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                        The milk relationship and not the blood relationship among people is the reason behind incest taboo. All the siblings who have taken milk from the same breasts[mother] and have rights to have milk from the breasts of the other women[ sisters of the mother, step mother and wet nurse], will have only minimal fear of contagion[Frazer’s theory of magical thinking ] with each other and hence they will not have sexual attraction with each other which ultimately prevents incest among them. Sexual attraction between persons will be there only if they had strong fear of contagion earlier in their life during their psycho sexual identity development. Not only, the mother’s milk but also the father’s milk,
semen, is significant in this regard. When the milk relationship and the semen relationship are very strong between two persons marriage is prohibited between them.

Key words; Incest/milk relationship /semen relationship/ sibling /Frazer’s theory of contagion..


An incest taboo is any cultural norm that prohibits sexual relations between closely related persons.

Theories on Incest

1. An explanation for the taboo is that it is due to an instinctual, inborn aversion that would lower the adverse genetic effects of inbreeding such as a higher incidence of congenital birth

defects (Burton [Recognition and attribution theory] and Durham).

2. The Westermarck effect, first proposed by Edvard Westermarck in 1891, is the theory[Aversion and moral disapproval theory] that children reared together, regardless of biological

relationship, form a sentimental attachment that is by its nature non-erotic; Liberman argues that seeing/watching ‘mother feeding’ by siblings could be the reason for the sexual aversion

among them.

3. The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss [Alliance theory] claims that the incest taboo is in effect a prohibition against endogamy, and the effect is to encourage exogamy. Through

exogamy, otherwise unrelated households or lineages will form relationships through marriage thus strengthening social solidarity.

4. Durkeim considers that the incest taboo is the consequence of exogamy.

5. Freud argued that as children, members of the same family naturally have lust for one another (Oedipus complex), making it necessary for societies to create incest taboos.

Psycho Social Sexual Development

Frazer’s theory of magical thinking of contagion

“If ‘A’ is associated with ‘B’ in the past for some time and got separated later , even then whatever that happens to ‘A’ will also happen to ‘B’ and vice versa”.

There is no oedipal complex

The boy moves away from the mother to have a close association {identification} with his father, because of the fear of contagion/magical thinking i.e. fear of possession of female body parts and feminine character attributes {Frazer’s theory of magical thinking of contagion} and not because of resolution of any oedipal complex.

In normal psycho sexual development the boy moves away from the mother and indentifies with his father to have a long penis , mustache and assertive masculine character traits ; later ,around 16 years of age when the boy has the full confidence of possessing the male body attributes and male character attributes he will be ready to explore the female body without the fear of contagion ; Holding the hands tightly and kissing by the partners indicate that the fear of contamination has gone fully .

In abnormal psycho sexual development, the boy who has identified with his mother will develop breast envy resulting in breast possessive behavior rather than breast explorative behavior and vice versa for girl .

Incest taboo

Incest among siblings

A. Incest among brothers and sisters;

Sharing the same property per se eliminates the incestual attractions among the siblings;

Definition of the word sibling / parallel cousins;

Definition of sibling in English: sibling ; Each of two or more children or offspring having one or both parents in common; a brother or sister.

The English word Sibling has the composition -[- sa-] - pa- la -an- ka- and the meaning of the word is ‘pankalikal’ in Tamil language; Pankalikal or siblings means ‘share holders’ .

Share is called “pangu “ in Tamil and all the siblings who share the same ‘property’ are called” pangalikal”. Movable and immovable properties, like cattle ,lands, jewels money and food etc. are to be shared among the pangalikal / share holders/siblings . If there is disparity in dividing the shares among the pangalkali / siblings then there will be sibling rivalry . This will create jealous among the siblings leading to quarrels. The share we are considering here is not the land or money. This share is about the basic essential human properties/valuables possessed by the father, and the mother, namely the phallus/ breast and the masculine /feminine traits .

When there is healthy competition among the siblings to get the share out of their parents there will be deep affectionate relationship among them . The petty, yet pathological quarrels, like teasing, beatings , scolding’s among siblings will induce sibling rivalry and castration anxiety on them .

All children who have shared the milk {mother’s property} from the same breasts [eating from the same plate], are called as siblings. Hence there will be no fear of contagion [possession of opposite sex body attributes] among these siblings and there is no need/fear for them to move away from each other. Sexual attraction will be there towards a person[s] only if there is a fear of contagion/ contamination with that person[s] earlier. Since there is no sexual attraction between the siblings , marriage will not be fruitful among the siblings, since fertility is the main motive behind the marriage. Hence marriage among the siblings is a prohibited one i.e. marriage is prohibited within the close blood relationships. Instead of saying blood relationships we can call it as milk relationships[mother’s milk and father’s semen]. Here the determining authority is not the parents but are the siblings. That means the prohibition is not a planned one by the parents or by the society but anevolved one based on the aspirations of the siblings or the children .

When there is both milk relationship and semen relationship between two persons then marital relationship between them is strongly prohibited by the society .

