It only took three episodes for Tom Hardy’s new FX show, Taboo, to dive into an incestuous relationship between its lead character (played by Hardy) and his half-sister. On Friday, February 3, Netflix will debut Drew Barrymore’s new show, Santa Clarita Diet, which centers on a modern-day zombie trying to maintain her life as a suburban mom—active sex life with a hot hubby (Timothy Olyphant) included—despite being, well, dead. Necrophilia anyone? Of course, Game of Thrones, a show that has embraced every category of taboo since its 2011 premiere, will be returning for its seventh season this year. With GoT, we’ve not only seen plenty of incest between siblings Jaime Lannister and Cersei Baratheon, but plenty of rape as well. And let’s not forget about that breastfeeding scene with a prepubescent boy.

But in 2017, with more risqué and off-color depictions of the sexual psyche airing freely on TV, what constitutes a taboo anyway? By definition, a taboo must be something restricted by social custom—but what bodies are still dictating those customs? Of course, it has long been the impetus of the Catholic Church to condemn homosexuality, abortion and divorce. Categorization—and regulation—then became the duties of government, which has outlawed men kissing each other, interracial marriage and abortion, continuing all the way down to sex in public, bestiality and public exposure of nipples. But human nature has always desired to challenge norms; we want to muddle the sacred and the prohibited, specifically via art. Fundamentally, our ability—and need—to do so is what make us human and separates us from other animals. It also makes for great television.

In the 1980s, Maude and The Golden Girls forced a nation to consider in primetime the taboos of abortion and homosexuality (praise Bea Arthur). In the 2000s, when gay relationships were still considered taboo in the age of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Will & Grace took it upon itself to help the cause by “normalizing” gay life, even if it simultaneously crippled the LGBT community by reinforcing stereotypes. Given the current slate of programs promoting incest (Taboo), orgies and polyamory (Sense8) and sex-bots (Westworld), one would think such sexual desires are our 21st-century taboos—nowadays decided more by television execs instead of cardinals and Congress—and collectively, say something about the state of sexuality in America. But—not so much.

When it does its job right, TV doesn’t try to just shock.

Consider the male penis. Historically, America loves to sensor penises on television. Over the last few years, however, the taboo that is showing a man’s flaccid member has become more acceptable, so far as to gain its own liberation hashtag #freetheP on Twitter. Game of Thrones, The Affair, The Leftovers, Vinyl, Outlander and Flesh and Bone have all allowed cock shots (albeit all on premium cable).

But why is something as banal as a man’s penis still a taboo on television? How does showing a dick on television affect a viewer more negatively than showing a woman’s private parts? Cable execs, whose channels are largely exempt from FCC rules, seem to think that anything that protrudes is offensive, but at the same time are willing to explore the territory. But will seeing two seconds of a penis (or incest, or cannibalism) on the screen inspire students to discuss dicks on TV at college, as taboos should? Does it mean that teachers, who know kids watch these shows, should use it as an opportunity to talk about rape, sex, healthy relationships and a host of more difficult issues? Is Creationist Betsy DeVos, upon her confirmation as Secretary of Education, going to come down hard on televised cock shots as an agenda priority?

Let’s be honest: for most audiences, television is more about entertainment than it is social activism—entertainment that belies violence, sex, language and nudity for the sake of being provocative. Today, the purpose of putting “taboos” on TV is to incite shock for ratings and attention. The problem is that’s not the point of a taboo. Taboos are supposed to make political statements, since they’re political statements in themselves.

Television should spark debate. It should open discussions. It’s a way to enter into a deeper thought about the world. Television was never meant to normalize things, let alone sexual taboos. Instead, TV is meant to show us the decay and the triumph of our own humanity. In its finest form, TV takes your hand and leads you to a mirror whereby you are able to see yourself more clearly than before. It helps you embrace and take responsibility for who you are, if you allow it.

When it does its job right, TV doesn’t try to just shock. When it does things superbly, like Jill Soloway has done with Transparent, TV doesn’t take a “taboo” (note the quotation marks) like being transgender and parades it for shock value. It celebrates it. It allows characters to show their real and beautiful selves, which means the next time you watch television and think what you’re watching is taboo, perhaps you can think about how society has dictated those ideas to you for so long. And now you have the wonderful opportunity to challenge your own perspectives of these old beliefs.

Will & Grace has just been confirmed for a reboot. In the era of President Trump, when Republican blood is flowing through the country with more brute force than it did during George W. Bush’s presidency, it will be interesting how that show moves into tackling gay issues that have yet to be normalized, such as same-sex spousal health care, equal pay for transgender folk, variant gender expression and more. (The fact that not all gay men enjoy shopping and Cher, too, is one “taboo” we hope writers will kill once and for all.)

In the meantime, while FX’s Taboo attempts to define its namesake simply as anything that’s salaciously sexual, real life under Trump’s rule is providing its own definition. In 2017, the new taboos are telling the truth (Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts”), allowing women to fight for their rights (Trump’s tweets about the “sad” March in Washington) and arguing facts and science (Trump’s demand that the National Park Service stop tweeting). The highly successful Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, may not address taboos like nudity or incest—but the beloved Selina Meyer will soon be back for a sixth season. No doubt, she’ll surely address all the new “taboos” festering in the D.C. swamp.