Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Eat Me: Food and Pornography

Hello all! I'm sure everyone out there has at some time or another considered the proximity of food and sex. Whether due to aphrodisiacs such as oysters or chocolate, the way food is pornographically on TV screens and the pages of cookbooks seemingly designed to inspire the tummy-rumbling equivalent of genital arousal, or hot young chefs posing semi-nude or in provocative lay-outs, the rampant food industry has harnessed sex as a core component of its appeal. No wonder -- food has always been sexual. Aside from the obvious fact that sex and food deal in orifices, sexual terminology -- desires, body parts, and sexual acts -- relies on the evocation of food: beef curtains, meat, flesh, the myriad penis-shaped foods used to refer to the penis, racially-coded uses of "dark meat," "tacos," and "sushi," gendered associations of "fish," "red meat" and the "meat" that is to be "eaten," sexual "hunger," wanting to "eat" or be "eaten out," and the juicy, creamy, batter-like substances that are treated to food-themed euphemisms, and even entire porn genres (see Cum Shot Cocktails and the various movies that feature omelets and burritos formed from semen).

These associations are centuries old, and have been theorized as part of the "carnivalesque" and "grotesque" by Mikhail Bakhtin in his famous study, Rabelais and His World. In this book, Bakhtin discusses the subversive nature of the carnivalesque and the grotesque -- cultural features that upturn the rules of dominant culture, if only temporarily, and involve the transgression of bodily propriety. A large part of this involves food and drink. As Bakhtin notes, "Eating and drinking are one of the most significant manifestations of the grotesque body. The distinctive character of this body is its open unfinished nature, its interaction with the world. These traits are most fully and concretely revealed in the act of eating; the body transgresses here its own limits." The grotesque body revels in the "lower stratum" which includes organs associated with consumption and expulsion, the blurring of the line between human and animal, and an exaggeration of bodily matter that transgresses the societal line drawn between exterior and interior; corporeal and spiritual. In this way, the grotesque body not only revels in orifices such as the mouth, anus, and vagina, but also "that which protrudes from the body, all that seeks to go out beyond the body's confines." As Bakhtin explains, "the artistic logic of the grotesque image ignores the closed, smooth, and impenetrable surface of the body and retains only its excrescences...and orifices, only that which leads beyond the body's limited space or into the body's depths." The grotesque body refuses to adhere to societal rules that strictly separate mind/body, spiritual/corporeal, interior/exterior, private/public.

It is fairly unsurprising that this theory of the carnivalesque and the grotesque body has been employed in order to analyze what pornography is "doing" -- essays such as Emily Shelton's "A Star is Porn," and Constance Penley's "Crackers and Whackers" utilize Bakhtin's theory as a way of showing that pornography is a subversive art form. Meanwhile, others have argued that pornography cannot be considered carnivalesque because carnival entails a leveling and equalizing of society, while pornography is sexist. In this view, sexism means pornography cannot be considered carnivalesque. I believe that pornography is frequently, perhaps even inherently, grotesque, if not carnivalesque, and the pervasive use of food in porn to connote various sexual meanings is testament to this.

Some of you may know from my past posts on the flaccid penis in porn that I keep lists of porn film moments based around a theme, ranging from the generic (representations of drugs, masks, queer moments, and stuffed toys) to the esoteric (Sylvester Stallone references). It is significant that these lists began with food -- the very first list I started was about uses of food in porn, and this list has now grown to four different lists in two different notebooks. As a result, I have included quite a number of examples in this post, and I will certainly be providing sequels to account for the myriad uses of foods in porn. It should also be noted that some of the foods in the following films make perfect and erotic sense, while others are gloriously baffling and truly grotesque. Perhaps the latter, in their disgustingness, are the truly "pornographic" -- the true carnivalesque transgressors -- and should be applauded for their perhaps anti-erotic qualities rather than condemned.

The Devil in Miss Jones (Gerard Damiano, 1973)

I start with this entry, not only because it's one of the most famous porn films ever made, but also as an example of the way fruit is commonly used to connote certain things about sexuality. Apples, especially, harken back to discourses around the Garden of Eden, temptation, and (sexual) knowledge. Furthermore, these connotations are gendered -- to pursue sexual knowledge is particularly damning for women. In TDIMJ, however, Justine Jones is condemned to hell for committing suicide, so her sexual exploration (which she denied herself in life) is not tainted with the condemnation typically expressed in Western culture. In this scene, Justine masturbates with various fruits -- the apple being the fruit she actively reaches for. Significantly, this use of fruit is followed by the famous scene with the snake -- another reference to Eden, yet Justine is depicted as encouraging, even seducing the snake. It's a neat way of inverting the typical sexual expectations of women, as Justine owns her sexual subjectivity and actively courts "sin" in a way that is not tainted by shame.

Dracula Exotica (Shaun Costello, 1980)

More fruit, and again an apple. Prior to this moment, Ron Jeremy (during a bawdy, rapey orgy) pushes a cherry into the vagina of the woman on whom he is performing cunnilingus. It is the apple that stands out, however, and serves as a tool for a highly queer and homosocial/homoerotic scene. Jeremy cums on an apple, which is then bitten into by the wench he has been copulating with; in turn, she thrusts the apple into our Count Dracula's mouth (played by Jamie Gillis) who grimaces and angrily rejects said apple, muttering "Get away, whore."

