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Taboo - Essay Example

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Taboos have existed in all the cultures in the world for thousands of years and they can be considered as old as man has practiced culture. There exist taboos for a very wide range of things and all of these depend on the culture within which it is put in practice…
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Download file to see previous pages... One of the taboos that are observed by most cultures in the world is the incest taboo, which prohibits the practice of sexual relations between those people who are related (Burns 352). It has been said that incest is the most universal taboo and that it is the basis upon which many human societies are founded (Cohen 53).All cultures in the world have rules regarding those who can be considered partners in either sexual intercourse or marriage and it is very common for close relatives to be excluded from such partnerships. There is very little agreement between different cultures on the definition of who can be considered a close blood relation and who cannot. Some cultures permit the marriage of certain types of cousins where others would consider them as taboo (Barlow 447). In some cases, the relations between clan members are strictly forbidden even though those who might get involved are not even remotely related by blood. Taboos against incest are learned by the people who practice these cultures from a very young age and in fact, they are learned at almost the same time as they learn their language. These taboos therefore become a part of a person’s state of mind and it is an integral part of their growing up process and due to this, it remains with them for the rest of their lives (Borg 149). In some cultures especially those in Africa and in some cases the Middle East, if a person breaks an incest taboo, punishment can be very severe and the people who are involved in such acts tend to be shunned by the rest of their society and at times they may even be banished or sentenced to death (Spomer 1662). There are some cultures, which allow the marriage between uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews, and there have been instances where marriages between brothers and sisters have been practiced regularly by some elites, a good example being in Ancient Egypt (Fischer and Ager 299). These instances have come to raise questions concerning incest and the way it came to be universally recognized as a taboo by so many cultures (Patterson 95). Questions have been considered with some wondering whether it has come about instinctively or whether they have come about due to the realization by many communities that intercourse between people who are related are detrimental to the society’s wellbeing. Some of the most significant subjects in such discussions are why parent – child or brother – sister relationships are forbidden in all cultures. Incest taboos serve many functions and they have a tendency of remaining in effect in their respective cultures long after the original reason for their enforcement has been forgotten by those who practice them (Guillet and Arndt 866). One of the explanations that have been brought up to explain incest taboos has been that it is a culture’s way of implementing a preference that has been developed biologically for sexual partners who do not share the same genes because inbreeding has been observed to have a very bad effect on the genetic makeup of a community. Another widely held idea is that human beings are naturally indisposed to engage in sexual relations with those people they grew up with and instead, they prefer those who come from outside of their immediate community (Ingham 677). The incest taboo has also been argued to arise from a general preference by human beings for group exogamy and this arises because of the need for the formation of valuable alliances, which greatly improves the chances of the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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