aphrodisiacs take 3: from a real doctor

I know this is the third time I’ve discussed aphrodisiacs BUT this is the first time I’ve had the results from a real doctor – or at least a dietitian who has her PhD.

Dr. Jenna A. Bell appeared on the Daily Buzz Morning Show to show viewers how to “spice up” their Valentine’s Days.

I found it awesome that her first suggestion was to eat well all year round. That’s the best advice you can give anyone. Good health equals good sex. She was also punny when she said that foods that are good for your heart (remember salmon, flaxseed, and oatmeal?) are also good for your sex life, but she seems like a credible source. Why wouldn’t feeding your heart feed your libido as well?

I was worried when she went on to suggest the infamous oysters, but she gave a reason other than the fact that they look like vaginas for why they’re aphrodisiacs: they’re full of zinc. She was even kind enough to offer a vegetarian option to the oysters: pumpkin seeds! Who knew?

According to Dr. Bell, watermelon, chili pepper, avacadoes, and a bit of alcohol are all great for your sex life!

food porn

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We’ve all heard of food porn. But what exactly is it?  Is it glossy pictures of plastic photos? Actual food that looks so beautiful it could make you orgasm?  Or is it just provocative sexual pictures of food?

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Anne E. McBride wrote an entire article in Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture (Vol.10, No.1 pp.38-46) exploring the origin of the term “food porn” and what it means today. She interviewed many chefs and food specialists about their opinions on food porn and basically came to the conclusion that no one is really sure what food porn is.

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The origin of the term is fairly straightforward. The phrase was first used in 1979 by Michael Jacobson, cofounder of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, when he wrote in the Center’s newsletter, Nutrition Action Healthletter about the opposition between healthy and unhealthy foods. He called healthy foods “Right Stuff” and unhealthy foods “Food Porn.” He said some food is, “so sensationally out of bounds of what a food should be that it deserved to be considered pornographic.”

So in Jacobson’s opinion, the creator of the phrase, food porn is pretty much highly processed junk food. Fascinatingly, we almost never use the term food porn in this way. As McBride found in her interviews, the definition of food porn ranged from watching people cook food to looking at glossy photographs of food. Never did anyone mention junk food, unless, perhaps, it was a glossy photo of junk food.

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Google apparently doesn’t agree on one definition either.  I Google image searched “food porn” and came up with just as many definitions as McBride – though, again, junk food didn’t really come up.

Here is a compilation of the variety of Google images I came up with, combined with the variety of definitions McBride’s article described:

1. Glossy Images. This may be the most typical definition of food porn. It’s what sells restaurants and fast food joints to people. It’s what people show in their food blogs. Typically these images are taken of food in the perfect lighting. Often food is glossed up and many times it was just plastic, not actual food, that was photographed.  It is porn because you look at it, even though it is unattainable.

Critic Richard Magee points to a performative dimension in food that also links it with sex: “Food, when removed from the kitchen, becomes divorced from its nutritive or taste qualities and enters a realm where surface appearance is all-important. The interest here is in creating a graphic simulation of real food that is beyond anything that the home cook could produce.”

Here are some images of food that came up on the Google image search for ‘food porn’ that was most likely photographed in the perfect light and may not actually be edible.

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2. Fancy food porn. Glossy photographs of fancy food, especially in food magazines, are also considered by many as food porn. But this definition transcends the 2D image. Fancy food is often considered food porn for its delicacy and beauty. It embodies everything romantic and stimulating about looking at beautiful food.

According to Chris Cosentino, an executive chef at Incanto and co-host of Chefs vs. City, “When you look at things now, we’re not far from associating eating with the Seven Deadly Sins. Using words such as luscious, unctuous, creamy, and decadent to describe food brings to mind the so-called sins of gluttony and lust. I think about food differently. For me it’s the immediacy of experiencing the food itself. There’s not all that much difference between lusting over a person or over food.”

Here are some images to lust over that came up on the Google image search for food porn.

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3. The act of cooking: Images of people actually making food actually came up the least on the Google search for food porn, though they did come up. It’s funny that this is the case, too, because porn typically involves watching some type of action, not some stagnant thing. Often you watch porn – it’s an action, not a stagnant image (though it depends on whether you’re reading a magazine or watching a movie). Watching someone cook food could actually be compared to watching someone have sex. Both are a performance that evokes an emotion, but in both cases the viewer doesn’t actually get to feel the result of the act. The viewer of a Food Network show doesn’t get to taste the food (unless they cook their own as they watch) and the viewer of a porno doesn’t get to feel the orgasm (unless they masturbate as they watch).

