Online forums are hotbeds for abuse and grooming advice
A Reddit user?s rendition of an Incest Pride flag
Author?s note: This is Part 2 of a two part series about online incest communities. Part 1 discusses the recent, unreported increased prevalence of ?faux cest? pornography. Both pieces contain descriptions of internet content that may be disturbing to readers. The conclusions made are based on a collection of evidence that is not publicly available, but can be provided at the request of the reader.
Update: Shortly following this article, some of the mentioned communities were quarantined, while others were banned (source).
Not even incognito mode could save my laptop from the horrendous Google history generated to research this story. Be warned: If you choose to follow any of the hyperlinks in this article, your history will be similarly tarnished.
Before you continue reading this story, you deserve to know why you should trust me as your tour guide through the grime of the internet.
I write about the internet a lot. I cover weird, upcoming trends before they reach the public eye ? or at least I try to.
Internet Nazis? No problem.
Stochastic terrorism? Bring it on.
The nascent ASMR community? That story was a blast.
But incest communities? This is a new level.
At first, I shied away. I almost let the story be. Incest is weird, yes, but the internet has lots of weird stuff on it.
Then I realized there was another, much darker, much more grim side to this story, and not sharing my findings would make me complicit in something I really don?t want to be complicit in. So I started writing.
It?s not surprising that Reddit hosts incest communities. The site is home to many forums advocating illegal practices. Subreddits like r/LSD and r/Cocaine exist openly, and every type of sexual fantasy imaginable can be found somewhere on the site.
For context, incest is illegal in the United States (source), and is generally considered a Class 3 felony (similar to a battery or assault). Punishments are severe, often resulting in 5?25 years in prison (source). Different jurisdictions define incest differently, and the punishments vary depending on the severity of the crime. The boundary of what is considered outside the definition of incest is usually at second and third cousins, while only a few areas permit sexual relations or marriage between first cousins. Importantly, incest does not necessarily have to occur between full-blood relatives. Sexual relations between half-relatives, step-relatives, and adopted relatives are also severely punishable.
In sum, incest is prosecuted harshly in America. This is for two primary reasons.
First, children conceived through incest exhibit higher rates of disability or handicap. Risks grow relative to the proportion of genes a couple shares (source).
Second, incest is illegal because it often blurs the line of familial sexual abuse. RAINN estimates that 80% of sex abuse cases are between a parent and a child, while 6% involve a relative and 4% involve an unmarried partner of a parent (source). The uneven power dynamics between family members can easily be abused, making grooming possible. The illegality of incest adds another legal safeguard against grooming.
While the dangers of inbreeding are significant, the concerns of grooming are the topic of this article.
I contend that multiple online Reddit forums are acting, intentionally or unintentionally, as support groups and advice forums for groomers and sexual abusers.
The Reddit Forums
Reddit is a massive online forum community hosting over 1.2 million ?subreddits,? or smaller forums devoted to different topics. Each subreddit has its own set of rules and norms, along with its own standards for the type of content that is liked or disliked.
Four of these subreddits make up the backbone of Reddit?s online incest communities. The communities, their sizes, and their descriptions are provided here:
r/incest (159,000 subscribers)
- Fun for the whole family. Heh. /r/Incest is a discussion-based subreddit focused on sharing fiction, non-fiction, and confessions of an incestuous nature. We also encourage people seeking advice about an incest-related relationship to post here or in /r/Incest_Relationships.
r/incest_relationships (43,500 subscribers)
- This community is a safe space for users who wish to discuss incest, share experiences, or receive advice/support regarding incest. This is NOT a subreddit for erotica, porn, or roleplaying.
r/incestexperiences (2,600 subscribers)
- For people to share their experiences with their family members.
r/inbreeding (13,000 subscribers)
- Subreddit for posts about inbreeding. Real or fantasy, porn or stories/AMA, questions and answers, if it?s inbreeding related, post it here! Personal experiences are encouraged and supported.
While each forum serves a slightly different purpose, they each have some things in common. Due possibly to the rising trend of incest pornography (see: Part 1 of this series), each of these subreddits are growing speedily. Reddit metrics show that r/incest was trending on January 10th, 2018 (source), and r/incest_relationships has been growing rapidly since 2015 (source).
While each of these subreddits have content that is simply hardcore faux cest porn, there is also a substantial portion of posts made that describe personal incest experiences. Aside from a few outliers, each personal experience is met with wholehearted support and encouragement, along with comments reading ?hot,? or ?that story really got me going.?
Almost all of the posts made on these subreddits that discuss personal experiences are made by users with ?throwaway? accounts that make one post and then get abandoned, similar to a burner phone.
