Archive for February, 2013

Different cultures and time periods give rise to different taboos. These are fluid taboos, those that change like the seasons. Monthly, I will search through history in order to find these subjective taboos, or non-universal taboos.

“In the 1700s as many as 4,000 boys were castrated each year in Italy and 70 percent of all opera singers were castrati.”1

Today, in many parts of the world this action would be considered appalling and taboo.  But for those in the 18th century the castration of boys became commonplace: used to retain a boy’s high voice before the unset of puberty so that they could sing soprano or alto in the opera.

Some taboos become taboo and then stay taboo.  Yet I don’t foresee this practice regaining popularity, but perhaps all things are recycled.

1 Shih-Shan Henry Tsai, The Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty (New York: SUNY press, 1996), 11.

Sexuality is a major aspect of life that ties much of mankind together. Regardless of gender, race, or creed most humans find a need for sexuality. It then becomes curious that the Catholic Church would refuse to allow its priests to marry when sexuality is part of what makes a human a human.

Although a person does not need sexuality in order to actually be a human being, most, if not all human beings possess some sort of sexuality. Even asexuality speaks to sexuality’s impact in its denial of the very thing itself. Celibacy involves avoiding both marriage and sexual relations. But the recent sex scandals in the Catholic Church have made many reevaluate this stance, even going as far as calling to allow priests to marry. The very thought seems taboo to most of us. Yet not so long ago the opposite was true:

Married clergy were relatively common in the early Middle Ages, a time when the parish priest belonged as much to his village community as to the external community of the church. From the eleventh century onward, there was a movement of reform in the church that sought to draw a sharper distinction between clergy and laypeople, in part by forbidding priests to marry.1

The above passage shows us the cyclic nature of taboo. For a while now we have denied priests of sexuality, almost as if they are somehow less human than the rest us in terms of desire. But suppressing a thing, or disallowing a thing is not the same as its nonexistence.

The Western world emphasizes a censoring of sex while at the same time promoting it and using it to sell everything. Sometimes it is hard to watch a commercial break without watching a series of sexual references and innuendoes. How odd that we attack the very things we promote.

But why are we so afraid of sex? What is so taboo about sex and sexuality? about sexuality and faith? Would a priest be less of a priest because he has sex or marries? Do those who have sex really love God less?

These are the questions that we have to ask. And they are also the questions with multiple answers, yeses and noes.

But imagine a world of only celibates. Now, map out how many Homo sapiens exist?

1 Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Jeffrey L. Singman, Daily Life in Medieval Europe (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999) eBook.


In almost every aspect of life you’ll find levels. Society subsists off structure, or rather structure begets society. Truly, structure helps mold taboos, because structured chaos is not the same as structured uniformity.

Not holding the door open for the person behind you, not excusing yourself after belching, or not saying “thank you” to another is taboo in many levels of society. But I think the above taboos are only minor taboos. Taboos, like many other things, exist in levels ranging from the major to the minor.

However what is a minor taboo in one culture may not be a minor taboo in another. And what is a major taboo at one time may not be a major taboo at the next. Every taboo was once not taboo. And what is now taboo may not be taboo in the future. (I’ll probably write this again and again, but it is important to remember when discussing the subject of taboo.)

No taboo is absolute or universal! (At least not with regards to human history.)


My novel, The Land Without Footprints: Shadows Amongst Shadows, explores the issues of taboo and freedom and laws. Where would our minds go if we realized our freedom? What color would best describe our choices? What would you refrain from doing? refrain from thinking, if anything?

The job of the writer is to write. The job of the reader is to read. Entertainment marries the writer and reader.  Thus, my job is to keep you awake. Your job is to stay awake. Let’s stay awake together.

Read a sample chapter and buy the book here.