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Friday, January 23, 2015

"Brother and Sister Lovers"

Dear TeenHealthFX, 
I have an unusual relationship, and I have several questions about it. I'm an 18-year-old male, living on my own. My 16-year-old sister also lives with me, away from our parents. The next part is tricky, so I'll just come right out and say it. We're lovers. We've been making love together for over two years now, and as far as either of us is concerned, we're a couple, like anyone else. Obviously, we keep this secret between us publicly. My sister moved in with me because she was having problems at home, and our parents support this because since she left home, her grades are up, and she's no longer depressed. The relationship is absolutely consensual, and always has been. She is on birth control, and we take extra precautions as well. I'm planning to have a vasectomy soon also, since we don't want children. My first question is, are there any health risks we should be aware of, as a brother/sister couple, beyond what a typical couple would face? Neither of us is religious, so morality isn't an issue, but what about legal issues? Is what we're doing illegal? Could either of us actually face prison time over this relationship? Also, since it's always a secret thing, I've never spoken to another couple in the same situation, but are there others out there in similar relationships? Are there any support groups that we could join?

Signed: Brother and Sister Lovers
The answer is probably as good as can be expected. While they tried to be empathetic, I still can't shake the feeling that they don't approve and assume that any such relationship must be unhealthy. People need to get over the idea our culture has that people in non-mainstream consensual romances need to be "fixed".
Dear Brother and Sister Lovers, 
Regardless of your feelings for your sister, and her feelings for you, any time that two related individuals engage in sexual activity it is called “incest” and it is considered a felony.  While the laws regarding incest and marriage between relatives vary from state to state, in general, situations involving first-degree relatives, like brothers and sisters, or parents and children, are considered illegal in all cases. 
In theory, an incest conviction can result in serious penalties, including fines or imprisonment, regardless of whether or not the relationship was consensual.  However, in most cases, incidences of incest are not reported, and thus they are never prosecuted.  So, in your case, chances are no one is going to press charges against you and your sister for being sexually involved, but it is a risk that you should be aware of and willing to deal with if it should arise.
In terms of health risks, there is no additional risk to having a relationship with your sister, aside from the problems associated with pregnancy that you have already considered.  Keep in mind that birth control pills are not 100% effective and their efficacy diminishes considerably if they are not used correctly. Please remember that there is a significant chance for birth defects in children born from the union of first-degree relatives.
We do live in a society where having sexual relations with family members is seen as inappropriate and the repercussions of having your sexual involvement with your sister exposed might be very troubling and difficult to deal with.  They could even end up driving you and your sister apart.  Even though you and your sister have been involved for two years, you are still only 18 and 16 years old.  You did help her get through a rough time in her life, and sometimes sharing hard experiences with someone else can make you feel even closer to them than you would normally feel.  And, sometimes, this closeness gets expressed as sexual intimacy.  FX does not want to discount the feelings that you seem to have for your sister, but wants you to remember that you are still young and going through many changes in your life. Things like considering a vasectomy at age 18 is a very big decision to make, as it is a permanent procedure and could cause problems later on in life should you be in a different relationship.
FX thinks that you should talk to a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist about your relationship with your sister. It would also be very important for your sister to be in therapy as well. The therapist will be able to help you both deal with the complicated issues you are facing and to sort through any mixed emotions you are experiencing. While you may feel outsiders may not understand your relationship, it is important that you realize that it is unhealthy for the both of you and bound to cause emotional turmoil down the road.
TeenHealthFX understands that it will probably be hard to talk to a professional about you and your sister’s relationship, but it is important that you do so. [...]
Signed: TeenHealthFX

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