Shaved pubes, the color purple, naked ankles and other old-world taboos that are totally normal today

Shaved pubes, the color purple, naked ankles and other old-world taboos that are totally normal today

Today’s taboos become typical tomorrow

CultureMay 22, 2019 By Juan Wilder

Cannibalism, pedophilia, incest, exposed lady nipples and farting in public are all widely accepted modern taboos. They are unwritten, cultural no-no’s that can get a person in a lot of trouble. Even talking about some of these things in the wrong circles can draw contentious looks (let alone actually acting any of them out in public).

But taboos change. Just as people and cultures change, so too do the things they consider to be “unacceptable.” Glass ceilings are broken, norms are defied, and eventually the unconventional becomes the conventional. It’s growth, progress — or maybe it’s just change.  

Anyway, it’s the way of things. And if you were to hop inside a time machine and zap backwards some several hundred years, you’d quickly discover that the taboos of their culture are vastly different than those of our own. Sure, some things like incest and patricide have always been frowned upon, but there are a lot of modern activities that seem totally normal today, that would have been shocking and repulsive to our ancestors.

Here’s a few of them.

Shaved pubes

Pubes (generally speaking) are a thing of the past. A quick and cursory perusal of pornhub and you can see for yourself: it’s a wonderland out there of bald pussies, hairless balls and shaved shafts. We live in the golden age of hairless genitals.

What a time to be alive.

But it wasn’t always so. In fact, a couple hundred years ago, people were so shocked and horrified by bald genitals that there was actually a market for pubic wigs. Yes, you read that correctly, pubic wigs, also known as “merkins.” They were invented by prostitutes in 1450 that were forced to shave their nether-regions for STD reasons. The male customers couldn’t cope with the hairless vaginas, though. It unsettled them. And so the ladies of the night decided to do something about it.

Thus was born the merkin. Which, you can still buy today, in a variety of colors, shapes and patterns.

Showing off your ankles

The Victorians were exceptional prudes. Just look at the clothes they wore. They were so afraid of sex and sexuality that they started making up ridiculous rules and from those rules were born ridiculous taboos.

Case and point: ankles. Back in the 1800’s if a woman were to lift her skirt and flaunt an ankle at a club or ball, it was considered highly scandalous. She might as well have flashed the room her tits. 

So, women back then wore long stocking and long skirts to make sure that, under no circumstances could their ankles slip out in public. 

Drinking tea

You may think of tea-drinking as a calm and relaxing pastime: it’s something to do when you’re reading a good book, curled up with a blanket on a rainy day, quietly enjoying the pitter-patter of water on the window.

But, once upon a time drinking tea was seen as an irresponsible, reckless pursuit to engage in. For women, at least. Yes the poor women of Ireland and England (circa 1800’s) who were seen sipping in a nice warm mug of Chamomile or Earl Grey, might as well have been chugging a fifth of Jamison. They were seen as time-wasters, addicts and malcontents.

From a home improvement pamphlet of the era: We never were used to tea, and would not choose that our little girl should get a notion of any such thing. The hankering after a drop of tea keeps many poor all their lives.”

Sporting hats outside sporting events

Around the turn of the century, back when baseball was just starting to embed itself in American culture, there was a very specific time and place to wear ballcaps: at the ball park during a ball game.

This was a time when hats were ubiquitous in almost every aspect of life: there were top hats and bowlers for everyday encounters, ball caps for ball games and night caps for sleeping. To wear the wrong hat for the wrong occasion was shocking and uncomfortable for other people — like someone wearing lingerie to an old folks home.

If you casually wore a ball cap out on the street back in 1903 and you weren’t on your way to the ball park, people would look at you like a freak.  

Smiling in pictures

Skim through a bunch of old black and white photos and you’ll notice a pretty obvious pattern: no one looks happy. And it isn’t just because life sucked back then, before anti-biotics and the Internet. It’s because people thought that smiling for a photo was about the most humiliating thing you could possibly do.

Why? Simply put: pictures were a big deal back then. It was a moment that would capture your spirit and your essence forever, that your children and grandchildren would remember you by. And our ancestors wanted to be remembered as stoic, thoughtful, serious individuals — not as fools clowning around for the camera.

So, whenever a photographer showed up, they put on their serious faces and stared thoughtfully into the distance.  

Purple

Yes, purple, as in the color. There’s no real knowing where this strange taboo came from, but in the early 1900’s people feared purple. In a (non-satirical) story, published by the Boston Globe, titled, “The Most Dangerous Colors” purple was listed as public threat #1.

“If purple walls and a red tinted window surrounded you for a month with no color but purple around you, by the end of that time you would be a madman,” the author of the Boston Globe story explained. “No matter how strong your brain might be it would not stand the strain, and it is doubtful if you would ever recover your reason.”

No joke. People back then actually thought purple was scary and dangerous. 

 

The taboos of today always seem to become typical behavior tomorrow. Looking back at all these absurd taboos of yore, it’s hard not to imagine what silly cultural norms we follow today that will fall away as the years go by. What will people look back at us for and laugh? What unwritten rules do we follow in our society, that will become not just acceptable, but totally normal in 100 years?

Only time will tell.