The notion of taboo is one steeped in a wealth of anthropological intrigue. In essence, a taboo is a culturally accepted “no-no,” prohibited by opposing ends of a spectrum ranging from the sacred to the damned.
In North America, a continent that has developed a reputation for being home to the some of the most unrepentant hedonists and insufferable puritans alike, it’s almost surprising that the list of widely acknowledged and observed taboos is ever-shrinking. Science, secularism, HBO and that gosh-darn liberal media are likely suspects in the diminishing of many classic sexual taboos like pornography, anal play and masturbation. At worst, these would usually solicit a wrinkling of the nose from the modern prude — or at its finest, social evolution. However, there are several sexual taboos that have remained solid in the face of declining morality and many of them are enough to make even a self-proclaimed pervert-of-all-trades squirm.
For example: Ephebophilia. This is a term used to describe a preference for mid- to late-adolescents, but I’m going to use it to describe simple attraction. The idea of a grown-ass man being sexually interested in a 15-year-old may make you cringe but this is a pretty recent addition to the taboo cornucopia. There are plenty of fully developed teenage girls and boys and up until the last century or two, they were considered eligible as sexual partners. The legal age of consent in Canada is 16, but if one of your 30-something friends shacked up with someone born in 1997, you would be appalled. You and I both would likely designate them a misguided pervert and their partner a naive victim of manipulation and we might be right, but historically it’s a fairly arbitrary taboo.
Incest. As the most culturally widespread taboo, it has a pretty high “ick” factor. That being said, arguments for the legal condemnation of acts of incest are dwindling. While children born of such unions may be at increased risk of congenital birth defects and genetic conditions, technological innovations like amniocentesis (prenatal chromosome abnormality testing) and, y’know, condoms, can prevent this from happening. If the two parties are first cousins, the increased risk is negligible. The only reason consensual incest is a taboo is because of our vehement disgust and that disgust is simply a product of being told to be disgusted.
Nudity. This may seem like a relative softball, but it’s one of the most pervasive taboos in Western culture. Treating our naked bodies as objects of sexual arousal or shame has no roots beyond the cumulative weight of generations of tradition, and frankly, it’s a little strange that we still observe this convention. Consider the female nipple. It is considered indecent and even illegal in many places for a woman to be topless. Collectively, we’re so weird about our bodies. I will never forget the shock I felt when hundreds of naked people on bicycles went cruising by the window while I was eating dinner in a corner cafe. Music, television, film, art, pornography—we’re constantly being inundated with images of nudity and yet seeing a real live naked person we’re not about to fuck evokes shock and horror, despite the fact that we are all more or less sporting the same gear.
Well, there it is folks. Even our most deep-seated aversions when it comes to sexual taboos are mostly cultural constructs if you hold them up to the magnifying glass but there’s a few we should cling onto regardless.
By EZ BreezyAB, Alberta