According to McBride, “By involving visceral, essential, and “fleshy” elements, this performative aspect invites obvious and usually facile comparisons with sex—as do the many food-show hosts, usually women, who lick their fingers or use sensual terms to describe what they are doing. A second level of comparisons also exists. Cockburn writes about “culinary pastoralism” vis-à-vis “gastro-porn,” while Magee pits Martha Stewart’s “food Puritanism” against Nigella Lawson’s “food porn.”

Some of the first images of chefs that popped up on the search were of Giada De Laurentiis and Cat Cora, two women who have shows on the Food Network.

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4. Provocative:These are the types of images that came up on the Google search the earliest. They literally use images of food to evoke ideas of sex. McBride didn’t necessarily describe this type of food porn, but many people hinted at it when describing what they thought food porn wasn’t.

In Alan Madison’s opinion, producer and director of various TV food shows, what we consider food porn is the opposite of porn. He argued, “Pornography has nothing to do with the enhancement and increased valuation of image and action and everything to do with the devaluation of the image and the actions it depicts. Porn’s images are graphic, not stylized; real, not enhanced. Pornography does not idealize sex—quite the opposite, it diminishes it. Sex porn contains no art, and the making of it contains little, if any, craft. If there were an accurate definition for food porn it would not be chefs on food tv creating delicious dinners, or recipes in food magazines augmented with sumptuous close-up photography. Instead, food porn would be the grainy, shaky, documentary images of slaughterhouses, behind-the-scenes fast-food workers spitting in their products, or dangerous chemicals being poured on farmland.”

Madison has a point. Porn isn’t typically glossed up or fake or fancy. It is usually visceral, real, and provocative. It is, as he said, “graphic.” Here is a collection of graphic images that came up on the Google search. They aren’t of the slaugherhouses or the dirt and spit, but they are, perhaps, images that diminish food for its worth, just as Madison argues porn diminishes the sex. Whatever they are, they are certainly the funniest food porn images.

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sexual frustration and overeating

I’ve written extensively on how food is used to stimulate sexual desire and how food can be paired with sexual desire. These topics all deal with food being the instigator and sex being the result. But what about the other way around? Do sexual practices influence the food we eat? It turns out that sexual frustration can actually lead to overeating.

It’s no wonder that food is so often used as a replacement for sex. We release some of the same hormones during both activities. The same hormones we get from eating things like chocolate, phenylethamine and endorphins, are actually produced during sex as well. So by eating when we feel sexual desire, we are actually somewhat simulating the same mood as we would get from having sex (http://teepeecollective.com/howto/how-to-beat-sexual-frustration/).

Can this sexy hunk of chocolate replace your sexual desires?


Many websites list overeating as one of the most common symptoms of sexual frustration, but the relationship is much more complicated than this. Sex is not just about releasing hormones; it’s a complex activity that is typically just as emotional as physical. In their book, Weight, Sex, and Marriage: A Delicate Balance, Richard Stuart and Barbara Johnson explain the complex relationship between weight and sex in the context of marriage, using personal anecdotes from many couples to explain their ideas. There are four scenarios involving food and sex that I found they highlighted:

1. Woman have sexual frustration because her partner doesn’t want sex so she overeats to defy him:

It may seem contrary to popular belief, but typically the most frequent reason couples attend sex therapy is because the husband isn’t interested in sex (37). The couple’s sex life is typically controlled by the partner who wants the least sex so a faithful wife (or husband) is often thrust into a life of sexual frustration.

Many women who desire more sex than their husbands desire, gain weight. At first they do this to alleviate the desire
inside them by engaging in some form of pleasure and as a way to pretend they’re not really upset they aren’t desired by their husband. According to Stuart and Johnson, “Many apparently believe it ‘hurts less’ if they deliberately contribute to their own rejection by gaining weight. It’s as if they’re saying, ‘You can’t fire me, I quit!”

But after a while, the weight gained actually causes women’s sexual desire to diminish. According to one woman’s story, “While I was thin, I couldn’t stop thinking about sex, and I stuffed myself with junk food every time he rejected me. Eventually, I got back to my high weight, and discovered, much to my relief, that my ‘urgent’ need for sex had gone away,” (58).

