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Your Normal Is Our Taboo

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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 considers 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.

Our Nudity Is Different is a subtrope.

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. For romantic examples, see True Love Is a Kink. If different cultures object to food and beverages of another culture, see Foreign Queasine.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • Beast Complex
    • In The Black Panther and the Sea Otter, one of our protagonists for the evening is an Otter who was hired by a company on land because he's fluid in both Japanese and Seaspeak. However, he often brings in fish for lunch. While eating meat is seen as normal in the sea, it's heavily frowned upon on land to the point where Carnivores have to resort to eating black market meat supplied from hospitals and funeral homes or risk going mad with hunger and actually killing someone. His co-workers compare his favorite snack of dried sardines to an entire industry where babies are slaughtered en masse and sold for the public consumption but they're too scared of him to say anything.
    • In The Spotted Seal and the Wolf, Zaguem and Legoshi are asked by an octopus to find her missing daughter. They discover that she has already been killed and butchered by a poacher. Zaguem buys the meat and eats it and justifies it by saying that it would be better than letting her get eaten by a stranger, but Legoshi is very disturbed. The octopus then invites them to the funeral and Legoshi is again uncomfortable because Zaguem insists that he should attend the funeral naked since nobody else at the funeral will be wearing clothes either.
  • The Zentradi of Macross, when they first encounter humankind in Super Dimension Fortress Macross, are initially confused and perturbed by the apparent fact that humans spend all of their time micloned (initially assuming that, like themselves, the default form of humans is gigantic and becoming smaller is an inconvenience) and 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.
  • Because their massive size makes finding a suitable body of water difficult, most dragons in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid consider it perfectly acceptable to lick each other clean. When Tohru admits that she's done it with Kanna before, Kobayashi points that it's really lewd by human standards.
  • Used in Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, as the Synchro dimension considers slavery, poverty, and extreme prejudice normal and natural. The protagonist discovers this the hard way when he gets publicly mocked by a giant crowd for being understandably horrified.
  • Yuuutsu-kun to Succubus-san: Sakuma the Succubus has a very skewed idea of what is considered good and proper where sex is concerned. To her, displays of pure love are the height of perversion while watching porn is considered a wholesome family activity. When visiting a shrine with Yuu during New Years, she is absolutely shocked to see a young couple walk past them holding hands.
    Sakuma: There must be something wrong with their brain if they can simply walk outside while holding hands like that! (to herself) That's what two people holding hands look like... wow... it's the first time I've seen it... (out loud) In the Demon World, that kind of stuff would be rated R... they'd probably censor the hands with mosaics even... it's totally against the Demon Ethics Association...

    Comic Books 
  • Midnighter from The Authority is regarded in a friendly but odd manner by time-traveling allies from the future. Not because he is gay and they are straight, but because he is gay and they are all bisexual.
  • Similar to the TV examples below, one Star Trek: The Next Generation miniseries features 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.
  • Parodied in Kieron Gillen's 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.
  • Ratchet of the Red Lanterns was from a planet that practiced a religion that made it taboo for people to meet each other in person outside of special environmental suits. He was isolated and tortured for violating this taboo, and his anger attracted his Red Lantern Ring.

    Comic Strips 
  • This Modern World: In one 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 and by some gay people for straight folk.

    Fan Works 
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: This shows up here and there, in regards to both the real world and the original show, mostly as side effects of Corona's betrayal.
    • Gold is taboo. To mint coins from the stuff is borderline blasphemy (and possibly treason), nopony buys gold jewelry, and even to mention it in a complementary manner raises eyebrows.
    • Similarly, there is a kind of phobia of the Sun. Nopony will willingly be out of doors at high noon (and if you need shelter from the noonday sun, even a complete stranger will let you in), and having a sun-themed cutie mark is considered a sign of incredibly bad luck.
    • As you might expect, for ponies to eat meat is considered distinctly icky in most contexts, though the fact that there's a pretty well-known distinction between sapient and non-sapient species cuts down on the Carnivore Confusion.
  • Foundling: The youkai do find humans in some regards weird, as was shown by Ran and Suika's conversation about cows and, apparently, as we find out, youkai don't keep cows as their preferred food animals, however, they do keep chickens and or pigs, along with the fact that they don't understand why humans would keep cows. Earlier, apparently, youkai in this fic keep pets (or their equivalent) but they find the thought of keeping a human as a pet to be weird.
  • The Mission Stays the Same: This is one of the biggest sources of conflict. Captain Gallardi is from the Imperium of Man, and his Absolute Xenophobe outlook clashes heavily with the more optimistic and accepting Mass Effect universe — the idea of peaceful coexistence between humans and aliens is a difficult pill for him to swallow, let alone formal alliances and Interspecies Romances. He does his best to function in the environment, but begins having a crisis of faith as he starts adjusting to the norms of the new universe.
  • In one Tin Man fanfic, painting one's nails (particularly the toenails) is something only "disreputable" ladies do in Oz. DG is a little confused at the stares Cain gives her when she goes around barefoot — painted nails are not a big deal in Kansas, after all.
  • The Palaververse: The Corvids (giant sapient crows, ravens, magpies, and similar corvid birds) eat their dead, something they see as very honorable and respectful treatment of the deceased and as good use of resources (their homeland has persistent food shortage issues). The other (mostly herbivorous) species donít exactly share this view.
