Add new comment

We're definitely well in psychoanalytic terrain here. People are not NATURALLY born averse to shit or shit-smells or body-smells. Infants may initially like to play with shit, like shit smells, and like shitting. They might shit on a carer as a "gift". Aversion is learnt in early childhood. Unfortunately, it's learnt pretty deep, so it tends to stick, and to be experienced as "natural". I've no idea if the process can be reversed, but at present AFAIK it can't. The aversion will vary in intensity, and be strongest in anal-retentive types and people with strong sensory aversions more broadly; often the shit has symbolic meanings tied-up with such things as fears around detachability of body-parts and fears that there are hostile entities inside one's body. Functionally it probably has to be treated as a sensory need. On a broader level it does seem the cost to everyone of avoiding shit, holding in farts etc is far higher than the gain to everyone.

Hygiene/disease risk is a good argument for keeping some degree of poo-taboo (in overcrowded cities), but it isn't the driver for why it developed. Both public shitting and public nudity tended to be tabooed around the same time as a bunch of other things, all focused on visibility of the body and of bodily functions and/or violence. Round the same time, punishment was moved from public squares to prisons, animal slaughter was moved from streets to abattoirs, public sex was discouraged or banned, etc - c. 1500-1600 in the elite (see Elias, The Civilising Process). This was part of the rise of the modern bourgeoisie and the definition of the modern subject, focused on the mind as separate from the body. To this end, only the "civilised" mind and not the "animal/primitive" body was to be seen in public or presented in social relations. The germ theory of disease did not appear until centuries later, and provided a retrospective scientific grounding for some of the things people were already doing. (I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this kind of reactionary bilge is still being expanded; after all, they're basically adding hugs, kisses and handshakes to the list as we speak).

I still find it shocking that people who adhere to broadly liberal values (only harmful acts can be banned) nonetheless accept bans on public nudity. Particularly when these same people are up in arms about bans on burqas or compulsory mask mandates. Then again, these same people are often lax in applying their own principles to drug laws, or immigration, or the right to swear. I remember reading once, a piece by a reactionary legal scholar arguing that causing offence should be banned, based entirely on public shitting (redesigned to eliminate any disease risk) and a few related examples. It was all phrased very reasonably but it was clearly designed to appeal emotively to the reader's prejudices, as is so often the case with such pieces.