Whoever you are, whatever you do, there will always be those who disapprove. Some people will start considering you too fat before others stop considering you too thin. There will always be someone
who consider your sexuality (or lack thereof) to be plain wrong
. And so on. In some settings, this is codified into entire cultures that disapprove of things that are mainstream for the intended audience (and vice versa). Sometimes dodged by the idea that Culture Justifies Anything
Sometimes Played for Laughs
, other times as serious drama. Wagon Train to the Stars
shows usually play it somewhere in between.
Often a side effect of Fetish-Fuel Future
, used as a way of highlighting its Blue and Orange Morality
or sometimes Bizarre Alien Reproduction
. A form of Culture Clash
. Can be a case of Deliberate Values Dissonance
. Sometimes done by a Planet of Hats
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- Yaoi Genre Ai no Kusabi adapted from a sci-fi novel has the ruling class of Tanagura Elites that are genetically engineered Artificial Humans to fit their respective social classes. They also have to follow the strict Dystopian Edict of No Sex Allowed so any sexual contact with another being is taboo. This isn't so for the rest of the human population and the plot focuses on the relationship one particular Elite has with his Sex Slave.
- The Zentradi, when first encountering humankind are initially confused and perturbed by the apparent fact that they spend all of their time micloned (they initially assume that, like themselves, the default form of humans is gigantic and becoming smaller is an inconvenience) and that they live in mixed gender communities (Zentradi of different genders are not so much as permitted to communicate without permission from a superior, and otherwise typically live on entirely different ships). This is long before they start encountering things they have no context for understanding or recognizing at all, such as music, love, or the concept of civilians.
- In one This Modern World strip by Tom Tomorrow, centuries in the future, there are people known as "breeders." We see them chanting "We're straight / We mate / Get used to it." A mainstream man says "Perverts," shuddering.
- The former is a real term used this way in "childfree" communities. Homosexuals will also sometimes use it as an insult towards bisexuals/pansexuals.
- Midnighter from The Authority is regarded oddly in a friendly manner by time-traveling allies from the future. Not because he is gay, because he is not bisexual. In the future, Everyone Is Bi.
- Similar to the TV examples below, one Star Trek: The Next Generation miniseries featured a planet where there are three sexes and it is therefore seen as perverse (by the more conservative elements at least) to have only one sexual partner.
- Another episode has a species which lacks gender, where identifying as one gender or another is viewed as an illness to be cured-forcibly. The parallel to historical and (often continuing treatment of LGBT people was very obvious, though somewhat undermined with the fact that all the "genderless" aliens were played by female actors, and the character which identifies as female is also played by a woman, desiring a heterosexual relationship with Riker. Still, they tried.
- Parodied in Kieron Gillen's current Iron Man run. Tony Stark saves a planet from an alien invasion and gets invited back to bed by one of the planet's many princesses. However, once he removes his mask, she almost vomits in disgust at the abominably disgusting growth on his face: His beard. When she hears that he grew it intentionally, he ends up getting kicked out of the palace, with him sheepishly offering to shave.
- In the alternate England in the Slave World novels, it's considered perverted and socially unacceptable to have sex as equals. Sex is supposed to be between an aristocrat and a slave who has legally been deprived of basic human rights. And the sex slave has to be tied up or similar; to have sex with an unrestrained person is also considered perverse.
- In The Forever War, at one point homosexuality is required and heterosexuals are seen as freaks. At this point in the future Earth is suffering from an overpopulation problem, so uncontrolled birth is the real prejudice. This flip-flops back and forth as Time Dilation lets the main character experience many different portions of Earth's future culture.
- Brave New World has something like this. While conventional sex is not outlawed, orgies are the norm and sleeping with the same partner multiple times is considered peculiar.
- In The Player of Games, the hero, who is from a Free-Love Future, is perceived as odd because he's fairly monogamous, is strictly heterosexual and has no interest in having a sex change. It should be noted that in The Culture novels, sex changes bear very little relationship to contemporary gender reassignment surgery. It isn't even really surgery, since you start it yourself and it's a from-the-ground-up-genes-and-all conversion into an opposite gender (in every sense) version of yourself.
- In one Isaac Asimov story, it was considered odd to have more than one child with the same partner. Having kids with several different partners was normal.
- In The Naked Sun, Gladia is psychotic by Solarian standards because she thinks sex should be enjoyable, rather than a painful duty (and even she had trouble taking it beyond theory).
- The Solarians have a wider taboo forbidding physical presence of another human in the same room for all but the most utterly necessary occasions. They feel disgusted by breathing the air which just went through someone's else lungs. Compare it to our disgust to drink water from a brook someone has just urinated into in our presence.
