Way back in the Paleolithic era, (okay, so maybe it was April, but in blog time, that’s freakin’ prehistoric) The Scarlet Dogma asked me to do a guest post, encouraging “the more taboo, the better.” Naturally this led me first to panic (oh the pressure!), then to Xanax, and finally to the fundamental question of what, if anything, does taboo even mean nowadays? So my Sequel to my Prequel post made this same inquiry.
I figured we’d get enough comments that I wouldn’t have to do any real investigative or thoughtful work myself. Yet weirdly…not so much. So I wondered if the non-responsiveness was because readers are lazy or because who the hell has time these days! But I have since hypothesized that it’s largely because defining the forbidden has become, ironically, verboten in our free, modern and evolved society.
(Can you feel me smirking and doing air-quotes while using those adjectives? If not, go buy a subtext translator app.)
When I first began pondering this post, I’d hoped to sum it all up in a tidy little package bursting with my incredibly insightful revelations, thus confirming my shrewd cultural awareness and all-around geniusness. But that just ain’t gonna happen, because the truth is neither simple nor revelatory. Or maybe I’m just not all that smart (I mean, I did just use the word geniusness). However, after reading the few comments that did make their lonely way to me―the essences of which were:
spicing up one’s (especially married ) sex life
the idea that every social group has their own boundaries & to cross these is “taboo”
And finally: “I don’t have the answer, honestly.”
…followed by me drinking and procrastinating via a Vampire Diaries marathon with my best pal TiVo, what I’ve finally come down to is the last comment about not knowing. And I think that speaks for America in general. (‘Cause if this post can’t speak for America, then who the hell can, right?)
Though this has totally lightened any stain of scandal in my post, there’s a silver lining to the fact that, when asked what is taboo in today’s society―we JUST DON’T FUCKING KNOW. Whereas in the not-too-distant-past, it would’ve been easy to get disturbingly consistent responses (sex, sex, and oh yeah―sex). So deep within our not knowing is evidence of a sort of knowing, of a (REALLY. FUCKING. SLOW) evolution towards awareness.
So perhaps the better question is not “what is taboo,” but rather, “why is this subject so difficult?”
First of all, people are lazy and change is hard. Which is one reason no one wants to admit that we’re fundamentally who we were back in medieval times. Hell, in all times. But in order to grow, we have to be honest with ourselves about who we are versus who we’d like to be—not an overnight task.
Thus, what is really our most problematic of taboos, is simply acknowledging the continued existence of taboos. We Americans, in our profoundly hypocritical culture, so desperately want to sit at the cool European kids’ table and be all laid back like the French, with their appreciation for older women, silk scarves, and laissez-faire attitude toward adultery, or those hash-smoking, prostitute-loving people in Amsterdam, that we are almost paralyzed by denial.
But it’s time to face facts. No matter Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, Atheist, Blogger, most of us harbor this inner puritan like some plague that came over on the Mayflower and seeped into the soil where it has since continued to flourish.
Sure, feel free to argue with me. But c’mon, how many of you openly discuss your sex life with your MOTHER? Or openly discuss it AT ALL (especially while sober)? How many gay men and women must spend some time in a closet before coming out (if they come out at all)? Like, why is there even still a closet? Why do we still have the phrase “coming out,” implying that they’re stuck inside somewhere else, more like “hiding in.”
As for the polarizing natures of politics and religion―those are really just about the inability to tolerate the scary “other.” Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses… as long as they feel/think/act/look just as I do.
It’s ridiculous. It’s pathetic. It’s depressing. It is incredibly American. This is the twenty-fucking-first century. And THAT is the scandal…and the shame.
But our bewilderment over this topic is actually proof that we have made some nano-particle of progress (which isn’t nearly as significant as we like to think, but still). Just look at who’s sitting, or more likely pacing, in the oval office. Like having anyone but a white guy in charge wasn’t a real taboo at one time….(like, yesterday).
In today’s America, people who have sex with call girls end up with their own CNN talk shows! Though it might be more interesting to hear them talk about said call girls rather than crime and politics…. But whatever.
Once upon a time, women couldn’t vote. Now a woman who claims she understands Russia because she thinks it’s like, her backyard neighbor, can make a legitimate run at the second highest office in our nation. Now THAT’S progress. (though incredibly humiliating, both as a woman and as an American).
Really, this is a subject we should address every decade. Give ourselves a report card on how we’re doing CULTURALLY and psychologically, rather than judging our health by a GDP, or who we’re invading. But I fear our society’s evolution towards being truly open and free, candid with others, and more importantly with ITSELF, will be as sluggish as the shifting of the tectonic plates.
We just need to be patient. And as any good puritan can tell you, patience is a virtue. What they can’t tell you is that sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, freedoms of religion, speech, political view and sexual orientation are also pretty awesome too.
– Minka Fieldstone