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Sex + Relationships

‘The Sex Lives Of College Girls’ Talked About Twincest, But What Even Is It?

If you’re a fan of The Sex Lives of College Girls like I am, then I bet you’re absolutely living for this Season 2 content. We’ve been able to watch our favorite group of freshman besties, Leighton, Whitney, Bela, and Kimberly, embark further on their *hectic* college experience. One of the most refreshing themes of the season has to be Leighton stepping into her own, exploring her sexuality openly for the first time ever. During Episode 6, you may have noticed that Leighton was diagnosed with a case of “twincest.” Yes, you read that right — one of Leighton’s friends tells her that she might be experiencing the twincest “phase” of coming out. So… what exactly is twincest, and is it really a phase in one’s coming out journey? 

During Episode 6 of The Sex Lives of College Girls, Leighton finds herself being attracted to another student at Essex after running into her one day on campus. She ends up consulting one of Whitney’s friends about the girl, asking her if she knows who she is and how she can catch her attention in the future. Whitney’s friend quickly lets Leighton know that she’s going through the twincest phase of coming out. But… what does that mean? 

What is twincest and why does it happen?

Well, Leighton’s crush just so happens to sport sleek, platinum blonde hair and fashion taste almost identical to that of herself (not to mention, she’s also from New York). So, basically, The Sex Lives of College Girls is defining twincest as being attracted to someone that looks exactly like yourself. It may sound a little narcissistic, but it’s totally heard of, and has actually been studied extensively in psychology. 

The phenomenon strangely ties back to the fact that it’s been proven that we are typically attracted to partners that resemble our parents… in addition to ourselves. One of the most prominent concepts that connects to this “twincest” theory is sexual imprinting, which is basically when one has a preference for characteristics that have been learned from parents. 

Sexual imprinting studies have been carried out throughout science for quite some time, and it happens to every organism in nature, often times in research with birds. A similar concept that ties together with sexual imprinting is repetition compulsion. Relationship and communication expert Chloe Ballatore tells Her Campus that this notion basically means that we tend to “gravitate towards that which we find familiar.”

Both of these ideas generally point out the fact that we’re attracted to traits and characteristics that are familiar to us, which sometimes morph themselves into a partner that can look pretty identical to ourselves, just like what happened to Leighton.

Photograph by Katrina Marcinowski/HBO Max

How is twincest different for LGBTQ+ couples?

Can heterosexual people still experience twincest? Most definitely. And, where does twincest fall in terms of homosexuality? That’s skewed. 

Same-sex couples have often had to face the brunt of twincest allegations, although this is the first time I’ve heard it actually labeled in that way. In an article for GQ, psychologist Dr. Harel Papikian analyzed this anomaly, explaining that some homosexual couples tend to look a lot alike due to the similarities that they may find from their own bodies to their partners.

As to why The Sex Lives of College Girls might have linked twincest to coming out, Ballatore provides some insight into the connection. For some individuals, when they tend to begin exploring sexual partners of the same sex for the first time, they may gravitate towards people who resemble them because they provide a sense of comfort amidst a new experience. “Again, the familiarity bridges the gap into the unknown,” Ballatore says.

What does twincest really “say” about us?

In short, twincest really says that we naturally and subconsciously tend to gravitate towards familiar experiences and people. “We tend to be attracted to people who look a little like us, but not too much like us,” Ballatore said. “The familiar is comforting.”

Whether or not twincest is considered a turning point when a person decides to embrace and explore their sexuality, it’s definitely not an idea foreign to our culture. I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see what comes of Leighton’s potential look-alike lover. 

McKinley Franklin is a writer, student, and Leo in love with all things pop culture. When she's not writing for Her Campus, you can catch her reading, cooking, or catching up on her latest reality TV obsession.