- The Wheel of Time has several examples, but one of the most noted is the difference between Aiel and "Wetlanders". To Aiel, nakedness is not taboo, they use co-ed sweat tents as a fill-in for showers in their desert homeland-Wetlanders find this scandalous. And this trope occurs for both sides-to Aiel displaying affection in public is taboo. Kissing your spouse with others watching would apparently be viewed similar to how a Wetlander might view having sex with them in public.
- In Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon, the last human society's favorite pastime is highly refined eroticism of various stripes. However, food consumption is so surrounded by rituals and taboos you may be able to get away with drinking water in public provided the people around you are very liberal and you use a straw to distance yourself from the beverage.
- In the Robert A. Heinlein novel, Space Cadet the Venusians consider it obscene to eat in public.
- In The Kingkiller Chronicle, the Adem culture has no sexual taboo or inhibitions. They screw so frequently that they've never figured out that sex causes pregnancy. On the other hand, they find any public display of emotion or even facial expression to be unseemly, to the point that they use hand motions rather than voice or facial cues to add subtext to their words. For related reasons, music is considered something done only with loved ones behind closed doors.
- In the Hainish universe, the people of the planet O would never marry just one other person. Their marriage arrangement, called a sedoretu, involves four people, two women and two men, and both heterosexual and homosexual relations are expected.
- What's more, if you're a member of a sedoretu, there is always one other member whom you may not have sex with. That's because everyone on the planet belongs to one of two moieties, with moiety membership inherited from one's mother, and there is a strict taboo against having sex with anyone in the same moiety as you. A sedoretu contains two people from each moiety, so you have two spouses you can have sex with (one male, one female) but having sex with your third spouse is considered just wrong. No-one in any of the O stories is even tempted to do it.
- "Mountain Ways," one of the O stories, makes it clear that everyone is supposed to be Bi the Way. It's considered odd and shameful for someone to only like one gender.
- In Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, the entire story takes place on Gethen, an isolated planet. The near-humans there naturally shift from male to intersex to female to back in seemingly-monthly cycles. A small proportion of the population does not shift and are called "perverts". A normal human travels there, trying to establish a diplomatic connection with the rest of humanity; his mission is complicated because they all consider him a "pervert". One character, in an attempt to seduce another, used hormones to shift his/her cycle timing and ensure his/her gender is the opposite of the target's. The target's reaction shows they think the attempted seducer is also a pervert, though the word is not used there.
- In The Number of the Beast, there's an alternate world where Christianity exists, but interpreted the role of nudity from Genesis rather differently: because Adam and Eve didn't start hiding their bodies until after they lost their innocence, it's standard practice to strip naked for Church services, symbolically reclaiming that innocent purity.
- For the record, this is Truth in Television for a very small minority of Christians.
- Until the High Middle Ages, it was considered obligatory for new converts to Christianity to strip naked for baptism, as a symbol of them being freed of their Original Sin.
- In the Sword of Truth series, the Mud People have very different ideas from most others about what constitutes, say, an appropriate compliment—where most might consider it rude, to a Mud Person, telling a woman she has nice breasts just means they think she will make a good mother (whereas asking a Mud Person woman to clean the mud out of her hair is basically propositioning her). When one character is asked to help translate this for a Mud Person smitten with someone from another land, the translator instructs him that he should instead complement things that aren't covered by clothes.
- In the Spaceforce series, the culture of the Taysan Empire is very keen on chastity and in particular, has strict rules about who can marry whom and how. Marriage is only legal between people of the same 'degree' (social class, effectively), and only after a lengthy, highly ritualised courtship. Liaisons outside these boundaries are a criminal offence and punishable by causing the offender to be 'outcaste', which usually results in death. And asexuality of all things is considered a disgusting perversion.
- In The Woman Who Dies A Lot the main character needs to find a perfectly good person to save a bunch of criminals from smiting and she asks why her brother can't be that person. The answer is given that in hundreds of alternate universes being gay is a sin.
- In the prehistoric novel Behind the Footprints of the Red Man, the worst insult you can make to the smiling cro-magnons is showing them your bare feetnote , and the worst insult you can make to the barefoot neanderthals is showing them your teethnote . Hilarity Ensues when they meet each other.
