Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

March 12, 2009

Is Food the New Sex?

The Hoover Institute's Mary Eberstadt just published an excellent essay Is Food the New Sex?, looking at two of the most basic appetites in human existence (food and sex) and how the attitudes towards those things have changed dramatically in the past 100 years.

It's a tremendously rich article, and I plan to discuss some of the elements in it in coming days, but here are a few preliminary quotes:
ordinary language itself verifies how similarly the two appetites are experienced, with many of the same words crossing over to describe what is desirable and undesirable in each case. In fact, we sometimes have trouble even talking about food without metaphorically invoking sex, and vice versa. In a hundred entangled ways, judging by either language or literature, the human mind juggles sex and food almost interchangeably at times. And why not? Both desires can make people do things they otherwise would not; and both are experienced at different times by most men and women as the most powerful of all human drives.

One more critical link between the appetites for sex and food is this: Both, if pursued without regard to consequence, can prove ruinous not only to oneself, but also to other people, and even to society itself. No doubt for that reason, both appetites have historically been subject in all civilizations to rules both formal and informal. Thus the potentially destructive forces of sex — disease, disorder, sexual aggression, sexual jealousy, and what used to be called “home-wrecking” — have been ameliorated in every recorded society by legal, social, and religious conventions, primarily stigma and punishment. Similarly, all societies have developed rules and rituals governing food in part to avoid the destructiveness of free-for-alls over scarce necessities. And while food rules may not always have been as stringent as sex rules, they have nevertheless been stringent as needed. Such is the meaning, for example, of being hanged for stealing a loaf of bread in the marketplace, or keel-hauled for plundering rations on a ship.

These disciplines imposed historically on access to food and sex now raise a question that has not come up before, probably because it was not even possible to imagine it until the lifetimes of the people reading this: What happens when, for the first time in history — at least in theory, and at least in the advanced nations — adult human beings are more or less free to have all the sex and food they want?

Read the whole article here.


Edith Magdalene said...

Interesting piece -- I will have to read the whole thing. I never really thought of that -- but in hyper-sexualized society such as our own, it does not really come as a surprise that appetite for food has become attached to appetite for sex. And what 'food for though' the author poses with the last question in your post!

Julian said...

This is really great, Agatha. Thanks for sharing. Let's post about this more.

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