Why the heck is incest so popular in lewd games right now? Have you noticed just how many games there are that feature incest out there?
There’s Dating My Daughter by MrDots Games, Daddy’s Goodnight Kiss by Dirty Secret Studio, Parental Love by Luxee Games, Daughter Saga by Sagas. Naughty Road’s Light of My Life allows you to choose whether you want it to be an incestuous tale, depending on whether you set the relationships to be a father and his daughters or not. It’s not just father/daughter stuff either – My New Family by Killer7 is about a young man, his mother and his half-sisters (though you have to enter a code to enable incest); Babysitter by T4bbo is about the growing relationship between a man and his niece, while Freeloading Family by FFCreations has you and your step-sister getting it on.
Even games where the incest isn’t the main “thrust” of the plot (sorry), often feature some incest content. Long Live The Princess by Belle allows you to have sex with your sister. Summertime Saga by Kompas Productions used to allow you to have sexual scenes with your mother, sister and aunt (but was changed due to to Patreon’s anti-incest rules). Even Good Girl Gone Bad by Eva Kiss has a brief scene where the female protagonist can have sex with her father.
And that’s even without mentioning Sisterly Lust (by Perverteer), My New Life (Beggar Of Net), Milfy City (Icstor), Haley’s Story (Viitgames), Sister Sister Sister (and its sequel, Cuntswell Academy, both by Virtual Indecency), Dreams of Desire (Lewdlab) and Picture Perfect (SuperWriter), all of which were mentioned to me as worthwhile when I asked around for recommendations for good incest-themed games.
I won’t name every game featuring incest that I could dig out. Which is a good thing, since there are a lot of them. A quick visit to the Visual Novel Database reveals that there are currently 2,473 games labelled with the “Incest” tag. And that’s without getting in to the variations and child tags. There’s “incest romance”, tags for blood-related and non-blood-related versions, and any permutation of relationships you can think of.
So there’s a lot of it out there. But why?
Firstly, there’s the whole taboo-breaking angle; as Woody Allen said, “Is sex dirty? Only when it’s being done right,” and what could be dirtier and more transgressive than breaking taboos?
Sigmund Freud proposed that incest taboos exists because we have unconscious incestuous urges that need to be repressed – humans are innately incestuous. There’d be no need for such powerful taboos unless there were processes that lead people to be sexually attracted to family members. For Freud, incest was the only universal taboo. In contrast, Finnish sociologist Edward Westermarck thought that humans evolved an automatic biological mechanism to avoid incest: we find our relatives sexually aversive, not attractive. Whether you believe Freud or Westermarck, incest taboos are certainly pretty important. As anthropologist Clark Wissler observed: “anti-incest responses of some kind are universal among mankind.”
But incest isn’t the only taboo out there. When you think about it, there are a lot of things that are considered taboo. A paper called “Taboos and Identity: Considering the Unthinkable” says: “Taboos may include restrictions on sexual activities like incest, animal-human sex, necrophilia, and adult-child sex. Other taboos relate to dietary restrictions… or cannibalism… Taboos can be repugnant and appalling actions or behaviour which includes the display of some bodily functions.”
Bodily functions? That includes excretion, right? As sanitation development expert Kimberly Worsham says: “Shit is sin.” In most human cultures, it’s in the same taboo category as sex and menstruation. So if it was only about breaking taboos, excrement would be hot. While there’s a kink and even a sexual subculture for “scat” (ie scatology, defined by Wikipedia as “coprophilia, when a person is sexually aroused by faecal matter”), we’re not up to our eyes in a sea of scat games. Thankfully.
So, back to the question: why incest rather than any other taboo?
Perhaps because there’s a lot of incest around in porn at the moment. It’s only natural that the creators of adult games are inspired by stuff that gets them off or that they find hot.
