'Game of Thrones' Incest: Why It's OK That You're OK With Jon Snow and Daenerys's Relationship

Game of Thrones incest? Jon Snow and Daenerys
Daenerys and Jon Snow are aunt and nephew, but they don't know it yet. Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones has caused viewers a moral quandary this season.

Is it OK to want Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) to make sweet Targaryen love, knowing that they are, in fact, related?

Though they do not yet know it, Jon is the son of Dany's brother Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, who died giving birth to him. He was adopted by his uncle, Ned Stark, who raised him as his own bastard son.

Since the popular protagonists met three episodes ago in "The Queen's Justice," the chemistry between them has been palpable. And in last Sunday's episode, "Beyond the Wall," it became abundantly clear that Jon and Dany have fallen for each other.

All of this pining has created conflicted feelings for fans. Incest is taboo and illegal in most parts of the world. Yet we find ourselves rooting for the Khaleesi and the King in the North nonetheless.

This has become a fairly common dilemma on Twitter:

But relax, GoT fans. There's nothing wrong with you for wanting to see aunt and uncle get it on, psychosexual therapist Mike Lousada tells Newsweek.

"There's a difference between fantasy and reality. Game of Thrones is fantasy in every sense," Lousada explains. "There's nothing wrong with people wanting that. The fantasy of taboo is always going to be exciting—to have that thrill enacted, and we know that it's fantasy. To enact that in real life, to say that's a justification for incest, no, that's not OK."

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So, as long as you realize it's fantasy, and Clarke and Harington are actors, you need not fret about your psychological well-being.

"We put ourselves in the shoes of the characters—we empathize with them, and that's why the show resonates with so many people," Lousada continues. "We can all feel ourselves in many of the characters in the plot. What if we put ourselves in the role of Jon—wouldn't you be attracted to Dany, and vice versa?"

Genetic Sexual Attraction, Explained

In the fictional GoT, as in the ancient historical periods that may have influenced it, incest is part of the fabric of life. We have been conditioned to accept incest since the very first episode, when Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) were caught having sex. Dany herself is also the product of incest, as her parents were brother and sister. Historic examples of incest in royal courts include the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty; siblings often married each other to keep the royal bloodline "pure."

But Jon and Dany's relationship is different from the earlier example of incest in GoT, because they do not yet know they are related. Perhaps if they did, their feelings toward one another would change.

However, there is scientific and psychological research that shows that biological relatives who may have not met before or know they share genetics can end up being attracted to one another. The concept is called genetic sexual attraction, and there are numerous cases of estranged relatives developing relationships.

Studies have shown that people are inclined to choose partners who are like themselves, known as assortative dating. And this biological chemistry could explain why Jon and Dany, as well as many real-life examples, are drawn to each other.

"If we take the idea of sameness being attractive, we like what we know, what is familiar," says Lousada. "There's a narcissistic mirror in the other; there's that biological sameness that's going to create similar characteristics. They're both driven. They're leaders.... They have similar characteristics."

Lousada says that people may also find themselves unwittingly drawn to a relative because there is a feeling of "coming home."

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"A lot of clients, for example, experienced some sense of incompleteness in a family system; they've discovered that their mother had a miscarriage or termination, so there was another brother or sister in the system even though they were unborn," says Lousada. "When they find out there was someone else there, they feel a completion in the system.

"There is this kind of sense of needing to belong and a sense of 'coming home.' If you're with someone, even if they've been brought up in a different environment, there is a genetic 'coming home' to being with a biological family member in that way," says Lousada.

"I'm in no way supporting incest—but just understanding the psychological aspect of things."

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.

For more Game of Thrones coverage on Newsweek, click here.

'Game of Thrones' Incest: Why It's OK That You're OK With Jon Snow and Daenerys's Relationship | Culture