Is sex still a taboo subject? Or have we finally opened up enough to discuss our wants, needs and worries?


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Yo Kass Profile
Yo Kass , Human being, answered

You only need to flick on the TV, browse the internet or listen in on people's office conversations these days to realize that sex and sexuality is something that we openly talk about A LOT.

I think it's fair to say that people are generally comfortable about discussing sexual wants, needs and concerns - but I do think there's still an underlying sense of reservedness.

Why do we find it hard to talk about sex?

Sex is a primal human instinct and need. The desire to reproduce is almost as biologically embedded in us as the need to eat or sleep.

But even in this modern age of openness, parents still feel awkward talking to their kids about puberty, first dates skirt around the issue, and  I still skipped through the Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman sex scene in Black Swan last time I watched it with my mum.

So whilst I think we are headed towards an environment of advanced sexual openness, I don't think we're quite there yet - and I'm not even sure we want to be...

Is sex still taboo?

To an extent, yes. We're definitely more open about copulation than we were a generation ago - but centuries of reservation and conditioning don't just wash away that quickly.

Religion has a lot to do with why we blush at the thought of intercourse. Adam and Eve and their fig-leaf decency can be seen as the source of much of our sexual frustration and inability to communicate.

One minute they're having a carefree time in the Garden of Eden, the next they're covering up their sexual organs with foliage and handing over the realm of sex and sexuality to Satan.

But why feel guilty about something that comes so naturally to us?

I guess part of it was for our own good. Imagine the Middle Ages without the fear of God preventing people from shagging on the streets...

Whilst that might sound like a mildly entertaining prospect, the truth is that diseases would have spread to epidemic levels and, with no reliable contraception available, birth rates would probably have skyrocketed to a point where the planet's resources wouldn't have carried the human race this far.

When did we stop talking about sex?

I'm by no means an expert on history or religion, but I think the answer to this question might lie in the shift from Ancient Roman and Greek culture, where statues and deities depicting sex and sexuality were openly worshipped - through to the rise of Abrahamic religions.

Whilst it's true that in Ancient Athens, adultery was punishable by death - this was more to do with matrimony, inheritance and preventing illegitimate children.

The way the Ancient Greeks and Romans treated premarital sex was very different and far more open than even we are today!

And if you've ever watched a classical Roman/Greek play enacted, you'll know that even married life didn't get in the way of orgies, gay sex, and other forms of promiscuity.

Whilst our "advanced" culture is only now coming round to the idea of same-sex relationships and sexual freedom - the Ancient Greeks were working out in gymnasiums - a word that derives from the Greek word for 'naked'.

So are we headed back towards an era of sexual depravity?

To be honest, I think we're caught in a weird sexual limbo - and I think a lot of it it has to do with child sexuality (now there's a taboo subject! Try bringing that up at an after-dinner conversation and see how uncomfortable the mood becomes).

Children are naturally curious, and sooner or later they're going to notice and want to explore their bodies. A lot of parents react to this by teaching their kids that what they're doing is wrong and shameful.

This type of conditioning is completely understandable, but I'm not sure what effect it then has on us growing up. At what point does a parent step in and gradually "undo" all that conditioning in preparation for puberty and sexual awakening?

As a parent myself, the idea of having to partake in any sort of discussion with my daughter about boys and intercourse freaks me out and disgusts me in equal measures.

I'll move on before this gets too Freudian and weird, but I'd recommend Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden if you want to explore the concept further (and feel even more uncomfortable). 

It's a novel that explores the sexual development of four orphaned children living together - and caused great controversy because it explored such a taboo subject.

The modern sexual limbo

When I mentioned sexual limbo earlier, I couldn't think of a better example than my experience of growing up in Italy and watching TV.

Italian culture is a great paradox when it comes to sexuality.

Italy is a devout Catholic country, where millions of people tune in to watch the Pope give speeches on TV condemning contraception, sexual deviation and all sorts of other sexual 'evils'.

These same people then tune in to watch their favorite gameshows.

Now, whilst watching Wheel of Fortune in most countries isn't that entertaining - many Italian gameshows feature a halftime dance routine that looks something like this (not sure if the video merits a NSFW):

Whilst the example of Italian popular culture may seem like an extreme one, I think it highlights something that is relevant to all countries and cultures.

For example, using the Google Trends web tool - I can see that, of all the countries in the world, Pakistan currently has the highest number of internet searches for the term "sex".

We're talking about a country where fornication and adultery is still punishable by "stoning to death".

But how does that apply to secular and more openly sexual cultures?

Well, I guess the answer is that, even though we don't execute people for infidelity, we still cling on to notions about what is acceptable and what isn't, in terms of sex.

Whether it be because of our parents, or a religious background, or simply peer pressure - we're all influenced and conditioned by other people's opinions on sexuality.

And in a sense, maybe that's a good thing. What would the world look like if we began to lose all sexual inhibitions?

My guess would be something like the Strip in Magaluf on a Saturday night.

How would that affect social structure, the idea of settling down and having a family, raising kids as a couple?

I don't have the answer to any of these questions, but some people might argue that we're about to find out anyway...

2 People thanked the writer.
Melinda Moore
Melinda Moore commented
Brilliant answer - very thought-provoking. And "The Cement Garden" is an extraordinarily-good novel, too. Very disturbing, but one of Ian McEwan's best, I've always thought...
Adrian Masters Profile
Adrian Masters answered

You first. I am not feeling that open right now.

thanked the writer.
Allie Abgarian
Allie Abgarian commented
Well, I didn't intend to go into personal detail as the question is whether people (in general) still consider sexual matters as taboo as say, for instance, 10 years ago.

With the invention of the internet, the development of porn and other sexual content sites, the sexual information shows on TV and other shows such as Sex and the City, have we become more open and comfortable with speaking about our issues?

As you don't feel that open, I suppose that answers the question.

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