Is Incest Funny?

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An Open Letter To Jimmy Kimmel From An Incest Survivor

You can tell incest jokes but please make them funny


 Melanie Blow, an incest survivor, sent an open letter to Jimmy Kimmel about a joke he told about incest.

Describing incest as a “nightmare you may wake from, but never forget” Melanie defends Jimmy’s right to tell incest jokes, even bad ones, because incest is so common.


logoDear Jimmy,

You are funny but your joke about incest in Iceland was not.

I publicly defend people’s right to talk about incest. I defend the right, and importance, of high school students reading and writing about it. I have defended my right to speak and write about it.

As such, I defend your right to joke about it as much as I defend my right to say your joke really missed the mark.

To a geneticist, “incest” is the interbreeding of two closely related individuals, the crux of your joke. Most people on the street realize incest means someone raping a child they are closely related to. And to incest survivors like me, the term refers to a nightmare you may wake from, but never forget.

Contrary to your joke, and to a whole genre of pornography offered by Verizon, incest is almost always a form of rape, and it almost always involves the rape of a child. If that behavior persists into adulthood, it is because the now-grown child is engaging in a behavior they were forced to engage in when they were younger, to survive.

Jimmy, if someone in your family raped a child of yours, you wouldn’t have made that joke.

If that happened to your child, in an instant, your whole world would change. Your goals would shift from nudging a child toward the American dream to protecting them from falling into society’s gutter. You would feel the deepest betrayal someone can feel- someone you care about and trust hurt your child, and now you’re feeling more pain than you ever imagined possible.

Here’s why I defend your right to talk about incest and even your right to tell bad joke about it.

Incest is horribly common.

About twenty percent of American youth can expect to be sexually abused before adulthood, and about half of that abuse is incest.  We, society, are not doing much to change it. The laws are so broken that 90-97% of sex offenders never see a day behind bars, and 90% of the time children are sent to live with their sexually abusive parent, if allegations of sexual abuse are made in a divorce.

This doesn’t happen because we’re a society of horrible people, it happens because we’re a society of good people, so frightened by a truth as ugly as incest, that we try to pretend it doesn’t exist. Incest is here to stay until we fix the broken systems that let abusers escape accountability.

It won’t stop until we educate adults about it. That won’t happen until we can talk about it. A lot.

Any discussion is better than none and you can still be funny without misrepresenting what incest is.

Chris Rock does it. When he does, the crux of the joke isn’t on incest being  an icky taboo, but rather on the absurd, harmful way it’s handled within families. After all, humor comes from absurdity, right?

Family Guy portrays child sexual abuse in a more realistic way than most of the “true crime” shows out there. Quahog has a resident pedophile. He’s not in prison, he’s a nice guy, but he’s always trying to gain access to children.

To compound your error you picked on Iceland, a nation that has prioritized educating adults about child sexual abuse. Now incest, and non-incestuous child sexual abuse, is less of a taboo over there than it is here. That education means Iceland is doing a better job of protecting their children than we are in America.

I will continue to defend your right to joke about incest but I’d ask that you use your insight and humor to develop understanding of this issue.

You didn’t. So it wasn’t  all that funny. And we think you are better than that.

Good luck with the show.

Melanie Signature







PS. Autograph and tickets for the show please.

Trigger Warning

Jimmy Kimmel Live – Anti-Incest App in Iceland


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Melanie Blow

Melanie BlowMelanie is an incest survivor, a biochemist, a writer and is absolutely passionate about ensuring that every child has a safe home.

She leads Stop Abuse Campaign’s campaign to eliminate Statute of Limitations for child sexual abuse, is a member of the Board of Directors for Prevent Child Abuse NY and sits on the Rochester Area Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

She blogs for the Stop Abuse Campaign and Prevent Child Abuse NY, testifies in front of legislators and talks to anyone who wants to learn about child abuse or how to prevent it.

Melanie lives in Rochester, NY, where she occasionally practices creative writing, birding, and hiking.

I’m a believer because I know what it feels like to be believed, and I know what it feels like to not be believed. When you believe, you tell someone it’s not their fault- you believe they were hurt by the vast cruelty in this world. And when you believe them, you’ve made the world a little less cruel. That’s what I want to do in my life. That’s why I’m a believer.

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