  • In a flashback in Natural Selection, Satsuki is shown to be fascinated at the concept of a justified parental argument between Ira and his mother, on the grounds that, should she have ever raised her voice to Ragyo, she would have earned the back of her hand at best and had it forced between her thighs at worst, such is Ragyo's disdain for being talked back to. The only circumstance in which she can imagine being able to truly shout Ragyo down is one where her mother is already defeated as a last act of gloating.
  • In What Tomorrow Brings, Mertil is shocked when Loren nonchalantly reveals that she knew Alloran before he was infested, as Alloran's name has become a curse for the Andalite fleet.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars:
    • For a Jedi, "attachment" is taboo. However, sex is not taboo. Some writers have taken this to mean that if you're a Jedi, you can have all the sex you want, but you can't have a fully meaningful relationship with any of your partners. The old Expanded Universe takes this as far as possible under the censors. The fanfics take it even further.
    • Depending on the Writer, it doesn't just extend to romantic attachments, either; having any sort of strong emotional connection to anyone seems to be at least slightly frowned upon. However, actual enforcement seems to have been rather intermittent, which is probably for the best from a writing standpoint. Luke quite sensibly ditches the rule completely when he recreates the Order, after seeing what it did to his father. note  The fact that it was introduced in the Attack of the Clones, after Luke was married in the EU, probably had something to do with it.
  • Hinted at in Woody Allen's Sleeper:
    Luna: I wanted to have sex, but we didn't invite enough people.
  • Parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail with the Knights Who Until Recently Said "Ni!" There's a certain word they don't want you to say around them. The word is "it."
    Knight: He said the word again!
  • In The Namesake, Gogol's college girlfriend makes a horrible impression on Ashoke and Ashima when she first meets them, first by bringing them an overly elaborate gift, then by addressing them both by their first names without their permission (probably because her own parents allowed Gogol to do this with them), and is physically affectionate with them (kissing them on the cheek) and Gogol (holding his hand) in their presence, something frowned on in their more traditional culture. It's especially irritating as Gogol warned her about all this before the meeting, only for her to completely disregard it. She dooms the relationship by showing up at Ashoke's funeral in a black (everyone else is clad in white), sleeveless dress.
  • Wind River: White FBI agent Jane is aghast at the idea that Native American Natalie's (the murder victim) parents let her move out of their home and in with her boyfriend without having even met the guy, but in their community, once someone is of legal age, they are regarded as an adult capable of making their own decisions without parental interference.
  • Played for laughs in Epic Movie, where Mr. Tumnus reacts with disgust upon learning that both of Lucy's parents were human (his own dad screwed a goat).
  • Crazy Rich Asians: The central drama of the movie is Nick's family not approving of Rachel due to their American vs Chinese Culture Clash. Rachel sees her mother supporting her in her goals of pursuing her passion as a positive, prideful achievement, while that very aspect of her life is deeply offensive to Eleanor, for whom family is everything.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: While Peter has the typical reaction when the subject of his conception is brought up, Drax fondly reminisces on how his father would tell him the tale of his conception every Winter Solstice and tells Peter that humans have strange hang-ups.
  • Joan of Arc of Mongolia: A group of European women is staying with a nomadic Mongolian tribe. Frau Muller-Volwinkel hangs out her laundry to dry, only for the Mongolian women to flip out and chase her with burning sticks. It turns out that hanging laundry outside is an offense to Tengri, the sky god.

  • 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 else's lungs. Compare it to our disgust at drinking water from a brook someone has just urinated into in our presence.
  • 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 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.
  • 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. The dirtiest word, however, is "mother". "Father" is not exactly a regular term of endearment, either.
  • The Brightest Shadow: Regularly occurs between different cultures, such as normal Rhen sexual relationships being considered appropriate by Corans.
  • This is discussed in The Chrysalids when David, who has begun to doubt his society's biblical-fueled all mutants are abominations sent by Satan beliefs after befriending the six-toed Sophie, confides in his Uncle Axel. Axel explains how "normal" tends to be different around the world and, having been a sailor, has seen all kinds of different "normals" such as one society that only let women who had more than two breasts be mothers.
  • The narrator of Consider Her Ways time travels into the future, about a hundred and fifty years after a plague wiped out all men. She's nearly arrested for talking about sexual dimorphism.
  • 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.
    • The more traditional Dwarfs also consider writing of all kinds to be sacred (they believe their creator wrote the universe into existence), and the destruction of words to be a crime. When Vimes reveals that he was "blackboard monitor" at school and responsible for erasing the lesson at the end of class, he is met with some shock. Though the Low King of the dwarfs actually winds up using "Blackboard Monitor Vimes" as a respectful title, claiming that the duty must have been a great responsibility.
    • Trolls punch and throw rocks at each other as a friendly greeting (or, if it's a pretty rock, a romantic overture), and don't always remember there are good reasons not to do this to the squishy races. In Monstrous Regiment a bit of flirting between Troll soldiers serving with different sides during peace negotiations almost reignited the war. On the other hand, holding a hand out to a troll as in a human handshake is sign language for Your Mom.
    • For goblins, who often have long names such as Tears of the Mushroom or Of The Twilight The Darkness, a shortened name is considered a grave insult; Moist von Lipwig once called Of the Twilight The Darkness "Mr Twilight" and the goblin made it clear that he would allow that name to be used just the once because the two of them were alone and he recognises that Moist didn't know that would be offensive to him. The only exception to this rule is Stinky, the first goblin watchman, who accepts the nickname from his superior, Constable Feeny Upshot of the Shires, as they each recognised that Upshot needed to be able to call Stinky something that he could use quickly in the event of him either calling for help or to warn his colleague of danger.