- In the Discworld series, deep dwarf culture has a whole bunch of taboos (their sages, the grags, often find the mere idea of seeing sunlight repulsive) but even modern dwarfs are opposed to dwarf women expressing their femininity. Not just dressing for it, but unnecessarily admitting to having a gender identity differing from the default "probably male" (dwarf courtship consists mainly of very tactfully discerning if the object of your affection is of a compatible gender). Lately the dwarfs have undergone a sexual revolution of sorts, matching their chainmail with leather skirts, putting high heels on their iron boots, braiding their beards and even making attempts at makeup.
- In The Black Magician Trilogy, homosexuality is Deconstructed this way. One of the characters travels to a number of different countries in the first book and is treated to a variety of very open opinions on the topic: in one nation, everyone is pretty okay with it; in another nation, people mostly try to pretend it doesn't happen; in another nation, there's severe social stigma and potential legal ramifications attached to it; in another country, they execute anyone caught in any homosexual behavior. This is all pretty patent Foreshadowing that this character is himself gay.
- The Humanoid Alien Hwarhath, as presented in "Holmes Sherlock: A Hwarhath Mystery", have a society that's strictly divided along gender lines, although neither men nor women seem to be seen as "superior" as such. Men and woman do different jobs, don't normally socialize, and don't form romantic partnerships. The only acceptable heterosexual sex is a short-term formal arrangement intended for reproduction. In respectable society, all long-term romantic partnerships are between individuals of the same gender.
- In The Stormlight Archive Alethi culture holds that women have a "freehand" (right) and a "safehand" (left), and exposing it is compared to going topless. Women of high birth basically aren't supposed to use it at all and keep it hidden in a sleeve, while common women wear a glove over it.
- Vorinism (the mail religion of a number of cultures on Roshar, including the Alethi) is full of this. Its extremely rigid gender roles mean that men aren't allowed to be literate and even food is gender-segregated, while its taboo against telling the future forbids even guessing what's going to happen, meaning that gambling is limited to games based on hidden information, and people are deeply suspicious of weather forecasters (who also happen to be predominantly male, which, since women are expected to be the scholarly sex, makes it even worse). Meanwhile, Shin culture considers walking on stone taboo, which, as Shinovar is the only place on the planet with soil, is rather awkward for Shin travelling outside their homeland.
- Played somewhat for laughs in one issue of Perry Rhodan featuring aliens who refused to communicate with the humans who had settled on their planet because they considered standing upright a form of indecent exposure (clothing notwithstanding). They also somewhat more understandably had an issue with the human habit of baring one's teeth in obvious displays of aggression, a.k.a. smiling...
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- In an early episode, Riker falls in love with an alien from a species of androgynous hermaphrodites. This turns out to be taboo, not because he's human, but because he's male and she self-identifies as female. The whole thing is a rather Anvilicious allegory for homosexuality; several writers and cast members felt it would have been braver to have the "androgynous" alien played by a man rather than a woman, but Executive Meddling won out.
- The very first encounter with the Ferengi in TNG reveals that they find females wearing clothes repulsive (or hell, doing anything that would make them anything much more than property). By the time it gets to DS9, while a good number of them do harbor these attitudes, most of the ones that handle matters off-Ferenginar have enough business savvy to keep it to themselves (not many Alpha Quadrant species/powers that we've seen share or tolerate this attitude to such a degree, especially the ones with more villainous tendencies...). It seems some of them secretly don't really mind some aspects of this so much, though, and later in DS9 more progressive minds among the Ferengi begin to give it a serious questioning.
- Part of their repulsion to clothed women is yet another case of this trope. Until very late in the overall timeline of the series (somewhere between DS9 and Voyager), Ferengi women were considered property, and clothing them made it look like you were hiding something. Women weren't allowed to run a business, own property, or even make purchases on their male relatives' behalf. For the most part, they weren't supposed to leave the house.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trill marriages are "until death do us part". Too bad if you die and come back from the dead: The love of your life is now taboo forever. Even worse, the cycle of life in the elite circles of Trill society is based on a kind of reincarnation. Jadzia falls prey to this in one episode, falling head over heals in love with her ex-wife. Nobody even notices that they are of the same gender-the implication being that despite the noticeable lack of gay characters onscreen, homosexuality is no longer taboo in the future-the ethical/cultural problem is all about them having been husband and wife in a previous life.
- In yet another Star Trek example, this time Enterprise, the B-plot of one episode had delegates of a newly encountered alien race being offended after being given a tour of Enterprise, storming off after ten minutes. It ultimately turns out that what offended them was being shown the mess hall, as the thought of communal eating is repulsive to them. Eating and personal displays of affection should be conducted in private at all times, hence their declaration of "you eat like you mate!"
