Isn't it disgusting? Isn't it funny? The woman who fell in love with her son.

But laugh I did not, as I read the tale of Kim West - the 51-year-old who entered a romantic relationship with her child 30 years after giving him up for adoption.

Her story was splashed over the newspapers last week after she revealed how a reunion between the pair sparked an intense romance. Now they want to get married and start a family.

No one had their confetti ready though.


Across the internet, West and her toy boy lover were treated as circus freaks, called "sick on every level". Some even demanded that West be sectioned and now it's emerged they've gone into hiding fearing a jail sentence.

It's interesting that the public was so outraged, because the couple's story is far from unique. In fact, a number of family romances have emerged over the last decade - and I can't see them stopping any time soon. There have been cases of grandparents settling down with grandchildren, fathers and daughters in love, and even twins twinned up.

What makes all these relationships tick isn't love, or looks, or destiny, but - more likely - Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA). It's the phenomenon no one wants to talk about - because it raises a taboo topic: incest.

But it's real - and with advances in fertility options, something we need to get our heads round. Fast.

GSA describes a powerful sexual attraction that occurs when biological relatives - parent and offspring, siblings or half siblings or first and second cousins - meet for the first time as adults. It was first identified in the 1980s by Barbara Gonyo, who fell madly in love with her son. After they reunited in adulthood, Gonyo struggled for 13 years to break off feelings for him.

That's what GSA is: a struggle. When people criticise West, they overestimate her degree of control in the situation. Often GSA sufferers feel powerless - as if their feelings are impossible to change. There have been heartbreaking cases of families broken apart by GSA. It's an affliction; a curse for all those involved.

Quite why GSA occurs is still up for discussion. There isn't a great deal of research into the area, because who wants a PhD in incest? Some researchers have hypothesised, however, that an effect in infancy protects against GSA. When families live closely together, they become desensitised to each other as sexual prospects. This desensitisation effect is said to happen between birth and age six. Without it, and when relatives meet later in life, GSA can occur. Evidence from the Post-Adoption Centre and University College London suggests that GSA it happens in 50 percent of reunion cases.

Put in this context, West becomes far less of a freak and more of regularity. It is only her pride in her relationship that has perplexed others, as many GSA couples feel deeply upset about what's happened to them. There are even communities online for them to anonymously discuss their relationships.


In the future, I hope they won't have to hide away. I think that will be less likely as a result of increases in fertility options, which have dramatically upped the potential for GSA cases.

Perhaps one of the biggest causes for concern is egg and sperm donation. Over the last few decades, it has never been easier for organisations - and individuals - to dish out large quantities of eggs and sperm to different locations. The last Human Fertilisation & Embryology (HFEA) report shows that sperm donations, especially, have been rising since 2005 - with many coming from the US and Denmark.

This seed sprinkling will essentially mean lots of children go through life without ever knowing their biological father and/ or mother, and other important close relatives, in the time where the desensitisation effect should happen.

Should they never meet with their (unknown) biological family, then they will never put themselves at risk of GSA. But such reunions have become much easier - especially as new rules brought out by the HFEA mean that any child conceived on or after April 2005 can now seek information on their parents when they turn 16 years old. This will inevitably mean more children discovering their biological relatives in adulthood, with the potential for hundreds, if not thousands, of more GSA cases.

And when these individuals do find that they have suddenly fallen in love with Mummy, Daddy, or Cousin Jimmy, there will be very limited routes to help them. Just as there are for Kim West.

Instead of mocking this tale of motherly love (gone too far), I wish people though of West as an opportunity to consider GSA, and how we can prevent and treat it in the future. Those who succumb to GSA are not sickos, or freaks, but victims who desperately need help and understanding. Their feelings are not controllable, but with scientific research and support, we can give them some degree in control over this devastating affliction. And stop the cases we know are bound to come and keep coming.