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Tuesday September 30, 2014
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An Evening With Martin Ottenheimer
On August 3, 2000, Cousincouples.com was honored to have a very special guest join us in the chatroom. Dr. Martin Ottenheimer is a social anthropologist, a professor at Kansas State University, and the author of Forbidden Relatives.

Dr. Ottenheimer is very generous with his time. He has done much to help dispel the myths regarding cousin marriages, including appearing on the Montel Williams Show, and also speaking on a live radio talk show in Austin, Texas. He also sent copies of his book to legislators in Maryland when we were all fighting the bill that had proposed to make cousin marriages illegal in that state.
 

The following transcript has been edited to allow for optimal readability.
(The questions and answers have been paired up, and the extraneous conversation has been omitted.)

Martin Ottenheimer - Joining us now is our special guest, Martin Ottenheimer, author of Forbidden Relatives - from 128.242 using Mozilla/4.7 [en] (Win98; I) on 8/3 at 8:31pm EST)
Me&C - hi mr ottenheimer!! welcome to CC.com!!!
jjt - Hello Mr. Ottenheimer and welcome
Martin Ottenheimer - Hi! How's everybody?
KC - Martin Ottenheimer, Welcome!
Sherri - hello
DD - Hi Dr. Ottenheimer.... I am your fan from Maryland 
lee anne - good evening
brezy - Welcome Mr.Ottenheimer
DD - It is so nice of you to join us... I for one feel honored that you did
Sherri - yes...we have all looked forward to you vist*S*
Me&C - i would like to extend a special "thank you" for being so generous with your time and especially with being so helpful to christie while she's working on her book. 
Martin Ottenheimer - I'm glad to be here.

KC - Martin- I wanted to say how helpful your book has been to me. Do you plan another book in the future?
Martin Ottenheimer - I'm working on a book on the future of kinship. More to do about the new reproductive technologies than cousins.

DD - I'd like to find out what lead you to write your book?
Martin Ottenheimer - DD- I was led to write the book by my students. They became interested in the laws in the U.S. against cousin marriage and kept asking me about it.

jjt - Any suggestions as to how to get those laws changed Mr. Ottenheimer?
Martin Ottenheimer - jjt - Yes, but it won't be easy. Legislators have to be told that the laws represent an outmoded way of thinking about parent-child relationships.

Me&C - were you surprized by the results you found?
Martin Ottenheimer - I was not surprised by the fact that the modern scientific evidence does not support the myth. I was surprised by the deep emotional feelings that so many people in the U.S. have attached to it.
Me&C - and what was the overall opinion of your students?
Martin Ottenheimer - Me&C, my students appreciate the work in the book and understand the conclusions. Cuzguy, I have done lectures, etc. and have had a full gamut of reactions--from agreement to disbelief to being told I was going to go to hell for what I said.

CnMe - I wanted to mention, I have been trying to research catholic reqirements for dispensation. It seems they are making some changes. They now only require first cousins to get dispensation... didn't it formerly apply to more distant cousins?
Martin Ottenheimer - CnMe, Yes, in the past more distant cousins required dispensation.

CuzGuy - Mr. Ottenheimer, are you aware of any particular "profile", or character attributes among those attracted to a cousin?
Martin Ottenheimer - I know of no particular "profile" and have met people of very different backgrounds who were attracted to each other.

DD - I mentioned your book on a radio talk show I did when we were fighting that house bill in Maryland :)
DD - Why do you think so many people in society are so negative about cousin relationships? Do you think it all has to do with offspring?
Martin Ottenheimer - The negativity essentially comes down to an association between cousin marriage and primitiveness or animal like behavior. Something, that became popular in the U.S. in the 19th century.

Me&C - so what can be done, as a group, to overcome this stigma of "incestuous" relationships? how do we go about educating the rest of the world that cousins can be "normal" and have healthy children without all the fear of an inbred society?
Martin Ottenheimer - What can be done? It is my feeling that little can be done to change the feelings of many people today. They are too committed to the myth. One must challenge any statements about the dangers of cousins marrying and make people aware of the facts. That way the next generation may give up the myth.

Sherri - Dr. Ottenheimer..I listened to you on a talk show you said that in some ways cousin couples are better genetically matched..can you speak more on that please
Martin Ottenheimer - Sherri, there is some evidence that chemical reactions between a mother and her fetus are less likely to result in spontaneous abortion.

