Genetic sexual attraction  

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Genetic sexual attraction (GSA) is sexual attraction between close relatives, such as brother and sister, who first meet as adults.


In popular culture


  • In Greek mythology, one version of the story of Narcissus has the young man fall in love with his twin sister. The more common version has him pining for love of his own reflection. Both versions emphasise the dangerous attraction of the similar. It would be wise to remember that Narcissus became love-struck only after the introduction of Cupid's dart, a ruse concocted with the help of the nymph Echo, who could speak only what had been spoken to her. The plan was that Echo would present herself to Narcissus immediately after his being pierced by the dart, at which point he would regale her with his undying love with which she would ecstatically concur, repeating his words that were the expression of her own passion, thus fulfilling her heartfelt desire. The dart indeed found its mark, but instead of espying Echo, Narcissus' gaze fell upon his own reflection in a sylvan pool and he accordingly was smitten with himself, such that he could not leave his reflection and wasted away on the bank to the point of death when the Gods took pity on him and changed him into a flower, that to this day gazes at its own reflected image.
  • In the medieval legends of King Arthur, collected by Sir Thomas Malory under the title Le Morte d'Arthur and retold in the 20th century by T. H. White as The Once and Future King, King Arthur is seduced by his half-sister Morgause, who subsequently gives birth to Mordred. This is one of the key elements in Arthur's downfall.
  • In Wagner's opera Die Walküre, based on Norse myth, twin brother and sister Siegmund and Sieglinde meet as adults and fall in love; Sieglinde later gives birth to a son, Siegfried. This tale influenced "The Blood of the Volsungs," a 1905 short story by Thomas Mann that concerns the relationship between a brother and sister.


  • In Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's 18th century Nathan the Wise, Nathan's adopted daughter Rachel is rescued from a house fire by a passing knight templar. They immediately fall in love - only to find out that they are brother and sister. This is however revealed before their relationship develops significantly.


  • Vladimir Nabokov's novel Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle recounts the incestuous life-long romance of Van and his sister Ada, who initially think they are cousins.
  • In Arundhati Roy's Booker Prize winning novel The God of Small Things, Estha (male) and Rahel (female) are twins who are separated at a young age, then reunite as adults, when (pp 310-311) "...they broke the Love Laws. That lay down who should be loved."
  • In Jeffery Eugenides's novel Middlesex a brother and sister move from Greece to the U.S. in the 1920s and start a family. Later in the novel their son marries his cousin.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Children of Húrin the main character falls in love with his estranged sister, although Niënor (the sister) had been bewitched by a dragon (Glaudrung) to forget her past.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's novel Time Enough for Love, a pair of twins who allegedly share no genetic material marry and have children, then have to be talked out of letting their children marry each other.
  • In J.V. Jones's trilogy The Book of Words, Jack, the boy of the prophecy, discovers that he was in love with his half-sister, also a bastard of the late king.
  • In V. C. Andrews's Dollanganger series, the two elder children, Cathy and Christopher, end up being sexually attracted to each other and engage in sexual activity. This is due, in part, to their seclusion from the outside world. They, in turn, were the production of inbreeding as their parents were related also.
  • In Cassandra Clare's novel City of Bones, main characters Clary and Jace are romantically attracted to each other. At the end of the book they are revealed to be full siblings.
  • In the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, fraternal twins Cersei and Jaime of House Lannister engage in a secret incestuous relationship for much of their lives.
  • In Patrick Augustus's ground-breaking novel about Black British men, Babyfather (1994), one of the marriages the narrative is working towards is put on hold when a character is told by his father that his fiancee is really his sister.
  • In Beryl Bainbridge's novel An Awfully Big Adventure, a man has a one-night stand with an underaged girl he later learns was his daughter.
  • In Caroline Graham's first novel in the Chief Inspector Barnaby series, The Killings at Badger's Drift, the motive for the murders is the desire of siblings Michael and Katherine Lacey to hide their incestuous relationship. This relationship is also portrayed in the first-season episode of Midsomer Murders of the same name as the novel.


