Slate Invokes Incest on NY Times Piece

"What's the deal with that New York Times piece on brothers and sisters sharing a bedroom?"

Katy Waldman's mind quickly enters the gutter after reading a 2,400 word piece at The New York Times entitled "My Brother's Bunkmate" -- a story about brothers and sisters sharing a bedroom due to space limitations. Writing for Slate, Waldman awkwardly suggests "incest" as a possible outcome for this opposite-sex pairing.

The Times article does wonder if problems could arise with brother/sister pairing; asking "What could go wrong, but everything?"

There’s a euphemism for this kind of anxiety: ick. To spell it out just a bit, does the mixed-sex bedroom represent an inherent risk to children’s social and sexual development?

But the "ick" factor used here should be read as the typical brother/sister quarrels, not as Waldman's apparent "ick" obsession -- incest. She just can't stop thinking about it:

It’s not that I find the idea of opposite-sex bedrooms so alarming (I don’t). But what the story hints at but is too cowardly to come out and say is that these scenarios ick us out for a reason — incest, which affects an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the population.  (While some of those cases involve parents and children, the most common scenario implicates a pair of siblings.) So, 2400 words about the potential ick of brothers and sisters sharing a room, and incest wasn’t one of them.

Granted, the piece ran in the Home and Garden section — not exactly the place for hard truths about sexual abuse. But what was the point of publishing it, and alluding to the scenario's danger, if not to shine a light on this underreported crime? Already the subtext, it might as well have been treated in a useful and informative way.

…if your objective is to not fray any nerves, then why write the article at all?   

Katy Waldman is Slate's assistant editor and writes in the section, "XXfactor; What Women Really Think."

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