Pornhub claims to be the world’s number 1 porn site. It’s certainly popular, with more than 42 billion site visits in 2019. Since 2013 it has released a “year in review” that shares detailed statistics and data, and lists things like Favourite Porn Star and Most Popular Search Terms. These reviews also include interesting but irrelevant facts such as how UK site traffic dropped by 3% during the Great British Bake Off finale in 2018 (I’ll leave follow-ups on that, such as research on baking-themed pornography, and the erotic possibilities of Mary Berry as an exercise for the reader).
In 2013, there were no incest-related terms topping the charts – the top terms searched for worldwide were “teen”, “milf” and “compilation”. This changed in 2014, when the site’s most popular search terms included “step mom,” ”mom” and “step sister” (“step mom” and “step sister” were also in the list of the year’s top gaining search terms). Even in 2014, incest-related searches were international, with “mom” being in the top 3 terms searched for from Italy, Mexico, Spain, Russia and Poland.
“Step mom,” “mom”, and “step sister” stayed popular in 2015, being joined by “step mom and son” (which rose an amazing 71 places in the rankings). “Step mom” was in the top 10 searches from the UK, Canada, Australia, Mexico, and the Netherlands. Local variations included “belle mere” (French for ”step mom”), “mexican mom” and “russian mom”. And this wasn’t just being done by men – searches being looked for by women included “daddy”, “step dad”, “step sister caught” and “fuck me daddy”.
I could go into a lot more detail (and in fact the first draft of this article did). Let’s just say that things didn’t get any less incestuous in 2016, 2017 or 2018, though in 2019’s “mom” dropped out out of the list of the top 20 most searched for terms. Interestingly, the year’s list of the most popular searches from rival site Xhamster is topped by “mom”, with the top 10 also including “japanese mom”, “stepmom son” and “stepmom”.
“Sex has always been about the forbidden, and [incest is] just about as forbidden as you can get.”Paul Wright, Indiana University
Enough statistics. What do they tell us? Well, for a start, I think we can safely say that incest fantasies have gone mainstream. According to Paul Wright, Ph.D. of the Media School at Indiana University: “Pornography keeps pushing the boundaries — it’s been doing that for a number of decades, to now where it’s gotten to incest. Sex has always been about the forbidden, and [incest is] just about as forbidden as you can get.” Dan O’Connell, founder of Girlfriends Films (the company that produces the popular incest-themed series Mother-Daughter Exchange Club) says: “The industry does these movies because that’s what sells. And, very simply, they sell for their taboo factor.”
Companies like Mindgeek (Pornhub’s owner) compile huge amounts of data about what their users search for and release it to the public regularly – in Pornhub’s case, both as annual statistics and in an “Insights” blog. Agile studios can pounce on information about trends and churn out more of what people want to give themselves an advantage in a competitive market. They put that into their advertising, which influences what people are watching – making it a closed loop
Tasha Reign, performer, director, and advocate for the adult film industry, says: “We are the supply to your demand. What we create has a lot to do with what is popular. It is a business.”
When Esquire magazine interviewed Whitney Wright for their February 2018 article “Incest Is the Fastest Growing Trend in Porn. Wait, What?,” she said: “You can ask any young female performer what bookings she has this month, and she’ll tell you she’s playing 17 step-daughters.” Since she came into the industry in 2016, most of her roles have involved some sort of family element.
Incest isn’t exactly a new theme in porn – the 1980 classic “Taboo” heavily features father/daughter and mother/son incest, and kicked off a series spanning 27 years and 22 sequels. In the 40 years since then, incest appears to have become a lot more popular. Jon Milward’s 2013 work “Deep Inside: A Study of 10,000 Porn Stars and Their Careers” found that out of the 20 “most common female roles that appear in film titles,” the sixth most common role for actresses is “daughter”, and the tenth is “sister.” Its popularity advanced to the point where the AVN Awards, (the porn industry Oscars), introduced the category of “Best Taboo Relations Movie” in 2015.
