Kissing Cousins

Forbidden Relatives cousin marriageForbidden Relatives: The American Myth of Cousin Marriage

Submitter: As a new librarian at a small community college (in the southern U.S.) there are many gems to be weeded. When the school first opened a library was created from other libraries’ discards. Needless to say, I don’t think anyone that held this position before me bothered to do any serious weeding…My favorite has to be, “Forbidden Relatives.” From what I’ve seen of the book, it looks like the authors are trying to make a pro-relative marriage argument.

Holly:  Oooooh-kayyy…

Forbidden Relatives cousin marriage contents



  1. If this one-of-a-kind gem must be weeded, then please send it to a better home, such as a law library, or a library with a genealogical collection. — Thanks in advance.

  2. …by Martin Ottenheimer and Karen (Ottenheimer) Ottenheimer.

    “This book is dedicated to Uncle Wayne and Aunt Mary. -M.O.”
    “Many thanks to Uncle Arthur and Aunt Liz. -K.O.O.”

  3. Haha, I can see that there might not be room for this book in a small library (probably not a topic of research on which most college students are going to embark). Personally I have read way too much Regency & Victorian literature to be at all fazed by cousin marriage, and this seems like a reasonable book for a larger collection, as long as it’s well-researched.

  4. Actually, it sounds like an interesting book. I have always heard the US forbade cousin marriage due to genetics. Maybe there is more. What is the prohibition’s history? Why don’t they have the same laws elsewhere? Is there really a genetic reason? The chapter on Culture and Cousin Marriage would be informative. From the viewpoint of an American I was brought up to believe it was wrong, and “icky,” but what do other cultures say?
    A community college library is exactly the spot for this book. And really, aren’t libraries supposed to have titles with other viewpoints than those of the librarian? If the authors are trying to promote cousin marriage, it is just one side of the issue. College students may glean a lot of information for classes from this one. Well, maybe a newer one, if the laws have changed since it was published.

  5. I read an interesting piece in slate about this once. And as luck would have it, the article is still available:

    Their conclusion is much the same as mine, but I confess I do find it “icky”. But then, all my boy cousins are kinda gross.

  6. Cousin marriage doesn’t produce genetic issues in children unless it happens over and over in one family.
    Also, I don’t understand why marriage can be allowed/banned based on the “quality” of your potential children. Marriage is not just about children. It involves many, many other things.

  7. You’re a librarian, judging a book’s argument without reading it. Why don’t you read this book, and get back to us?

    Cousins procreating is only a problem if it goes on for three generations or more. At that point, it’s no different than brother/sister. Take a random man and woman out of the population, and the chances that they’re both carriers for the same recessive gene genetic defect are 1%. With cousins, it’s 2%. Brother and sister, 50%. 🙂

    I don’t plan on marrying any of my first cousins, but there’s no rationale behind the idea that cousins marrying is-bad-period; it’s even legal in most states

  8. I, too join the others above in pointing out that the “wariness” or biases against this book expressed by the contributor and Holly are most likely based on the exact same prejudices that this book is attempting to address. Why would this book be any different from, say, a book addressing the “fallacy” of laws prohibiting marijuana, or the failures of Prohibition, or the history of “blue laws” (businesses being closed on Sundays), or a book on the good points of pornography/erotica?

  9. Yeah, sorry, you guys messed up on this one. Personal squeamishness shouldn’t be a justification for weeding a collection. This is a perfectly reasonable book on a subject which is not very controversial outside the US. 10% of currently married individuals in the world are married to cousins.

  10. My boy cousins were hot-hot-hot! Holiday visiting was such a delight! Marriage probably wouldn’t have been a good idea, though. As for the book…it’s time for an update. I’d be interested to know if the taboo was fading FIFTEEN YEARS later!

  11. In some cultures, cousin marriage is preferred — but it must be either a parallel cousin (mother’s sister’s child, father’s brother’s child) or in others, a cross cousin (mother’s brother’s child or father’s sister’s child).

    In some states, it is legal after the age of 50 or with a medical declaration of infertility.

  12. Well, I’m not ashamed to say I find marrying cousins or other near relatives creepy. I mean, look at all the problems it’s caused in royal blood lines with insanity and other nastiness. You’d never breed an animal to it’s relative – unless you’re an irresponsible breeder/puppy mill owner – same should go for humans.

    Not that I’m for weeding books on personal bias. I’m still ticked off years later at the patron who threw a hissy fit and made us weed a brand new copy of a book on Rolling Stone magazine just because there was one picture of one of the female staff members topless, smoking, and drinking. She decried it as porn and “objectifying women.” (Nevermind we have an “art” book which is noting but a bunch of photographs of completely nude women wrapped in Christmas lights.) But you’ve got to keep the patrons happy or bye bye money.

    But still, you just can’t give me an arguement that to me would justify marrying a cousin. No, not even Biblical ones. Yes, I believe in God, but I don’t believe the Bible is 100% His/Her word, I think a LOT is misinterperted or even purposely re-written to justify someone’s personal bias. And that someone might’ve been pro-kissin’ cousins.

  13. Ok, let me start off by saying I do think cousin marriage is icky, however I believe it’s backwards thinking to have such a strong reaction that it should be removed from your collection.
    My grandparents on my father’s side were actually first cousins, something I was not aware of until I was in high school and had to do a family tree project. My dad had never told me or my sibblings because he was ashamed. I felt so embarrassed that I made up a family for my grandmother to be from for my project.
    Yet, as an adult, I’ve grown much more tolerant. There’s “no argument that could justify marriage a cousin?” My grandparents had not grown up together, had only met a few times. When my grandmother from Texas moved to Virginia to seek out a job in the DC area my grandfather, her first cousin, was the only person she knew living there and I guess one thing lead to another…
    Marriage between cousins is not illegal in Virginia and by doing so, they kept my grandmother’s property in the family. My grandparents had five children, 3 of which went on to have their own children and my sibblings nor my own first cousins show any genetic abnormalities. In the end I chalk it up to two people who maybe did not have large social circles or at least they felt they were marrying someone “safe” that they could trust if your aunt or uncle can vouche for them. My grandparents were married a little over 50 years, until my grandfather’s death in ’94.
    Also, one of my coworkers is from India and she is married to her first cousin. She did not meet him until she was 18 and she said she has nearly 40 first cousins.

    While the subject may need an update, I think a college library in the south would be an appropriate place for this type of book. I think republicans are icky too, but as a librarian and a steward of info I’m not discarding any of their books 😛

  14. No comment! The issue regarding marriage between cousins is not a problem for me unless i indulge with it. But, with all due respect to those who are into it, frankly speaking i opted not to considering the family’s reputation which will eventually be put into shame the moment it the illicit relationship is divulge to the society.

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