Genetic sexual attraction

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Genetic sexual attraction (GSA) is a contrived term for an overwhelming sexual attraction that may develop between close blood relatives who first meet as adults.[1]

The term was coined in the US in the late 1980s by Barbara Gonyo, the founder of Truth Seekers In Adoption, a Chicago-based support group for adoptees and their new-found relatives.[2]

Contributing factors[edit]

People tend to select mates who are like themselves, which is known as assortative mating. This holds both for physical appearances and mental traits. People commonly rank faces similar to their own as more attractive, trustworthy, etc. than average.[3] However, Bereczkei (2004) attributes this in part to childhood imprinting on the opposite-sex parent. As for mental traits, one study found a correlation of 0.403 between husbands and wives, with husbands averaging about 2 IQ points higher. The study also reported a correlation of 0.233 for extraversion and 0.235 for inconsistency (using Eysenck's Personality Inventory). A review of many previous studies found these numbers to be quite common.[4]

Heredity produces substantial physical and mental similarity between close relatives. Shared interests and personality traits are commonly considered desirable in a mate. The heritability of these qualities is a matter of debate but estimates are that IQ is about 80% heritable, and the big five personality factors are about 50% heritable. These data are for adults in Western countries.[5]

For the above reasons, genetic sexual attraction is presumed to occur as a consequence of genetic relatives meeting as adults, typically as a consequence of adoption. Although this is a rare consequence of adoptive reunions, the large number of adoptive reunions in recent years means that a larger number of people are affected.[6] If a sexual relationship is entered, it is known as incest.

GSA is rare between people raised together in early childhood due to a reverse sexual imprinting known as the Westermarck effect, which desensitizes them to later close sexual attraction. It is hypothesized that this effect evolved to prevent inbreeding.[7][8]


Patrick Stübing and Susan Karolewski[edit]

A brother and sister couple in Germany, Patrick Stübing and Susan Karolewski, fought their country's anti-incest laws. They grew up separately, met in 2000 when he was 23 and she was 15. He moved in with his mother and sister and the couple had four children which began in January 2001, the month after their mother died. Their appeal was rejected in 2008, upholding Germany's anti-incest laws.[9][10]

Kathryn Harrison memoir[edit]

Kathryn Harrison published a memoir in the 1990s regarding her four-year incestuous relationship with her biological father, whom she had not seen for almost 20 years prior to beginning the relationship, titled The Kiss.[11]

South African couple[edit]

A couple in South Africa who had been together for five years, had a child and discovered that they are brother and sister just before their wedding. They were raised separately and met as adults in college.[12]

Garry Ryan and Penny Lawrence[edit]

At age 18, Garry Ryan left his pregnant girlfriend and moved to the United States. The daughter, Penny Lawrence, grew up and later set out to find her missing father. When they met, they "both felt an immediate sexual attraction". They then lived together as a couple and as of April 2012 were expecting their first child together.[13]

British twin couple[edit]

In 2008 a UK court annulled a marriage between a couple on the grounds that they were (fraternal) twins. They had been separated at birth. [14]

2012 father-daughter couple[edit]

In August 2012, a 32-year-old father and his 18-year-old daughter in New Zealand were convicted of incest after they admitted to having an incestuous relationship, which began in August 2010 when the girl was 16. The incest continued until May 2012 and resulted in the couple having a daughter, who was born in 2011. The teen told the court she was in love with her father and that they had been living as 'husband and wife' after meeting each other in 2010.[15]

Mississippi Couple[edit]

A fake news report claimed in 2017 that a doctor at a fertility clinic in the Mississippi capital of Jackson discovered a couple who sought treatment at the center were fraternal twins after testing their DNA. The couple's parent's died when they were infants and the state's foster system split them up so they did not know when they remet as adults.[16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Kirsta, Alix (17 May 2003). "Genetic sexual attraction". The Guardian. 
  3. ^ Penton-Voak, I.S.; et al. (Spring 1999). "Computer graphic studies of the role of facial similarity in judgements of attractiveness" (PDF). Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social. 18 (1): 104–117. doi:10.1007/s12144-999-1020-4. 
  4. ^ Watson, David; Klohnen, Eva C.; Casillas, Alex; Nus Simms, Ericka; Haig, Jeffrey; Berry, Diane S. (1 October 2004). "Match Makers and Deal Breakers: Analyses of Assortative Mating in Newlywed Couples". Journal of Personality. 72 (5): 1029–1068. PMID 15335336. doi:10.1111/j.0022-3506.2004.00289.x. 
  5. ^ Bouchard, Thomas J. (1 August 2004). "Genetic Influence on Human Psychological Traits. A Survey". Current Directions in Psychological Science. 13 (4): 148–151. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2004.00295.x. 
  6. ^ Bob McKeown; Aziza Sindhu (May 7, 2009). "Part 2: Genetic Sexual Attraction – Part One". The Current. CBC Radio. 
  7. ^ Lieberman, Debra; Tooby, John; Cosmides, Leda. "The architecture of human kin detection". Nature. 445 (7129): 727–731. PMC 3581061Freely accessible. PMID 17301784. doi:10.1038/nature05510. 
  8. ^ Fessler, Daniel M.T.; Navarrete, C.David. "Third-party attitudes toward sibling incest". Evolution and Human Behavior. 25 (5): 277–294. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2004.05.004. 
  9. ^ Kate Connolly, "Brother and sister fight Germany's incest laws", The Guardian, 27 February 2007. Accessed 20 May 2008.
  10. ^ Dietmar Hipp: "Dangerous Love: German High Court Takes a Look at Incest". Der Spiegel, 11 March 2008.
  11. ^ Harrison, Kathryn (1997). The Kiss. Avon Books, Inc. ISBN 0-380-73147-9. 
  12. ^ STEWART MACLEAN, "Engaged couple discover they are brother and sister when their parents meet just before wedding", Daily Mail, 3 November 2011. Accessed 9 November 2011.
  13. ^ "Woman carries father’s baby and claims: We’re in love". The Journal. Dublin, Ireland. 23 March 2011. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "New Zealand father-daughter couple told to end incest". BNO News. 29 August 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  16. ^ "Jackson husband & wife shocked after DNA test reveals they are biological twins". Mississippi Herald. Mississippi. 13 April 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2017. 
  17. ^ "Snopes Fake News". Retrieved 19 April 2017. 


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