Latrines, taboos, vulgarity, and the Internet

Some scholarly articles are unusually rich in detail.  Who knew that a medieval cure for bed-wetting was to feed the offender with ground hedgehog, while "among the Dahomeans of West Africa repeat offenders had a live frog attached to their waist to shock them into self-mastery"?

The anthropology of physical elimination is rich.  One cited researcher proposes a link between intolerant societies and their marginal control of excretion-borne health threats:
Recently it has even been argued that cross-national differences in closed-mindedness and intolerance are excretion-related:  countries with higher levels of parasite stress, associated psychologically with disgust and materially with poor sanitation, are less likely to have robust democracies, individual freedom, equitable distribution of economic resources and gender equality (Thornhill et al., 2009).
Another interesting link may be found between the rise of the internet and the decline of robust "latrinalia":
Arguably in the internet age there is little point writing taboo thoughts on bathroom walls: why scribble for a meagre one-at-a-time audience when you can make equally vulgar anonymous comments on a public discussion board or chatroom?
H/t Rocket Science.


Grim said...

Might I suggest, Tex, replacing that picture with one a bit more thematic?

Anonymous said...

And here I thought the decline in stall wit stemmed from declining wit in general.


douglas said...

"Recently it has even been argued that cross-national differences in closed-mindedness and intolerance are excretion-related:"

I think this is a poor analysis of the quoted identified relationship, which does not attribute causality. That lead-in implies that poor sanitation leads to intolerance, but it seems to me much more reasonable to posit that the relationship is the inverse- degraded societies, morally, also don't properly value things like sanitation.

I suspect the decline in graffiti in the stalls is more due to the materials and textures used in the construction of the stall walls, than any lack of will on the part of graffiti 'artists'.

MikeD said...

Douglas nails it. I cannot believe how often these "experts" confuse correlation with causation. Perhaps those societies have sanitation problems BECAUSE they're less democratic, less free, and more poor.

I'll submit that they're probably more poor because they're less democratic and less free, but that's a discussion for another day.

bthun said...

Agree with Douglas and Mike.

bthun said...

Oh yeah, LR1 has a pretty good point too.