2. Sex is boring – food is way more interesting:

Other women turn to food to when their romantic lives seem to become mundane. According to one woman who used to love having sex with her husband but is now board with the routine, food can be a replacement for the sex she once loved. She said, “Lately I find late night snacks much more enjoyable than sex. And if an extra ten pounds makes him less interested, so much the better.”

Many people try to alleviate their relationship trouble by having a relationship with food

3. Better sex can also cause a healthier diet:

As sexual frustration can lead to overeating, the opposite can also be true – sexual fulfillment can lead to a healthy relationships with food. According to Stuart and Johnson, “As a woman finds finds increased emotional and sexual intimacy with her husband, food often becomes less important. Having overcome the emotional emptiness of a burned-out relationship, she has no need to seek out edible substitutes for love and affection. One woman describes how her husband’s attention is a perfectly satisfying replacement for overeating: “I don’t worry about maintaining my weight loss – the extra affection I get from my husband is enough,” (102).

4. Weight loss can lead to better sex:

This certainly isn’t always true. As one woman described in the book, she continued to lose weight in order to entice her husband to be interested in her sexual again but it didn’t work. BUT, it is certainly true that better self-confidence can lead to better sex, and sometimes (healthy!) weight loss can lead to higher self-confidence.

According to one woman’s story, sex became a much more fulfilling activity after she lost weight. She said, “At my heaviest, sex was urgent because it was the only time I felt loved or needed. Even though I was too fat to participate actively when I weighted 211 pounds, I had to have the closeness. At 145, I’m more mobile, I feel better about being seen in the nude, and I enjoy taking baths with my husband. And best of all, we make love now because we want to, not because I have to,” (102).

aphrodesiacs continued…

I’m now going to list and describe many different foods that have been believed to be aphrodisiacs throughout history. Much of the evidence for these beliefs was taken from religious texts such as the Bible, the Kama Sutra, an Islamic sex manual, the Decretal of Church morality or other formal writing. Again, we must take care to remember that in many ancient civilizations, virility and immortality were often considered one in the same. Again, all of this information comes from Miriam Hospodar’s article, “Aphrodisiac Foods: Bringing Heaven to Earth” from the Fall 2004 issue of the Journal of Food and Culture (http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2004.4.4.82). I have merely sorted through her article and summarized it based on types of foods and what I found most interesting.

Sweet foods
Sweet foods were often associated with the gods. The gods drank or ate their sweets to give them joy and immortality. The gods had nectar on Mt. Olympus soma in the Vedic heavens, mead in Valhalla, honey in Jerusalem, and chocolate in Aztlan. Mortals mimicked these sweets with their own earthly foods which, though not divine, were nevertheless considered powerful. Usually they were believed to be aphrodisiacs and to increase fertility and energy.


However, earthly foods that were sweet were believed to mimic these celestial droughts. Sugar in ancient China and India and honey in the rest of the ancient world were typically employed as aphrodisiacs to increase fertility and as tonics for energy and rejuvenation. Honey’s link to sex and the gods were interchangeable; it was both used in religious ceremonies and in bed. The Kama Sutra, the famous sex bible of the Hindus, contained aphrodisiac recipes and all except for one of the recipes included sugar, milk, honey, or clarified butter (which was specifically supposed to increase sperm, extend life, and bring exhilaration.

Garlic
Garlic was believed by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks to give its eaters the strength needed to build pyramids and temples but also to continue their sexual endeavors when their libidos began to fade as they grew older. The Kama Sutra contains this recipe: “Mix garlic root with white pepper and licorice. When drunk with sugared milk, it enhances virility.” There’s that sugar and milk again.

Seafood
Seafood was originally believed to promote lust because Aphrodite was born from the sea. The second- century Platonic philosopher and satirist, Apuleius, made a love potion for a widow he desired to marry and wrote that seafood, “must necessarily have great efficacy in exciting women to venery, inasmuch as Venus herself was born of the sea.” Europeans even believed that people are more lusty during Lent, not because it is the time of suppressed pleasure, but because people ate much more fish during lent.

Crocodile
Randomly (in my opinion) crocodile eggs, meat, and semen were all believed to be aphrodisiacs in ancient Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In fact, some Nepali still make a powerful aphrodisiac called Makaradwaj (crocodile sex) out of crocodile.

