Taboos are an interesting social artifact. Pretty much every society on the planet has taboos, many of them unique to a given culture, a few universal. The word “taboo” comes from the Oceanian word “tabu”. Tabu were social and religious “thou shalt nots” in these island cultures, most famously in Fiji and Rapa Nui. Upon death, those whom committed these sins were believed to face the hungry jaws of Makemake, the lord of the underworld. It’s not a pleasant idea, is it?
Some taboos evolved naturally, to prevent problems. One such example is inbreeding, which is a major taboo in the civilized world. This is a naturally-occurring no-no because of the severe genetic defects it causes.
Most taboos, however, tend to originate as ways to enforce social structures and behaviors. Basically, they began as ersatz laws to maintain a specific status quo, often with an elite few benefitting at the top of the pyramid. Over time, they simply become part of a collective social worldview, even when nobody’s really in a position to directly benefit from such anymore.
Most of the time, a taboo seen by an outsider will seem downright silly due to the lack of a universally logical reason behind them. Still, there do exist a few taboos that did not evolve naturally, which are more or less universal across all modern cultures.
We don’t say certain words in front of certain company, and we traditionally didn’t say them on television. We don’t let the general public see certain parts of our body or see us performing certain biological functions.
We don’t make use of escorts. In fact, it’s traditionally illegal in some parts of the world. A taboo has to be pretty deep-rooted to actually be law in a democratic society.
At the end of the day, most pragmatic people whom don’t give into moralistic thinking or some twisted idea of jingoism will agree that almost all anthropogenic (man-devised) taboos are probably have little to no place in the 21st century. This way of thinking, coupled with a unique side effect of the internet, is eroding many of these taboos.