  • In the Dreamblood Duology, the use of magic is completely banned in Kisua, while it is part of the fabric of Gujaareen life.
  • Earth's Children: Amongst the Hadumai, a man possessing a Mother figurine (representing the earth goddess) is considered bad luck, while for women it is considered good luck. As a result, most people are uncomfortable or downright shocked when they see Jondalar with such a figurine, although Haduma and Tamen are more understanding that the Zelandonii have different beliefs around them.
  • 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.
  • 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 women 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 Hoshi and the Red City Circuit, visible technology is regarded as shocking because people associate it with Operators, who need a Brain/Computer Interface that's visible outside their bodies to function. When Hoshi finds a drawer full of gears and motors, she compares it to someone in the twentieth century finding a drawer full of dildos and pictures of sodomy.
  • In the Imperial Radch series, Radchaai always wear gloves in public and are moderately scandalized by people who go around bare-handed. At one point, Breq (who is Radchaai but is posing as a clueless tourist) offers to buy a pair for a self-conscious acquaintance but is quickly told that it would be seen as inappropriately intimate to do so.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle: In The Wise Man's Fear, Kvothe learns about the Adem culture, who 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 Signals 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, which leaves The Bard Kvothe frustrated that they see his profession as akin to prostitution.
  • 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.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin really liked this trope. From her 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 bisexual. It's considered odd and shameful for someone to only like one gender.
    • In 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 human from Earth 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 Dispossessed; the people of Anarres do not refer to "my partner" since that would imply possession. Instead, they say "the partner". This extends to other family members and the family members of others, even when it causes ambiguity in whose mother is being referred to. In the same story but separately; on Urras it is customary for women to shave their heads bald and cover them with sparkling cosmetics, while the Anarresti do not shave at all.
  • In Line of Delirium, one of the hundreds of planets in the Human Empire is Maretta. The Marettans are known for a cultural quirk, where they consider eating to be a repulsive and shameful (but, of course, necessary) act akin to defecation. As such, one never eats in front of others. A son typically serves his father the food and makes sure to stand behind him in order to avoid seeing the repulsive act. Only after the father is done, the son is allowed to clean up and eat any remains. Within the walls of his palace, The Emperor can pick and choose which laws he likes from among the planets in his empire. And those preferences can change at any moment. Currently, the Emperor is into prepubescent girls, using the mores of the planet Culthos as a justification.
  • Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress:
    • There are a bunch of different varieties of marriage, but pretty much all of them involve multiple people due to the skewed gender ratio and general living conditions on the Moon. One of the main characters is arrested for polygamy while visiting Earth, but it's revealed that the polygamy might actually have been overlooked by the judge who issued the warrant if it hadn't been for the racial diversity shown in a picture of his family. However, it's also noted that not all of Earth is so judgmental, and this was actually a deliberate ploy to gain sympathy from the less prejudiced Earthlings.
    • Luna culture is also almost reversed from that of Earth in terms of sexism, again due to the gender ratio. Property within a marriage is almost always held in the women's name(s), and a man can't get divorced unless all of his wives agree. Outside of marriage, any aggression or abuse towards a woman is grounds for being thrown out of the nearest airlock, even for minor infractions that would be considered hardly worth a mention on Earth today, let alone when the book was written.
  • 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 country of Adara in Gail Dayton's One Rose Trilogy, people marry into groups called "Ilians", which consist of no fewer than four (and no more than twelve) partners of any combination of sexes. The main character just can't figure out why a member of her Ilian from another country is so insecure and jealous until he explains the concept of monogamy. Earlier in the series, the protagonist herself had considered marrying another character, then rejected the idea because they had no one else to join them, and what kind of half-formed Ilian would that be?
  • Violence and killing in An Outcast in Another World is somewhat normalized in Elatra, at least compared to Earth. Due to the RPG Mechanics the world is governed by, power is gained through killing, and that's trickled down to society at large. It takes Rob a while to come to grips with this.
  • 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...
  • 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 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 Robert A. Heinlein novel, Space Cadet the Venusians consider it obscene to eat in public.
  • 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 ritualized 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.
  • Spinning Silver: The Staryk Fair Folk closely guard the secret of their names, whereas humans, who can't be magically bound by their names, are unaware of the practice. The Staryk King is honestly shocked when Miryem's grandfather introduces himself while inviting him inside.
  • In Star Carrier, monogamy is no longer mainstream, at least in the USNA. It's still practiced on the Periphery (the flooded remains of coastal American cities), as two is seen as the optimal number for survival in such an environment. However, in the arcologies, it's standard to join a "sex circle" instead. Expecting your current sexual partner to be exclusive is also frowned upon. When Trevor Grey (who grew up on the Periphery) is forced to enlist in the Space Navy, the others alternative refer to him as Prim (short for "primitive", since he mistrusts nanotech) and Monogie (since he prefers monogamy) in a derogatory manner. He does, eventually, learn that having multiple partners isn't necessarily a bad thing, but, after 20-year Time Skip, he still hasn't quite gotten used to it and prefers to be a serial monogamist instead.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Vorinism (the main 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 women are forbidden from fighting. Jobs and even food are 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).
      • Vorin culture holds that women have a "freehand" (right) and a "safehand" (left), and exposing the safehand 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. Several non-Vorin lampshade the absurdity of the taboo.
      • When the staid, genteel Highlord Dalinar is reminded of the time he tasted his sister-in-law's food — and liked it! — he's as embarrassed as if he'd been caught trying on her underwear.
      • Also, like some real-world cultures, they consider in-laws to be blood relatives. When Dalinar's Brother's widow starts expressing interest in him, he acts as though they are actually related.
