Forbidden Fruit

Just thinking about food has the ability to make one’s mouth salivate and stomachs growl. Eating involves so many of our senses. Remarkably, these are the similar senses involved in sex. Also, hunger and procreation are part of our primal instincts as humans, making it sensible that somehow these two are linked. What links these two? Language.


It is only fair to start with the original Forbidden Fruit in biblical story of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, despite being commanded by God not to eat it. The phrase has generally been used as a metaphor whereby the fruit of knowledge of good and evil stood for indulgences or pleasures that were immoral or outright illegal. Just as we know every coin has two sides, it was also interpreted as Adam and Eve doing the deed. Whether this biblical story was the precursor to the current state, of language, sex and food, nobody will know for sure. However, sex and food  does seem to have grown a long way from the Forbidden Fruit.


In the present day and age, the media vividly displays the relationship between language, sex and food. Look no further than to Burger King, the iconic fast food chain that is popular globally.


In this advertisement, the connection of language, sex and food is clear. First off, Paris Hilton catches the attention of the viewer with her less than obvious sex appeal. The viewer would than look at the enormous and delicious looking burger. Here, to a man, it would scream off that size does indeed matter (with the caption) and to a woman it would scream out that she could indeed have a burger that large and look as sexually appealing as Paris Hilton.


In this second image, Burger King is at it again engaging the sexual metaphor of a blowjob. They claim that their ‘NEW BK SUPER SEVEN INCHER’ would ‘BLOW YOUR MIND AWAY’. To add to this madness, it also seems to show the woman to have a surprised expression; inciting the possibilities that the woman is either surprised by the large size which they are again promoting, or that she is non-consensual. I believe what exacerbates the problems of this advertisement is the fact that potential non-consensual blowjobs (which may amount to rape) have become such a humdrum that Burger King has chosen to use it in advertising.


Food therefore seems to have a performative dimension in the media. (Magee, 2007) There seems to be a need to graphically stimulate food. This not only occurs in advertisements such as the ones used by Burger King, but even in cooking shows. The famous Nigella Lawson was at it again here by posing with a caramel dripping face; needlessly sexualising caramel I should add.


Atop pictures of such, Nigella often sexualises her food by using sensual terms and sensual use or licking of her fingers.



Language, sex and food is not just restricted to advertising in the media. It is also rife in the music scene. Examples include the Lemon Song by Led Zepplin, Ice Cream Man by Nicki Minaj and the list goes on. Studies have shown that music videos that are highly sexualized or objectified manifest negatively. In a study based on a date rape scenario, it was found that generally, the high sexualized/objectified music video had a greater effect on males’ perceptions, decreasing their judgments of guilt and empathy for the victim. Moreover, the females in the high sexualized/objectified condition were more likely to rate the female as responsible for the date rape (Burgess & Burpo, 2012).


Although the study focused on music videos, it does seem more likely that the effect of listening to or singing the lyrics would have a more pronounced effect. Odds are, the average Jane listens to such a song more than she watches the music video. Hence, the widespread usage of sexual innuendos of food in music is bound to have more far reaching consequences that it seems on the façade. It is more troubling that it has become so ordinary to draw parallels between the pleasurable feelings derived from eating and having sex. Even much so for women who are often the target of sexualisation or objectification.



Culturally language, sex and food is connected. The link may not be apparent, but with closer attention to the Asian cultures, this will become more apparent. In the Philippines it is Balut (duckling embryo), in Japan it is Fugu (pufferfish), in China and Vietnam it is cobra’s blood and the list goes on here. Unlike in western cultures, food is generally not used as sexual innuendos in the Asian cultures, tying in with the Asian conservationism. However, somehow information linking food and sex is passed on from generation to generation. These aphrodisiacs are a part of these cultures. Language therefore plays a role in culturally transmitting this information. Cultural transmission is the process by which information is passed from individual to individual via social learning mechanisms such as imitation, teaching or language. (Mesoudi & Whiten, 2008). Proof of this exists in the form of people who eat these aphrodisiacs even though they do not think it works!


In conclusion, the connections between language, sex and food are endless and here to stay; especially so in the media. Even with the negative publicity that comes with advertisements like that of Burger King, it seems as though Burger King had just become more famous! It is almost as though sex sells! According to Cebrzynski (2000) however, it isn’t the sex itself but the sexiness that sells. It is clear that the connections between language, sex and food in the media are here to stay. Culturally, the situation is the same.


Burgess, M. C., & Burpo, S. (2012, December 1). The Effect of Music Videos on College Student’s Perceptions of Rape. College Student Journal, 748-763.

Cebrzynski, G. (2000, March 14). Sex or Sexy? The difference is that one sells, and the other doesn’t. Nation’s Restaurant News.

Mesoudi, A., & Whiten, A. (2008, November 12). The multiple roles of cultural transmission experiments in understanding human cultural evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

Magee, R. M. (2007). Food Puritanism and Food Pornography: The Gourmet Semiotics of Martha and Nigella. Americana: The Journal of Americal Pouplar Culture, 6(2).