“My breasts stopped growing when my grandfather touched them,” confides ‘Elisa’, a young woman who recounts the traumatic incest and sexual abuse she experienced in childhood. In Family Secrets , Gloria González-López tells the life stories of 60 men and women in Mexico who, like Elisa, saw their lives irrevocably changed in the wake of childhood and adolescent incest. In Mexico, a patriarchal, religious society where women are expected to make themselves sexually available to men and where same-sex experiences for both men and women bring great shame, incest is easily hidden, seldom discussed, and rarely reported to authorities. Through gripping, emotional narrative, González-López brings the deeply troubling, hidden, and unspoken issues of incest and sexual violence in Mexican families to light.
González-López contends that family and cultural structures in Mexican life enable incest and the culture of silence that surrounds it. She examines the strong bonds of familial obligation between parents and children, brothers and sisters, and elders and youth that, in the case of incest, can morph into sexual obligation; the codes of honor and shame reinforced by tradition and the Church, discouraging openness about sexual violence and trauma; the double standards of morality and stereotypes about sexuality that leave girls and women and gender nonconforming boys and men especially vulnerable to sexual abuse. Together, these cultural factors create a perfect storm for generations upon generations of unspoken incest, a cycle that takes great courage and strength to heal from and overcome. A riveting account, Family Secrets turns a feminist and sociological lens on a disturbing trend that has gone unnoticed for far too long.
About the Author
González-López is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Erotic
Journeys: Mexican Immigrants and Their Sex Lives (2005) and co-editor of Bridging: How Gloria Anzaldúa’s Life and
Work Transformed Our Own (2011). Born and educated through her undergraduate years in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, she received her PhD in
Sociology from the University of Southern California in 2000.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments / Con profunda gratitud xi
1. En familia: Sex, Incest, and Violence in Mexican Families 1
2. Conjugal Daughters and Marital Servants: The Sexual Functions of Daughters in Incestuous Families 31
3. A la prima se le arrima: Sisters and Primas 76
4. Nieces and Their Uncles 125
5. Men’s Life Stories 180
6. Toward a Feminist Sociology of Incest in Mexico 232
Appendix A. Study Participants 263
Appendix B. Methodological Considerations 267
Appendix C. Incest in 32 Mexican State Penal Codes 271
Appendix D. Uncle-Niece Cases 273
About the Author 321