination with forbidden love, our willingness to explore the dark side of human nature, and our interest in the complexities of family relationships. These narratives challenge societal norms and encourage us to examine the psychological and emotional consequences of taboo relationships.

Ultimately, the role of taboo in society is a complex one. While taboos serve as a form of social control and help maintain order, they also push the boundaries of our imagination and invite us to question our own moral compass. Incest stories, as uncomfortable as they may be, remind us that the human experience is multifaceted and that exploring taboo subjects can provide valuable insights into our own nature and the society we create.

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