Tuesday, April 16th, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 131



It's OK to get friendly with cousins

Randy Woock

Yee-haw! The entertainment potential of family reunions just erected itself to a whole new height. You no longer need to look outside your clan for a
marriage partner, and your new in-laws can be as familiar to you as your aunt and uncle. Hell, they can actually be your aunt and uncle!

Visiting the relatives just became a whole lot more fun since this month's Journal of Genetic Counseling informs us that breeding with cousins is a
perfectly harmless thing to do.

That's right. According to a research paper published in this scholarly-sounding periodical, the risks are negligible that a monstrously deformed
offspring would be the result of indulging those funny (but pleasant) feelings you get whenever certain relatives are near. Mate with a first cousin, and
there's only a 1.7 percent to 2.8 percent greater chance that the product of your familial passions will be any more of a biological reject than if you
procreate with a complete stranger.

Like those odds? Of course you do. Your dating world just opened up exponentially (especially if you come from a big family). What's not to like? Think
about it science just gave you permission to mate with people you've known all your life but have never been able to touch. It's like some big "No
Trespassing" sign was removed from a section of Six Flags that you've never been able to visit before, or the breeding version of the Alaskan National
Wildlife Refuge just got approved for drilling.

What's going to be the result of this data going public? Will the fine art of "cousin-on-cousin action" reach epidemic proportions in America? Probably
not. Did you know that certain states have laws to tell you just how you can interact with your family?

Personally, I was unaware that some states could put you in a cage for trying to procreate with certain family members, but it doesn't really surprise me
that more than 30 states outlaw the cousin-sponsored creation of children. And just in case you were wondering, yes, it's perfectly legal to cuddle up
with a cousin in Texas (a distinction our great state shares with other respected centers of Southern culture like Mississippi and Alabama).

Oddly enough, we domesticated apes in America seem to be in the minority as far as our species' views on mating with close relatives go. Our
anti-cousin prudery would be entirely out of place in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. When not dodging American-made weaponry, between 20
percent and 60 percent of the people in these places are busy mating with someone they first met at a family picnic.

Not saying that everyone overseas gets "friendly" with their cousins, just enough of 'em to where chaps like Jerry Lee Lewis or Edgar Allan Poe
wouldn't be too out of place. And while your average European may not be a big practitioner of family bed-sharing, forcing that precise form of sexual
morality on everyone within firing range isn't as popular a sport over there as it is here. 

So, if you think your genes are so great that you don't want to dilute 'em with the blood of outsiders, no one from the continent's gonna say otherwise.

The million-dollar question, of course, is whether the new data about the relative safety of breeding cousins will change anything. Will the states that
currently outlaw cousin-to-cousin mating alter their narrow-minded ways? 

Maybe, but I wouldn't bet any crucial internal organs on it. General public mores are even harder to change than scientifically unsound laws. Your
average citizens, having been taught all their lives to feel disgust at the thought of sex with their relatives, are not about to run out immediately and
reproduce with the first cousin they meet.

I'm certainly not. I mean, talk about disgusting I'm holding out for my aunts.

Woock, a senior psychology
major, can be reached at  nrrandy@hotmail.com.

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