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A Sex Expert Explains Why Decadent Food Videos Make You Horny

Sexuality and pleasure educator Pamela Madsen explains why gooey melted cheese and drizzling chocolate cause food porn to live up to its name.

by Adelaide Andrews
Apr 29 2016, 3:00pm

Foto von Heather Katsoulis via Flickr

Good luck getting through your hourly Facebook scroll these days without becoming caught up in some 30-second video dubbed the "Ultimate Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Recipe," or "Three-Cheese Pull Apart Pizza Bread." You watch, eagerly gawking at every additional ingredient until your eyeballs are enthralled by the slow, gooey, and climactic separation of one cheesy dough ball seductively torn from the rest.

Facebook and Instagram now offer more videos of Oreos being shamelessly appropriated into every kind of fare imaginable (have you heard of Oreo rice?) and so much shit wrapped in bacon that the only thing yet to be wrapped in bacon is, well, more bacon.

But in the midst of watching all these tantalizingly decadent videos of food I have to ask one thing: Is anybody else super turned on?

As it turns out, "food porn" isn't just the hashtag you used the last time you Instagrammed your lunchit's a legitimate portal into sexual arousal. At least that's what Pamela Madsen, a sexuality and pleasure educator, explained to me when I asked her about the relationship between these trendy food clips and sexual desire.

"Food today is one big erotic equation. It's all about obstacle plus prohibition plus yearning, which equals desire. It's often full of guilt and conflicting messages like, 'This is yummy!' and 'This is bad for you!' We're stuck yearning for itand deeply captivated by desirelike a lover we can't have."

The obstacle here is that most of us are too lazy to actually prepare something like Oreo-and-Reese's-cup-stuffed chocolate chip cookies. And even if we did, we'd then have to cope with the reality of how unnecessary the whole thing is, like the dessert equivalent of a turducken. But that yearning for something we know is wrong is precisely what makes it so enticing.

Madsen, whose expertise has been featured in everything from Psychology Today to the Huffington Post to the Oprah Winfrey Show, believes we often associate the feeling of guilt with the feeling of pleasure. This is also probably why a grilled mac 'n' cheese sandwich can sound so wrongand feel so rightall at the same time.

However, I have to wonder: Should I, or anyone for that matter, really be getting turned-on by a 30-second video of warm s'mores dip? Is it healthy, psychologically speaking, or have I so deeply repressed my desire for junk food that I feel the need to fuck something just to release the tension?

Madsen argues that sexual arousalregardless of the sourceis good for us. "You're stimulating your inner pharmacy. You're producing endorphins like dopamine. You may look at a chocolate chip cookie and think, 'Oh God, I want that.' But you know what? You don't have to have it. You don't have to have the climax. And in the sexuality world, we're very busy teaching people that you don't have to cum. You can just have arousal. So food is more than just a metaphor for sex—food is sex."

READ MORE: Being a Chef Made Me a Sex Addict

If food is sex then these overindulgent cooking videos are doing an excellent job at making the not-so-subtle association between food porn and actual pornography. It seems as though every video follows a similar framework: a quick-cut buildup of ingredients and simple cooking instructions culminated with a drool-worthy close-up image of the dish oozing or dripping or being drizzled onotherwise known in the porn industry as the money shot.

#food #foodvideo #foodporn

A video posted by ?Foodvideos (@food.diy.x) on

In fact, the recurrent money shot isn't the only thing food porn shares in common with real pornography. Many of us watch porn not only to become aroused but also to get new ideas for real-life sexual encounters. Food porn works much in the same way, says Madsen.

"As we watch erotic images of food it expands us to try something we may never have tried before. We're tantalizing ourselves to expand our food boxto push our own boundaries around food. And that's why we watch porn, to push our boundaries around sex."

Up until now, sex and food have been in a constant battle for the top spot on the (totally relative) Scale of Physical Pleasure (which I just made up). Think of how many times you've heard someone refer to whatever they're eating as "better than sex," or use the word "foodgasm" to describe how something tastes. Personally, I get a bit uncomfortable when people make these comparisons, but perhaps these two indulgences aren't so different after all. Maybe food, at least when graphically showcased in an Instagram post or a 30-second video clip, is just another way we talk about sex.

One-Pot Chicken Alfredo. A video posted by Recipe Videos (@delishrecipe) on

"We can flaunt our food, but not our orgasms. So, we make food the orgasm. The more hedonistic we are, the more self-expressive we can be with our food. It's much easier to say, 'This is better than sex,' than it is to acknowledge that we are taking part in a thing called sexual expression."

In that case, I might just go express my sexuality by way of some brownie cheesecake.