CuzGuy - Mr. Ottenheimer, is it possible that several generations of continuous consanguinous relationships would be genetically unwise?
Martin Ottenheimer - There is no evidence to support the notion that generations of cousin marriage in itself results in genetic problems. The evidence indicates quite the opposite. In populations with long term cousin marriages, families with cousin marriage have more children than the others.

KC2 - Martin, have you gotten any negative reactions from your students or peers after the book was released?
Me&C - did you feel your students may now have a better understanding and less negative feelings regarding that myth?
CnMe - and could that be a start in the degeneration of the myth in society?
Martin Ottenheimer - I do feel that my students have less negative feelings about cousin marriage. But, they live in a larger society with strong pressures about the myth. I don't know if they can or will institute any changes.

DeAnne - Dr. Ottenheimer, when you say that it became popular in the 19th century for society to carry this negativity, what do you believe to be the impetus for that?
Martin Ottenheimer - DeAnne, I believe the basic push came from early evolutionary theories that became very popular here in the U.S.

jjt - so if that is the case, why did the states outlaw the marriage?
Martin Ottenheimer - jjt, Once this ill conceived evolutionary theories became accepted states who were about to join the Union wanted to appear "civilized" and, thus, passed laws prohibiting cousin marriage, as well as other behavior that was thought to be primitive.

CnMe - how did you perceive delegate heller's statements regarding the continued push to pss laws forbidding cousin marriages? (during the taping of the Montel show?)
Martin Ottenheimer - CnMe, Heller appeared to me to back down about trying to pass any such law in MD anytime in the near future. I think the group was able to influence his behavior.
Me&C - then i wasnt wrong to think hew was trying to side step when montel was bringing up the "ms" issue of birth defects being passed on to future generations?
Me&C - the show did seem more positive when viewed from the tape than when the actual taping was going on.. 
DD - Funny you should say that ... that was one of Delegate Heller's agruments in trying to push the bill in Maryland.... was that he felt it would help the image of Maryland.... I had to laugh over that one 

DD - Do you think the letters that people wrote from our web site here .. helped to kill that Maryland house bill? or do you think it didn't change the outcome?
Martin Ottenheimer - DD, I think the letters helped.
DD - Great!!!! Thank you.... I just knew they had to have helped.... I know they were sick of hearing from me... I called Delegate Heller's office so often his assistant knew me by my voice.

lee anne - how much does organized religion play a part in the american aditude towards us
Martin Ottenheimer - lee anne, I don't see much influence from organized religion. The myth is transmitted in an arena much broader than that.

KC2 - All of the things we have learned about cousin marriage proves to be the opposite. I do remember in middle school being told that cousin marriage were illegal due to defective offspring. I am sure they still teach that to our kids today
Martin Ottenheimer - KC2, Kids today are learning that. I'm trying to start a research project with a child psychologist to find out where and when kids learn the myth. If anyone has any ideas, I'd like to hear them.
KC2 - Martin Ottenheimer, It was in my 7th grade health book 
Martin Ottenheimer - KC2, Any chance you recall the title or author of the book?
KC2 - Martin Ottenheimer, I will find out and e-mail you the title of that text book
Martin Ottenheimer - KC2, I would really appreciate that.

daizy - Dr. Ottenheimer, I am a state employee who lives in a state (Wyoming) where cousin relationships are considered incest, do I need to fear my employment?
Martin Ottenheimer - daizy, Legally, no! But, you will, as I'm sure you're already aware, receive abusive behavior from your coworkers, neighbors, etc.
daizy - Thank you the legality was the concern, I learned about the myth from my mother when I fell in love with my cousin at age 16

CuzGuy - Mr. Ottenheimer, may I ask how many copies of your book have sold?
Martin Ottenheimer - CuzGuy, I don't have the exact figures but I think it is around 1500 copies.
CuzGuy - That's encouraging. At least 1500 people who are enlightned!

Me&C - and the geographical locations?
Martin Ottenheimer - Me&C, are you asking about the distribution of the sales?
Me&C - yes, if you have that kind of information
Martin Ottenheimer - I would have to check with the publisher.

jjt - Since my marriage is illegal in my state (WI), what are the legal ramifications for us should one of us die?
Martin Ottenheimer - jjt, if you were married in a state that does not recognize cousin marriage you have to find out whether the marriage is void or voidable. If the former, there is a chance your children, if any, would not be recognized as the legal next of kin for inheritance matters.
jjt - in other words, we should be speaking with an attorney
Martin Ottenheimer - jjt, yes.
CnMe - jjt, the complete laws for your state regarding cousin marriages is available here on our website in the library. if you were living in a state where your marriage was legal, and not evading your own state laws to get married, then you should not have any repurcussions. if you did evade the law and marry elsewhere, your state may or may not still recognize its validity

CuzGuy - Mr. Ottenheimer, what other "controversial" topics have you written about / researched?
Martin Ottenheimer - CuzGuy, my other books are about technical or obscure anthropological matters. Not very controversial at all.

jazz - Mr. Ottenheimer, why is it people are more willing to accept a same sex marriage and not be open minded enough when it comes to a loving cousin relationship?
Martin Ottenheimer - jazz, your question is a good one. I don't have any good answers.

