11 Taboos That Were Normal in the Past

Taboos are certain cultural norms that may become socially unacceptable over time. In the past, practices like using racial slurs or littering in public were considered normal. However, as society evolves, some behaviors become outdated and turn into taboos. Here, we present a carefully curated list of modern taboos that were once widely accepted. We have done extensive research and analysis of historical and current trend to prepare this list.

Let’s delve into these transformations and understand their impact on contemporary culture.

Smoking Indoors

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In the past, it was commonplace for people to smoke indoors in various public spaces, including offices, restaurants, and even airplanes. With the widespread awareness of the health risks associated with secondhand smoke, it came to a stop.

Littering in Public

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The 1971 campaign (Keep America Beautiful) first highlighted littering issues in the United States. Tossing garbage outside or throwing waste on the road or in the lakes before this was normal. Today, all states have litter laws with varying degrees of penalties. With growing environmental awareness, people are shifting to more responsible waste disposal. While littering has not ceased completely, it has surely become stigmatized.

Punishments For Kids

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Spanking and hitting have been the go-to punishment chosen by many parents and schools for ages. Yet, in recent times, physical punishments have become a big taboo. The American Academy of Pediatrics highlights the negative impacts of corporal punishment in their post. They have stated that abusing a child hinders their development and well-being. According to surveys, spanking has significantly declined over the past few decades.

Gender Based Job Discrimination

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Historically, it was common for employers to openly discriminate against individuals based on their gender. Women were often restricted to occupations deemed suitable for their gender, such as teaching, nursing, or secretarial work, while men dominated higher-paying and traditionally male-dominated fields. However, with the rise of feminist movements and legislation promoting equal employment opportunities, such discriminatory practices have become increasingly unacceptable and illegal in many countries.

Child Labor

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In past eras, child labor was commonplace, with children as young as five or six years old working in factories, mines, and other hazardous environments. They endured long hours, low pay, and dangerous conditions, contributing to the economic needs of their families at the expense of their education and well-being

Pushing Your Religious Faith

Even a few decades ago, Christianity was the religion of the majority in the USA. Since the 20th century, societies increasingly valued secularism and freedom of belief. The last century also facilitated the separation of church and state. A recent Gallup Poll reveals that 22% of Americans do not feel any religious affinity. Some people belong to a religion yet do not conform to rigid religious structures. The culture of converting or remaining faithful to Christianity has declined now.

Poverty Shaming

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The United States Census Bureau states that 37.9 million Americans faced poverty in 2022. Public discussion forums have often unraveled the causes behind the tendency to mock the poor. There is a lack of sympathy for the poor people, blaming them for their conditions. Nowadays, studies have highlighted the structural issues of poverty in America.


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In the past, homosexuality was stigmatized and discriminated against in American society, with LGBTQ+ individuals facing legal and social persecution, including job discrimination, violence, and societal rejection. As of today, there are many laws supporting them and even legalizing marriages in many states.

Children Running Errands

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Michaeleen Doucleff wrote an intriguing article in 2022 on letting children do chores alone. She argued that it has some major benefits. Many of our parents used to send us to the nearest grocery store to get something. However, children’s safety has become a major concern now. The National Children’s Alliance reports almost 600,000 children are abused in the U.S. every year. Some U.S. states even have strict laws about leaving children alone at home.

Truck Bed Riding

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In the ’80s, America saw a great rise in people riding in the bed of pickup trucks. It became fashionable and convenient for many. For decades, the Ford F-150 series has been the most popular pickup truck in the country. Many states in America have recently imposed strict laws against riding pickup trucks. Several factors contribute to today’s hesitation. The size of pickup vehicles has increased by 32% between 1990 and 2021. Thus, the rates of accidents in pickup trucks have increased along with fatality.

Flirting without Boundaries

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Our parents hardly considered the right and wrong ways to flirt. Flirting in professional spaces was also quite common. Over the years, America has become more conscious of harassment and aggressive flirting. There are not enough laws about teasing or unsolicited comments. Yet, people have become more aware of the appropriate degrees of flirting. Television shows like Mad Men have tried to problematize the aggressive flirting culture.


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Pulling a friend’s pants down was hilarious even a few decades ago. According to many public forum discussions, many adolescents faced pants-ing in high schools. Actor Nick Kroll created the series’ Big Mouth,’ which refers to many such incidents. This kind of behavior now falls under bullying. Thus, pants-ing can lead to serious consequences in today’s world.

Inappropriate Jokes

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Derogatory jokes based on race, gender, and sexual orientation were very common earlier. People never gave much thought to their impact. Recently, studies have increased awareness of the harm caused by such jokes. There has been a shift towards more inclusive and respectful conversations. Today, using offensive language is not cool anymore. It can result in social consequences as well.

Riding without A Helmet

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Before the 1980s, helmets were not mandatory in America. Thus, people in America never gave much importance to wearing a helmet. According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, many states adopted bicycle helmet laws after 1986. Today, most states in America have certain regulations regarding helmet use. While riding a bicycle or motorcycle without a helmet is fun, it is not wise. According to the CDC, wearing a helmet can prevent severe risks of head injury.

Drunk Driving

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Drink-and-drive is illegal in all 50 states in the United States. Driving after consuming alcohol can lead to major accidents. In 2021, drunk driving killed 2266 people in America. Since the 1990s, several campaigns have talked about the risks of drunk driving. Today, it is widely condemned as socially unacceptable and illegal. Many still argue that having one light beer makes no difference behind the wheel. Still, it is not a recommended practice anymore.

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