    • Shin culture has a strong taboo against walking on stone, which, as Shinovar is the only region on the planet with soil, is rather awkward for Shin traveling outside their homeland. In addition, simply picking up a weapon in Shinovar is grounds for being put into slavery.
  • 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 compliment things that aren't covered by clothes.
  • In There Was No Secret Evil Fighting Organization, it's a cultural norm that elves always have some sort of branch woven through their hair. Going "branchless" is akin to nudity even when the elf is fully clothed, and elven women dream of wearing a branch from the oldest tree in the world (something only the elf queen is allowed to do) much as human women dream of wearing fancy gowns.
  • This is a large part of the Thousand Cultures series, as every conceivable ethnic, religious, ideological and utopian concept culture get their own space colony, and then humanity figures out instantaneous interstellar transport via the springer, forcing all these disparate cultures to have to deal with each other after centuries of isolation. At one point, we see a group scorned as "starvers" because they practice agriculture as part of their traditions, despite food replicators existing, and sometimes due to poverty or a bad harvest, people do go hungry.
  • 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 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • An early episode, "Coming of Age", finds Wesley testing for admittance to Starfleet Academy. He encounters a "pop quiz" where he encounters a Zaldan. But he knows enough to answer the Zaldan's accusations with hostility, which actually calms him down. This is because Zaldans believe in laying one's emotions bare; they view courtesy as a facade and consider it insulting.
      • The Tellarites are the same way. They are often abrasive and insulting. Courtesy is viewed as dishonest and an attempt to conceal something. But if you start insulting them back, they will immediately like you and even offer you a drink.
    • In "The Outcast", 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 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 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.
      • Gets a hilarious gag in the DS9 episode "Family Business" when Quark and Rom return home to deal with their mother, who is quite the feminist. They find her in her house, clothed, and react as one would expect any human coming home to find their elderly mother naked.
      • In Ferengi culture, marriage isn't tied to procreation. A child is conceived with a contract and the womb is seen as a rental by the father.
      • Ferengi also can be baffled by the fact that most other societies aren't impressed by financial conquests, which they liken to military conquests. Most of the rest of the galaxy has a Post-Scarcity Economy, but the concept of scarcity is a deeply sacred part of Ferengi culture. Also, while most cultures do have some concept of money, most really do not care much about it. (Case in point, Klingons still have currency trade for goods and services, but they view using economics to ruin a rival to be underhanded and dishonorable. The accusation of such results in one offender being outcast from Klingon culture in "The House of Quark". Using economics to buy military might to ruin a rival is much more preferable.)
    • One of the reasons that the Star Trek: The Original Series Klingon/Romulan alliance fell apart was because, while both were warrior-based cultures, the Klingons viewed the Romulans as arrogant and chronic violators of Evil Has Standards, whereas Romulans felt that Klingons had Honor Before Reason to a fault and were backwards. The Human/Klingon Alliance formed out of the Klingon-Romulan conflict when the Klingons realized that humans may not have the same rules as they did, but they at least had rules, which was better than Romulans.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Trill marriages are "until death do us part" — only this is in a society where Joined Trill carry memories from the lives of multiple people by way of a symbiont (and it's the host's death, not the symbiont's, that ends the marriage). And it's not just that the previous host's marriage isn't binding on the new host (which would make sense); Joined Trill are expressly prohibited from resuming a past host's relationship note . Jadzia falls prey to this in "Rejoined", falling head over heels in love with another Joined Trill whose past host was married to her past host. Nobody even notices that they are of the same gender, suggesting that 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. Word of God explained the reasoning for this: if pairs where both partners were joined Trill could continue relationships across multiple host iterations, it would develop into an entrenched aristocratic class of symbiont families.
    • Star Trek: Discovery confirms the "no longer taboo" part, as it has a stable homosexual couple as major characters (both played by openly gay actors). And while one of them is killed halfway through the first season, this isn't shown as any less tragic than if a heterosexual character was killed, and his partner's grief is palpable.
  • In yet another Star Trek example, this time Star Trek: Enterprise, the B-plot of "Vox Sola" has 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 in "A Night in Sickbay", 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.
    • An ongoing plot detail is that Dr. Phlox's race, the Denobulans, practice polygamy: he has three wives, each of whom also have two other husbands, and so on. They also have looser standards of "marital fidelity" than humans. When he notices that one of his wives is sexually attracted to Trip, he is openly encouraging about it, much to Trip's discomfort. That being said, Denobulans have fairly mature attitudes about sex, so he's not overtly promiscuous either.
    • In a similar case, the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Macrocosm" 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.
  • 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).
    • Dolls and action figures are expected to be anatomically correct in Centauri culture. Thus, in the episode "There All the Honor Lies", when 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.
      Ivanova: So you feel as though you're being symbolically cast... in a bad light?
    • 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 apparently taboo among the Vorlons (Kosh, at one point, berates Sheridan for asking him this). Similarly, the Shadows avoid answering the question "Who are you?"note 
    • 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 that 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 (naturally, Garibaldi thinks that it adds character to the book).
    • Centauri Regent Milo Virini claims that his only vice is "strict sobriety." This is, however, explained. Centauri lives are defined by Duty. So much so that the Centauri made self-care a Duty, so it wouldn't be drowned out by the other duties that govern Centauri existence. Centauri culture is also quite big on recreational drugs. By exercising sobriety, Milo Virini is neglecting his duty to himself by refusing the pursuit of pleasure, and this is considered just as vile as if he had ignored another duty.
