Most societies consider incest to be the ultimate taboo. Yet, a strange phenomenon called ‘Genetic Sexual Attraction’ has been known to affect adults who meet long-lost blood relatives for the first time.
This program features several brother/sister couples (along with one mother/son couple) who’ve developed sexual relationships and insist on maintaining them in spite of pressure from society and, sometimes, criminal prosecution.
The documentary features German siblings Patrick and Susan (pictured with their daughter Sofia), a couple from south England, an American brother and sister, and a mother and son.
When, after 60 years, Ron traced Doris, the sister he had never met before, he had no idea he would open a Pandora’s Box of emotions and fall madly in love with her.
Ron is one of a seemingly growing number of people experiencing a phenomenon experts call “Genetic Sexual Attraction”, where siblings who grow up separately and meet for the first time as adults and strangers can fall prey to an overwhelming incestuous desire for each other. More people than ever are now able to trace blood relatives through genealogy websites and adoption agencies.
As many as 50 per cent of siblings reunited as adults are said to experience these same powerful feelings. Brothers and Sisters in Love has exclusive access to siblings from the UK, Germany and America who have confronted the greatest moral dilemma of their lives and risked everything – including breaking the law – to be together.
Siblings Rachel and Sean now live openly together as man and wife, brother and sister Patrick and Susan have gone one step further and had four children together, while Diane and Steve – a mother and son – have breached the ultimate taboo, sex between a parent and her adult child.
In this powerful and sensitive film, these couples describe the often devastating consequences that their uncontrollable attraction has had for them and their families.
Happily married to his wife Mary for nearly 40 years, and a regular at his local golf club on the south coast of England, Ron’s life seemed contented and unremarkable. But after retiring he began to search for his long-lost sister, not even knowing if she was alive. He was just two when his mother died in childbirth and his baby sister Doris was taken away for adoption.
Sixty years later, Ron found her living in Bermuda. Almost immediately he was consumed by disturbing emotions for his sister that went far beyond brotherly love. As Doris began to occupy all his thoughts, his wife Mary became increasingly alarmed, recognising that Ron’s obsession for his sister threatened to wreck their marriage.
What finally saved them is that Doris did not reciprocate her brother’s feelings, but if she had, Ron admits: “I don’t think there’s much doubt about the fact that we would probably have, you know, just expressed our love the way people do.”
But Patrick and Susan, a German brother and sister, allowed their feelings to go so far that they went on to have four children together. “It was bit of a shock at first, finding out that your girlfriend or in my case, my sister, was pregnant and that you’re having a baby.”
Patrick has already served a two-year prison sentence for incest. Their astonishing story exploded in a blaze of media attention last year when they challenged Germany’s incest laws in the Supreme Court to try to keep the family together.
Like Ron and Doris, Patrick and Susan grew up apart. Susan was born only after Patrick had been taken into care at the age of three. He had no contact with his family until he was 23, when he traced his birth mother and discovered he had a younger sister.
The mutual attraction was instant, but six months after finding each other, their mother died. Their loss brought them together and they went on to have four children, three of whom have been taken into care as babies. Brothers and Sisters in Love follows the couple over one extraordinary year as they fight to win the right to live together and keep their two-year old daughter Sofia – the only child not yet taken away by the authorities.
The stakes are extremely high. If they fail their latest appeal, not only will they lose Sofia for good, but Patrick will return to prison for 17 months. The film charts the dramatic twists and turns in their attempt to change the law – right up to the moment of decision.
The film also features American half-brother and sister, Rachel and Sean. They grew up separately and it was only at the age of 27 that they met and fell in love. They passionately believe that sibling love between adults who have grown up apart should not be illegal. Other contributors include an American couple who have broken an even greater taboo – physical love between a mother and son. For their own safety, they are filmed in disguise.
Diane and Steve have lived as man and wife for the last ten years. Diane was just 14 when she gave birth to Steve, but was immediately forced to give him up for adoption. After 27 years of living apart Steve traced his mother and they arranged a reunion.
Both were overpowered by shattering emotions they claim were – and still are – beyond their control. “It was a very painful experience when it started to become sexual,” says Diane. “It was a tragedy.” Steve says: “There’s no controlling it. Finally you’ve really found unconditional love.”
Director Sally George’s moving film, Brothers and Sisters in Love, explores the acute moral dilemmas faced in these forbidden incestuous relationships between consenting adults and includes contributions from a number of experts in the field.
Psychoanalyst David Bell explains how powerful emotions can overwhelm long-separated siblings who meet as adults: “A feature of incestuous relationships is the feeling of specialness. They know it’s wrong, but they think that this is a relationship that transcends ordinary human experience and therefore ordinary laws do not apply. It overwhelms the power of reason.”
Or as post-adoption counsellor Rose Dagoo argues, genetic similarities create the perfect conditions for these feelings to erupt: “It’s a very powerful attraction. It’s like falling in love with yourself.”