- Averted in that race's second appearance, however, because anyone with two functioning brain cells to bang together should have figured out that bringing a dog to a stand of sacred trees was not a good idea no matter what culture they come from.
- In a similar case, an episode of Star Trek: Voyager has Janeway accidentally pay a grave insult to a member of a race that relies on body language for a good chunk of their communication. How? By putting her hands on her hips, which is their equivalent of the finger.
- In Farscape, Zhaan's people have no nudity taboo, and she finds it amusing that other cultures do.
- The Peacekeepers are big fans of letting soldiers "recreate" to relieve tension and produce more soldiers, but forming emotional attachments to partners is strictly against the rules, as is interacting with your child, even once.
- Babylon 5:
- In the season two episode "Acts of Sacrifice", the race known as the Lumati treat sex as casually as they do handshakes (as noted by Dr. Stephen Franklin).
- In the episode "Soul Mates", Minbari Ambassador Delenn reacts with some confusion at the concept of human bathingnote (in her words, Minbari do not perspire as humans do, albeit she couldn't finish the elaboration because it made Susan Ivanova uncomfortable). Similarly, after Ivanova washes and fixes Delenn's hair and puts clips on it, Delenn's aide Lennier reacts with restrained horror at the sight of Delenn in hair clips. He asks her if it's painful, and is told that it is "oddly relaxing".
- Well, Minbari don't have head hair. At most, they have facial hair. As such, Lennier wouldn't know what it feels like to even have hair. Delenn has deliberately turned herself into a Half-Human Hybrid (it helps that one of her ancestors was one).
- Also in Babylon 5, dolls and action figures are expected to be anatomically correct in Centauri culture. Thus in one episode where the station opens a gift shop (selling such products as miniature dolls of the station's public figures), Ambassador Londo Mollari is outraged that the doll with his likeness doesn't have certain "attributes" i.e. genitalia (which, for Centauri males, are in the form of six prehensile tentacles protruding from the abdomen). From his perspective, the doll implied that he was a eunuch.
- In season 3 of the show, Delenn reacts in horror when John Sheridan resorts to "thinking like the enemy" in order to guess the stratagem behind the Shadow rampage.
- In the show, the seemingly harmless question of "What do you want?" is apparentlly taboo among the Vorlons (Kosh, at one point, berates Sheridan for asking him this). Similarly, the Shadows avoid answering the question "Who are you?"
- For the Narn, all books must be copied exactly from the original manuscript right down to every blemish on the page. Thus it is considered blasphemy to create an English-language copy of the bible-esque Book of G'Quan — as G'Kar tells Garibaldi when he gives him the book to read, it must be read in the mother tongue or not at all (When Garibaldi protests he can't read Narn, G'Kar responds, "Learn!"). Later, when G'Kar's writings unexpectedly become regarded as a new holy book by the Narns, every copy of the book includes a strange ring mark on one of the pages — which is actually a coffee stain accidentally left by Garibaldi on the original page.
- In Sliders, practically every world the main characters land on either considers something normal from 'our' world taboo, or something taboo on 'our' world being normal there. Examples consist of a world where all technology and science is banned, a world where "fair trial" means "fastest draw", a world where the "Hippy" lifestyle never died out and so is freely accepted by practically all age-groups, where fortune-telling is a politically-charged position, and where dinosaur-poaching is outlawed. And that's not even half of what they show before Season 3.
- On Defiance, Castithans consider bathing a social and sensuous occasion for the whole family. Learning that his human daughter-in-law-to-be Christie baths alone, an appalled Datak exclaims "What kind of person does that?"
- The imageboard 4chan, home to all manner of horrific NSFW material, considers the single most heinous sexual practice to be... consensual sex in the missionary position. Definitely Played for Laughs.
- That shit gets even more horrifying when done for the purpose of reproduction.
- And it's ten times worse if they're happily married.
- The gag is most prominent on the /d/ ("alternative hentai") board where there are occasional "happy sex" threads that play on the joke.
- Scenes of a couple holding hands can make even the kinkiest of /a/nons blush profusely.
- Similarly, consensual heterosexual sex between spouses is occasionally played as the strangest, rarest, most taboo kink ever on Kink Memes.
- Another "strange and unusual" request sometimes found on Kink Memes is gen fic, with no sex or romance at all!
- In Feng Shui's 2056 juncture, people of different races getting together is the norm, as are homosexual relationships. Same-race relationships, on the other hand, are considered "racist" and are rather frowned upon.
- In Cthulhu Tech, the Nazzadi have no nudity taboo, and the artists for the books will demonstrate their lack of modesty.