It is impossible to confirm the facts of any single post, but there are patterns that suggest many of the stories are based in reality. Even if a particular story is fake, the advice provided in the comments is real and actionable. Therefore, there are concerns about the distribution of grooming advice.
The Grooming Problem
While skimming through the vast sea of online incest content and trying to determine whether there was a story I could tell, I stumbled on the following post made in early 2019. It read, edited for readability (source):
?I?ve been having thoughts about my daughter in a kinda freaky sexy way. I just don?t know how to go about it. We have a great relationship. She walks around the house with very skimpy clothes on but never has flirted or anything. I?m just wondering how can I go about knowing if she wanted to play around that may lead up to something. Has anyone done this before? If so, are there any pointers that y?all can give me? Thanks in advance.?
The top-rated response at first instructed the poster not to misinterpret the daughter?s actions. However, it then went on to instruct the father on how to safely test the waters. It read:
?Maybe drop your towel and let her see something she shouldn?t as you act embarrassed. Or maybe let her hear you and your wife making love. Whatever you do, it?s got to be subtle and over a period of time. If you want to be a creep (not judging), start talking to her online. Be fun and normal and plant the seed of curiosity about family love. Maybe after awhile you two can cam bate together and see everything you want. Whatever you do, don?t ruin your daughter?s image of her father because of your taboo desires and people here encouraging it. Message me and I?ll fill you in on something you may like that can help you.?
The last sentence is curious, as it is unclear what advice this commenter could have that isn?t appropriate for the rest of the incest community?s eyes.
While the comment may have been well-intentioned, at least by incest community standards, it provided a clear-cut ?to-do list? on how this father could groom his daughter for sex. And it wasn?t the only comment to do so. Another response, edited for readability, said:
?Fall asleep with her on the couch. Have your arm over her, then when she?s asleep put it over her breasts and wait for her to wake up acting like you?re asleep. If she freaks out, say you?re asleep and didn?t know. If not, you?re good.?
That comment openly endorsed sexual assault.
Another reply, edited for readability, read:
?Try giving her a kiss on the cheek and slowly move it towards the mouth. Then add a little tongue, then start rubbing her thighs, then her ass. Rub her pussy through her pants if she lets you do all of the following and ask her if she wants to fuck.?
The original poster responded to this comment with thanks, promising he would try something soon ? and I was left desperately hoping what I had just read was an anomaly.
This type of content was everywhere on the forums. Posters ask for advice, are met with enthusiastic support, and then are given a to-do list for their specific situation describing exactly how to transition a relationship from familial to sexual.
A mother made a post on r/incest_relationships describing how she had kissed her son to help him ?practice? (source). It read in part (edited for readability):
?It wasn?t anything more than a prolonged peck really, but ever since then I can?t get it out of my head. I wish I?d kissed just a little deeper. Maybe it?s just the risqu idea of it, or maybe it?s that I wanted him to have a better experience and he should have learned to kiss a little deeper.
?I just have visions of him coming home after a terrible date and I?m here to comfort him. I?d show him how to kiss a woman properly and experience that just one last time with him.?
Responses to the post almost unanimously encouraged the mother to follow her urges.
The most extreme cases of this pattern were found in the online forum, ?r/inbreeding.? The subreddit was set to private, meaning the content in it couldn?t be seen by outsiders who didn?t have authorization by the community?s moderators.
I requested access using an alternate Reddit account that was old enough to appear genuine. About 12 hours after making my request, I received the chipper response, ?You?ve been added back in, apologies for the inconvenience!?
I decided not to ask what was meant by ?back in.?
Discarding my final shred of innocence, I entered the subreddit.
In shape, the inbreeding subreddit was mostly congruent to the other incest subreddits. But in degree, it was far more extreme.
It hosts some pornorgraphic content and some obvious erotica, but most of the content is personal experiences from users interested in impregnating their family members. The advice given on the subreddit is encouraging, supportive, and wholesome, telling members that their relationships are safe and loving.
A 48 year-old father explains that he is trying for a baby with his 26 year-old daughter. This idea received enthusiastic support (source).
A brother depicts an ?ongoing, long term sexual relationship? with both his older and younger sisters, adding that he wants to impregnate them (source).
An uncle tells a curious tale about his niece, saying (source):
?My niece has decided she wants one of her three brothers to impregnate her. She can?t decide which one, so she will have sex with all three until she?s pregnant. I support her in this decision. Choosing one over the other would undoubtedly lead to tension between the three.?
There are also posts from people who fear they will be found out and want consolation. One example is a plea from a panicked brother who impregnated his sister (source):
?I don?t think she?s ready to have a kid yet, I don?t know what to tell our parents, and I really don?t want to go to jail for incest if anyone finds out. She seems really determined to have this baby but it?s a terrible idea for a million different reasons and I?m at the end of my rope.?
