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!

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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).