Glamour model Nicola McLean eating crocodile testicles on the Australian TV show "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here"

Bread
Bread has turned up in many fascinating ways as an aphrodisiac throughout history. In fact, “fornicate” was derived from “forno” which means “oven” in Latin. From Kama Sutra recipes to gingerbread men to pumpkin pie, bread may be the surest way to a man or woman’s heart… or lust.

The Kama Sutra has a recipe for a sweet-potato cookie that was supposed to solve all of your sexual problems and more: “Crush sweet potatoes in cow’s milk, together with swayamgupta seeds [Mukunia pruriens], sugar, honey and clarified butter. Use it to make biscuits with wheat flour….By constantly eating these biscuits, one’s sperm acquires such force that it is possible to sleep with thousands of women who, in the end, will ask for pity.”
Gingerbread men were originally supposed to act as love potions for women to woo the man she desired. The ginger contained the aphrodisiac properties, but then the women crafted the bread to look like the man wanted to ensnare. When the man ate the cookie, he was said to belong to the baker forever.

The twenty-volume Decretal of Church morality written by Buchard, the bishop of Worms, wrote: “Have you done what certain women are in the habit of doing? They prostrate themselves face downwards, rump upward and uncovered, and have a loaf of bread kneaded upon their nude nates; when it has been baked, they invite their husbands to come and eat it; this they do in order to inflame their men with a greater love for them.” A similar account was recorded in a diary by John Aubrey in seventeenth-century England, although he only said that women pressed the dough against their vaginas.

In the modern day, bread still is supposed to be the most powerful aphrodisiac! Neurologist and psychiatrist Alan Hirsch conducted a study in 1995 to find the most erotically stimulating aroma to men and it revealed pumpkin pie to be the winner.

Nuts
Nuts were supposed to be sperm food and were considered very important in different parts of the world for maintaining healthy sperm.

The Islamic sex manual, The Perfumed Garden written between 1410–1434, contains a recipe that advices men to eat 20 almonds and 100 pine nuts followed by a glass of thick honey for three days. In the world’s oldest known sex manual, the first-century China Classic of the Elemental Maid, a recipe calls for a mixture of walnuts, peanuts, almonds, and dates to be eaten twice a day. Hospodar pointed out that this recipe sounds a great deal like a modern day Powerbar.

Chocolate
Chocolate is a no-brainer. Wherever chocolate was eaten, it was believed to have divine or aphrodisiac properties. One description of chocolate I particularly enjoyed was written by James Wadsworth in 18th century England in A History of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate: “Twill make Old women Young and Fresh; Create New Motions of the Flesh, And cause them to long for you know what, If they but taste of chocolate.”

Mandrakes
The mandrake was dubbed an aphrodisiac because it looks like the male genitalia or an entwined pair of lovers. It’s been believed to increase desire and fertility at least ever since it was mentioned in the Bible. The Biblical text describes Leah using a mandrake to seduce Jacob to sleep with her.

Mandrake lovers

Vanilla:
Louis XV’s mistress Madame de Pompadour lived for some time on a diet of vanilla, truffles, and celery. When her maid accused her of having an unhealthy diet, de Pompadour said, “The fact is, my dearest, that I’m terrified of not pleasing the King any more, and of losing him. You know, men attach a great deal of importance to certain things and I, unfortunately for me, am very cold by nature. I thought I might warm myself up, if I went on a diet to heat the blood, and then I’m taking this elixir which does seem to be doing me some good.”

Chilies:
In the 1970s, the Peruvian government banned chilies from their prisons after a persistently large amount of prison rapes. They said that chilies were, “not appropriate for men forced to live a limited lifestyle.”

Testicles, Eggs, Blood, and Female Secretions
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that testicles and eggs have been believed to bring fertility to anyone who consumes them. Modern Chinese sex tonics incorporate dried penises and testicles of deer, tigers, seals, and beavers. They even catch spotted geckos while they mate (which is for a full day) and then eat them dried and soaked in wine.
We’re going further and further from what is considered normal food; that is, food that is consumed for caloric intake. People from all times and places have drunk the blood of “everything from bulls to blonds in the hope that it would increase strength, potency, and libido.” Menstrual blood was particularly potent. The 16th century Ming Dynasty Emperor Shih Tsung allegedly had 460 young virgins who supplied him with menstrual blood which he drank to increase his longevity and libido. According to Hospodar, in China, “Women were credited with harboring larger amounts of ch’i and greater sexual capacities than men. They believed that in order to be healthy and live long, men, who are primarily yang, needed to drink women’s yin essence, including her sexual secretions, saliva, and any perspiration that appeared between her breasts during lovemaking. Chinese sex manuals were often concerned with giving a woman full satisfaction so that her body fluids would flow copiously.”