Me&C - have you ever been or considered being involved in a cousin relationship?.....just curious....
Martin Ottenheimer - Me&C, no, I have not been involved in a cousin relationship. My wife is not a relative.
Me&C - and what was your opinion on cousin relationships before you did the research and the book?
Martin Ottenheimer - Me&C, before the research, if I remember correctly, I was neutral about the subject. Didn't realize there was so much to it.

Sherri - Dr. Ottenheimer,we have discussed cousin couples and and extra closeness you feel, and added bonding from that of other couples..have you encountered that?
Martin Ottenheimer - Sherri, I have been told that by several couples, especially elderly people who have become involved with their cousins.

DD - Where do you see the laws changing on cousin marriages in the future.... do you think more states will out law them or more states will make it legal?
Martin Ottenheimer - DD, in the near future I would expect more states to make it illegal but, eventually the facts will become known and the trend will reverse.

jazz - In your research, how many couples did you interview with that had children of their own?
Martin Ottenheimer - jazz, I did not interview couples for the book. I relied on the research population biologists and others had done. I have received many phone calls and emails since the book has been published.

CnMe - martin, you've said in public, both on montel and on the radio interview with kjfk, that after the book, you have received many calls from readers wanting more info and advice. does this happen fairly frequently?
Martin Ottenheimer - CnMe, it runs in spurts. On the average, I receive about 8-10 messages/month.

CuzGuy - Were/are you surprised at the attention this book received, and at how many cousin couples there are?
Martin Ottenheimer - CuzGuy, I was indeed surprised by the attention and the number of couples.

jazz - what type of questions do they ask you and how do you help them?
Martin Ottenheimer - jazz, the questions vary but many are about what do to about one's family's dislike of the situation and what are the legal consequences of the marriage.

CuzGuy - Is there any source of accurate statistics for how many cousin couples there are in the US?
Martin Ottenheimer - CuzGuy, I am not aware of any statistics about cousin couples in the US. There are some guesses.
DD - What would be your guess on the statistics in the US
KC2 - I think the book states 1 in 1300 estimated DD
Martin Ottenheimer - DD and KC2, I don't remember the figure in the book but 1/1300 doesn't sound like an unreasonable figure. It is probably increasing because of the recent influx of migrants that recognize cousin marriages.

daizy - Dr. Ottenheimer, I am in a cousin relationship that blossomed in our teens, was set aside and we both married others and are now interested in renewing the old relationship. I understand from this website this is common. Would you guess that is about 50% of cousin relationship's courses?
Martin Ottenheimer - daizy, I have heard about a number of these relationships. These have evidently affected the laws in four states. You can marry your first cousin in AZ, WI, IL, and IN if you are beyond childbearing age.

CnMe - martin, someone once posed the question if the birth defect risk for cousins was higher if the parents who were siblings were identical twins.
jjt - Dr. Ottenheimer, do you feel genetic counseling is necessary for cousin couples?
Martin Ottenheimer - jtt and CnMe, I believe genetic counseling is a good idea for anyone considering marriage if they have even the slightest concern about inheritable diseases or defects. Cousins should not be singled out. Their chances for producing children with problems are dependent upon the frequency in the population.

CuzGuy - Any chance of you writing a follow-up book. I mean, you have an incredible source of stories (with both happy and sad endings) and testimonials right here!
Martin Ottenheimer - CuzGuy, I'm leaving the follow up book to Christie. I would like to see one that was written for a general audience.
CnMe - Thank you martin, lol... i do have some chapters written already, if you'd like, i'll e-mail them to you

Martin Ottenheimer - Bye! I have to go. I have enjoyed this. Christie, thanks for the invite. I'd like to do it again sometime.
Martin Ottenheimer - logged off. - from 128.242 using Mozilla/4.7 [en] (Win98; I) on 8/3 at 9:42pm EST)


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