David Doran: Essay

Sex, Food, and Sex with Food
David Doran

It used to be that sex was the mysterious subjectnot discussed by women socially. A woman’s sexuality was unpleasantand forbidden, but at the same time mysterious and fascinating.Sex was the topic in the foreground of women’s minds, yet remainedin the unexplored depths of conversation. Ever since the sexualrevolution, though, food has been replacing sex as women’s secretsubject. Strong desires to eat replaced the intense, represseddesires to “do it,” and eating became the thing aboutwhich every woman would fantasize but not discuss. By puttingsex and food together in the category of erotic forbidden pleasures,the two became linked in a way. Today the act of eating is frequentlycompared to the act of having sex. The association is largelybased on the taboo status of the two topics.

In the 1950s, the women of America had yetto discover their hidden sexuality. Rosalyn Meadow and LillieWeiss write that “[s]ex was both forbidden and unattainable,a subject of fantasy and mystery, with the promise of deliciousecstasy at some illusive future time”(51). As women learnedmore about it, sex shed the guilt-ridden stigma of a taboo andpassed it on to food. Jeremy Iggers provides an appropriate analogy:”In the fifties, good girls didn’t have sex; today good girlsdon’t have chocolate” (110). This point is very well illustratedin Henry Jaglom’s film, Eating (1990). In the particularscene, a room is filled with about thirty women who are attendinga birthday party. The birthday cake is cut and the women, whoare arranged in a circle, pass one piece of cake all the way aroundthe room. Every woman touches the plate, but nobody eats the cake.The scene goes to show the women’s inhibitions of being perceivedas “loose” with food, being the “bad” girl.Eating took the role of women’s guilty pleasure, which carriedthe potential to have devastatingly noticeable effects. Failureto resist the allure of sex was manifested in pregnancy whereasfailure to resist the temptations of food results in obesity.In both cases, the evidence is readily apparent to everybody thewoman encounters, which fuels the power of shame associated withthe acts.

Finally, due to the close parallels betweenfood and sex, eating can be construed as a form of sexual intercourse.The experience begins with anticipation of a good meal, with foreplayinitiated by the appearance and aromas of the food. Intercoursetakes place in chewing, tasting and savoring, and climaxes inswallowing, all followed by a warm contented sensation. One ofthe women in Eating demonstrates the association by referringto eating as the “safest sex” she can have.

By replacing sex as women’s taboo subject,food has simply changed the location of their guilty pleasures,from genital to oral (Meadow 102). There will continue to be “good”girls and “bad” girls and those stigmatized by theirchoices. Women will continue to be afraid of publicly discussingthe subject of food until the next taboo topic comes about.

Works Cited

Eating. Videotape.Dir. Henry Jaglom. International Rainbow Films, 1990.

Iggers, Jeremy. The Garden of Eating: Food,Sex and the Hunger for Meaning. New York: BasicBooks, 1996.

Meadow, Rosalyn M. and Lillie Weiss. Women’sConflicts About Eating and Sexuality: The Relationship Between Foodand Sex. New York: Harrington Press,1992.

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