Lialeh (Barron Bercovichy, 1974)

The very first film I entered on my food list, and thus the very first film I entered period, is this bizarre find. After a brief battle between self-professed "brown belt" secretary and "black belt" pimp (lame joke alert), the pimp gives up - she's too much for him. "You're not gonna rape me?" she asks. For some reason, the pimp decides the next logical move in such an unexpected scenario is to roughly grab the nearby mustard-coated wiener out of its bun, and push it into the young lady's vagina. Her groans, and cries of "deeper," would suggest a pleasurable feeling that frankly (pun intended) contradicts the logic of the concept (mustard? floppy wiener?). This is borne out by the pimp's encouraging but somewhat futile utterances of "open up." Sir, the problem is not with the openness of your lady friend; the problem lies in your wiener. 

Foxy Lady (Jack Genero, 1977)

Liked the hot dog? Well, there's more. In this film, John Leslie's wife is abducted and repeatedly raped while being held hostage. While in the kitchen, she is offered food by one of her captors but she says she isn't hungry. He tells her, "I'm gonna give you a weiner to eat." She protests that there are no more wieners. Au contraire: "You're wrong honey -- there's one more, and it's a big one. Want mustard?" He proceeds to put his own wiener inside a hot dog bun, smear it with mustard, and force it in the captive woman's mouth. **Trivia fact: I have tried to watch this film twice, as it comes highly recommended and stars John Leslie, but both times I turned it off before the end as it exceeded  my rape threshold.

Tigresses (Joe Sarno, 1979)

A double whammy in this vignette flick. First up, Jill Munroe brings a random man back to her place for Sunday brunch -- salmon, to be specific. He's quite taken with it, opening up the paper and peering at the pink flesh. He squeezes it a little, making it pulsate slightly, and exclaims, "Jesus Christ, kinda reminds me of Linda Ponecowie of Samoa. Boy, did she have the prettiest cunt ever." He compares the salmon to a couple of other "cunts" before Munroe comes into the room and initiates some lovin. 

Later in the film, Vanessa Del Rio brings a couple of couples back to her place for what ends up being a nest of voyeuristic group sex. During all these shenanigans, the maid is squeezing oranges for juice, but can't help pausing every now and again to listen and, presumably, become aroused. Eventually, she gives up on the juicing, climbs atop the work surface, and masturbates amongst the oranges.

The Resurrection of Eve (Mitchell Bros., 1973)

Eve is at a swingers party, reluctantly, but at the persistent request of her insecure husband. His persistence ultimately destroys their marriage, in spite of Eve's attempts to keep it together, and the use of food and drink in this scene -- a Greek orgy party, in which guests chit-chat while eating a fried chicken leg (see pic), fruit, and drink wine -- can be seen as a way of connoting indulgence and mild disgust mixed with excitement, much as Eve would perceive it at this point in the narrative.

Sounds of Sex (Chris Warfield, 1985)

Mrs Honeycut likes to record peoples' sex sounds and masturbate/fuck. In this scene, Honeycut is listening in on two female friends putting away groceries and gossiping about a woman at the store who had been showing off her body. The conversation subsequently turns the women on, and they use the conveniently-just-purchased banana as a fuck tool. This scene is notable as perhaps the most successful hardcore banana fucking in all of pornography. At least that I have seen.

Every Inch a Lady (The Amero Bros., 1975)

Harry Reems and Darby Lloyd Rains are a couple so good at sexually pleasing people that, having established an escort service, they decide to expand and make more cash providing specialty kinky services. This story eventually takes a bizarre turn, but before that there is this bizarre sex scene in which, after Jamie Gillis pushes anal beads in Harry's ass and roughly pulls them out, Harry indignantly leaves and returns with a carrot -- he fucks Jamie's ass with the  carrot while Jamie is fucking Darby. Got that? While this is obviously simulated, it is nonetheless queer as fuck. Also, significantly, the music becomes carnivalesque during the carrot fucking and this part of the scene is played for laughs as well as coded as comedically aggressive. As is common in ostensibly-hetero texts, the homoerotic aspects must be deflected by comedy and/or violence.

Babylon Pink (Henri Pachard, 1979)

What a beautiful film this is. Vanessa Del Rio is a housewife who fantasizes a man standing behind her in the mirror munching on a slice of melon. He actually takes a bite out of the slice of melon as one might a carrot -- rind and all. Del Rio seems quite aroused by such munching, and a dreamlike, visually/aurally-stunning scene ensues.

Mouth (David Stanley, 2007)

Kirsten Price goes undercover to discover the truth behind the mysterious cult "rumored to be connected to strange food addictions and oral sex." Eric Masterson is a cult leader who used to be fat because he loved to eat so much but develops healthy food that doesn't taste like crap in the form of burgers. Side effects include a rampant desire to perform fellatio. This film, and the one following, are porn flicks that center the mouth and consumption as themes, conflating or connecting food and sex in more explicit ways than the preceding titles.

Gluttony (Wash West, 2001)

Another film centered around consumption, this is a very good, very interesting adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, a homoerotic novel that, amongst other things, deals with indulgence of the senses. This movie focuses greed and sensory indulgence, as Dorian, a beautiful physique model cum porn star cum award-winning chef/champion pickle eater/food-themed porn director, goes through the ages indulging a seemingly unquenchable sexual desire. Food is used in this film to explicitly connote sex; it goes as far as to equate food consumption with sexual consumption.


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