    • In "Believers", we are presented with the 'Children of Time', who do not believe in surgery since any incision of the skin will release the soul. A child whose life Dr. Franklin saves is treated as an abomination by his parents, who ritually kill the child to reunite him with his soul. The episode is focused on Sinclair's warnings to Franklin about infringing upon the parents' religious beliefs, followed by the parents petitioning the other alien ambassadors to intervene, highlighting the cultural differences among the various races — the Minbari overspiritualize the issue and never give a firm answer; the Narns hide behind bureaucracy; the Centauri are willing to intervene (but at a steep up-front price); and the Vorlons refuse to get involved for reasons known (at the time) only to them. These themes are revisited repeatedly in the series.
  • 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 bathes alone, an appalled Datak exclaims "What kind of person does that?"
    • Not to mention what they consider acceptable punishment for people who break social customs...
    • The Omec in Season 3 unabashedly practice Parental Incest (one father is embarrassed about getting caught cheating on his daughter), along with hunting and eating sentient beings, slavery, and breeding life forms to use their body parts for medical purposes. They're practically this trope incarnate.
  • In the season 8 episode "Ritual" of Law & Order, this trope is invoked when the protagonists attempt to talk an Egyptian woman out of making her daughter undergo a clitoridectomy; it is a religious act akin to male circumcision in her homeland, but regarded as a misogynistic act of surgical mutilation in America. Subverting Culture Justifies Anything, when she refuses to adhere to the American viewpoint, she is legally separated from her daughter and prohibited from ever speaking with her again.
  • Brave New World: In New London, things which "savages" (or people now) take for granted, like having families, monogamous relationships, or privacy are "selfish" and unacceptable.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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 CthulhuTech, the Nazzadi have no nudity taboo, and the artists for the books will demonstrate their lack of modesty.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the Nentir Vale 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.
    • The Wu Jen character class features this trope as a class feature. They must abide by various taboos to maintain their magic power. A lot of these can sound bizarre to others but are taken seriously by the Wu Jen. Examples of taboos can be no consumption of meat or any animal products, not wearing certain colors, not bathing at all (or bathing way too much) and so on. Penalties can vary for violating any taboo; in 2E, it was possible for a Wu Jen to die for breaking any taboo while 3E simply has them lose their magic for 24 hours.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • In Mass Effect, having the hots for a Green-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), and look down upon "purebloods", the children of such unions. 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 trope, it's also stated that most Hanar who leave their planet need to be taught how the other races are more informal 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.
  • 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 that 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 King of Dragon Pass, you play as a primeval Proud Warrior Race that has...odd...ideas about which parts of the body are sexy. One of their myths describes a successful seduction: "he showed her the soles of his feet, so she could not resist his sacred progenitive powers".
    • The sequel isn't much different. The Rider people regularly break horses for all sorts of purposes, including war and religious sacrifice...but they consider the Wheel people's "caging" of horses to chariots weird and cruel.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Athena cannot 'turn off' her powers, which she's had since birth, and therefore barely understands the concept of privacy.
    • The Kurain clan marginalizes its men because only women can channel spirits. The discrimination has gotten so bad that functional heterosexual relationships are considered exotic.

  • 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 as the average living human would be by the thought of two liches making out with each other. 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.
    • There was a... little misunderstanding between Nale and his succubus girlfriend over the issue of jealousy. Which Elan managed to exploit later.
  • 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. In fact, one picture Dirk drew where one person was copping a feel was outright rejected. (This is because uu, a.k.a. 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:
      TT: Yeah, gimme a minute.
      TT: Ok.
      uu: NO. THIS ISN'T AS GOOD.
    • In The Inaugural Death of Mister Seven, from the Paradox Space spin-off, Crowbar reacts with revulsion when he walks in on two of his fellow Felt dancing. This is because the Felt are leprechaun-like aliens whose reproduction system is established by two men engaging in jigs, riddles, pranks, and games of chance.
  • Drowtales:
    • Bisexuality and multiple partners is the norm for drow — pure heterosexuals like Zala'ess and her husband Sabrror and pure homosexuals like Mel'anarch are considered abnormal. In both cases, it mostly seems like the drow are puzzled as to why one would restrict their choice of partners to only one gender than any actual prejudice against the orientations.
    • 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.
  • Slightly Damned:
    • After Kieri's brother 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.
    • The world of Medius also seems to no taboo against crossdressing. Kieri the angel seems to have never heard of crossdressing before. Because of how militaristic their society is, angels don't appear to even have different clothing for different genders, they instead are required to show their gender by how they dye their hair, with females dyeing most of their hair and males only dyeing the small part that females don't.
  • Outsider:
    • The Loroi have a cultural taboo toward casual physical contact since their telepathic ability is distance-variant, and skin-to-skin contact makes an extremely strong connection (and even works to some degree with non-telepathic species). The scientist Beryl, after seeing Ensign Jardin shaking hands with a Loroi pilot and hearing that it's a human custom, is eager to try it since humans are apparently immune to Loroi telepathy.
    • The Nissek are notable among the spacefaring cultures for having no taboos against eating carrion or the flesh of sapient creatures, including other Nissek.
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • Artists on the net (both of the fan and original variety) tend to exaggerate this taboo: in works depicting two characters as a "pure" couple, the mere act of holding hands will cause the lovebirds to get nervous, especially if they're "unprotected" (read: have no gloves on). The only thing more scandalous is interlocking their fingers while they do it.
  • 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!