- In Dungeons & Dragons' Points Of Light setting, the Quom pride themselves on having perfectly symmetrical bodies. If they gain a scar in combat they will scar themselves on the other side to match it. Any Quom with an affliction such as a disease that renders him or her asymmetrical goes into hiding until healed.
- A good way to mortally offend many Clan warriors in BattleTech is to suggest that they might have been born — the old-fashioned way, that is, rather than via the 'superior' Clan method involving the matching of donated genetic material from specific bloodlines and "iron wombs". On the other hand, the separation of sex and procreation in "trueborn" society means that recreational sex is considered just another activity, but concepts like romance and similar strong personal attachments are somewhat alien and confusing to them (at least in part because their first loyalty is of course supposed to be to their Clan).
- In The Teahouse of the August Moon, Sakini notes that in Okinawa, things like nude statuary are quite taboo, but people of mixed sex bathing together in public is no big deal, while in America it's exactly the opposite.
- In Culpa Innata, nuptial contracts (i.e. marriages) are seen as perversions and are illegal in the World Union. Only rogue states follow such barbaric customs. As for being with the same sexual partner for long periods of time, most people consider this strange. Families also don't exist, as children are sent off to Child Development Centers until they are adults. This leaves adults to make as much money and get as much sex as possible. Oh, and it is women who are expected to hit on men, ask them out, pay for dates, and initiate sex. This is often a problem for men who immigrate from rogue states, who still follow the old traditions. Their advances often put World Union women off, so they tend to go after women who have also emigrated, who also have trouble with this.
- Stoicism is also important to World Union citizens, and any candidate for citizenship must display a great degree of it. Anyone who panics or gets overly emotional during the interview is rejected.
- In Mass Effect, having the hots for a Blue-Skinned Space Babe (or an armor-plated Proud Warrior Race guy, or the rasp of scales against your flesh, or wondering just what IS under that quarian environmental suit) is quite understandable, for the most part, though most permanent couples tend to be same-race for obvious reasons. Then we get the asari, who consider it a horrible taboo to actually get pregnant with another asari (not have sex, just a baby). During the first game and most of the second game, it seems like this is just a cultural thing, even having it explicitly stated that it's because they feel it "adds nothing to the mix" to not incorporate some alien DNA. Then you meet Morinth, an asari with a genetic defect that results in the death of anyone she has sex with, and it turns out that same-race breeding for them drastically ups the chances of things turning out very badly. In ancient times, the Ardat-Yakshi, asari with the aforementioned genetic defect, ruled Asari nations as god-queens, sacrifices and all.
- The Hanar are a minor example. in their entry in the codex, they are described as very polite, and always talking in a formal manner, to the point that it is actually pretty easy to offend them in a conversation. In a variation of the tropes, it is also stated that most Hanar who go outside of the planet need to be taught how the other are more informal when talking to others and that they need to overlook what normally could be considered offensive.
- In World of Warcraft, the Pandaren in the third expansion, Mists of Pandaria, are all rather... large. That isn't to say they're unhealthy, in fact, they're a race of Acrofatics who are probably much healthier than the other races of Azeroth. And they seem to know! Upon reaching the village of Dawn's Blossom in the Jade Forest, a nearby noodle salesman will look at you and say, "That creature looks so thin, it must be starving!" Player Pandaren /silly jokes include similar, hilarious lines, like: "Hey! You look like you lost some weight! ... That's terrible. Have a dumpling!" and "Oh, I'm doing great! I mean, I could stand to gain a few pounds sure, but, who doesn't?" and finally, "Gotta store up some fat for the winter! ... I don't hibernate or nothin', I just like having it around." You can practically see the Pandaren holding his belly as he says that last one.
- In The Order of the Stick, Xykon refers to people sexually attracted to living humans as "disgusting biophiliacs." This may imply he'd be just as grossed out by living humans making out with each other just like the thought of two liches making out with each other is to the average living human. He was explicitly shown, however, only to be repeatedly grossed out by Tsukiko's necrophiliac advances aimed at him, one of which he was rebuffing this way.
- In Homestuck, a perfectly ordinary bucket in our culture has some... dirty connotations in Troll society. On the other hand, their reproduction system involves a centralized mother making each generation from the genetic material of all the previous one, making "one diabolical incestuous slurry" the standard, so they don't understand our taboo of incest.
- A lesser example is that the trolls are surprised homosexuality "is even a thing" since any troll couple can contribute to the slurry as long as they really love or hate each other.
