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Food, Sex, and Gender

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I was having dinner with a male friend when he remarked, “I’m starving—I forgot to eat today.”

I stared at him like he was from Mars and I was from Venus, and told him that I have never in my life “forgotten” to eat. I can’t even imagine it.

He was utterly blasé. “When I forget to eat,” he said, “I get horny. It’s like I think my body needs sex when what it really needs is food.”

Ah! This I understood, from all the nights I’ve spent shoving chocolate into my mouth when what I really wanted was to shove a lingam into my yoni.

The confusion of physiological needs is one of those dilemmas that sends people to therapy or rehab clinics. During numerous attempts to quit smoking I learned a lot about need confusion.  Whenever I stop smoking, my needs move front and center. I might feel an urge to stretch, and get down on the floor to do some yoga. Or I might feel sad, and instead of lighting up, go ahead and cry. Of course, I knew about food as a substitute for love and/or sex even before I lit my first cigarette. But sex as a substitute for food? Until my friend made his confession, this was a foreign concept.


It’s not so much that men are from Mars and women from Venus, but that girls were raised, metaphorically speaking, in the kitchen, while boys’ significant childhood moments occurred in the bedroom. Boys stash porn under the mattress; girls hide candy bars. Teenage girls furtively eat late at night in darkened kitchens; boys secretly whack off in their beds after midnight. Men develop an obsession with sex that continues into adulthood, while women develop a parallel obsession with food. I have to wonder: do they feel as guilty masturbating as we do when we binge? Do they go on sex “diets”? Trade off indulgence and orgasms the way we trade calories and carbs?


Like a lot of women, I sublimate the urge to eat everything in sight into the art of cooking. In recent years my fondness for desserts skyrocketed, so I began baking up a storm. To keep myself from non-stop  desserting, I distribute the sugary carbo loads to friends and neighbors. Is there an equivalent action for suppressing sex urges? Do men need one? Do they feel as guilty when they overindulge sexually as we do when we eat like pigs? Their pig-outs are a lot easier to hide: sexual over-indulgence doesn’t show on the hips.

There’s a moral to this story, as obvious as the nose on my face. Hungry, ladies? You know what to do.


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