Should you serve up some menstrual blood to turn up your partner's sex drive? The ancient Chinese thought so.

Modern day Brazil takes the bodily fluids in a different direction. Some women believe that they can ensnare their future husband by giving him a cup of coffee made by straining the grounds through her used underwear. Some African American voudou practices also involve making coffee using women’s urine, sweat, or vaginal secretions to ensnare men.

be fruitful and multiply: the importance of learning about food and sex

I know it may sound trivial, occasionally, for me to be writing a blog explaining the connection between food and sex, while others are conquering much more complex and controversial issues as the connection between food and race, gender, place, and health. But the more I deal with it, the more I think that it is very important to study this connection. What else is more visceral to our existence than food and sex? We, as individuals, have to eat to survive and we, as a species, have to have sex to survive. Sure, we don’t think about sex in a survivalist manner much anymore, but that’s probably because our species is doing so well and we have such long lives to procreate. In the 16th Century, the average lifespan of Europeans was only 25-30 years. That’s not much time to get busy and have 6 children, of which over 4 might die before they are able to reproduce. So increasing sexual desires was for more than just pure pleasure. Food has been used to increase desire and fertility for centuries in vastly different cultures, but it wasn’t necessarily to promote sex as pleasure, but rather to encourage procreation. For this reason, food as an aphrodisiac, has had great influence all sectors of human existence, from affecting sense of place to religion to etymology to social relationships.

I wanted to return to the idea of the aphrodisiac, for one because I found this awesome (scholarly!) article about aphrodisiacs, but also because I believe the topic has a much deeper history and social meaning than I ever imagined.
The article is called “Aphrodisiac Foods: Bringing Heaven to Earth” by Miriam Hospodar and was published in Fall 2004 in the Journal of Food and Culture (http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2004.4.4.82).

Before I get into aphrodisiacs, though, I wanted to talk about the connection between fertility and crops throughout history. People used to believe that the extent of their own fruitfulness influenced that of their crops. For this reason, many different cultures encouraged the practice of appointing couples to have sex in the fields before and during planting. In fact, in some belief systems, an entire kingdom’s fertility was believed to rely upon the fertility of its king. Different sexual ceremonies were performed in different cultures to make crops grow. In ancient Sumeria, the king and a fertility goddess performed a ritual marriage. In ancient Egypt, pharaohs tried to conceive their first sons during the harvest festival of Min, “god of cultivation and generative power.”

Min, the Ancient Egyptian god of fertility, reproduction, and lettuce

The connection between sex and food goes as far as to be imbedded in language across the world. Languages on several different continents have words that mean both “to copulate” and “to eat.” Vanilla was named “vaina” or “vainillo” by the Spanish from the word “vagina.”

Vanilla Beans

I will soon discuss sweet foods and their historical regard as aphrodisiacs, but I will first point out that we connect sweetness to love and sex through language. We have sweethearts, sweeties, honeys, and sugar daddies. Also, we go on honeymoons, the time when our sex lives are romanticized to be at their best. Aphrodisiac was even derived from Aphrodite, name of the Greek goddess of love and sexuality. She was linked to food from the start. She was described by an Orphic Ode as the goddess of “the feasts which last for nights.” Since Aphrodite was born from the sea, seafood was regarded as aphrodisiacs by the Greeks.

Aphrodite - note that she's in the sea

I really liked Hospodar’s point about how ideas that once used to be so intertwined, have been segregated by modern society to give us, perhaps, a less wholesome existence: “Mainstream religion, medicine, food, and attitudes toward sexuality, which formerly were intertwined, have largely become estranged bedfellows. Gone from popular culture are sacred aphrodisiac foods bestowed by the divinities to grant mortals a sweet taste of heaven. Advertising taps into our most powerful desires, attempting to manipulate our yearnings to be sexually attractive, lovable, happy, powerful, and long-lived—the underlying desires motivating the search for aphrodisiacs in millennia long past.”
Thus, products attempt to quench our individual desires one at a time, with a real goal of simply making money instead of actually pleasing people. Aphrodisiacs, however, were thought to alleviate many of these desires at once. Perhaps if we still believed in the power of bread, sweets, seafood, nuts, and spices, we would feel more fulfilled. There would be more magic in our lives.

