Our sex and eating practices have been interlinked throughout history
Eve stands naked before me holding an apple to her full lips. It’s an undeniably sensual gesture from my favourite painting. How fascinating that forbidden food leads to sexual shame in the earliest origin story from Judeo Christianity.
Suddenly, my mind conjures a scene of Nigella Lawson — with all her bountiful curves — licking chocolate sauce off a spoon as she breathes out a delicious ‘Mmm..”
Whether it’s a milkshake bringing all the boys to the yard, or a ‘beefcake’, ‘cherry popping eye candy’, ‘melons’, ‘tart’, ‘cream pie’, ‘honey pot’ or ‘meat and two veg’ — our sexual and eating practices have been culturally linked throughout human history.
Sexual abstinence, fasting, and renouncing the “pleasures of the flesh” originate from Neolithic times.
Plato and Aristotle warned our “bestial desires” for food and sex required rational moderation. Otherwise, we risked becoming beasts in a field, eating and rooting everything in sight.
Early Christians and the Ancient Romans and Greeks moralised over excessive consumption of food and sex because “gluttony led to fornication”. Fasting was recommended for sexual purity, and sexual appetite could be increased or decreased by particular foods.
In 102 AD, Tertullian wrote that lust and gluttony were connected because the genitals were geographically close to the stomach.
Saint Augustine in early medieval times reasoned that the pleasures of eating and sex shouldn’t be separated from its goodness (nourishment and procreation).
Russian Orthodox teachings advocated reducing food consumption to avoid sexual temptation.
The puritanical Victorians repressed sexual desires with bland diets to dull the senses.
Diets devoid of spices, pepper, stimulants and coffee were advised to quell the frightful epidemic of “self-abuse” (masturbation) in adolescents.
Dr Kelloggs invented cornflakes to stop masturbation and prevent sexual arousal.
Edwardian marriage manuals spoke of the “forbidden fruit” of a woman’s “virginity” that must not be consumed too quickly, lest a marriage sour. If the husband “ate” too fast a bad marriage and crazy wife was all his fault.
Today, in our more sexually commodified times, food and sex can be a source of emotional pain.
Body shame can lead to less enjoyment, and more restrained eating and sexual behaviour. Compulsive eaters and sex ‘addicts’ may ‘binge’ to try to ‘fill up’ an internal emptiness. Sexual anorexia is motivated by a fear of rejection and intimacy. Like eating disorders, the sufferer can ‘waste away’ by deliberately depriving themselves in an effort to maintain an illusion of control.
Some find the ‘hunt’ for food or sex can be more exciting than the ‘kill’ or sexual act itself. Safe sex and safe food preparation is important for our health. In the same way we can get sick from food poisoning, we can get ill from STI’s and HIV.
Like food, the same type of sex gets boring.
Try eating alone, hurriedly, or at a leisurely pace. Use different implements, or just your hands. From fast food swallowed on the run (a quickie), to a six-course gourmet meal where you savour each and every bite (sensual seduction) — mix it up and savour the sensual delights of the world of food and sex.
Cat O Dowd
Sex Therapist —-Couples Counsellor— Art Therapist