6 Things That Used To Be OK According To Society, But Are Now Considered Really Creepy
Over the years, our understanding of what constitutes something being "creepy" has definitely changed. When we think about what society norms are now considered creepy that used to be considered totally acceptable, it often has to do with how we've treated women and how we've understood gender roles. This probably isn't surprising, exactly — but it's still worth noting.
Over the years and across different countries and cultures, women have of course lived radically different lives with various opportunities and obstacles. However, because of systematic and structural sexism, more often than not, women have had to face a lot of things we now see as ridiculous, sexist, or just plain bizarre in modern day. These things may not be "creepy" in the same way we mean when we consider, say, a good horror movie or maybe some gross fake brains used as a prop or costume piece on Halloween; but it's a bummer that in reality, "creepy" things tend to involve sexual harassment, unwanted monitoring of peoples' bodies, and evaluation based on our sexual purity and sexual activity (all of which is particularly experienced by women).
But at least we've gotten to a point where the six items on this list are no longer considered socially acceptable. As society evolves and women gain equality in the home, at work, and in the media, I have hope that a lot of our current "creepy" social norms will similarly fade into oblivion. We might still have a long way to go, but there's something to be said for having gotten to where we are, too.
1. Women Used To Get Married Really, Really Young
Yeah, pretty much everyone knows about this already, but it's important to remember: Not all that long ago, it was the norm for women and girls to get married quite young. Now, studies show that statistically, the average age for women getting married in the 19th and 20th century wasn't too young; we're talking late teens or early 20s on average, not the tweens or early teens. But then again, that was the average — which means that for the math to work out the way it does, at least some of those people were getting married younger than 19 or 20. Even when it was technically voluntary, having women marry when they're still young teens (if not actually children) does them a massive injustice in terms of quality of life and opportunities. And is, not to mention, pretty darn creepy.
2. Families Used To Determine Age of Consent
Now, there is a whole lot to say when it comes to discussing age of consent laws in the United States. As you probably already know, age of consent laws determine the minimum age someone can consent to sexual activity in a given state; if someone is younger than that age, then they are considered not able to give consent, which means that engaging in sexual activity with them is statutory rape. But before age of consent laws were on the books, it was basically up to individual families to decide when women (or, really, girls) were ready to have sex. This often happened when women married young. So, not only could this practice potentially result in some very young women having sex, it also robbed them of their own bodily autonomy.
3. Complimenting Women On Their Wifely Qualities
To be fair, this one might still be the norm these days depending on the area you live in, the predominant values of that area, and your environment, but it's (generally) no longer the norm to evaluate women based primarily on their "wifely" qualities. There is definitely still a lot of pressure on women to appear "attractive" and "feminine" to potential partners in order to increase their chances of "settling down"; however, it's becoming less and less acceptable to openly comment on how "wifely" a woman appears, and that's definitely a good thing.
I suspect that this change is largely due to the evolution of our idea of what it means to be a wife or a husband, as well as our changing notions of what makes a "good" marriage or partnership. For example, during the 19th century, it was the norm for men to evaluate their future wife based on her domesticity, sexual purity, and compliant nature. At the same time, men (and their families) valued future wives based on how well they thought women would complete their "wifely duties," such as cooking for the family, sewing, housework, and child rearing.
Now, while women are still frequently unfairly evaluated based on numerous things (such as appearance, "bossiness," and so forth), when it comes to marriage, it's now more common for people to evaluate one another based on personal traits and individual circumstances and desires — not a gendered list of requirements.
4. Women Were Basically Banished During Menstruation
Even in modern day, how people are treated while menstruating varies from place to place and culture to culture, but in the United States, people who menstruate are no longer literally removed from society during their periods. During previous eras in the United States, however, women were sent to sleep in separate quarters when on their menstrual cycle, and sometimes even had to abstain from even touching men during their periods. Prior to the invention of pads circa the First World War, women also suffered through an array of bizarre ways to gather menstrual blood; some women used napkins or cloths, which isn't too different from what many of us do now, but others simply free bled and carried herbs and flowers to mask the smell.
Of course, there still remain a number of troubling behaviors surrounding periods in the world today. Menstrual supplies are considered a luxury and taxed accordingly; period jokes and blaming women's behavior on menstruation are still a thing; and in many cultures in the world, menstruating people still are kept away from society during their periods. In Nepal, for example, nearly 30 percent of girls miss school while they're on their periods. Clearly we aren't totally over this one yet.
5. Families Used To Sleep Suuuuuper Close To Each Other
Throughout history, it was the norm for many families — particularly those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds — to share a sleeping space on a regular basis. Sometimes this meant everyone sleeping on the same bed, and sometimes it meant everyone sleeping together on the floor. Either way, though, society these days isn't quite as enamoured of the idea of an entire family sleeping in the same bed together; just look at the the (possibly unwarranted) negative reactions to this family's giant bed hack.
6. Women Proved Their Virginity With Their Bedding
Our modern culture still places an absurd amount of value on women's sexual purity. It's definitely a problem. That said, though, there probably isn't quite as much pressure as there used to be, considering that at many points, it was the norm for women to "prove" their virginity when they were married. During Medieval times, for example, this involved displaying blood stained sheets from the wedding night the next morning, as "evidence" that a woman's "purity" remained in tact until she had sex with her new husband. Thank goodness we don't do that anymore.