Genetic Sexual Attraction

Updated: DECEMBER 3, 2018

Genetic sexual attraction is a term for sexual attraction that is experienced between individuals who are closely related by blood. The term was coined in the late 1980s by Barbara Gonyo, founder of a Chicago support group called Truth Seekers in Adoption. Gonyo coined the term after being reunited with and subsequently falling in love with her biological son.

Genetic sexual attraction is often shortened to the acronym GSA.

More About Genetic Sexual Attraction

Genetic sexual attraction is a catch-all term for any sexual desire that relatives might feel for one another. It most commonly applies to situations where relatives are first introduced as adults, such as when a birth parent meets their adult offspring (whom they did not raise) later in life, or when first or second cousins meet for the first time as adults. It is believed that this phenomenon occurs in at least 50 percent of cases when adult relatives meet for the first time.

Genetic sexual attraction can also occur among relatives that know each other from birth or childhood. This is much rarer, however, because people raised together experience a kind of reverse sexual imprinting called the Westermarck effect, which prevents relatives from developing sexual feelings for one another.

Researchers believe a number of factors can cause genetic sexual attraction. Humans typically choose mates who share physical and mental similarities. Relatives share several traits due to heredity, so when adult relatives meet they may naturally feel drawn to one another.

If people who experience genetic sexual attraction act on their urges and enter a sexual relationship, they are partaking in something known as incest. Incest is frowned upon in society and is illegal in some nations. A child conceived through incest also has a higher risk of developing birth defects. Even if individuals do not act on feelings of genetic sexual attraction, they often feel guilty and depressed about these feelings, which lie outside societal norms.


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