We were really young when we started it, I know- maybe even as young as two and four. Philip and I were both always way too comfortable with bodies, both ours and each others'- we were raised too innocent, too ignorant, not to be.1

Sometimes I wonder if at some point he knew what we were doing, knew the word for it, knew it was unacceptable in society and by law. Philip was older than me by two years, and he very well might have. Most boys did once they were thirteen, the age he was when we finally stopped. But then, if he did, why did he keep doing it? Was he using me, manipulating me-does that make it abuse even if I wanted it, simply because I didn't understand?2

Considering what we did together for almost half our lives, I guess we grew up pretty clueless sexually. Our parents never really were affectionate with each other; we never saw them kiss except a dry, passionless peck hello in the morning sometimes. They never talked to us about sex or sexual abuse, rape or incest, or even dating, until we were teenagers, when we were too old and it was too late. Maybe they thought it wasn't necessary, that such things had nothing to do with their children because it would never happen to us- we were far too young and innocent. We may have been young and innocent, but that, paired with ignorance, is exactly why it did happen to us. Our at least, to me.3

My brother Philip and I were always close as children. It is different between us now, strange and strained, but I guess that is only to be expected, considering our childhood together. As far back as I can remember we knew too much about each other- and each other's bodies…4

My parents bathed us together until we were four and six, but I can remember doing things naked together afterward, as well as before then. I remember us in my bedroom, as young as 3 and 5, standing naked before each other and eyeing each other gravely before reaching to touch with fumbling fingers…5

This continued for years, and gradually evolved from childish groping to a game of "ticklish", where we would grab and hug and tickle each other unclothed. This evolved as well as we grew older, so that at 9 and 11, 10 and 12, 11 and 13, we would lie partially unclad in each others' beds, embracing, touching each other like small adults… we responded to each other in a way that I did not know was sexual. I only knew that I liked it.6

I don't know how we kept it up for so long, for years, without our parents suspecting. We never locked doors, and at the time, I, at least, felt no shame, for I didn't understand what I was doing. It seemed as normal to me as playing tag or wrestling. But our parents… I don't know how any parent wouldn't realize what their children were doing. Did they not notice how no other children seemed to come to play at our house, how Philip and I seemed unusually close and affectionate? Did they see nothing in our eyes, our mannerisms, to tip them off to what we were doing?7

Then again, perhaps they did not. Perhaps they believed so wholly in our purity, spent so much time apart from us, that they didn't.8

Philip and I loved each other with a love no child should understand or experience. Even after our parents stopped bathing us, we did not stop bathing together. I rarely took a bath alone until I was eleven and beginning to develop physically. We began kissing each other when we were seven and nine, and by the time I was nine, I could French like an eighteen-year-old, thanks to all my practice with Philip…9

It sounds so horrible to describe this, so deviant. It sounds like rape… but it really wasn't. Even though Philip was older and bigger and a boy, it wasn't rape. He was always gentle with me. He never once hurt me. And I wanted it… he made me feel good, and I didn't mind making him feel good too. And anyway, we never technically had sex. How can you be raped if you're still a virgin?10

We did things like that until we were 11 and 13, and I enjoyed it, I even welcomed it. Physical things with Philip, bathing and touching and kissing him, being naked around him, had been a constant in my life for as long as I could remember, and I was never taught that it was wrong or given reason to believe it was.11

Until sixth grade. In sixth grade, everyone has a mandatory sex education class. It talked about all the typical sex education stuff- puberty, sex, STDs- but it also discussed sexual abuse and incest.12

Listening, I was horrified. What the teacher talked about made it obvious to me that what Philip and I were doing was wrong. Even without sex, it had to be incest of some kind… but it also confused me. Could it really be sexual abuse or incest if I liked it, wanted it, if I was a willing participant? Was it my fault- was I bad? Was Philip bad?13

And another thought crept into my mind as I sat frozen, eyes glued to my desk. Philip had taken sex ed too, two years before. He had listened to the very same talk I had. He should know from it that we were doing wrong things, we were doing this incest she talked about. But he had kept doing it, kept up for two years… did that mean he was abusing me? 14

After I got home from school, I remember how I told Philip to come to my room, that we had to talk. He followed me in, sitting on my bed too close for my comfort. I remember how I squirmed, and when he leaned to kiss me, I jerked away violently, panicking. Philip frowned, confused.15

"What's going on, Violet?" he asked. "What's wrong? Are you mad at me?"16

I had squirmed further, near tears… I had not been able to look at him as I almost whispered that I wanted to stop, that what we were doing together was wrong.17

Philip had frowned, seeming confused, unhappy, but he had not argued with me, had not tried to convince me otherwise. He had agreed with me, troubled, and so far, he has not attempted to touch me again. That troubles me as much as anything, for if he did not know we were doing wrong, wouldn't he have been more shocked by my request? Wouldn't' he have protested, trying to convince me it was okay, because he truly believed it was?18

It has been five years now, and Philip has kept his word, has not touched me at all since I asked him not to. He's going to college soon… and me? I'm sixteen, and I have never had a boyfriend, never been on a date. No boy has ever kissed me- except Philip.19

Five years later, and I still wonder if it was really incest, if a person can be raped and still be a virgin. Five years and I still wonder if I'm sick and twisted, because I really did enjoy my brother's touch…20