Will this couple's copulation enhance the fertility of their field?

cabbages… and condoms?

As you leave the restaurant...

Believe it or not, Cabbages and Condoms is the name of a chain of thirteen not-for-profit restaurants, twelve in Thailand and one in Japan. The restaurants have innovatively combined food and (talking about) sex to raise awareness about HIV and family planning. All profits from the restaurants go to the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) in Thailand.

A giant condom made out of condoms

I actually discovered the restaurants in the Journal of Food and Culture. An article called “The Contraceptive Café” by Dawn Starin (Spring 2009) featured the most popular Cabbages and Condoms restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand.

The idea for the restaurant came from Mechai Viravaidya, chairman of PDA. His nickname is “Condom King” and has received the Gates Award for Global Health and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. His view is that in order to get people to use save sexual practices, they have to be able to talk about sex, and one of the best ways to do that is to make sex humorous. In addition to the restaurant, he’s thrown condom-blowing competitions in Thailand’s schools and streets and vasectomy festivals. According to Starin,“He is often said to be personally responsible for lowering the country’s rate of HIV infection.” According to the PDA’s website, since its founding in 1974, the PDA has decreased Thailand’s annual population growth rate from 3.3% in the mid-1970s to 0.6% in 2005. In other words, the average number of children per family fell from seven to two.

One of the posters

If only there were more people with such chic and creative ideas for teaching about such difficult subjects as HIV and family planning. I wonder if Americans would go for such a ‘racy’ restaurant in the US. I’m sure there would be huge religious movements to outlaw such a restaurant if it ever formed here. Not only does the restaurant raise money for the Population and Community Development Association, it also makes talking about condoms fun and exciting, while being educational. The restaurant is adorned with artwork made from condoms and birth control pills, sexual education posters line the room, and there are even dishes named for condoms. Moreover, the majority of the people who work in the restaurants have HIV. The restaurants have become safe-havens for people who are otherwise ostracized.

A waiter at Cabbages and Condoms. By making condoms funny, they become more familiar objects that people are not as afraid to talk about and use.

According to Thongleum Damviengkum, the creator of the innovative condom artwork, “This is a sanctuary, a haven. There are people working here who have aids. Everyone knows it, and it creates no problems. Outside, however, there is much prejudice and stigma. Maybe my work will help get rid of the stigma. Maybe my work will make people think seriously about using condoms. Maybe my work will let people laugh. I think Mr. Mechai is right. It is best to use good food and nice surroundings and laughter and fun and daring games to get important messages across. And this is one of the most important messages to spread around the world.” Thong practices what he preaches. He said that his five-year-old daughter sometimes helps him create his artwork and, “Yes, she knows about sex, aids condoms.” The condom artwork also serves as a good reminder as to why you should never reuse a condom. None of the artwork lasts long – It deteriorates from Thailand’s intense heat and humidity.

Condom santa


The superheros: Condom man and woman!


Flowers made out of condoms

I want to take a moment to talk about the food in the restaurant. According to multiple sources I looked into, the food is delicious. It’s Thai, but often with an innovatively fresh and artistic twist. The food is also often described as somewhat erotic. For example, Starin described the restaurant’s “Khao Niew Ma Muang” dessert (a dish made with mangoes, coconut milk, sugar, and sticky rice) as “both exotically and somehow erotically charged, the perfect ending to any meal.” A salad called “Yam, Cabbages, and Condoms” is a spicy concoction of hot and sour that is sure to tantalize any tongue.

Steamed shrimp with peanuts in tomato sauce served in a coconut. I don't think it's by mistake that the dish looks like a woman's breast.

Another breast-like dish: Fried rice with pineapple

Another beautiful dish... erotically charged?

got milk?