  • The film Oldboy tells the story of a man who falls in love with a girl who turns out to be his daughter, in a trick played on him by an old rival, who was previously in love with his own sister.
  • In the film Code 46, William Geld falls in love with Maria Gonzalez who is a genetic clone of his biological mother.
  • In the movie The House of Yes, fraternal twins Marty (Josh Hamilton) and "Jackie O" (Parker Posey) engage in explicit incest, which started when they were pre-adolescents, though could probably be traced back even in infancy. According to their mother (Genevieve Bujold), "Jackie was holding Marty's penis when they were born..."
  • In Lone Star, the instant and deep attraction which Sam Deeds and Pilar Cruz feel towards each other is ultimately connected to the fact that they are unknowingly half-siblings. Despite this they decide to continue their relationship. This matter has large metaphorical significance with regards to the primary theme of the movie, race relations in the small town.
  • In the movie Back to the Future, the main character, Marty McFly, goes back in time and accidentally meets his mother when she is a teenager, who is very attracted to him until they kiss, at which point she compares it to kissing her brother.
  • In the original Star Wars movies, Luke Skywalker and his twin sister, Princess Leia, who meet as adults not knowing their connection, arguably experience a form of GSA, although primarily on Luke's part. In Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, they share a kiss, although Princess Leia did so for the sole purpose of infuriating Han Solo, to whom she was already clearly attracted, and long before she realized that she and Luke were siblings.


  • A 2003 storyline in the BBC's flagship hospital drama Casualty involved GSA, when staff nurse Anna Paul (played by Zita Sattar) began a relationship with house officer Merlin Jameson (played by first Orlando Seale then Sebastian Dunn). After telling Anna that he was adopted, she encouraged his search for his birth parents, only to discover his mother was Anna's mother. This revelation caused both characters great suffering and virtually destroyed Anna's relationship with her/their mother, but her feelings had grown so strong for Merlin that she continued it, eventually getting pregnant. The baby was never born, however, as she was involved in a train crash at the start of the following series, and after first having both legs amputated, she eventually died of her injuries. The characters of Merlin and his/Anna's mother did not continue after her death.
  • In the episode of My Name Is Earl in which Joy's marriage to "crabman" is revealed to her parents, Joy's father explains that he is not a racist, but that he objected to Joy dating a black boy in high school because she was his half-sister.
  • In the House, M.D. episode "Fools for Love", House treats a married couple that turn out to be half-siblings.
  • In the Futurama episode "Roswell That Ends Well", Fry has sex with his grandmother after the death of the man he presumed to be his grandfather, and becomes his own grandfather
  • In The Simpsons, in the episode "The Regina Monologues", Homer Simpson meets his half-sister Abbie- conceived during Grampa's time in Britain during the Second World War- for the first time and seems to display a sexual attraction to her, despite, or maybe because of, the fact that Abbie looks very much like a female version of himself.
  • In BBC mystery drama Jonathan Creek, the Christmas special "Black Snow" features a young man being manipulated into killing a famous actress he was in love with, Jonathan Creek later deducing that the man was actually the actress's long-lost son, given up for adoption years ago.
  • In an episode of That '70s Show, Eric finds himself attracted to his visiting cousin.
  • In a brief storyline in Australian soap Neighbours, Serena Bishop fell in love with a young man named Luka Dokic, only to learn that he was her half-brother; their mother Lilijana had been told by her mother that he had been stillborn.
  • In Green Wing, Joanna Clore has sex with a son that she gave up for adoption several years ago, Guy Secretan, who both only find out the truth when Martin Dear (her other son) interrupts them with the news they are all related.
  • In Hollyoaks, in a 2007 storyline, popular character Rhys Ashworth began a relationship with Beth Clement, before realising they share the same father. Rhys continued to struggle with his feelings for Beth as she became a part of his family life. Some years earlier, character Kate Patrick met and fell in love with a young man who turned out to be her brother.
  • In the HBO series "Six Feet Under", main character Brenda Chenoweth and her younger brother Billy Chenoweth are often accused of having 'too close' a relationship. In an episode in season three, Billy kisses Brenda, Brenda immediately leaves and this leads to their one year estrangement. In the fifth season, after the death of her husband, Brenda then has dreams that she and Billy should marry and raise her two children together. She also dreams that they have sex.
  • In daytime soap All My Children, a mid-1970's storyline featured Erica Kane meeting and falling for a man named Mark Dalton. Erica liked him so much that she introduced him to her mother, Mona. Mona noticed a birthmark on his hand, and after they left, recalled that Erica's father had the same birthmark. Mona stopped them right before they had sex, and they learned they were brother and sister.


  • In The World of Krypton (vol. 2), John Byrne wrote of the planet Krypton's ancient past in which a culture of near-immortals thrived by storing sleeping clones of each citizen to harvest for replacement body parts as needed. One of Superman's ancestors was involved in a massive controversy when she broke the law by bringing one of her own clones to full sentience and attempting to get her unwitting son to marry it. This double taboo-breaking added was the trigger for a gathering civil war over clone rights which would eventually decimate the planet for generations.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Genetic sexual attraction" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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