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10 Ways Social Taboos About Sex, Drugs and Death Scare Us from Learning the Truth

Taboos power to keep the lid shut on debate, leading to harmful attitudes.

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4. Taboo: Excrement

Misconception: We go to the bathroom properly.

Evolution has designed humans to squat when relieving themselves. Sitting is unnatural and does not promote full expulsion. It is conjectured that the sitting posture contributes to a range of bowel problems like hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. In addition, a lifetime of sitting atrophies the muscles intended to aid in evacuation. As the health expert, Frederick Hornibrook, wrote in 1924, “The adoption of the squatting attitude would…help in no small measure to remedy the greatest physical vice of the white race, the constipation that has become a contentment.”

5. Taboo: Drugs

Misconception: Illicit drugs are exceptionally deadly.

The primary reason illicit drugs are so deadly is because they are illicit. An example of this is heroin. First, by making heroin more expensive than gold, criminalization has driven people to the dangerous practice of injecting the drug. Because of the high price the equally powerful rush of smoking is cost-prohibitive. Too much of it literally goes up in smoke. Second, because criminals sell heroin on the black market its purity varies. Users are not certain of how much they are using. Third, overdosing on heroin is usually a slow process that can take over an hour, and there is an antidote to opiate overdose that works within minutes — naloxone. But naloxone is only available by prescription. Naloxone access is so tightly controlled that limits on its use by paramedics have cost lives — even when paramedics are present. This year Gil Kerlikowske became the first drug czar to call for wider distribution of naloxone.

6. Taboo: Sex

Misconception: Jesus was against non-marital sex.

Neither Jesus Christ nor the Bible condemned non-marital sex. Adultery was forbidden, but adultery was defined differently in that era. As described in Leviticus, adultery was when a man slept with a married woman. A husband sleeping with an unmarried woman was not adultery. Women were considered property and marriage transferred ownership from fathers to husbands. Taking the virginity of a woman before marriage was a crime against her father. Women with whom men could have sexual relations without transgressing another man’s property rights included servants, slaves and prostitutes. The concept of virginity was inapplicable to men. There was not even a Hebrew word for a male virgin. Fundamentalist Christian abhorrence of non-marital sex drives abstinence-only sex education. The federal government funds abstinence-only sex education at the rate of $50 million per year and federal law requires that it teach that, “sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.”

7. Taboo: Nasal Mucus

Misconception: Nose-picking is bizarre.

Manual nose cleaning did not become unfashionable until the “young snobs” of the Italian Renaissance began using handkerchiefs. Despite the current stigma, the vast majority of people pick their nose privately. In addition, it is estimated that the number of Americans that eat the dried mucus, or boogers, is larger than the number of Americans that play golf. The eating of nasal mucus is so shameful that it is typically not revealed until the third year of psychoanalysis.

8. Taboo: Sex

Misconception: Homosexuality is a choice.

A 2010 study found that a small percentage of self-identified gay men and lesbians believe their sexual orientation is chosen. However, for numerous homosexuals, particularly men, their sexual preferences are rooted in their genetics and their development in the womb. The biological causes of homosexuality were validated by a Swedish study of thousands of twins that was published in 2010. Fundamentalist Christian attempts to “change” homosexuals are particularly cruel when it is understood that for many, sexuality is not a choice.

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