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Is "incest" primarily used nowadays to refer to child sexual abuse by a relative?

Some dictionaries' definitions of incest just refer to it meaning sexual relationships between people who aren't allowed to marry. For example, Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary refers to it as

sexual activity involving people who are closely related and not legally allowed to marry

though the example given refers to sexual abuse:

a victim of incest

Likewise, Wiktionary doesn't refer to sexual abuse in its definition.

By contrast, some uses of "incest" refer to child sexual abuse by a relative, for example the US organisation RAINN, founded in 1994, has "incest" as part of the acronym's name, and Republicans Clash Over Rape and Incest Exception for Abortion in an article published by Time Magazine this year quotes US politicians talking about rape and incest as being part of the same phenomenon.

Does "incest" primarily refer to child sexual abuse by a relative nowadays? Are other terms used for scenarios which are not as commonly regarded as abhorrent, such as distantly related adults having a sexual relationship?

  • Yes, the meaning of the word is in the process of changing, as legal prohibitions against relations between consenting adults have all but vanished in the US and many other countries. – Hot Licks Jun 20 '16 at 12:00
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    "incest" would still be used to describe sex between a brother and sister, both above the age of consent, even though this wouldn't be classed as sexual abuse. I think it is simply the case that because almost all cases of incest are also instances of sexual abuse (by an adult on a minor), the meaning of incest is changing. – Max Williams Jun 20 '16 at 12:07
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    Where did you see a definition unlike the ones you gave? That is the sense I have always heard. Child sexual abuse by a relative is definitely a subset of that definition but I have never heard of, say, sexual relations between an adult brother and sister referred to as anything other than incest. Inbreeding is a more comprehensive term which can include relations between more distantly related adults. – Hugh Meyers Jun 20 '16 at 12:16
  • Incest between consenting adults is taboo but generally nobody's business. It's also pretty rare. So, much of the conversation about incest focuses on abusive cases. The fact that incest is considered unnatural (and thus immoral) makes incestuous sexual abuse worse than regular sexual abuse because it violates two mores instead of just one. That's probably why it's being spelled out in texts that deal with abuse. I don't think the meaning has shifted, it's just that some cases of it are more common or noteworthy so they get discussed more. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jun 20 '16 at 12:57
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The meaning of incest is as you have quoted from a dictionary: sexual activity between related people. It need not be used only when sexual abuse is involved. Examples of use where no abuse is involved include:

Sibling incest should be legal

German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised

Incest and necrophilia should be legal

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