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Why These Gross Meat-Pussy Memes Won’t Go Away

From edible panties to the eggplant emoji, food and sex are explicitly intertwined — two modes of pleasure that may combine for synesthetic bliss. But it’s not all peaches and creaming where these two appetites intersect: A couple of strangely enduring (and anatomically incorrect) memes illustrate a disturbing attitude toward the female genitalia with what would otherwise be an unremarkable lunch.

Here’s one that recently went viral:

Reno Omokri is the founder of California’s Mind of Christ Christian Center. The “Nuggets” he dispenses on Twitter, which frequently condemn premarital sex, are ostensibly aimed at men and women alike, though, of course, it’s the latter he chides for “promiscuity,” while men are counseled to “create artificial stress” for their female partners to gauge readiness for marriage. Even with these toxic and retrograde views, his choice to diagram the imagined stretching of a vagina with slices of raw fish feels pretty crude. Maybe that’s because the minister lifted it from a more, uh, secular source.

This tweet made the rounds in May 2017, almost a year before Omokri’s version gained traction, and it surfaced again on Reddit that summer. Sifting through his account, @PatohShanqueels appears to live somewhere in Africa, possibly Uganda, and clearly delights in posting shocking or controversial sexual memes, as well as the occasional comment about soccer. His concern over the permanent effects of intercourse on the vagina is certainly trollish compared to Omokri’s, yet no less revolting: Both men want to shame women of any sexual experience, and “loose” has a double meaning convenient to both the pious and vulgar personality — loose in morals and loose “down there.” The use of fish heightens the insult with a nod to vaginal odors that could indicate infection.

The reality is that vaginas, like any body part, come in a range of shapes and sizes, and their muscular elasticity really isn’t determined by the dicks (or the number of dicks) that enter them. Yes, there are exceptions: The first time a woman has sex and the process of childbirth can widen the opening, and as a woman gets older, hormone changes lead to a loosening of the vaginal walls. It’s the height of phallic ego, however, to think that each new cock contributes to overall dilation.

Men are hooked on the myth as a measure of their impact — they want to leave a mark, as it were — and a tangible manifestation of something they’re fixated on but cannot see: How many guys their partner fucked before fucking them. If he won’t take her at her word, he has to trust this idiotic pseudoscience; if he concludes that too many men have been inside her, well, then hooking up would be like licking something a stranger had stuck their finger in. It’s just unsanitary. It isn’t done. You are what you eat, and that applies to eating pussy.

Things get even weirder when we zoom out to the labia. In 2016, the tweet above, presented as the opinion of a Trump-loving Christian mom (it was definitely a troll) seemed to imply that sex could draw out the folds surrounding the vulva, leaving them more externally pronounced. Suffice it to say, this is a full notch dumber than the widening-vagina theory; it also put a more clearly misogynist twist on an image whose intent was less clear. The same ham sandwiches had turned up on the photo-sharing site Imgur the year prior, typically with the caption “two types of women.” Was this an attempt at the pro-celibacy argument later put forward by “Jennifer Mayers,” or — to give it an admittedly charitable read — a joke about the natural variety of women’s labia?

When food serves as stand-in for the male sexual organ, it’s either to incite the giggles (as when creationists talk about how perfectly suited a banana is to the human grasp) or genuine erotic pleasure (there’s no end to the videos of women masturbating with penile vegetables). Women get the embarrassment and anxiety, yet apart from Philip Roth’s young protagonist porking a cut of raw liver in Portnoy’s Complaint or the titular moment in American Pie, the cultural history of men coming in their cuisine is kind of thin.

Notably, each case sees the foodstuff thrown away with clandestine care, ruined by a single illicit encounter. Even Call Me By Your Name, in making the leap from page to screen, edits out the moment when a character lovingly consumes a jizz-filled peach.

To state the obvious: A vagina isn’t food. It’s not susceptible to the five-second rule; you can’t order it at Arby’s; and there are no reality TV shows about its preparation. To the last point, these memes reinforce an expectation of feminine domesticity — that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, that her job is to make you sandwiches. Yet the creepiest aspect of this whole mindset is the notion that a vagina is just meat, dead passive flesh disembodied from a thinking human, there to taste, probe or discard as you wish, and somehow irrevocably tainted or deformed by any man who got to it first. The most juvenile comparisons always invoke the woman’s passage as less animate or alive than the male apparatus: Middle schoolers allude to “throwing a hot dog down a hallway,” a phrase which first and foremost denigrates the woman but in practice codes dual insecurities — for if a vagina is too big, then a small-to-average dick won’t satisfy.

That isn’t to say we must completely sever the association between food and genitals. There’s no hard evidence that oysters, considered an aphrodisiac by Casanova and hedonists of the Roman Empire, do anything to enhance sexual desire, but we persist in thinking of them that way, seduced by soft folds and a pleasing briny flavor. There’s no harm in being titillated by a chicken breast or a mound of mochi with a passing resemblance to pussy. Still, when explaining or experiencing the marvels of the female form, there’s no substitute for the genuine article. Everything else is ignorance.