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

women, food, and sex in books and movies

When I began this blog, I assumed that there must be books centered on women, food, and sex, but I never guessed that we would read one for our class. I was therefore really excited to read Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel and to read all of the steamy food scenes. In the book, food and sex are linked in multiple ways. The most obvious way is in how the main character, Tita’s, cooking acts as an aphrodisiac, but food is also associated with sex in that it is a way of transmitting or displaying passion. Additionally, Esquirel shows that food itself can even be sexy.

The quail in rose petal sauce Tita makes from the roses her lover, Pedro, gives her have a huge effect on everyone who made it. Tita’s sister, Gertruda, is especially affected. She becomes so hot with desire that when she tries to cool herself in the shower, it catches fire. Her naked self runs from the flaming shower into the field where a general on horseback senses her passion and comes to her, sweeps her off her feet, and they have sex while riding the horse – all from Gertruda eating Tita’s quail in rose petal sauce.

I looked into whether rose petals are actually considered a food and they are! Apparently they can have a range of flavors – from sweet to tart to spicy! The recipes I found from ehow.com (http://www.ehow.com/how_2297120_eat-rose-petals.html) had recipes for making rose petal cubes, rose petal salad, whipped cream with rose petals, rose petal salad dressing, and, what sounded most delicious to me, rose petal butter.

Rose petal jam

Another website I found (http://suzette.typepad.com/the_joy_of_soup/2003/05/rose_petal_reci.html) had more complicated recipes:
Rose Petal Sandwiches
Rose Petal Drop Scones
Rose Petal Cookies
Rose Petal Tea
Rose Petal Jelly
Chilled Pear and Rose Petal Soup
Linguine and Rose Petal Pesto
Grilled Chicken with Rose Petal Mango Sauce
Rose Petal Jam Tarts
Green Tea and Rose Petal Popsicles
Rose Petal Ice Cream
Rose Petal Wine

Rose petal doughnut

They sound very romantic. I wonder how amorous they make their eaters. The websites don’t mention anything about that, though they did suggest it makes whoever cooks them feel ‘girlie.’ I did find out that it is important not to use store-bought roses. You should grow your own or buy them at farmer’s markets where no pesticides are used.

In Like Water for Chocolate, Esquirel also showed that cooking food, in addition to being an aphrodisiac, can also be a way of expressing sexual desire . While Tita’s passion for Pedro is physically played out with Gertruda and the general, it is shown to Pedro through the food. She cooks with him in mind every night and lives for the complements he gives her food. Their love, for a while, is exclusively shared through the exchange of food.

Finally, some of the lines in the book describing food are very sensual. In describing the last lonely chili and walnut sauce left on a platter, Esquirel writes, “… which contains every imaginable flavor; sweet as candied citron, juicy as a pomegranate, with the bite of pepper and the subtlety of walnuts, that marvelous chili in walnut sauce. Within it lies the secret of love, but it will never be penetrated, and all because it wouldn’t be proper” (p 58). This could almost be the description of a woman rather than a chili. It “wouldn’t be proper” because it’s impolite, even in our lives, to eat the last piece of food on a plate. The metaphor here is that Tita is the last lonely chili pepper that Pedro will not penetrate and find the secrets of love because it wouldn’t be proper.
Esquiel even made the act of nursing sexy. Tita, who was not allowed to have a child of her own, miraculously developed the ability to nurse her nephew when his mother was unable. When Pedro, the baby’s father sees Tita nursing her child, he and Tita have a very sensual moment.

There are other books and films that also connect food to sex. I recently watched the movie, Today’s Special, about an Indian sous-chef in a French restaurant named Samir who hates Indian food and quits his job when he doesn’t get a promotion, but then is made to give up his career and run his father’s Indian restaurant. He originally didn’t get the promotion of head chef at the new restaurant his boss was opening because, as his boss, the head chef, explains, the guy who did get the job (someone much less experienced than the Samir) gives him a boner when he watches him cook. He asks Samir, where is my boner? But Samir eventually turns the restaurant into a delicious hit with the help of a knowledgeable taxi driver who tells him her cannot just cook from his mind. He has to cook from his stomach, heart, and penis as well. He has to feel passion for the food – it’s like being in love, the taxi driver explains. In addition to making the restaurant famous, Samir also falls in love with a beautiful line cook who helps him out with his Indian restaurant, all in the midst of cooking together.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris is a famous story (a book then a movie) of food as aphrodisiacs. Interestingly, as with Like Water for Chocolate, it too utilizes magical realism. Vianne opens a chocolate shop in the reserved French village she moves to and the chocolate begins to change the villager’s lives, enhancing their passion and joy of life. The things that happens to the villagers from the chocolate are somewhat exaggerated, which makes it magical realism. Vianne eventually falls in love, through the exchange of chocolate, with a river gypsy (played by Johnny Depp).

The book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (now also a movie) has three sections. The first section, the one to which “Eat” refers, takes place in Italy. Gilbert travels throughout Italy eating her way out of her confused and trapped state of mind after she realizing she does not want to have children or be with her husband anymore. The exquisite food helps her gain her confidence, sense of joy, and her sense of sexiness back. Her time in Italy concludes with her buying a bunch of expensive lingerie in a boutique shop, knowing that the only person she is buying it for was herself.