Food and sex have been linked pretty much as long as there has been both food and sex. And while the notion that certain foods are aphrodisiacs is, essentially, bullshit, there are some links between the places of the brain that register both sexual and gustatory pleasure, and both types of pleasure involve intense sensory experiences.
Like most unorthodox sex practices in the US, bringing food into the bedroom was a pretty hush-hush idea until the sexual revolution of the 60s. Even then, it wasn’t until the 1986 release of the movie 9 ½ Weeks — starring Kim Basinger and a pre-facial-resurfacing Mickey Rourke — that it exploded into public awareness with the infamous (and much-parodied) feeding scene.
While there are plenty of sexy food scenes in movies beyond 9 ½ Weeks, there’s also a whole category of porn dedicated to using food in various ways: bananas as dildos; cum as a food topping; cereal milk as bath water; every possible part of the body as a dessert platter. Sploshers — also known as wet and messy fetishists — are fairly mainstream in porn (Dan Savage mainstream, anyway), found in both commercial and amateur videos on YouTube and the pornier corners of the internet. Some sub-fetishes, meanwhile, focus on particular foods like cake or raw eggs.
But we all know that neither movie sex nor porn sex bear much resemblance to real sex most of the time. How often are people really donning whipped cream bikinis a la Ali Larter in Varsity Blues, or coating themselves in chocolate syrup while they get busy? And more importantly, if you’re thinking about, uh, eating out while eating out for the first time this Valentine’s Day, how do you keep things on the right side of sloppy for you and your partner? I talked to a bunch of friends, Bumble dudes and a sexologist to find out how the average person feels about being surprised with a chocolate gateau and a bucket of custard at bedtime.
To start with, there are definitely people who enjoy combining food and sex. Predictably, whipped cream is the most frequently used product: Douglas has used it for “body [play] and blow jobs” with multiple partners over the years, usually at their prompting. “If someone goes through the effort, I can get into it,” he explains. “Getting lost in the enthusiasm of your partner and letting them get excited about pleasuring you or trying something new leads to both people experiencing amazing happiness and sexual bliss.” Marco says he hasn’t tried adding food to foreplay yet, but would be willing if his partner were into it. “It could be a good new experience!” he says.
Nicole doesn’t have much experience with using food in bed beyond “the dream of pulling a Costanza.” And while she has tried using stuff like whipped cream in the past, “it’s always just been silly,” she says — nothing like the sensual eroticism of 9 ½ Weeks. But she does remember the intensity of one particular experience: “We were in my living room, fooling around, drinking. I sat in the doorway to smoke and [my partner] fed me berries in a very sensual, non-pervy, not a ‘this is my phallus on your face’ kind of way,” she says. It was a very tender moment that bonded her to her partner in a new way.
Not everyone is equally open to the idea, though, with the messiness, in particular, being a pretty big detractor for a lot of people. Eric says he used whipped cream “once, when [he] was like 19,” but never again. “Too sticky and sloppy,” he says, explaining that it was fine for foreplay but certainly “not an enhancer for penetration.”
While I (and gynecologists everywhere) shudder at the thought of someone using whipped cream as a lubricant, as a person proselytizes for clean sheets, I can certainly see the argument against bringing a sugary, sticky mess into the bed. My friend Diane agrees, admitting that she’s “not an adventurous person in general” and has “never had food near a sexual situation.” “The idea of it does not excite me,” she says. “More stickiness? Who needs that? Less stickiness is a goal we should all strive for.”
Besides the mess, there are other ick-factors. “Food smells + people smells = not okay,” Diane says. Plus, as Sam points out, “sweat and skin have their own flavors.” The whipped cream bikini might be a sexy look, but the reality of combining cream, sugar or chocolate with any of the tastes the human body produces may leave a little to be desired.
Then, of course, there are power dynamics to consider. Diane finds the idea of being fed “infantilizing.” I’m not a child or an animal,” she says. “Can I feed myself like a grown person?” It’s an important point: So much slosher porn involves explicit embarrassment, humiliation and domination — that’s definitely some people’s kink, but it’s also definitely not others’.
All that said, according to Dr. Patti Britton, a clinical sexologist, cofounder of SexCoachU.com and coauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sensual Massage, people who aren’t into sensual food play may be missing out on the “opening and awakening [of] the senses” that can come with it. Feeding or “using the body as an erotic object for food, indulging in pleasure for both partner’s bodies” can “[amp] up excitement and arousal” for both partners, she explains, making the whole experience more pleasurable.
Admittedly, there is a lot of vulnerability involved in food play, as Britton notes. It requires “leaning into intimacy,” and a huge amount of trust, she says, when one partner allows the other partner to take control and feed the other one. It can be an expression (or even a test) of connectedness and trust, but not everyone may be willing — or at the right stage of the relationship — for that.
If you are looking to do some experimenting, Britton recommends starting slow with recognizably sensual foods like strawberries, chocolate or champagne. She’s also careful to emphasize that communication and especially consent are essential, so make sure your partner knows what’s going on, doesn’t have any food allergies and is willing to go with you. “Take it one bite at a time, one sip at a time,” says Britton. “Never force-feed somebody — food play is a consensual exchange of pleasure, of energy, of giving and receiving. It should be playful.”
And finally, definitely don’t ignore the mess. No matter how careful you are, things will probably get sloppy, so you should plan for that in advance (even in 9 ½ Weeks, they got filthy on the kitchen floor, not on the bedspread). Relocation to a more easily cleaned space is an option (hello, shower sex!), or you can follow the basic guidelines of period sex and put down a towel or sheet you don’t care about.
After all this, if you’re still not into the idea — that’s totally fine! Do your thing. It just leaves more strawberries for the rest of us.