  • A Hero's War: Cato, having come from Earth, is rather alarmed by the idea that the ancient Tsarians freely experimented with genetically modifying humans, resulting in two strains of "demihumans" that remain to the current day. Landar, and apparently Inath culture in general, is unbothered, treating it no differently from modifying cattle.
  • Tales of MU:
    • Played for Blue-and-Orange Morality, 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.
    • 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.

    Web Videos 
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • Assuming it isn't just propaganda by mainstream Christians, the Borborite Gnostic sect would have hit this button to the extreme, since their version of the Eucharist included eating semen, menstrual blood, and abortions...
  • In ancient Greece love between grown men and teenage boys was considered not just normal, but desirable.
    • Many held that 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). This was the view of Plato, hence the term "Platonic love". Although, to the Greeks, only penetrative sex was considered intercourse, mutual masturbation was fine.
    • 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.
  • In ancient Greece 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). Furthermore, a publicly visible penis wasn't all that bad (and it was a common sight, since male athletes competed in the nude), but having an erection was considered shameful.
  • 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." Well, that, and the fact that the person is more likely still up from last night due to cramming or working on a project/paper that is due that day.
    • 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.
    • 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?" Especially in some circles where promiscuity is the expectation, such as athletes and musicians. Athletes who are forthright about their virginity, such as Tim Tebow or Lolo Jones, have been criticized on that basis.
    • Sex education in The Netherlands begins as early as primary school, for children as young as 4. This is certainly in stark contrast to conservative regions of the US that insist on abstinence-only teaching. Even the more liberal areas of the US don't start until 5th grade (age 10-11).
  • In some places, being openly LGBTQ+ (of whatever variety) is considered unacceptable, along with any kind of non-heterosexual/non-reproductive sex. In these places (and historically far more) this would only take place in secret, with these acts being illegal, even capital crimes.
  • 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 can'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 and shellfish are OK), and the Sikh who can't have any meat that has been prepared ritualistically. Oh, and the Muslim might have opinions on whether the Jewish rituals are "close enough"? Also, Mormons cannot have "hot drinks" (tea and coffee), often erroneously believed to be a complete caffeine taboo. The Muslims and, depending on the denomination, some of the Christians, can't drink alcohol. All meat is prohibited for the Catholics, but only if it's Friday during Lent. Not to mention, people who have strict dietary requirements for nonreligious morals, like vegans.
    • 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 or Krishna who can't eat onions, the Jew who can't eat any fruits or veggies without first examining every inch of them for bugs, 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. (Or several "canonically fish" meats, such as hippo or capybaras, the world's largest rodent.)
    • Eating dogs or cats is considered normal in parts of East Asia and West Africa (as long as they are dogs and cats you own and not stolen from others), but in places who value pets such as the West or even other parts of Asia or Africa, this is terrifying because how could you eat those pets?! And it should be noted that even though it's mainly older generations (people who were born pre-1990s) who still eat dogs due to Values Dissonance and the fact that many younger people find those animals unappetizing nowadays, it is still normal and not frowned upon in said regions.
      • Same with eating horse meat. Perfectly sensible in most of the world, but taboo in many English-speaking countries.
      • Not all younger people find it unappetizing. While the trend has been that fewer young people eat dog due to Western influence, it is still appetizing to some and basically just a normal meal like eating beef or pork. People's reaction to this and the closing of many dog-meat restaurants due to backdraft is a contentious topic.
      • And that's just how it stands, for the meat of domesticated animals. What types of wildlife it's acceptable to eat can be even more controversial between cultures, whether for ethical considerations (as with the many species threatened by the "bush meat" trade), traditional vs modern lifestyles (e.g. subsistence whaling by Arctic or island cultures), or just plain revulsion (like the distaste of Western diners for eating insects).
      • Ditto guinea pigs. In most of the world, guinea pigs are seen as pets, but in Peru and Ecuador, guinea pigs are food, where they are known as "cuy".
    • Similar to the dog/cat/horse taboo, Hindus consider cattle sacred and the idea of eating them is repulsive. Beef is a completely normal meat to most of the non-Hindu world.
  • 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.
    • This gets worse if it's a same-sex couple, of course: hence why about a decade or two ago (up until around the mid-2000s), gay kisses on TV were often controversial, if less so now in the West. Conversely, the taboo itself is considered a form of anti-LGBT discrimination by LGBT 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. It's 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.
    • Islam almost forbids any form of (adult) male and female contact outside of the family.
    • Public displays of affection are (traditionally) more frowned upon in Japan than in the West. Being a touch-averse society, for instance, bowing instead of shaking hands, the Japanese traditionally reserve physical affection for close relatives, especially small children, and sex partners. Thus, what Americans would consider relatively innocent public displays of affection would, in Japan, be regarded as boasting that a lot more is going on behind closed doors. The taboo is such that Japanese children are unlikely to see so much as a chaste kiss between their parents. Meanwhile, while the Japanese have to an extent adopted Western attitudes toward nudity, the nudity taboo is not as strong as it is in the West. Thus, mixed bathing is permitted to a greater degree in Japan, and nudity can be found in works marketed toward children, and can even include children (in a non-sexual context).
    • In many Middle Eastern cultures, physical contact between friends, especially male ones, is much more common than in the West. Young men walking around holding hands or even hugging is completely normal and not in any way sexual. Similarly, most Middle Eastern societies have No Sense of Personal Space compared to Western ones, as people will happily converse mere inches from each other's face, while Western culture dictates that people should be at arm's length.
  • 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.