Sociologist and author Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals told VICE in 2015 that the stats don’t show an increase in “incest porn”, but rather a rapid growth in “faux-cest porn” – content which casts two performers in a family role-play scenes. She also proposes that faux-cest pornography is appealing because of the “interesting mix of commonplace coupled with marked taboo… there’s something about stimuli for such a highly taboo topic simultaneously being so commonplace that may resonate with some people.” Dr Laurie Betito, psychologist and director of the Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center, suggests that “taboo acts will always rank high simply because it’s taboo. It’s also only in fantasy and it usually stays there, as compared to threesomes which are often desired in real life.”
So, incest is a big theme in pornography right now. What else can explain incest as a theme in games? Well, there’s a lot of incest around in drama, and that would influence creators as well.
Just as incest isn’t a new theme in porn, it’s not new to culture either – it appears in the Bible. In the book of Genesis, Lot and his family flee from the burning city of Sodom and Gomorrah. His wife ignores the instruction not to look back and is turned into a pillar of salt. The three survivors take refuge in a cave, where the daughters get Lot drunk and seduce him. The story of Lot and his daughters was a popular subject for artists, since it gave them an excuse to paint something erotic and sensual while still being “legitimate” because of the Biblical context.
Lucas van Leyden showed Lot and his daughters as cavorting nudes, Rubens painted Lot’s seduction in the cave as a biblical patriarch who succumbed to forbidden desire, Flemish artist Quentin Massys painted it, and Lucas Cranach the elder painted it at least four times. Baroque artists Franceschini, Gentileschi and Furini all painted their own versions. Excuse the art history lesson – but the main character takes Denise, his daughter (or ward), to the museum in Light of My Life, where they see a number of those works. (See, this wasn’t just a gratuitous lecture, it was actually related to a game).
Want something more modern? OK, let’s skip from the 17th century to the 21st. In an April 2015 article on the rise of incest porn in Cosmopolitan, Cosmo Frank claimed that incest had been bubbling up on the mainstream Internet, citing a then recent New York Magazine interview with a father-daughter couple that went viral. That article, part of the magazine’s Science of Us interview series called “What It’s Like to Date Your Dad”, was a detailed Q&A about consensual incest between a woman and her biological father. (The whole series can be summed up as “sensational” – other Science of Us interviews include “What It’s Like to Be Covered in Scales” and “What It’s Like to Date a Horse”). It was with a woman who lost contact with her father at the age of five and then began having sex with him after they re-kindled their relationship when she was 17 years old. She says that they are in love and that they are engaged to be married. NY Magazine also featured an article exploring Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA) — the intense sexual feelings for a blood relative that can be experienced by adult adoptees and other estranged family members upon reunion. Between them, the articles made inter-familial relations topical.
And of course, you can’t talk about the theme of incest in culture without mentioning Game of Thrones.
The show featured a number of incestuous plotlines, including the relationship between Daenerys Targaryen and her nephew, Jon Snow, and “twincest” between Queen Cersei and Jaime Lannister. (In fact, the Lannister twins are famous for their amorous activities, and represent one of the longest-lasting romantic partnerships of the series). In 2011, when viewers first saw incest in season one of the show many were disgusted or disturbed. But by the final season in 2019, people were more accepting – or at least used to it. Incest lurks everywhere in the show. Daenerys is the product of incest (her parents were brother and sister), and so were Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen. Perhaps the show’s incestuous plotlines tickled an untapped fetish for some viewers,who then went on to seek out more content on porn sites.
The fantasy epic had a whole range of shocking “water-cooler moments”: beloved characters unexpectedly being killed off, slaughtered children, torture, sexual violence. The incest is being used for the same reasons: shock value, and getting people talking. Its purpose in the series is to both horrify the audience and titillate them.
Game of Thrones is far from the only big-budget TV series to feature incest. Tom Hardy’s Taboo had its mumbling main character James Keziah Delaney end up going to bed with his half-sister, Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin). The sixth season finale of “Dexter,” a series about a lovable serial killer, had Debra come to terms with her amorous feelings toward Dexter, her non-blood brother. The cliffhanger ending had her going to confess her feelings to her brother and finding him executing another serial killer. This was a series where a woman falling in love with her brother was more objectionable than murder.