- Another example is uu, who persistently pesters Dirk to draw filthy hardcore porn for him...of people acting out totally normal, nonsexual romantic actions such as kissing or hugging. ( This is because uu, aka Caliborn, is a Cherub, a race that usually tries to avoid each other except when mating.) And then after two pages of this, it's subverted right at the last minute:
uu: SHOW THEM EXPERIENCING HuMAN WEDDED JOY. WITH THEIR OFFSPRING. NOW.
TT: Yeah, gimme a minute.
uu: NO. THIS ISN'T AS GOOD.
uu: IT'S NOT AS TITILLATING AS I DESIRE.
- In Drowtales, bisexuality and multiple partners is the norm for Drows, while pure heterosexuals like Zala'ess and her hubby Sabrror, and pure homosexuals like Snadhya'runes and Mel'anarch are considered abnormal.
- Cannibalism is also acceptable. With so few resources, Drow eating Drow is the norm amongst the lower class.
- On the other hand, Drow culture considers a bare neck to be a state of extreme undress.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal plays the trope straight (well, mostly) but for imagined titillation rather than offense.
- After Kieri's brother from Slightly Damned was introduced as a character, it's been made increasingly obvious he is in love with another male angel. When Kieri point-blank tells him she realizes this, he's worried people will think he's a freak... because they're of opposing elements. The idea that a same-sex relationship might seem odd or objectionable to anyone doesn't even seem to occur to him.
- Played for Blue and Orange Morality in Tales of MU, most notably with nymphs, who have been granted their humanoid bodies as a gift to those who created them from the great Mother Khaele. What this means is that they must expose themselves at all times, and wearing clothing is their taboo. They also are given these bodies (as opposed to their "other body," that is, the field that is also a physical part of them) to engage in frequent sexual activity with others, which causes their field and humanoid form to both become healthier and sustained.
- In the same universe, implying that an elf enjoys heterosexual intercourse is apparently a dire insult.
- Played with regarding Dee's (dark) elf culture as well, where the heavily-matriarchal society in which she was raised gives Dee some less-than-humanizing views of men, resulting in some Deliberate Values Dissonance when she talks with surface-dwellers about their "fathers," a concept with significantly diminished importance in her society.
- Appropriately enough, it was depiction of normal, heterosexual sex in Ghastly's Ghastly Comic (which specializes in perversion and Crossing the Line Twice) which got their advertising pulled. Granted, the male in the pair was Jesus.
- In Fallout: Nuka Break, Twig is a former resident of Vault 10, which was provided with ample amounts of fattening food and no exercise equipment. As a result, being fat became the norm. While anyone outside the vault would think that Twig is too fat, he was in fact bullied all his life for being the skinniest person in the vault (thus the nickname). In fact, when anyone tries to insult him for being fat, he takes it as a compliment.
- Played for Laughs in places like 4chan where, amongst the depravity and bizarre fetishes that are just business as usual there, things like couples holding hands are treated as sick, depraved acts; the most depraved act of all being consensual heterosexual intercourse between a happily married husband and wife in the missionary position for the purpose of procreation with the lights off.
- In ancient Greece, a "Real Man" would find his pleasure with teenage boys, since apparently, that was the macho thing to do. Women were mainly for procreation, and a man who preferred to sleep with them was considered something of a sissy, or just downright weird.
- According to some sources, the man-boy love was supposed to be refined and spiritual. Actual physical intercourse sullied the relationship (women, on the other hand, were inferior creatures who could be used for physical pleasure).
- Also, being well endowed was considered comical and barbaric - real men didn't have big dicks (a resemblance to young boys' was preferred, hence the lack of endowment in Michelangelo's David, modeled on Greek statues).
- They thought it transferred arete from the man to the boy. A similar thing is found in Papua New Guinea, where it's thought that boys will never become men if they don't eat a steady diet of semen. However, vaginas are considered "poisonous," so once a man has slept with a woman, he can't feed the boys anymore.
- Modern military forces frown on sexual relations between soldiers. Thebes, on the other hand, encouraged them, creating the Sacred Band, composed of 150 pairs of lovers, which is often credited with a decisive role in Thebes' defeat of Sparta at the Battle of Leuctra. Supposedly, this made soldiers more willing to die for their comrades/lovers. Of course, the Theban army was composed of men only...
- In modern Western culture, premarital sex is accepted, and even considered normal. Couples can live together without being married, and even raise a family like that. One can go home from a nightclub with someone he/she has just met and have sex. But go to a conservative country or region with deeply-entrenched traditional values regarding marriage and sex, and such behavior is frowned upon at best, and (in some cases) a capital offense.
- And this is a relatively recent development even in the West. Sex has been Serious Business in most cultures for most of written history.
