The psychological reason why viewers are drawn to watching relatives hook up on shows like 'House of the Dragon'
- Warning: Spoilers ahead for "House of the Dragon" season 1, episode 8.
- On "House of the Dragon," Rhaenyra and her uncle Daemon have 2 children together.
"Game of Thrones" prequel "House of the Dragon" is full of incest scenes.
The show's eighth episode, which aired on Sunday, briefly showed the two babies Daemon Targaryen and his niece Rhaenyra had as a result of their incestuous relationship. They had steamy scenes throughout the season, and in episode 7 — after the funeral of Daemon's second wife, also his niece — they had sex and got married.
Incest has been a notable a theme throughout the "Games of Thrones" franchise. The romance between siblings Cersei and Jamie Lannister, from the very first episode of "Game of Thrones," prompted an increase in searches for fauxcest (fake incest) on porn sites, The Sun previously reported.
Over a decade later, "House of Dragon" is continuing the theme — and viewers still can't stop talking about it.
—Casey (@cwmcGrath) October 7, 2022
—Shivpriya Deshmukh (@Artemisxoxo0) October 5, 2022
— Happy HalloWinnie (@candlewaxcos) October 6, 2022
—Camille Corbett (@TheWittyGirl) October 3, 2022
Obviously, there is a shock value of watching niece-uncle fornication. But it goes deeper than that, Justin Lehmiller, a Kinsey Institute sex researcher and host of the "Sex & Psychology" podcast, told Insider.
Incest taps into viewers' deep-rooted desires to see the forbidden, he said.
Humans are drawn to doing, or looking at, things we're told are 'bad'
Sex researchers have long known that taboos like incest turn people on. There's something erotic about engaging in, or even watching, something you're not supposed to, according to Lehmiller, who wrote a book about sexual fantasies called "Tell Me What You Want."
It wasn't until Sigmund Freud, the creator of psychoanalysis, coined the term "Oedipus complex" in 1899 that incest took on an inherently negative connotation, according to Brian Connolly, author of Domestic Intimacies: Incest and the Liberal Subject in Nineteenth-Century America.
But that hasn't quashed incest stories or fantasies. Quite the opposite, Lehmiller said. Porn, then social media, and also TV shows like "House of the Dragon" have created a sort of on-screen incest renaissance, stirring an "it's-so-bad-I-can't-look-away" feeling, Lehmiller said.
"Part of it is that transgressive element, that heightened arousal that comes from taboo activities," said Lehmiller. "[It] might also be genuine curiosity, you know, 'I suppose I've heard a lot of things about incest before and how it's bad,' so for some people there just might be this morbid curiosity behind it."
As Geoffrey Celen, a porn industry trend expert, told MEL magazine: "Basic human wiring hasn't changed much over the last few millennia, and we've always had an erotic interest in incest stories. Oedipus met a tragic end, but what really makes the story is that he bangs his mom."
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