HBO, the network behind both Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire, also gave us Bored to Death which featured the unwitting romance between the by-products of the same anonymous sperm donor. The first series of True Detective saw Errol Childress/The Yellow King (Glenn Fleshler) doing the nasty with a woman who turned out to be his half-sister. Ripper Street included a cult leader getting close with his daughter. American Horror Story and Sons of Anarchy also featured storylines that got all weird and incesty.
“Nothing trumps incest… If you want someone not to hit the remote control clicker, show a hint of incest.”James B. Twitchell
Boardwalk Empire saw Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) have sex with his mother (Gretchen Mol). “Under God’s Power She Flourishes,” Boardwalk Empire’s penultimate episode of its 2011 season, featured an extended flashback where Jimmy slept with his mother in a scene that Rolling Stone called “one of the most sickening moments in television history”. (It’s worth noting that at the time of the flashback, Jimmy was at Princeton University studying the works of John Webster. The fact that Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi contains an incest subplot was not exactly irrelevant. I’m trying not to make this article ‘Incest’s Greatest Hits’ but I have to mention how Jacobean playwrights loved themselves some incest. The Dutchess of Malfi, Tis Pity She’s A Whore, The Revenger’s Tragedy. Even Shakespeare got in on the act, with incest in The Comedy of Errors, Hamlet and Pericles. Jacobean theatre was like Incest-A-Go-Go, wasn’t it?)
According to James B. Twitchell, author of “Forbidden Partners: The Incest Taboo in Modern Culture”: “Nothing trumps incest… If you want someone not to hit the remote control clicker, show a hint of incest.”
Even before this, incestuous relationships were far more commonplace in pop culture than you’d initially imagine. 1990s teen movies featured illicit step-sibling romances, for example Cher and Josh in Clueless and Sebastian and Kathryn in Cruel Intentions. Think of Marty McFly and his mother in 1985’s Back to the Future, or the “twincest” between Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia of the Star Wars movies (a franchise launched in 1977).
But incest has certainly become more prevalent in drama. Why? Oona Chaplin, who starred in Taboo, opines: “There’s a sexual libertarianism right now… Sex has become a very public-display type of thing, so there’s very few things that have remained taboo. Where does the taboo lie now? I think it’s in incest.”
So, the increase of incest in games could be down to the Game of Thrones effect plus the rise of incest porn? Perhaps, but maybe it’s also something to do with the zeitgeist, what’s trending, something in the air. Like the way that twin movies happen. “Twin Movies” are films that come out in close succession with very similar themes – like the way that in 1997 both Armageddon and Deep Impact featured a group of astronauts being launched to save the Earth from something hurling towards it, or 2006 gave us The Prestige and The Illusionist, two movies about magicians. Sometimes it’s not just a pair of films, it’s whole clusters of them with similar themes. 1987-88 saw “Big”, “Vice Versa”, “18 Again!”, “14 Going on 30”, and “Like Father, Like Son”, all of which portray boys who transform into or switch bodies with adults.
This makes sense, since creators are being exposed to the same news stories and cultural forces as the rest of us. You know I mentioned Armageddon and Deep Impact in 1997? They weren’t the only films with that theme in the late 1990s – lesser known ones includes “Doomsday Rock”, “Asteroid”, “Judgment Day”, and “Tycus”. Why would there be so many films about the risk of a global catastrophe from space? Maybe the fact that Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 had impacted Jupiter in 1994 got scriptwriters’ minds thinking about that sort of thing.
Given that most lewd games are made by individual creators or small teams, a lot of the factors that affect giant movie studios just won’t be relevant. The developers simply won’t be big enough for people to be hawking the same script around different game companies as scriptwriters do to movie studios, and the devs don’t have piles of scripts they’re sitting on which they can green-light if they hear that a rival is doing something similar. But being exposed to near-identical news and cultural events? Yeah, that happens to all of us.