- And even within the West. Nearly everything mentioned above would be maligned in the more conservative areas of the US, while no one would bat an eye in liberal cities like New York or Los Angeles. And even in New York or Los Angeles, there are numerous jokes about the so-called "walk of shame", referring to someone post-one night stand heading home in the early morning, wearing the party clothes they wore the night before, making it obvious to most people what they've been up to. Whereas in somewhere like Paris, people will all but congratulate you on having gotten some good lovin' the night before.
- This is inverted in some places in the US, such as college campuses. Seeing someone at the coffee shop in the morning wearing last night's mussed-up clothing barely merits a second glance. The joke being "we don't have the walk of shame, we have the stride of pride."
- In Russia and other former Soviet countries, it is still considered strange for a couple to be dating for a long time before getting married (i.e. what is commonly-accepted in the West). Any dating period lasting more than a few months starts getting looks. This was slowly changing, due to Western influences (with words like "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" being adopted by the Russians), but many traditional Slavic customs remain, especially in rural areas, and the current ultra-conservative government is aiming to teach those promiscuous heterosexuals a lesson, since the pesky gay people are already dealt with.
- Can be mildly inverted in some crowds in the West- say you don't believe in sex before marriage, and they'll say something like "What? Seriously?" Moreso in some circles where promiscuity is the expectation, namely athletes and musicians. Athletes who are forthright about their virginity, such as Tim Tebow or Lolo Jones, have been criticized on that basis.
- The National Geographic show Taboo discusses things that are taboo in Western society, usually in non-Western cultures but it sometimes discusses various subcultures in Western society.
- The Sioux don't even have taboo words. You'll find men named Penis or Testicles and women named Vagina with no trouble whatsoever.
- Dietary law? Try having an interfaith dinner with the Hindu who can't eat beef (and may be a vegetarian), the Jew who has to eat food prepared ritually (and won't eat pork, shellfish, and meat-dairy combos), the Muslim who has to have food prepared ritually according to other rituals (also no pork, but no alcohol too; meat-dairy combos are OK, but shellfish is off for Shiites), and the Sikh who can't have any meat that has been prepared ritualistically. Oh, and did we mention that if you have more than one Muslim, they might end up arguing about whether the Jewish rituals are "close enough"? Also, Mormons believe coffee (and anything with caffeine for some) and some forms of tea are very addictive and unwise to drink, and therefore avoid it at all cost, to the point of some not eating chocolate (where caffeine is also extracted from). Meat in general can be taken off the menu if it's Friday during Lent and you've got Catholics around.
- Order the salad! Oh, wait. You'll have a problem with the Jain who can't eat root vegetable (carrots, potatoes, radish, turnips, etc), the Yazidi who can't have lettuce, the Buddhist who can't eat onions, Ashkenazi Jews who can't eat legumes during Passover, and the Kashmiri Brahmin who won't eat strongly spiced food (so no pepper, garlic, or onion).
- Note on Catholics: Good news and bad news. Bad news is there is a growing trend among more traditional Catholics to go back to the original rule of no meat on Fridays at all, which is officially the case in the UK. Good news is that the dietary laws don't consider fish to be meat.
- If the fish bit is news to you you've never been past a seafood place during Lent. Or, for that matter, have never watched commercial television during Lent: You ever wonder why McDonald's and the other lot all of a sudden start to advertise fish sandwiches and other fish-based products—sometimes even creating them from scratch "for a limited time" (see: Mickey D's "Fish McBites")-for several weeks in the spring? Simple-Catholics.
- If you invite a few unbelieving friends along, this could apply if they're vegetarians and vegans provided their choice of diet is based on moral stances (is meat murder, or not?) And then there's the fruitarians, who turn the whole thing Up to Eleven.
- Kissing. Not taboo per se, but its level of seriousness varies A LOT from culture to culture, as well as the kind of kiss-a warrant was put out for Richard Gere's arrest after he kissed an Indian actress on the cheek, and Natalie Portman and a co-star were chased away from the Western Wall after filming a kissing scene-behavior that wouldn't have batted an eye in the US.
- Gets worse if it's a gay couple, of course: hence why about a decade or two ago (from 2013), gay kisses on TV were often controversial if less so now, in the West. Conversely, the taboo itself is considered a form of anti-gay discrimination by gay rights supporters, and as a result can even be against the law (a pub in the UK which threw out a gay couple for kissing was successfully prosecuted).
- Relatedly, hugging. The "European Cheek Kiss" is much like a hug in the US, but hugging a stranger or a mild acquaintance in, say, France, runs into the same problems as kissing someone would have in the US. Its basically like the meanings of the two actions got switched somewhere over the ocean.