B. Incest among cousins- Dravidian kinship [Floyd Lounsbury]

The aspirations of the siblings has only led to the formation of the family relationships like periyappan- Tamil language - [ father’s elder brother] , chittappan[ father’s younger brother] , periyamma[ morher’s elder sister ] , chinnama[ mother’s younger sister],cousin brother[ aunts son ] ,cousin sister[ aunt’s daughter] , nephew[ father’s bother’s son] and niece[ father’s brother’s daughter]. Hence the children’s role in the formation/origin of family system/kinship ties is more than the role played by the parents and society. Even in an extended family, the boy cannot marry his father’s brother’s daughter, because father’s elder brother[paternal uncle] is called as big father or elder father “ periya appan” and father’s younger brother is called as chinna appan or younger father or“chithappan” and their daughters will be his sisters. They are sisters to him because he would have taken the breast milk from his periyamma—periyappan’s wife[ elder father’s wife ] or chinnammal [younger father’s wife / paternal aunt ] in case his mother had insufficient milk to feed him . If his mother had died when he was an infant it is the duty of his periyamma or chinnamma to feed the boy with their milk. The boy has the right to take milk from them. He has no right to drink milk from his aunt and his aunty {father’s sister} also has no responsibility to feed him— as she had moved already to her husband’s house in a patriarchal community and so the boy can marry her daughter. Hence the daughters and sons of the boy’s father’s brothers are siblings [Pankalikal /siblings / parallel cousins] to him and not the father’s sister’s [aunt] children[cross cousins] . Similarly the boy can marry the daughter of the mother’s brother { uncle’s daughter} and he is the Murrai Paiyan { the right person or the chosen person for her} in Tamil culture.

Incest between mother in law and son in law

In order to promote the family ties, the girl’s mother had bargained from her husband that her daughter has to be married to her brother’s son { Thai Maman’s [Tamil] / uncle’s son} - a reminiscent of her matriarchal right . Since her brother had not given castration anxiety to her during her childhood days , she hopes for the same treatment by her brother’s son towards her daughter. Apart from that since the boy’s father shared the milk from the same breast as that of his aunt- the son in-law will not make any indecent sexual proposals to his aunt which is an added advantage for the mother in-law living in patrilineal society. This kind of marital arrangement will make a full stop to the mother in- law and son in-law incestual relationship.

Incest and homosexuality

In the case of homosexual intercourse Malik, Al-Shafi’i, Abu Hanifa and their companions said that legal marriage is not prohibited because of (homosexual) sodomy. However, Al-Thuri said, "If a young male is molested, then the boy’s mother is forbidden in marriage to the molester." This is also the saying of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal who said, "If a man sodomizes the son of a woman he has married, or performs this act with her father or brother, then the woman is prohibited from that man." Al-Awzaghi said, "If a man sodomizes another male, and the violated man begets a daughter in due time, then this daughter is prohibited in marriage from the violator because she will be the daughter of someone he has penetrated."This Islamic concept brings out the importance of father’s milk - semen in the origin of incest taboo.

Incest between parents and children

So for, we have considered the sexual relationship between the siblings and between the mother in-law and son in-law. What about the sexual attraction between parents and children? Since the children are concerned about receiving/ possessing the property from the parents to the greatest extent possible up to the age of 16, they would have never thought about exploring their parents, sexually. Remember, one will be willing to explore only when he or she has the confidence that he or she has possessed everything to explore and to get explored. Hence there will be no incestual attraction from the children towards their parents. Similarly as the parents want to give their children , what they have , so that they[ children] can possess everything , what they[ parents] possess . Because of this, parents have no intention to explore their children sexually except occasional physical exploration to ascertain that their children possess everything. Hence there will be no primary incestual attraction for the parents toward their children. However , when there is breast longing/possessive behavior in a father [due to pathological psycho sexual development with identification towards mother] and there is penis possessive/longing behavior in a daughter [ pathological identification with father] there could be some pathological misadventures from the side of the father towards his daughter. But these misbehaviors on the part of father are attempts of possession of breasts rather than exploration of breasts. If the daughter has no penis possessive behavior and the father’s breast possessive behaviors towards his daughter will kindle castration anxiety in the daughter which will lead to lifelong marital and sexual problems in her like frigidity and vaginismus. Similarly the breast possessive behavior of the brother towards his sister will aggravate sister’s castration anxiety. Vice versa for mother and son. These breast/penis possessing behavior will result in the” so called incestual attempts “ or incestual tendencies only. However, it might lead to sexual exploration in peculiar/special situation which will promote regression , which is very rare. True incestual relation is only an occasional accident, but false positive incestual attempts are true and are very common incidents.


1. Milk/semen relationship is the key element in deciding incest taboo; sharing the same properties in the early childhood is the background factor apart from magical thinking of fear of contagion which are the essential reasons behind Westermarck effect.

2. Incest taboo is the basic causative factor in the origin of family system, kinship ties, various kinship names and exogamy.


1. The Golden Bough - by Sir James George Frazer - the project Gutenberg e book.


3. Emile Durkheim, His Life and Work - A Historical and critical Study - by Steven Lukes- books .

4. The incest taboo; a collection of disaster theories .

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