So, incest. There’s a lot of it about. Is there anything we can say that’s specific to games? Well, games as a medium differ from drama in that they’re interactive. If this is your fantasy, you’re actually taking part in it through the choices you make, rather than just watching characters play out a pre-determined story on screen. That can be pretty powerful.
Perhaps part of it is that it is a fantasy. Even more than for pornography. Tasha Reign, porn performer and director, says: “There are many things we like to watch that we would never want to do in our personal lives…. We give you an outlet to channel these feelings in a safe environment.” And what goes for porn goes doubly so for games – you can express all this without it affecting anything in your actual, quotidian, day-to-day reality.
Perhaps part of the rise of incest in games is that it is at the same time relatable and distant from us. It is relatable since we all have a family, and it’s distant from us in that the family on-screen isn’t our family. The details differ, the names and appearances of its members will most likely be nothing at all like those of your real-life family.
Maybe part of it is a desire for roleplay. You need never have had any real interaction with an actual police officer to roleplay getting off a speeding ticket with a hot traffic cop in the bedroom. If the teachers you had during your genuine schooldays had all the sex appeal of whale dreck, you can still roleplay a hot teacher/student scene. So, playing an incest themed game lets you take roles in an interactive drama.
Also, incest isn’t really a single theme, but a whole cluster of related themes. If you play as a brother who has sex with his sister, it has a different dynamic to a game where you are a father who has sex with his daughter, which in turn feels different to a game where you play a young man who has sex with his aunt – yet all of these are still “incest”.
“It’s cerebral kink, not an extension of reality.”Courtney Trouble
The different variations allow you to indulge different kinks. Are you a male player who is into age play? Well, a father is always going to be older than his daughter. Are you into power play? Father-daughter incest gives you that too. Want to be on the other end of the age play? Find one that lets you do your aunt. Don’t fancy any of that, but still fancy the naughty thrill of breaking a taboo? Find one that has siblings doing it.
As porn performer and director Courtney Trouble comments about incest porn: “It’s cerebral kink, not an extension of reality. It plays into a lot of role play and BDSM scenarios. Most incest porn is not playing off an actual desire to have sex with a family member, but more like experiencing the intimacy and power dynamics inherent in those kinds of family relationships.” And as Cosmo Frank commented in an April 2015 article: “Incest role-play is basically a kink layer-cake.”
Another factor may be novelty. Your average visual novel, even one with graphic sexual content, isn’t going to feature incest. If you’re bored with games that feature generic Poser porn dolls doing generic sexual acts, then an incest-themed game will at least give you something new. There’s a lot of it about, but there’s not that much. It’s never going to be the new normal.
Let’s return to that phrase “faux-cest porn”. Are games more “faux” than faux-cest? Games allow us to act in ways that we never would in real life. Or are games more “real”? You’re not playing you, you are playing a character. But if you see the character having sex with, say his mother, within the magic circle of the narrative, that character is really having sex with his mother. It’s not roleplay, or two actors pretending. In the game world it’s totally real.
And lastly, perhaps part of it is just narrative convenience for game developers. Instead of laboriously figuring out backstories for your characters and how they got together… BAM! They’re family. They already live together. On to the next problem. This also provides built-in complications. The course of true love never ran smooth, so you need something to keep your star-crossed lovers apart. BINGO! They’re related to each other. Is that enough of a complication for you? Writing a decent visual novel is never going to be easy – but picking an incest storyline gives you a convenient narrative framework to hang everything off, allowing the developer to spend more time on other aspects.
So is that it? Taboo-breaking is hot, creators are being inspired by existing porn, and there’s something incest-y in the air? Is there a deeper reason? I’ll just have to quote Albert from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novel “Mort”: “’Sodomy non sapiens,’… means I’m buggered if I know.” But maybe it’s just like user StrangeRoboMemory said in a discussion on F95zone: “People like watching people that shouldn’t fuck fuck.”