In a sensation-hungry media, exposing The Last Taboo is something of a recurrent theme. Indeed, the evidence fallacy in repeatedly identifying “last” taboos does not seemingly stop journalists and subeditors reaching for the phrase, especially to create a pleasing sense of glamorous transgression about a perhaps not very glamorous subject. “The last taboo” implies that all the other taboos have been got out of the way, so here we are at the very very last.
Searching for the term brings up 327 hits on the Guardian website, last taboos here include menstruation, plagiarism, mental illness, the menopause, death, plus-size model, defection. The Telegraph brings up a mere 84 last taboo references: early motherhood, menstruation, “China’s super-rich mums splash out on wet nurses”, mental illness, menstruation again… the list, if not quite endless, is certainly pretty extensive.
From the above not terribly scientific survey, it is evident that “taboo” is here used as synonymous with “something that doesn’t get that much media coverage, or at least I don’t think so.” The anthropological concept of taboo is somewhat slippery, and one gets the feeling that the Last-Taboo-Hunters will not catch and expose their elusive quarry anytime soon. I’m also fairly confident they don’t want to.
Google Image Searches for “The Last Taboo” reveal a rich range of final, ultimate taboos – below being only a small sample: