Aphrodisiacs - Fact or Fiction?
Sunset picnics on the beach. Romantic candle lit dinners. Lovers feeding each other chocolate fondue. It seems like there is no shortage of associations between food, romance and sex. But are these familiar scenes just go-to content for lazy rom-com writers and first dates? Or do these meals actually lead to more exciting and enjoyable sex when the lights are turned down low?
In other words, are couples really more likely to have sex after consuming certain foods?
There is some evidence of a surface level connection between food and sex
Specifically, certain foods are more associated with sex than others. And this is largely thought to be the case because the shape of some foods resembles male and female genitalia. Think about the phallic shape of a banana (not to mention the widely used eggplant emoji as sexual innuendo!). And then there are foods that are thought to resemble the shape of a vulva, such as figs and oysters. Because these foods are thought to make us think about our (and/or our partner’s) genitals, it has been suggested that eating them may put sex on our brains and make us more likely to act on those impulses.
There is also some evidence that certain foods can stimulate our bodies in ways that mimic our natural preparation for sex. Blood flow is an essential component of sexual arousal for men and women. The increased blood flow to the genitals produces an erection for men and blood flow to the vagina intensifies sexual sensations for women.
It has been suggested that spicy foods (like ginger, curry, and cinnamon) are found to increase blood flow which has the potential to feel a bit like sexual arousal and could potentially have a positive impact on our sexual enjoyment. Therefore, consuming spicy foods could lead to better sex on account of the increased genital sensations.
However, the association between food and sex is more about the psychological interpretations and meanings we assign to those foods
For starters, we can never discount the power of the placebo effect. That is, if we believe something is going to have a positive impact, chances are it will. So, if you believe that eating chocolate will make you more interested in having sex, there is a higher chance that upon eating a piece of dark chocolate you will think about sex or want to engage in sexual activity. On the other hand, if you think that chocolate just tastes good and has no relationship to your sexual interest or enjoyment, likely you won’t feel any sexual urges post chocolate binge.
Another psychological element at play when associating a particular food with sex is what psychologists have termed classical conditioning. That is, if we repeatedly see chocolate fondue enjoyed during a romantic evening and that is followed by a sexual encounter, we begin to associate chocolate fondue with sex. The more often we see this connection being made in movies, TV shows, and in our real life, the more we are primed to think about sex when we see or eat fondue.
This association can even happen with less expected food items. In my Psychology 101 class our professor shared a story about a woman being turned on by the smell of onion on account of her sexual partner being a frequent eater of french onion dip! So if you want to create a romantic or sexual setting with food, consider picking your staple, pre-romance appetizer. Over time it just may become a cue that this is the night for romance.
What About Alcohol? Is It A Sex-Driver or Killer?
And then there is the spurious variable that often accompanies all of the romantic scenes I described earlier: wine (or some other alcohol variation). In other words, it may be less about the chocolate fondue, oysters, banana or cinnamon, and more about the alcohol that accompanies those meals. That’s because alcohol has been found to positively impact our interest in sex as alcohol make us feel more relaxed and laid back which can reduce our inhibitions and lead to a greater chance for sexual activity.
It’s important to be aware that there is a balancing act when it comes to how much alcohol to consume. Too much alcohol can get in the way of good sex by making us sloppy or tired. However, a glass of wine (even if it’s paired with chips and dip) may put you in the mood for sex.
The Setting Of Your Meal Is More Important Than The Food Choices
Finally there is the contextual setting of a romantic or sensual meal that goes far beyond whatever food is being consumed. Eating oysters with your grandmother at 3pm on a Sunday probably isn’t going to get you all hot and bothered. Whereas eating oysters with our romantic partner, at sunset with a glass of wine and candles just might do the trick.
Research has found that both men and women indicate that romantic settings play an important and positive role in their sexual desire. And that’s because a lot more is happening during a romantic meal than just the food on the table. A candle lit dinner takes time, effort and energy. It requires two people stepping away from their busy lives, making time for one another, and talking (hopefully without their smart phones on the table!). It could also include that glass of wine we discussed earlier. So even though a meal is part of this scenario, it’s really not the star of the show.
Consuming foods as aphrodisiacs definitely won’t hurt your sex life. In fact, depending on how they are used they just may bring some spark and enjoyment to your sexual experiences. And if you and your partner associate foods with positive romantic and sexual scenarios, chances are that eating those foods together will put sex on the brain.
But it’s also important to focus on the context of a romantic date over a shared meal. So don’t minimize the attention needed on the other components. Good conversation, undivided attention, and the effort of cooking a meal together could mean that spaghetti and meat balls or even ramen noodles could be your personal aphrodisiac.