DEAR DEIDRE: WHEN my cousin told me she had fooled around sexually with our male cousin as a teen, I was shocked . . . because I did exactly the same.
For years, it’s been my guilty secret, something I was embarrassed about. Now I don’t know how to feel or what to think.
I’m 24 and my female cousin is 25. Our male cousin is 26.
All our mums are sisters and we have spent a lot of time together over the years.
When I was 14, I used to love hanging out with my male cousin.
We were both completely inexperienced with the opposite sex and I’ll admit I always had a bit of a crush on him.
On a few occasions, we shared an illicit drink and ended up snogging and touching each other through our clothes — just to see what it was like.
It was innocent experimentation, but I always felt a bit weird about it.
We knew people would disapprove, so it was “our secret”.
We grew out of it after a few months and never spoke about it again. Now we have a normal adult cousin relationship.
But last weekend, I met my female cousin for a night out.
We both drank quite a lot and had a heart-to-heart about our childhood.
She confessed that when she was 14, she and our male cousin had experimented with a bit of foreplay.
I went quiet and told her the same thing had happened with me.
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She laughed about it and said it was all very innocent.
But learning this has upset me and made me feel strange. I’m not sure why.
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DEIDRE SAYS: Sexual curiosity is normal and lots of young people experiment with friends and relatives.
As long as what happened was consensual, and you didn’t feel coerced, nobody did anything wrong.
You have no reason to feel guilty. In fact, there’s nothing wrong legally with having a relationship with your first cousin. It’s not seen as incest.
Perhaps this is bothering you so much because you felt you had a special relationship with your male cousin, and now that’s come into question.
Or maybe you feel that he wasn’t honest with you, or was using you.
If this continues to bother you, please talk to someone about your feelings.
You can contact The Mix (themix.org.uk, 0808 808 4994) a free confidential helpline for people under 25 providing confidential emotional support.
If you are concerned that anything inappropriate took place, contact the NSPCC (nspcc.org.uk, 0808 800 5000) in confidence.
There’s a section on its website about historical sexual abuse.