I was inspired by Like Water for Chocolate to look into the food we all fell in love with first: breast milk. Breast milk is a food that most of us drank when we were babies, but probably haven’t tasted in years. But it turns out that many adults do taste milk throughout their lives. Breast milk, though it is primarily thought of as a maternal and very nutritional substance, can also be a very sexual substance. I found some articles that explained how breast milk can both encourage and discourage sexual relations.

I read an article called “The Milk Tie” by Jeremy MacClancy published by the Anthropology of Food in September 2003. The article discussed the ways in which breast milk mediated social relations between adults in different cultures throughout history. Most often, a man was made to suck a woman’s breast and was thereafter declared her son. Often these relationships were established to keep people’s reputations: “A Palestinian woman who wished to adopt a stranger boy or man, could do so by publicly putting her nipple into his mouth, saying, ‘Thou art my son in God’s Book, thou hast sucked from my breast.’” One of the reasons a woman would do this is so she could travel alone with the man and her reputation would not be affected.

Roman Charity – Pieter Pauwel Reubens

A similar milk-tie relationship could even be established when a woman’s reputation was on the verge of being ruined! In Georgia, if a woman was having an affair with another man (or suspected of having an affair), her husband would make the suspected man come to his house, put salt on his wife’s right breast, and ask the man to kiss it. If he kissed it, the man was milk-tied to the woman and therefore having a future affair with her would be considered incest (a crime legally punishable). If the man refused, this would serve as evidence that he was having sexual relations with another man’s wife (a crime also legally punishable). As McClancy described it, “Once the deed was done, the husband would address the couple: ‘Man, behold your mother. Woman, behold your son’. He could now rest assured; his wife and new milk son-in-law could meet openly without fear of raising any suspicion, for incest was out of the question.” Similar rituals were also carried out in Afghanistan. Apparently the practice worked: “So sacred is the tie thus established esteemed, that it has never been known to be broken.” I find it kind of strange that no husband in any of these cultures ever felt a desire to kiss his own wife’s breasts!

Thus, breast milk was used to quell sexual desires, or at least make them undesirable. In other cultures (our own, for example), quite the opposite is often true. It is no secret that breasts and nipples, for both men and women are areas of the body that are especially sensitive to sexual arousal. Many couples suck each others nipples or actually breast feed for sexual purposes. Wikipedia has an entire article on erotic lactation, the act of, “achieving sexual arousal by breastfeeding or sucking on a female’s breast.” The Sunday Times published a survey on March 13, 2005 that found that 25 to 33% of all British husbands surveyed had sucked milk from their wives’ breasts. The practice can almost be seen as biological. According to the article, many lactating women involuntarily release milk from their nipples when they are sexually aroused (Rogers).

There is even such a thing known as an “Adult Nursing Relationship (ANR)” which basically is a long term breastfeeding relationship with a woman and another adult. It has to be long term so that the woman continues to lactate. Often the relationship is established by the woman switching from breastfeeding a child to her partner. Woman can continue lactating for years after their child is weaned off their milk if someone continues to suckle. The relationships often express close intimacy and are actually known to “have a strong stabilizing effect on the partnership,” (Buttenstedt).

Not too surprisingly, there are entire porn sites devoted to erotic lactation. A New Zealand brothel even advertises lactating women who have agreed clients can drink their milk. But the practice isn’t just for male pleasure. Women also find breastfeeding stimulating and some have even had orgasms from breastfeeding!

I think it’s really sad that many women have even stopped breastfeeding their children and turned to formula because they were embarrassed that they felt aroused from breastfeeding (Levin). All I could think about during this article was the story of when my mom was breastfeeding me and she froze some of her milk in an icecube tray so that my dad could feed me while she was gone. One day when my maternal grandpa was over and unwittingly used some of the milk ice cubes for his drink. When he found out he drank his own daughter’s milk, he was extremely angry.

P.S. I even found out that women like Tita (from Like Water for Chocolate) can lactate even if they’ve never been pregnant! It’s called induced lactation and usually involves long term and frequent stimulation of the breasts and nipples (which I’m not sure Tita did).

References:
Buttenstedt, Carl: The “Marriage of happiness”: the revelation of woman: A study in nature

Levin, Roy J. (May 2006), “The breast/nipple/areola complex and human sexuality”. Sexual & Relationship Therapy. 21 (2):237–249

Rogers, Lois (March 13, 2005), “Earth dads give breast milk a try”. The Sunday Times. Retrieved on 2008-01-14