For Valentine’s Day: Aphrodisiacs, Food Play During Sex

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This week WFIU Public Radio's local food program, Earth Eats had Dr. Debby Herbenick on the show to talk about food and sex for their Valentine's Day episode.

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strawberry and chocolate fondue

Photo: Adam Schweigert

We asked our listeners what they consider aphrodisiacs and we got many of the usual answers: raspberries, strawberries, chocolate, mussels...but also some more unusual answers.

This week WFIU Public Radio’s local food program, Earth Eats, had Dr. Debby Herbenick into the studio to talk about food and sex for their special Valentine’s Day episode and we thought you would also be interested in hearing what Debby had to say, so here’s a special Valentine’s Day edition of Kinsey Confidential – all about food and sex.

Sexy Foods

Annie Corrigan (Earth Eats and Kinsey Confidential Producer): Debby, we asked our listeners what they consider to be sexy about food or what they consider aphrodisiacs and we got many of the usual answers: raspberries, strawberries, chocolate, mussels…some things a little weirder, like sushi, artichoke hearts, melted cheese…and then my favorite, “anything healthy cooked by a naked man with an apron on and cowboy boots.”

Dr. Debby Herbenick: Wow.

AC: What do you think about that?

DH: Well, I think, certainly some foods are more commonly described as aphrodisiacs.

We do often hear things like oysters, for examples, which has a lot of folklore around it. I think that actually goes back to Casanova, who supposedly ate some ridiculous number of oysters in preparation for his love making and conquests and so on. And certainly oysters resemble genitals, and there are other foods that do, too. For example, the inside of papayas and avocados or figs. So those make sense.

When I hear of things like sushi, for example…I think there are some foods, maybe sushi and melted cheese, that are in there more because they’re sensual in the way that people eat them.

Not A New Idea

AC: Sure, it’s finger food, you can feed sushi to your partner… So, the idea of food being linked to sex really has been around since the dawn of time.

DH: The term aphrodisiac is based of course on Aphrodite, the goddess of love and sex and beauty. And the idea is that aphrodisiacs are supposed to be substances, could be foods, that either enhance arousal or desire or the way that we talk about them, more often these days, would be things that could enhance sexual function.

So, things like enhancing erections in particular. There are a lot of herbs that people describe as aphrodisiacs. And what they mean generally is that they sort of make them “potent.”

AC: What kinds of herbs?

DH: Saw palmetto is the big one, you’ll see that in a lot of drug stores. And there’s really not a lot of research that supports the use of most herbs for sexual purposes.

Are There Any Anti-Aphrodisiacs?

AC: So now, the flip-side of all this…Are there any foods that are anti-aphrodisiacs? Foods that we should advise our listeners to stay away from on Valentine’s Day…

DH: You know, I think people need to think about how it feels for them to eat a certain type of meal.

For many people, a very heavy meal is not going to make them feel like having sex. They’re gonna feel tired and sluggish, and they’re probably gonna want to take a nap on the sofa rather than have sex on the sofa.

So, I think it could be anything. You could have 500 strawberries and it would make you feel very sluggish, or you could have, you know, a really monsterous turkey sandwich and it would make you sluggish. So, whatever that is. I don’t think it’s the food specifically, but something very heavy.

Food Play During Sex

AC: We’ve been talking about food as aphrodisiacs. But, what about food play during sex?

DH: Oh, there’s lots… *giggle*… There’s lots to be said about food play.

I think a common one is whipped cream, which is fine (AC: of course), but we have to careful with whipped cream around women’s genitals. Because, the sugar content can sort of iritate women’s genitals, particularly if they’re prone to yeast infections.

So, for many women, not a problem. But for those women who do have sensitive genitals, whipped cream on the vulva is probably not a great idea. But you could make a whipped cream bra, or you could make the whipped cream bikini that doesn’t go all the way into the inner parts of a woman’s genitals.

Sometimes people experiment with produce. Obviously you want to wash produce before you insert it into the vagina or into the anus.

I don’t really recommend inserting produce into the anus if you can help it, and I think most of us can help it. Because, things do get lost in the anus and rectum more easily than they do in the vagina.

But if you are going to put something in the vagina or anus that is produce, at least put a condom on it, because you can more easily sort of hold on to the end of the condom and take it out as needed. And it also sort of is better for cleanliness purposes.

Fruit, like strawberries and raspberries, can also be placed on a woman’s breasts or a man’s chest or someone’s back, maybe on top of whipped cream. Or, even chocolate and peanut butter is a nice combination, too.

Your Ideal Valentine’s Day Meal

AC: Before I let you go… Set the scene for me… What would be your ideal Valentine’s Day meal?

DH: Oh wow, well that would be tricky!

AC: The sky’s the limit.

DH: It would probably be something like… a small cup of whitebean and black truffle soup from one of my favorite restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico. And then maybe a light green salad with, oh I think they were called mushrooms of the forest or something like that and maybe a very light pumpkin ravioli with a sage and brown butter sauce. And then just some strawberries for dessert, or some raspberries.

AC: Dr. Debby Herbenick is the author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction, available now at your local bookstore and the host of the Kinsey Confidential podcast.  Thanks again for coming in.

DH: Thank you.

Kinsey Confidential

is a service of The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. Sexual health experts answer your questions and provide newspaper columns and weekly podcasts.
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