    • This is also the case in Africa and the Caribbean, where overweight women, particularly those with large rear ends, are traditionally considered more attractive than skinny women. Often heard in calypso and dancehall, but is sometimes present in American black culture too (Sir Mix-a-lot's classic "Baby Got Back" being a prominent example). In Mauritania, girls are even sent to so-called "fat camps" to gain weight and be seen as desirable.
  • 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 depends on which way the hand is facing. Facing palm outwards, it's both a symbol of peace and of victory but if the palm is facing inwards it's a version of Flipping the Bird.
    • 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 most normal 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.
    • The anglicization of Jesus (Yeshua) is actually Joshua, and there are plenty of American people called that.
    • Italy has some legal restriction on names that can be given to a child, including "Gesù" (the Italianization of Jesus), names considered ridiculous or linked to misfortune (such as "Venerdì", Friday in English. A couple actually had their child named by the registry officer for insisting on said name and was fined when they sued) or handicaps, most names linked to geography, a parent's name, a name of the opposite gender, and many others. This isn't exactly out of some cultural taboo but to protect the children: Italians mock everything and everyone, and a child with a name such as Benito would become a target for all the other kids.
  • Did Not Do the Bloody Research. Certain curse words are more or less offensive based on the country.
    • The United States:
      • Within the country, swearing mores vary wildly. Swearing, and religious swearing in particular, is considered more taboo in certain corners, such as the South, than the others, such as the coasts.
      • British curses, such as bloody, arse, wanker, and shag, are considered euphemisms for swear words rather than swear words themselves.
    • Germany and the Netherlands:
      • These countries consider religious cussing to be inoffensive. Even in first grade, one can get away with terms like "hell" and "damn" without so much as a judging glare.
      • Words such as "shit" aren't censored. 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. It depends on where you look, however, and is not always consistent — [adult swim] will sometimes bleep the word, and sometimes they won't.
      • The Dutch word for "cunt" ("kut") is usually used as an adjective or an exclamation, and is nowhere near as offensive as in English - it's used more like "shit(ty)", to describe weather, behavior, situations, misbehaving appliances... More offensive if used on people.
    • France and Italy: Religious swear words aren't considered swearing. "Hell" is just the religious place, etc.
    • In Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, phrases like "¡maldición!" ("damn!"), "¿Qué diablos?" (roughly corresponds to "what the hell?"; literally means "what devils?") and even "(vete) al diablo!" and "vete al Infierno" (literally "(go) to the devil" and "go to hell"), can be heard in family-friendly media. The word "Infierno", used to refer to Hell as a place, is never censored or even avoided at all; "jokes" where characters can't say the word "hell" fall completely flat after dubbing. However, words like "estúpido" and "idiota" ("stupid" and "idiot") are much stronger than in English, and then there's "pendejo", (in some countries it refers to pubic hair, but in Mexico, it's more or less the equivalent of "dumb-ass" or "stupid-ass") which is considered much more offensive than "idiota" or "estupido"; "son of a bitch" is also much stronger than in American English; it's translated as "hijo de puta" (literally "son of a whore"). "Puta" is usually bleeped or not said at all on TV; its synonym, "ramera," won't get bleeped, but it's still considered a demeaning word, and hardly ever heard on TV as well. The literal translation of "son of a bitch", "hijo de perra", is also very strong; "Coger", in most Spanish-speaking countries means "to grab" or "to pick up," but in Mexico, coger means "to fuck."
    • Quebecois French: Swear words are all based on religion, to the point where they are referred to collectively as sacres. Meanwhile, English swearing that would be censored in most Anglophone Canadian media may be reproduced without comment on Quebecois television.
    • Australia: Swearing in general is not considered as offensive here then in many other countries. For the most part; some radio stations are even fine with songs featuring the F-word being played mid-afternoon. Only racist epithets get outrage.
    • Country Matters: The word "cunt" is considered highly misogynistic in the United States, while in England and Australia, it has considerably less stigma and is generally just considered a bit coarse. The French equivalent is also pretty tame (generally meaning "dumbass") unless being used specifically to describe a woman's genitals.
  • 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 sexualized.)
  • Applying this trope to animals is pretty much a given, as they do not have a set rule for how they should live like humans do. The simplest example would probably be the nature of poisonous animals being brightly colored; from a human standpoint, a creature like a poison dart frog is beautiful because of its bright, vibrant colors, and even people who know that the little critter could kill you with a single touch find them utterly adorable. Any predatory animal in the wild, however, would be terrified of all those colors, as they're a warning sign that this animal is not to be ingested.
  • There are many countries, most notably most of the ones in eastern Asia, where speaking ill of any political leader is blasphemous. Either you speak praise about him or her, or you just stay silent, as you are expected to have absolute loyalty to your country and prioritize their beliefs over your own. In more extreme cases, you pretend you like them. This can come across to westerners, who mock and insult their political leaders all the time, as My Country, Right or Wrong (and, depending on how you look at it, might actually be that). At the same time, people from these countries who travel to the west are often horrified at how everyone seems to treat their leaders as trash.
  • Calling someone a monkey in the USA has a history of racism; that goes without saying for Americans. However, in Spanish-speaking countries like Argentina, it's akin to being called a bear of a man. This caused an uproar when a Swedish clothing retailer produced a sweater reading "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle", and had a young black man modeling it in their catalog. Many Americans were outraged at the racial insensitivity, while the company maintained that no racial implications were intended.
