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Synonyms: pseudcest
See also: Incest, Fakecest, Unrelated AU
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Pseudo-incest refers to romantic pairings in which characters who consider each other family, but are not blood relatives.

In fanfiction, the term often refers to pairings involving adoptive or step siblings, which many consider less taboo than pairings between biologically-related people. Some fans consider this controversial, as it may imply that adopted siblings are somehow less legitimately siblings than biological ones, prompting discussions about the use of the term and what makes a family.


This article or section needs expansion.

  • Pseudo-incest is sometimes criticized for making biology the determining factor in what constitutes a "real" family, devaluing adoptive family bonds. Many fans consider the issue of blood family and chosen family as a trigger. This generates discussions about the use of the term as a way of belittling and minimizing family relationships between characters with no blood connection.
  • On the other hand, some fans take exception to ships being labelled pseudo-incest when characters are unrelated, for example in the case of childhood friends or close friends. This argument is often linked to anti behaviour.

Some examples of the discourse around pseudo-incest:

Am I the only one who is really uncomfortable with the Supergirl fandom and most of the really popular ships? [...] The incest with Alex/Kara ship? It's gross. They might not be blood-related but they grew up together since they were young teens and the show has gone out of their way to show that they are in fact sisters and yet people still find a way to ship it? I don't know. I'm always here for f/f pairings but these two are just wrong to me.

It's very fucked up yes. And it's weird when people try to minimise that. They do it in Jessica Jones fandom too, and it's gross.

They are NOT sisters and it is not incest whatsoever! This goes both for JJ and Supergirl.

And Kara and Alex "became" sisters when Kara was what, 12? Jessica and Trish were in a similar age as well. Yeah, so weird that they would fall in love! :blinkwide:

But if it was a man and a woman even you would be ok with that.

If you want to ship them go right ahead, but don't go around announcing that they're not sisters. I know these are fictional characters we're talking about but it's still extremely insensitive towards families with adopted kids. I hope you wouldn't actually say to someone IRL that their adopted sibling isn't actually their sibling.

Look, I know people say "not everything has to be romantic!!" about potential F/F couples a lot and it sucks, but people need to consider the lack of a) positive stories about adoption on TV and b) lack of well done relationships between sisters on TV, and you being so defensive about this is a pretty clear sign that deep down you know shipping them isn't cool.

The L Chat discussion, anonymous, Sept 11, 2016


If someone is raised as your sibling, brought into your family home in a sibling role, and has a parent-child relationship with your parent, they’re you’re sibling bro. If y'all want to excuse an incestuous relationship or pseudo incestuous relationship based on how cute the “couple” looks together that’s on y'all… but most people in this country have a lot of people in their families who aren’t related by blood that they know not to and would not want to have sex with.

I don’t understand why we as a society can agree (and I do agree with this) that biology doesn’t define a person, but all of sudden everyone wants to take out there punnet squares when you say a socio-related family is a related family. [...]


That’s exactly the difference, though. Barry was not brought in as a sibling or in a sibling role. The first episode establishes that they were already best friends and that is why Joe took him in. He wasn’t 8, he was 11 and already had feelings for Iris. It probably would have been traumatizing to tell him those were wrong and she had to be his sister now. [...]

It is not illegal for Barry and Iris to be together or get married. Joe never tried to get rid of those feelings and instead let them play out naturally, so it clearly wasn’t taboo to him either. He sees Barry as a son, but he does not see him as Iris’ brother.

Tumblr post, August 6, 2017

All anti arguments and false equivalencies are utter bullshit, but the one that makes me the most furious on a personal level is the claim that shipping childhood best friends is “pseudo incest”

like absolutely fuck off! not that shipping incest is bad anyway but are they aware that actual, real live people, fall in love with and date and marry their childhood best friends??

Tumblr post by gearstrider, May 2, 2021

Fandoms with significant pseudo-incest pairings

This list includes ships which are un-controversially called pseudo-incest as well as some 'edge cases' whose inclusion is less clear-cut and subject to discussion.

  • Bioshock Infinite: The "Lutece Twins," Robert Lutece and Rosaline Lutece, are revealed later in the game to be the same person from different universes who merged into one universe, and were pretending to be siblings.
  • DC Comics: Batcest and Robincest pairings are often pseudo-incest, but in one pairing Batcest refers to father/son incest.
  • Fire Emblem Fates: Any pairings with Corrin and the royal siblings; the Nohrians are her adoptive family, while the Hoshidans are her stepsiblings.
    • Azura as well. King Garon of Nohr was her stepfather, making her the Nohrians' stepsister, and she was eventuall adopted by the Hoshidan royal family.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Edelgard/Dimitri, who were technically stepsiblings due to her mother marrying his father. However, due to the marriage being kept a secret and Edelgard living with her uncle, neither she nor Dimitri realized they were stepsiblings until after she returned to the Empire.
  • Jessica Jones: Jessica/Trish is sometimes considered pseudo-incest due to Jessica being taken in by Trish's family as a teenager.
  • Marvel Comics/MCU: Works pairing adoptive brothers Thor and Loki are often considered pseudo-incest but tagged as "Sibling Incest". Loki/Sylvie, while technically selfcest, is also sometimes called pseudo-incest.
  • Supergirl: Kara/Alex is a very popular pairing; often called "Danvers sisters" by the media, very few of its fanworks tag for incest or pseudo-incest.
  • The Flash: Barry Allen/Iris West is sometimes considered pseudo-incest since Iris's family took Barry in at age 11. However, the characters do get married in the canon.
  • The Umbrella Academy: Works pairing any of the seven adopted siblings in The Umbrella Academy.
  • The Witcher: Works pairing the School of the Wolf witchers, Geralt, Eskel, and Lambert, who trained together from childhood; works pairing Geralt and his ward Ciri.
  • Twilight: the adoptive brothers, children of the vampire couple Mr. and Mrs. Cullen can be read as pseudo-incest as they are all in a romantic relationship with each other, having no blood ties between them.
  • Wuthering Heights: Cathy/Heathcliff are raised like a brother and sister and have a romantic relationship.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend: Nageki Fujishiro and Hitori Uzune were raised as brothers in an orphanage. While not canon, they are a popular fanon ship.