- Any form of touching, for that matter. Even in the United States, there are cultures and societies that forbid even holding hands until marriage.
- Sharia Law almost forbids any form of male and female contact-and lets just leave it at that.
- Among other things, the Quran demands that a husband satisfy his wife in bed before focusing on his own satisfaction. On the other hand, any woman who refuses her husband in bed can be equally damned.
- The Mosuo culture, a small group in China, have been described as a "world without husbands or fathers." Men and women never get formally married, but go through long courtship rituals competing with other guys, and it's wrong to feel jealous if a girl chooses someone else. The man will continue to visit the woman for the duration of their relationship, sometimes with months between visits. The fathers are not considered related to the children, only to the mother (there's no stigma when a woman doesn't know which man fathered them-although it's considered embarrassing-though most do not change partners frequently, although this may have been a more recent change under pressure from the majority Han Chinese, who disapproved of their promiscuity). Instead the children's uncle will care for them, doing household tasks, while women do the hard work and run the family.
- An American teacher living in Japan was becoming annoyed that so many of his co-workers and students were commenting on-and complimenting/congratulating him on his recent weight gain. A colleague finally told him that they weren't trying to insult or ridicule him. Quite the opposite in fact—they had assumed that he had met a woman who was a good cook-a catch for a man from ANY country or culture-and were happy for him.
- Not only Japan. James Herriot tells in his books that he received a number of such compliments from farmers once he married.
- Dress codes. What many people consider normal would be considered slutty in more conservative cultures.
- Discordians will happily marry just about anyone to any combination of people or things, but may have some reservations about joining a man and woman in holy matrimony (note that, like the image boards example, this is to poke fun at existing taboos).
- Holding up your index finger and middle finger while spreading them apart. In some countries, this is a symbol for peace, in others it represents "V for Victory", but in Britain it's considered an offensive gesture, similar to raising just your middle finger. Though, that depends on which way the palm is facing. Facing outwards, it's a symbol of peace but if the palm is facing inwards it's a less-offensive version of Flipping the Bird.
- Played straight in New Zealand. Flash a peace sign and you'll get faces of stone.
- In Greece the "V" sign is considered offensive with the palm facing outwards, though it is not as obscene as holding up your hand with all fingers spread with the palm towards the other person. The "V" sign is considered a reduced form of the latter.
- Breastfeeding in public. In some places it will be cheered on, in others will get you arrested for disorderly conduct, and in further others simply not paid attention at all for being considered the normalest thing ever.
- And commenting on it as well. In some places, you so much as pull a face or look to see what they're doing, you'll be yelled at for being a misogynist with no respect for something so natural, in other places, all you have to do is mention it to the manager and you can have the mother and child thrown out and barred for life.
- Also, the duration of breastfeeding. In India and the Philippines mothers breastfeed their infants for two years or longer. In the US, Canada, and Great Britain breastfeeding after 6 months is unusual, and breastfeeding for a year or more is very taboo. Mothers who breastfeed longer than that typically hide the practice from others, known as "closet nursing".
- Jesus is a common given name in Spanish and Arabic (particularly among Arab Christians). In English? Name your kid that and expect to be swarmed by cries of blasphemy.
- Countries like Germany and the Netherlands consider religious cussing to be eons less offensive than say, the United States. Even in first grade, one can get away with terms like 'hell', 'damn', 'devil' and 'satan' without as much as judging glare.
- Such words aren't considered even remotely linked to swearing in France. "Hell" is just the religious place, "Satan" and "Devil" mythical figures. Actually you'll get glance if you act like if they were offensive.
- Even words such as 'shit' aren't censored in any media anywhere (the German equivalent of 'shitty' is even less offensive; for instance, it made South Park's 'It Hits The Fan' episode less poignant than it could have been), except maybe (obviously) in shows targeted at kids below the age of ten.
- The American versions of most cuss words are considered even less offensive than that, to the point that they are featured in some kids' shows (like the Scotsman constantly saying 'sheet!' in the German dub of Freakazoid!). This can lead to quite some unintentional humour when Germans witness people in American media reprimanding or being cross with others for being very very mildly bawdy.
- Mature sexual slang, on the other hand...
- Australia is also'okay with swearing, for the most part, only racist epithets get outrage.
- Nudist culture. Played reversed if you should ever attempt to wear a swimsuit while inside a nudist retreat. It's all or nothing. (The thought is that if everyone is naked, it's normal; make exceptions and it will become sexualised.)