CC2K

The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Sexual Appetites: The Rise of Food Porn

Written by: Seth Millis, Special to CC2K


ImageTo kick off Sex Week, CC2K contributor Seth Millis examines the link between food and sex in the media.

As long as there are cucumbers and beef sticks, melons and finger bowls, lollipops and bananas, food will be linked to sex.  To put it simply, the food porn explosion seeks to supplement our lust with gluttony.  And what an explosion it has been.  Whether forbidden fruit or eye candy, we cannot escape the way sexuality and food have become inexorably linked.

I first became conscious of the link between food and sex listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Lemon Song,” imagining a girl that could make the juice run down my leg.  I longed to pour some sugar on an unsuspecting chick as I began my pegged-jean adolescence; I wanted to get busy in a Burger King bathroom, and couldn’t wait to taste some sweet cherry pie.  I grew up without MTV (only visible on vacations), but regardless, these images did very little to enhance the lyrical explicitness of the music (apologies to Sir Mix-A-Lot, but I’ve never been much of an ass man).

Then something amazing happened.  In the fall of 1997, food porn took a visual turn.  In the Seinfeld episode titled “The Blood,” George Costanza examines the love between man and salted, cured meats.  Despite his efforts to attain the “trifecta,” George unwittingly combines “food and sex in to one disgusting uncontrollable urge.”  Shortly after, that urge grew—culturally speaking.  We were bombarded with food fantasies from erotic bakeries to Sex and the City’s “Pussy Man” practicing cunnilingus with a fruit plate to the full rebranding and resurrection of the once-repressed Food Network as a smorgasbord of sweets and meats.

We now see professionals attempt things that we would never even dream of in the kitchen, in the same way that we watch pornographic actors play out our repressed fantasies in the bedroom.  We watch in amazement as they manipulate machinery, beat, fluff, spread, drip and whip us into a frenzy of titillating proportions and impregnate our minds with different ways to spice up our own bedroom and kitchen lives.
 
The Iron Chef and Top Chef series, while similar in content, add more layers to the vicarious fantasy.  Like a new lover obsessed with performance, we are compulsively driven to know where we stack up against the competition.  If sex were really like Top Chef, Dr. Ruth would watch us, take notes, and bring us in front of a panel of sexperts who would tell us what we did wrong, condemn our technique, tell us to pack our lubricants and banish us from the bedroom.

But is the rise of food porn directly related to the monotony and repression that we experience in our sex lives?  Or is it just an extension of how sexually liberated we are?

There is no doubt that our relationships and our sex would be better if took some cues from the Top Chef series; we would benefit from real sexual challenges.  We could learn a lot by just having a few “Quickfires,” and I'm not just talking about the Padma Lakshmi fantasies.  Food porn has probably done more for my sex life than anything else—not in a sloppy-chocolate-sauce-lapping-rubber-sheets-fetish kind of way, and not in a champagne, whipped cream, strawberries, blindfold cliché kind of way either.  

The problem with sex is that as we gain experience, we become habituated.  Our motivation and drive for sex becomes unconscious and—to some extent—routine.  Imagine that you’re a Michelin Star Chef or porn actor.  You are repeatedly exposed to the finest, most exotic food or sexual partners in the world.  What happens?  Continued exposure causes your frame of reference to dissolve.  The stimulus that was once so exhilarating is now your only memory.  The fetishization and objectification of food is a sensory adaptation, an attempt to dishabituate and reconnect with both food and sexual stimuli.  
The rise of food porn has given me new perspective on both subjects.  While a quickie can show that you have passion, energy, and innovation, it's offering a complete and expanded menu that really displays talent, anticipation, restraint, and respect for the shared experience and buildup.

ImageI thought I might need to enlist some expert help here; and unlike me, Jason Gehring, Baltimore Magazine’s Best Pastry Chef of 2009, is an optimist.  “I think [the rise of food porn] it’s related to our sexual liberation. We’re constantly seeking out pleasure, or some form of doting on pleasure. If we aren't having sex, we talk about it, or think/reminisce about it, or watch others have it. The same goes with food nowadays.  Personally, if I'm not actively eating, I still find myself talking/thinking/reminiscing on excellent meals I've had, or watching people cook on television.”

Gehring, who is renowned for both the enticing and the erotic, thinks it’s better to give than receive.  In a perfect snapshot of a chef’s thoughts, he tells me, “The smile you see on a diner when they have experienced that sensation; that is infinitely satisfying. Sex is just a different outlet for the same compulsions.  Thoughts and emotions need to be expressed in a physical way and they are given form; and the smile on your partner is as equally gratifying as a sated diner.  So I guess in the end, it's all about pleasing someone.  Cooks get off on pleasuring others.”

This desire for pleasure has given way to a series of cooking shows that you could easily mistake for sale on pay-per-view: Barefoot Contessa, Boy Meets Grill, David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, Eating Out Loud, Everyday Exotic, Giada in Paradise, Glutton For Punishment, Gotta Get it, Gourmet Next Door, Guy’s Big Bite, Just One Bite, Mario Eats Italy, Meals without Meat, Naked Chef, Nigella Bites, Quench, Sara’s Secrets , Sugar Rush, Two Fat Ladies, and Unwrapped,  just to name few.  

By integrating sex right on to our dinner table, we have ensured that we will never be able to look at food the same way.  But let’s be honest: that skirt steak was asking for it.

Author: Seth Millis, Special to CC2K

Share this content:

Leave a Reply