  • In Australia and New Zealand, calling people monkeys is mostly a playful expression of affection, used to describe children or used between adult friends. It can be racist, but only when it's referring to Indian people; racists using the term against other races is very uncommon. When New Zealander-born NBA player Steven Adams referred to his mostly African-American opponents as "quick little monkeys" in one interview, it sparked widespread outrage in America with some calling for him to be fired, and utter confusion in his native country.
  • In May 1997, Danish actress Anete Sørenson left her infant daughter outside of a Manhattan restaurant while she had a drink. She was arrested for child endangerment, spent 36 hours in jail, and her daughter was placed in foster care for four days until the situation was resolved. There was outrage at her actions from Americans who found her behavior highly stupid, irresponsible, and dangerous... and outrage at her arrest from Danes, who repeatedly stated that such a practice is very common in Denmark. A recent TikTok article followed up on this.
    • This is such a common problem that Americans traveling to foreign countries (and vice versa) are actually given handbooks to warn them about how commonplace behavior in one place can be considered anywhere from rude to outright illegal elsewhere.
    • This New York Times article demonstrates it even further — most European and Asian parents think their American counterparts are far too clingy/uptight/overprotective. Indeed, many American expats have reported getting funny looks at their child-rearing habits. Most of the parenting practices described in the article wouldn't bat an eye in their respective countries, but a good chunk of them would get the police or CPS called on them in the US.
  • This article discusses how an American college professor in Italy stopped by the piazza of a local church where he saw some kids playing, and taught them to play baseball. He commented that the scene would be unthinkable here in the US, where his actions would have earned him a visit from the police.
  • To most Indians, the idea that American parents, no matter how wealthy, generally expect their children at some point to get jobs and move out of the house when they reach young adulthood seems counterintuitive at best and cruel at worst. And it boggles their imagination that parents visiting their grown children on good terms in the U.S. sometimes stay at hotels nearby rather than avail themselves of their children's hospitality and vice versa. But to Americans, those are simply expected demonstrations of self-reliance, and not imposing yourself on the support of others.
  • Likewise, it shocks some foreigners that Americans sometimes pay their own children for doing housework and that even within immediate families goods change hands for money (albeit at less than market price). To Americans, nothing in life should be seen as free.
  • Online communities with dedicated members like fans of a specific work or subculture develop their own system of what is and isn't okay, and these often clash wildly with each other or with "NORPs" (Normal Ordinary Responsible Person, pretty much the most flattering of slang words for passive internet users who aren't familiar with internet subculture). This can lead to anything from mockery to outright battles when someone unfamiliar with it comes in and takes offense to the term "Newfag", innocently drops a slur or trigger word, or when a NORP enters either of those sites and finds the denizens passively talking about Waifus, shipping, weird fetishes, etc. These are only a few of countless examples: they could easily fill the entire page.
  • Throughout the late 1980s to the mid-2000s, it was common for English dubbing companies to make changes to anime to try and make it more appealing to western viewers. These included changing character's names, changing their personalities, changing plot points, changing the soundtrack, editing foreign words and signs to English, and editing or cutting out scenes that could be considered offensive. This is rarely done today by these companies as fans at the time decried it as them forcefully "westernizing" Japanese shows and sullying the efforts of the original creators. However, Japanese dubbing companies frequently use similar tactics when bringing western shows to their country, often to great success and much less criticism from their fans for the changes they make.
  • A lot of cases of Misplaced Nationalism between countries usually boil down to violations of deep-seated cultural taboos on the part of another country.
  • The custom of tipping gets Americans and Europeans discombobulated when they travel abroad to each other's countries. In the former, it's expected, as wages for waitstaff are very low and they depend on tips to survive. In Europe and other places, service charges are tacked onto restaurant bills. In some places like Japan or South Korea, tipping is even an insult (order more food if you want to show your appreciation at a restaurant there).
  • The Japanese adult industry (particularly the hentai side of it) produces some of the most depraved, extreme, often sickening, sometimes even horrifying pornographic content in the history of mankind, much of which (particularly the Lolicon and Shotacon) is illegal in many other countries... but the genitals always have to be censored. Always. It doesn't matter if the material is like something out of a particularly extreme rendition of The Aristocrats, the penis and vagina have to have at least some token censorship over them to comply with the law, whether it be black bars or pixelization, otherwise it would be "obscene". It's a constant source of irritation for western hentai fans, and the first question usually asked whenever any hentai work is given a western release is "Is it uncensored?" This sometimes even extends to spoken words as well, leading to hilarious scenes where a woman is begging to have all sorts of excessively lewd and depraved things done to her, but the word "manko" ("pussy") will still be inexplicably bleeped out. Sometimes they even bleep out "chinpo" ("penis"), although that's less common.
  • Recreational drugs. It would take too long to go into any detail, but very generally, the same drugs that are socially acceptable or may only get you a slap on the wrist to take in Europe or the more liberal parts of North America might carry a significant penalty in the more conservative parts of America, and might be punishable with life imprisonment or death in many Asian countries.
  • As cited on the Eye Contact as Proof page, this is a mostly Western phenomenon. So someone from another country/culture might accidentally come across as dishonest because he/she won't make eye contact with someone, while a Westerner might accidentally come across as rude or aggressive to them because they do this.
  • In Europe, having a glass of wine or beer is common at lunchtime and unremarkable, while doing so in the U.S. during the work week is often considered highly unprofessional at best and evidence of a serious drinking problem at worst.

Alternative Title(s): Alternative Normativity Kink, Alternate Normativity Kink, Our Normal Is Your Taboo, Your Taboo Is Our Normal, Our Taboo Is Your Normal



Nobody's called him fat before.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / YourNormalIsOurTaboo

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