Language, sex, and food are inevitable components in our lives. We cannot run away from the fact that all three elements are basic needs; parts of the foundation of our nature as human beings. We are required to fill our stomachs, so as to not starve. We are sexually frustrated when we have libido but unable to release the sexual tension. And as social creatures, we yearn to communicate. Essentially, all three elements have a common feature: desire. We desire and hence, require satisfying the pleasure. Whether the desire is described as ‘lust’ or ‘love’, ‘hunger’ or ‘appetite’, the need is there.
So how does our society use language to express these desires – be it food or sex? This post will attempt to explore and discuss the connection of all three elements: language, sex, and food.
One aspect of the nexus of language, sex, and food is sexualising something or someone as food through language use. Let’s take a look at a number of examples.
1. “I’m thirsty for that d” – the word ‘thirst’ in this context does not mean feeling a need to drink but instead, shows a strong desire for a guy’s male genitalia.
Similarly, 2. “eating someone out” is a term that suggests performing cunnilingus or fellatio on someone. In this case, the language used to describe a sexual activity indexes a food-related activity instead.
Likewise, 3. “he is looking like a snack right now” sexualises a guy as a meal. The sentence refers to a man who is so attractive, there is a desire to eat him up – just like how one sees an aesthetically appealing food and hence, have a desire to eat it.
From these examples, we can see how food-related nouns, verbs, and adjectives have made its way into pop culture as slangs to sexualise a person. The original meaning of those words now have an added sexual connotation to them; a double entendre. A double entendre is an expression that can be understood in two different ways: harmless and clear-cut, or indirectly insinuating something sexual (Kiddon & Brun, 2011).
Additionally, other terms like ‘sexual appetite’ and ‘hungry for sex’ are similar ways of how we describe sex like a hunger we have to satisfy. Undoubtedly, this is possibly due to the fact that both the act of eating and having sex requires satisfying the body’s need.
Another aspect of language, sex, and food coming to play is when we describe food in a sexualised manner. In recent times, words such as foodporn and foodgasm have sprouted and these newly coined words are perfect examples of how words are blended to give a new meaning, and in this case, get sexualised.
The word ‘foodporn’ is a portmanteau of ‘food’ and ‘porn’ – where the image of food is so aesthetically appealing, it makes your mouth water and have the desire to eat it, while the word ‘foodgasm’ is a blend of ‘food’ and ‘orgasm’ – a pleasurable sensation you get, similar to orgasm, when the food is just so good. According to Jameson (2015), foodgasm demonstrates and authenticates a physical response to food.
An example of this aspect is sexualised food advertising. Most times, the way food is presented or described in food advertising are sexually suggestive. The same way language use during teasing in foreplay gets people excited, sexualised food advertising draws us in with similar ways. It piques people’s interest; we are intrigued and amused at the wordplay and drawn to this form of eroticism. A study done by Poon (2016), which investigated the function of sexual imagery and visual seduction in food advertising, found that seduction messages for food products have the potential to incite hedonistic imagination. In addition to that, to entice people’s attention and reaction, suggestive visual imagery is often invoked by making the seductive nature of the subject an important factor (Poon, 2016).
Since it is taboo or forbidden to talk about sex openly and publicly, it seems that we have found a way to work around it through metaphors and euphemism. Whether it is sexualising someone as food or describing food in a sexualised way, this language use gives the sense of imagery – both in food and sex.
Another aspect of language, sex, and food coming to play is in sexting, particularly with emojis. The word ‘sexting’ is a portmanteau of ‘sex’ and ‘texting’ (i.e., sending sexual messages via mobile phones). The rise and growth of digital communication have evolved the way we sext, especially with the emergence of emoji.
Emoji enables people for better communicators in their digital lives as it facilitates the expression of emotions (Evans, 2017). According to Danesi (2017), there are two types of emoji text. Emoji used alongside text is adjunctive, and emoji used wholly in place of text is substitutive. Sexting adopts both adjunctive and substitutive type. When employed in a different way, emojis might have different symbolism. Emojis have their own connotations individually and in combination. For example, the eggplant ?, taco ? and peach ? emoji represent their respective food but also doubles as body parts that are not featured in the emoji keyboard: penis, vagina, and butt (Highfield & Leaver, 2016). When investigating the relationship between emoji usage and sexual successes, it was found that emoji usage correlates with reported sexual satisfaction. Additionally, the more emojis a singleton uses, the more dates they go on and therefore, the more sex they have (Evans, 2017).
All in all, sex and food remains to be intertwined by language because that is how we express ourselves and our desires. As times evolve, perhaps newer references to sex and food will continue to be made.
Danesi, M. (2017). The Semiotics of Emoji: The Rise of Visual Language in the Age of the Internet. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Evans, V. (2017). The Emoji Code: How Smiley Faces, Love Hearts and Thumbs Up are Changing the Way We Communicate. Great Britain: Michael O’Mara Books.
Highfield, T., & Leaver, T. (2016). Instagrammatics and digital methods: studying visual social media, from selfies and GIFs to memes and emoji. Communication Research And Practice, 2(1), 47-62. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/22041451.2016.1155332
Jameson, S. (2015). Televisual Senses: The Embodied Pleasures of Food Advertising. The Journal Of Popular Culture, 48(6), 1068-1088. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jpcu.12349
Kiddon, C., & Brun, Y. (2011). That’s what she said: double entendre identification. In Proceedings of the 49th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies: short papers-Volume 2, 89-94. Association for Computational Linguistics.
Poon, S. (2016). The Function of Sexual Imagery and Visual Seduction in Food Advertising. International Journal Advances In Social Science And Humanities, 4(3), 22-27.