Six days a week, a food truck in Northridge, California, hawks Middle Eastern spiced beef, chicken and loaded fries so good they’ll supposedly “make u come.” The truck belongs to Shawerma Hub, a halal concept with an orange and white logo that closely mimics another cum-slinging brand. The message is obvious: Shawerma Hub’s meat will leave you writhing in pleasure.
It’s marketing worth a double-take, and Yelpers agree that “you definitely leave [Shawerma Hub] feeling satisfied.” But is there any true scientific connection between expertly seasoned food and throbbing nether regions? Food is certainly central to romance and courting rituals, but is there any credence to the idea that the perfect meal can actually make u cum?
As climax-related neologisms go, “foodgasm” may be the most safe for work. Urban Dictionary describes the act as resulting from a “particularly enticing food,” with symptoms that include “becoming weak in the knees,” “eyes rolling back in head and moaning while possibly shouting ‘This is so fucking good!’ and, finally, “taste so overwhelming you have to take breaks between bites to keep from shutting your system down.” It’s a recognizable phenomenon; we’ve all bitten into a juicy burger, smeared aioli across our chins and burst forth with a series of borderline explicit moans and sighs. In fact, the dinner table is probably the only place outside of the bedroom where such guttural utterances are considered somewhat appropriate.
Foodgasms also have their place in pop culture. For example, in 2010’s Eat Pray Love, we see Julia Roberts’ protagonist wiggle her eyebrows suggestively while savoring a plate of spaghetti, sheepishly declaring “pizza is my boyfriend.” In Friends, Rachel and Chandler develop a near-climactic obsession with an ill-gotten cheesecake. Finally, in Eater, Jaya Saxena writes about a show that features what may be TV’s most explicit depiction of the mighty foodgasm: Food Wars!, a Japanese cooking manga that resorts to “elaborate, often sexual scenes of food tasting.”
Saxena points out that the show targets teenage boys, which explains the blush-worthy scenes where “characters’ clothes fly off, they move ecstatically as waves of curry wash over them and there’s a lot of breast-heaving and glistening muscles.” Specifically, she references one scene in which a buxom young woman eats honey-braised beef and finds herself “transported to a field where bees with [another character’s] face pour honey over her as she moans in pleasure.”
Outside of pop culture, accounts of literal foodgasms grow tenuous. Search Reddit, and you’ll find countless mentions of “foodgasms” but surprisingly few that earnestly reference an actual genital climax. Namely, I was only able to find one example, posted three years ago in the subreddit r/NoStupidQuestions.
“Yesterday, I didn’t eat all day, then I got really hungry at night and went to get pizza,” redditor Slothfulness69 writes. “It was my favorite combination pizza and it smelled sooooo delicious. I was so hungry I ate the first slice without even really tasting it, but I stopped to enjoy the second slice. I was sitting there, savoring everything about the pizza: the smell, the warm temperature and all the flavors. I was eating the slice slowly when all of a sudden, something just came over me, and I moaned out loud. Thankfully, I was alone in my car. I can’t explain it, but somehow I randomly got intense sexual pleasure from eating that pizza, and that’s never happened to me before.”
The post didn’t receive much engagement, with only a few comments including one that reads, “Guess you were just really fuckin hungry.” Elsewhere, another redditor asked the question: “What food gave you a legit foodgasm that you still think about?” But between the 600+ commenters, no one had information on an actual orgasm stemming from food. At most, they describe their all-time most memorable dishes as “sexy,” “juicy” and “magical.”
Horny manga and enthusiastic Redditors aside, the term “foodgasm” has limited scientific backing. “There’s definitely an intimate relationship between food and sex,” says sociologist and sexologist Sarah Melancon, explaining that digestion causes a release of oxytocin, a feel-good chemical that plays a key role in sexual arousal, pleasure and orgasm.
Maybe so, but scientists remain unclear on the exact implications of that connection. In a 2013 study, researchers noted that bitter, sweet and umami tastes are detected by two distinct families of taste receptors in the mouth; receptors that are also found in the testes and in sperm. Still, the researchers maintained that the “functional implications of taste receptors distributed throughout the body are unknown.” That’s not to say an orgasm can’t occur from flavor, then — only that the physiological path between spaghetti and squirting is still a bit of a mystery (if there is one at all).
Obscure physiology aside, there’s plenty of research explaining why some foods are sexier than others. Indeed, bitter, sweet and umami flavors are all highlighted in stereotypical aphrodisiacs like oysters, olive oil, chocolate and truffles. On a biological basis, some foods have been shown to aid in certain sexual function, too — as Bon Appetit reports, soy contains phytoestrogens, which promote vaginal lubrication, while wheat germ is rich with the amino acid L-arginine, which increases oxygen delivery to all parts — all parts — of the body. But an aphrodisiac’s pleasurable appeal ultimately has nothing to do with the food’s flavor — it’s not like America’s hot singles are chowing down on wheat germ on a first date.
Interestingly, Melancon also links the concept of foodgasm to feederism, a fetish wherein a person is sexually aroused by either eating and gaining weight or helping someone eat and gain weight. “In a feeder-feedee relationship, eating can be highly eroticized, though the emphasis is less on the food itself,” Melancon explains. She also points to sploshing, a fetish centered on playing with food and rubbing it on one’s own body or one’s partner’s body. But neither fetish links back to flavor — that is to say, the flavor of the food isn’t what causes the sexual release.
With that in mind, is it possible that some lucky snackers are able to get wet and wild just from biting into a particularly artful BLT? Of course it is. People get off from all kinds of things. But while mapping orgasm onto food makes total sense — the idea of eating strictly as a source of pleasure does have a certain quasi-sexual taboo to it, particularly in a society steeped in diet culture and restriction — achieving a foodgasm doesn’t seem like a common phenomenon. In fact, linguistic researcher Alejandro Barrena Jurado remarks that “the sequence ‘-gasm’ doesn’t reproduce the original meaning of orgasm in different groups of words in the corpus, but a slight variation.” In other words, “foodgasm” was never meant to be taken literally; instead, as Jurado writes, it’s simply meant to evoke “a feeling of excitement or enthusiasm.”
All of which leads us back to Shawerma Hub. Intrigued by the promise of clitoral contraction, my editor Isabelle Kohn ventured to the Northridge spot to try it herself. Did she cum? She did not. “But,” she offers, “who’s to say what would have happened if that beef had romanced me a little more beforehand? Sometimes, I need a little more of a warm-up than street meat in my mouth.”
As she points out, arousal and orgasm are situational. While tiny chunks of warm beef likely aren’t enough to make you cream your jeans, it could, potentially, be a factor in eventual orgasm. Ultimately, then, orgasms are like shawerma trucks: No two are alike.
I’ll raise a hot beef to that.