The inbreeding community is fully aware of its own deviance and taboo, but is unwaveringly supportive of its own members. Users are quick to label any criticism as from ?sexual puritans,? or ?trolls.? Based on some conversations on the forum, it is evident that the reason the community was set to private is that it had recently been subject to a legion of outsiders that had infiltrated the subreddit and were unsupportive of inbreeding (source).
Because of the constant threat of infiltration by outsiders, moderators have to be extra vigilant. As a result, only pro-incest content and supportive comments are permitted on the forums. This creates a pro-incest echo chamber.
The incest community is difficult to leave. Because the practice is taboo and illegal, once someone begins the practice, even if they later have doubts, the shame they would feel upon exiting the community could be crippling. Ostracization by society is likely and the threat of prison time is daunting. It is nearly impossible to swiftly shed the shame of a previous incestuous relationship. Therefore, incest communities are tied together via cult-like forces. Incestuous relationships may be maintained through a perverse form of mutually assured destruction.
The evidence is overwhelming that content being shared on Reddit forums condones or is conducive to grooming, sexual abuse, and rape.
One woman who claims to be the caregiver of her grandfather tells a story of how she was impregnated by him (source). The caregiver-patient relationship is characterized strongly by a power dynamic, as one member is dependent on the other for potentially life-giving care. Sexual assault on seniors by caretakers is a problem so prevalent today that CNN called it an ?epidemic? (source).
Another story is from a daughter who describes her desire to be impregnated by her father, with whom she has had an ?on-off sexual relationship with since [she] was young? (source). In this case, the inclusion of ?since [she] was young? sparks concern.
Another post was made by a father sharing the news that he attempted to conceive with his daughter while her sisters watched. The post read (source):
?This weekend, our family shared a very special and intimate moment. Our eldest daughter is finally the right age, and she decided she wants to have her daddy?s baby. The whole family was present for the special moment. Not only was it a potential conception of a new member to our family, but it was also the first time her daddy fully penetrated her. Her sisters were mesmerized watching the event and are very excited for their own turn to have daddy put a baby inside them.?
In this case, what is meant by ?right age?? How old were the daughters watching? And how long has the father been planning this event with his daughter? Despite these unanswered questions, the post was met with overwhelming support by the community.
To be sure, no content on the subreddit explicitly promotes violent rape or specifically uses the words ?molestation? or ?grooming,? but the trend is undeniably present. There is a likelihood that some of the stories shared are not fully honest about the ages of the characters involved nor the context through which the relationship has become sexual. Thus, there is a concern that these communities are populated by people looking for reassurance that their practices of molestation and grooming are normal.
Reddit has a precedent for dismantling its own subreddits and has historically taken a hard line against content that promotes, explicitly or implicitly, violent or abusive sex acts.
In one infamous scenario, Reddit deleted an ?ask a rapist? thread after users started becoming sympathetic to the rapists (source). In other cases, Reddit has shuttered communities displaying excessively graphic or dangerous influences, such as in the case of ?r/rapingwomen.?
Similar action must be taken in the case of some, if not all of the listed incest communities in this article. Beyond condoning the face value dangers of incest, the existence of these communities is providing a welcoming home for abusers and molesters to converse and connect, leading to dangerous, possibly deadly consequences in the tangible world.
The societal costs of these forums outweigh the benefits one-thousand fold. They need to be closed.
Conclusion (to both Parts 1 & 2)
On the morning after the Oscars, the NY Times entertainment page is flush with stories about the biggest movies of the year and what they say about our culture. Debates have been raging for centuries about art, what it tells us about ourselves, and what effect it will have on us.
Pornography and sexual online content is now being consumed at enormous rates by people of almost all ages, and yet the recent tsunami-like spike in incest pornography and the growth of online incest communities has gone all but unnoticed by mass media.
30% of the internet is acting without a check or balance.
Journalists are defaulting on their duty.
Taboos are being broken, but ironically, no one is talking about it.
The growth in online incest content is showing no signs of stopping, and the unfortunate lessons of the internet to date warn us that: What happens on the internet rarely stays on the internet.
The evidence is undeniable that Reddit communities are being used to share molestation and grooming advice. Decisive action must be taken by the site.
There is a lot of unpleasant thinking for us to do as a society. Our news media needs to decide whether it will continue viewing sexual internet content as a curious quirk of cyberspace or as the titanic industry it truly is. And Reddit must decide whether it is comfortable harboring an incubation tank for sex groomers.
We have a lot to learn about ourselves in this new era of the internet. Much of it isn?t pleasant. But, if you?ve made it through this article, I daresay you?ve done your fair share for today.
God knows I have.
Ben Chapman is a reporter and commentator in Illinois. He writes on food, electoral reform, and the internet.