A brother and sister opened up to VICE about their 20-year long romantic relationship.
The Australian couple, identified as “Tom” and “Lena,” told the website that they would have their child taken away if their real names were revealed.
Tom and Lena grew up in a small village and had a relatively normal childhood, and it wasn’t until Tom was going through puberty that he began to develop feelings for his sister.
When Lena was 17, she was cheated on by her boyfriend and went to Tom’s room for comfort.
“I can still remember it like it happened yesterday,” Tom said. “She looked up at me and asked why other men can’t be more like me.”
In that moment, Tom said he felt as though he and Lena were not just siblings. Before he could make a move, however, Lena leaned in and kissed him.
“What the hell are we doing?” he yelled.
Soon, the two began a secret romantic relationship. Tom described to VICE when he first realized his country’s incest laws — just after the couple first slept together.
“It was then I realized we're criminals. But Paragraph 211 [of the Austrian criminal code] punishes consenting adults for entering relationships with other adults. We're not forcing each other into anything."
They subsequently moved out of their parents’ home, and got an apartment together in Germany after Tom became depressed and decided it was time to change the situation. Their friends and neighbors in Germany believe they’re a married couple.
Psychotherapist Rotraud Perner said that though the incest seems socially unacceptable, it isn’t entirely strange to be attracted to a sibling.
“From my professional experience, it’s not true that people don’t find their siblings attractive,” Perner said.
“Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. More importantly, relationships between siblings are defined by envy, rivalry, and admiration, along with the need to cuddle or have secrets from the rest of the world. All those things are linked to certain fantasies—some of them induced by pop culture and the media, others by their upbringing and family situation. Whether or not you make those fantasies a reality, depends on how good you are at evaluating that reality. People in incestuous relationships often lack that skill.”