Myrrha and Cinyras meet on Facebook

Tuesday 20 January 2015

A curious article appeared in a hipster magazine a week ago. Therein was reported the story of a Midwestern woman, barely legal (as the saying goes), in love with her own father, a love he claims to requite. Let us take the tale as true; if false, we will be relieved.

The back story is wretched. Eighteen years ago a young man and young woman went to their high school prom together. Later that night she conceived. They cohabited for a while but the young father abandoned the family and the mother suffered progressive emotional disorders. Grandparents assisted in rearing the baby. As she grew the father made intermittent attempts to see and spend time with her; he sent occasional presents and made brief visits, but her mother prevented any meaningful contact. The mother and father each engaged in serial failed relationships through the years. During a lonely and chaotic childhood the girl clung to an idea of her father. When she was seventeen he contacted her through Facebook. They began spending time together. She went to visit him where he was living with a girlfriend. There she gave up her virginity to him. They moved out of the girlfriend’s house and now room with a former lover of his, who is at ease with their relationship. So, it seems, are the girl’s paternal grandparents and her best friend. She says she has found her soulmate, a once-lost part of herself, and now feels complete. She paraded him at her own high school prom. Father and daughter are engaged, having sex, and planning their wedding, after which they will move to New Jersey where incest is not prosecuted. They look forward to having children together. She declares her ecstatic joy.

This ecstasy blinds her to the horror she is in and to the far greater horrors awaiting her. But we see and foresee them. Her father’s depredation and depravity are hidden from her. But not from us. Oedipus famously blinded himself upon recognizing the hideous truth of his incestuous love. This real-life case is worse than a scene from Chinatown. We pray that no children issue from this coupling. For her we are anguished, hoping that she can somehow escape sheer catastrophe. For the father there can be no pity.

In an ancient Semitic myth, adapted by the Greeks, a young princess, Myrrha, fell hopelessly in love with her father, Cinyras, the king. She detested even the thought of young suitors her age. She confessed her wicked desire to her nurse and confidante who was at first revolted, but when the princess seemed bent on suicide, the nurse facilitated a liaison (always, a nurse). She told the king of a young noblewoman, unnamed, who was mad with lust for him but out of shame wished to conceal her identity. He, flattered and eager, arranged with the nurse to bring the lady to his bed in the dark of night while the queen was away for some days at a religious festival. Each night the nurse led the princess into her father’s room where they enjoyed unbridled sex. On the last night the king, overcome by curiosity about his lover’s identity and looks, suddenly lit a lamp he had ready. As he beheld in horror his own child in his own bed, he drew his sword to kill her. She fled, he pursuing. She escaped and wandered, pregnant, for nine months to Arabia. At last, too weary to continue, she begged the gods for mercy. They in pity turned her into a myrrh tree, her tears becoming drops of fragrant resin. As the metamorphosis neared completion, the child was born, a boy. He smelled so sweetly that the goddess of sexual desire adopted him and saw to his rearing. When he was old enough she and he became lovers. He died horribly.

The laws of the gods are those things which three thousand generations of our kind have learned to be true. We cannot say just why they are true, but we know they are. We know, too, that fury and nemesis hound those who violate these laws. Even in Jersey.

The authoress of the New York article writes a “What It’s Like” feature on alternate lifestyles and sexual preferences. Bestiality, for example. Her reportage in this case is hip and cool, passing no judgment. Clinical jargon, however, betrays a will to accept. “Genetic sexual attraction” and “consensual incest” help us avert our stare from the truth of this freak show. And so does her citation of Keith Pullman, whose Full Marriage Equality blog encourages marital anarchy, especially between family members: “The global definition of marriage should be as follows: ‘The uniting of consenting individuals in a witnessed ceremony.'” That is, marriage is what any compact of adults (more or less) decide what it is for them. More precisely, people should be free to call whatever sexual relationships they have “marriage,” mutual consent and a witnessed ceremony the only requirements. At least Myrrha and Cinyras did not pretend it was marriage.

Samantha Allen in the Daily Beast quickly takes down this pseudo-science farce. She further faults Pullman for borrowing arguments used to qualify same-sex unions as marriage in order to claim the same status for incestuous and all other conceivable sexual relationships. But he has every reason to do so. Arguments and rhetoric of racial civil rights campaigns were and still are employed in demands to recognize same-sex unions as marriages, despite their inaptness. Warnings about unintended consequences of redefining marriage were not merely unheeded; the warners themselves were scourged, shunned, silenced. And now marriage redefiners grasp for arguments to prevent others from enjoying the fruits of their great achievement. They have left themselves none.

This pitiable young woman is a victim of their success.


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