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04 April 2011

Part 1: The anal taboo

In the first of the series: Know your anus, Glenn de Swardt discusses the taboos surrounding the anus.

We’re introduced to the anal taboo as infants, when we’re taught to associate that area of our bodies with shame – when we soil a nappy, people’s facial expressions change, we’re removed from the group and we’re exposed to the cold when the nappy is changed. Throughout childhood we’re told “don’t touch there!” and “dirty!” and we soon learn never to mention our anus in public. We learn that being called “an arsehole!” is an insult and, with time, we’re taught that the anus is a powerful symbol of all that is unclean and disgusting about our bodies and ourselves.

Although Freud described an anal phase in our development, the anal taboo manifests in both psychology and medicine. Even proctology, the field of medicine that specialises in the anus and rectum, generally fails to acknowledge that these organs are of major sexual significance.

 
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