Bioethics News

‘Genetic sexual attraction’ could become issue for kids of sperm donors

The British press is a fathomless mine of lurid but thought-provoking, strange-but-true explorations of the dark side of the human condition. Last week’s revelation was published in a magazine called The New Day — a passionate incestuous romance between a 51-year-old British woman and her 32-year-old American son.

Kim West was studying in California when she had a child out of wedlock. She gave him up for adoption and turned to England. Nearly 30 years later she learned that her son Ben Ford wanted to contact her. When they met, they immediately felt an overwhelming sexual attraction. Ben ended up abandoning his wife and moving in with his mother. They live together and are considering having children.

Post-adoption romance is a poorly-understood but well-documented phenomenon. In 1980s an American adoption counsellor, Barbara Gonyo, coined the term “genetic sexual attraction”(GSA) for these passionate feelings. Two British psychologists interviewed several people in the grip of GSA who all described “a romantic ‘falling in love’, intense and explosive, sudden and almost irresistible”.

Since incest is not only taboo but illegal in most jurisdictions, people are reluctant to discuss it. However the psychologists estimated that such feeling are present about 50 percent of the time when siblings and parents are reunited. Their article was published 20 years ago in the British Journal of Medical Psychology (later renamed Psychology and Psychotherapy), so it is possible that the number of cases has increased.

In fact, as a sympathetic columnist for The (London) Telegraph pointed out, the use of anonymous sperm donation could cause a huge increase in the prevalence of GSA.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.