When blood relatives hook up: Is 'Genetic Sexual Attraction' really a thing?


EXCERPT: . . . The term “GSA” is credited to Barbara Gonyo. In the 1980s, she described people who meet for the first time as adults and feel sexual attraction and/or fall in love, then discover that they are related. In her 2011 book “I’m His Mother But He’s Not My Son,” she relates finding the son she gave up for adoption and falling in love with him, years later, in a decidedly not mother-and-son way. She leads an adoption support group for others dealing with GSA.

Gonyo’s story pre-dates the flood of consumer DNA testing results that are now blowing the lid off of once-anonymous sperm and egg donations. The intersection of spit-in-the-tube testing and assisted reproductive technologies has fed GSA. Anecdotal evidence “Disgusted by incest? Genetic Sexual Attraction is real and on the rise” headlines a Telegraph article from 2016. It includes an image from a tabloid depicting a 51-year-old and her boyfriend, the son she’d given up for adoption. “I’m in love with my son and want to have his baby,” blares the tabloid headline.

Also in 2016, a website for celebrity gossip featured a 36-year-old who gave up her son, then 19, at birth, and went on to have 8 more kids. Mother and son connected on Facebook and met in person a year ago. They fell in love and when they blabbed about it, were arrested and charged with incest.

That same year, a piece in Cosmopolitan offered the viewpoint of the younger person in a GSA pair: “A woman suffering from genetic sexual attraction explains how it feels to fall in love with your dad.” The Cosmo source was an anonymous Reddit post. The woman was adopted as a baby, tracked down biomom, and through her found biodad, who had been married for two decades. Making a long and highly disturbing story short, they exchanged photos, felt something, chatted online and on the phone, then met. It took a month for things to “get out of control.” They ended up together – if the story is true.

More cases sprinkled 2017 and 2018.

By January 2019, with fallout from the holiday advertising blitz of DNA test kits, this story appeared, tracking another Reddit journey: “Genetic sexual attraction – a couple’s story going viral as a result of a 23andme test discovery.” (That month was also when I discovered a half dozen half-sibs through AncestryDNA and 23andMe.)

In the new Reddit reveal, a man learned that his girlfriend was his half-sis. Although they knew they were donor-conceived, it was shocking. When they discovered what they shared – dad – they ended their relationship, amidst much angst.

Dissatisfied with tabloids and secondhand Reddit repeats, I posted on private Facebook groups for the donor-conceived, asking for experiences. Considering late-to-the-game sperm bank restrictions on number of donations with no clear enforcement, an unintentional hookup with relatives can happen. Here are a few posts, reworded and de-identified. Responses ranged from regarding attraction to a half-sib as exciting, weird, or revolting. The term “mind fuck” recurred.

“Some of my half brothers are so hot and cute! If they weren’t my half-brothers and they lived near me and I’d known them awhile, I’d probably want to date them.”

“I have always been attracted to tall men with dark hair and light eyes, and my sperm donor and my half-brothers match this description exactly. Since I found this out, and have seen photos of guys who fit the description, I think at first, ‘dang he’s cute!’ and then I think about how he has similar features to my brothers and run away, screaming internally.”

“GSA is the most creepy thing you’ve never heard of.”

“I met my ex-boyfriend before meeting my bio father, right before two half-brothers found me online. After the breakup, I found teenage photos of my biodad and he looked just like my ex! But my ex was born before my biodad donated; otherwise I would have thought he was my brother. Was I in love with him because he looks likes my father?”

“I have the hottest half-brothers” reverberated in a few posts. Of course social media select for those prone to providing TMI and over-sharing, and the posts were from women. But GSA is real to those affected.

To mix musical metaphors, what’s DNA got to do with it? Absolutely nothing. Here’s a look at the biology of the phenomenon. [see article for diagram]

[...] In communities where consanguinity is practiced, pairings aren’t based on physical attraction but on relationship. GSA is opposite. But GSA doesn’t make biological sense, despite the experts at Cosmo stating “It is believed this is an extreme manifestation of the theory that humans seek to partner up with mates that are like themselves.”

Well, no. In fact, evolution has provided ways of recognizing relatives that help to avoid incest and the resulting inbreeding that can threaten survival of a species. Inklings of what would become the GSA hypothesis are traced to 1891, when Finnish anthropologist Edvard Westermarck, who posited that children brought up in the same household are not attracted to each other as adults, thanks to an inborn incest taboo of sorts. More recently, studies showing that children brought up on the same kibbutz (a collective farm) in Israel only very rarely marry each other are cited as supporting the Westermarck effect. It’s a little like the unwritten rule at my high school that you never date someone from the same school.

Another line of evidence comes from the theory of kin selection: Individuals act to increase the reproductive success of relatives, even at the expense of their own fertility or survival. It’s best studied in birds, where aunts and uncles tend nests. Kin selection is based on the ability of relatives to recognize each other. Pheromones help to make that possible. Unlike hormones, which act within an individual, pheromones pass among members of a species. Thanks to pheromones and other clues and cues, children become “desensitized” to the relatives with whom they grow up. Insects and rodents choose genetically dissimilar mates by sniffing pheromones, according to several studies.... (MORE - details)

Possibly Related Threads…
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Scientists Find Genetic Causes of Loneliness C C 5 554 Jul 4, 2018 11:57 PM
Last Post: RainbowUnicorn
  Non-genetic mutations + Dog origins twist + Poverty dampens IQ genetic influence + Fi C C 0 550 Dec 16, 2015 08:06 PM
Last Post: C C

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)