Virtual Voices

Watching taboos topple

Culture

“Taboo,” as defined in the online dictionary I consulted, is “a ban or inhibition resulting from social custom or emotional aversion.”

If you and I were to play the “association game” and say whether our first reaction to the concept “taboo” is negative or positive, what would you say? In other words, on first thought, do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing that we have taboos?

I have long had mixed feelings about this. If you were to ask me, “Is it good that some things are taboo?” I would be momentarily stumped. The word can evoke a narrow-mindedness and stubborn resistance to new ideas. For instance, as a person who grew up in the Catholic Church where the Mass was always in Latin, I can say that any language but Latin was considered taboo in a proper worship service.

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But as I read the above definition of “taboo,” I’m thinking that it can be a good thing that we have taboos. I say this as a person living in 2013 who is watching old taboos topple all around me. It used to be taboo for men to sleep with men. That’s not taboo anymore in much of America. Nowadays it’s still taboo for men to have sex with a 17-year-old or 14-year-old (as opposed to an 18-year-old). But that taboo is being whittled away even as I type these words: There is a very little step to take between 18 and 17, once you have done away with traditional morality.

The definition above says taboo is the result of “social custom or emotional aversion.” But where, pray tell, do social custom and emotional aversion come from in the first place? It should be considered that if something is emotionally repulsive, it may well be because God has made man to be repulsed by it.

American society has until recently taken certain taboos for granted. We haven’t even stopped to wonder what psychological “mechanics” are behind the fact that, generally speaking, a boy will not find his sister “hot” even if every other guy in high school does.

But these “mechanics” involved not allowing your mind and your eyes to “go there.” It was easy enough in the past when the whole culture backed it. But once the door is opened for a man to look at a child, and to allow his eyes to roam over that child’s face and body, imagining him as a potential sex object, then there is no limit to the iniquity.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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