Written in response to:
Thanks to Kerryn Goldsworthy for her review of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. My correspondence comes at a tangent to the substance of the review.
I was brought up short in the course of reading the review by the statement ‘This may or may not be technically incest’, which follows a description of the rape of a niece by an uncle. Arts and media coverage on the subject of sexual assault is often avoided by survivors of these crimes, because of the cultural habit of casting disproportionate doubt on the veracity of sexual assault allegations, where similar doubt would not be voiced about, say, a crime of theft. The rape of a niece by an uncle would not be criminal incest under the current Victorian Crimes Act, but many injurious acts of human evil are not captured by specific legal provision. The moral reasons for which inter-generational incest is wrong – the abuse of the power dynamic and implicit trust of the relationship by the senior, more powerful party, for sexual gratification – are clearly present in the events described.
Why is it important to quibble over the status of these events? A newspaper may make such a quibble in reporting factual events when the matter is yet to be tried by a court, to avoid potential libel. But these are fictional events, with no legal implications for anyone. The manner in which they are discussed, however, does have implications for culture.