La Petite Mort[sel]

Art by Cynthia Weng

Aphrodite’s body, born of foam, and risen from a scallop shell, speaks in echoes of sea-salted flesh, sensuality, fertility, desire. She is the namesake of aphrodisiacs, those foods professing to be of sexually stimulant quality. 


Bridging the most basic of instincts – food and fornication – aphrodisiacs have long played an important part in the continuation of our species. And thanks to the miracle that is modern agriculture and refrigeration, ambergris aside, these remedies are readily available year-round. 


But do these foods stand up to their potential? Have we diluted their potency with GMOs and factory farming? Were the Ancient Greeks really onto something, or were they simply horned up from poppy juice and legalised sex work?


A requisite Adonis appointed as my lab partner, I committed an afternoon and an evening to investigate these pressing concerns. To intuitively eat my way through the aphrodisiac almanac. For science, of course.



An eyebrow-raisingly suggestive offering on any menu, there is a covenant formed in the ritual of ordering oysters. A pact unspoken but known by all. 


Oh-so-casually, it is thrown in as an apparent afterthought – “Oh, and a dozen oysters as well. Yep, the natural ones, thanks.”

You pretend not to nervously sweat, and the waiter pretends not to knowingly glance at your companion. Everyone else in earshot, or joining you at the table, smiles wanly and pretends they aren’t being assaulted by depraved intrusive thoughts. 


Faced with open pools of slippery seawater, even the physical act strikes a nerve. Tipping your head back, pushing past a choking spasm, maintaining coy composure. 

An oyster requires you to take it whole, to devour an entire life in one greedy swallow. For optimal freshness, it is still alive when you suck it from the shell. 

It’s the obvious choice, but obvious for a reason. An oyster is voyeuristic.



More than flavour, there are aesthetic, textural elements to the fig. It is more about the mythology, the build-up, than the finish. Downy and supple, the skin gives way to insides like burst capillaries, rosy and blooming.


Some say that Eve’s forbidden fruit was actually a fig. Does that alone not tempt you – to taste that which destroyed the innocence of man? 


Which is to say: it tastes okay. Kind of a combination of honey and dirt.



This one is more about edging than anything else. It’s thinking that you’ve just about got the damn shell open, but in reality, you’re far from it. 


Maybe you’ll never quite get that teasing seam to open. Maybe you’ll never feel that sweet release. But the thought keeps you going at it for a good long while.



Everyone seems to have a trick to harvesting the seeds from one of these things until it gets down to the doing. And then it’s just you and the pomegranate and the kitchen tools are discarded in favour of fingers and there’s claret and pith everywhere and it’s dramatic and frenzied and savage. An exercise in delayed gratification. 


A lot of these foods lend themselves more to being eaten with our hands, without barrier, skin on skin. Seeds leaking from the pomegranate beg to be plucked, and pushed into a breathless mouth. The juice, known only to the onlooker, aches to be brushed away. Hands guiding hands, towards satiation, towards satisfaction.



Like sex, this is a flavour that gets better with age. The cheap, saccharine stuff that you binged on when you were younger just doesn’t taste as good. Eating dark chocolate feels adult. It feels like needs being met, like dessert with a side benefit of antioxidants, like missionary with a side benefit of orgasm. 



When up against the heavies, like oysters, pomegranates, or wine, strawberries come off a bit cliche. Why be Serena van der Woodsen and Dan Humprey when you could be Persephone and Hades? 



Now we’re talking.



The night has unravelled. It’s started to become more Dionysian than Aphrodisiac. 


Don’t be foul.



If you’ve resorted to asparagus as a turn-on, you should probably be looking for a more serious solution to your problem.

Acceptable only as a sex-related foodstuff when served alongside toast and poached eggs the morning after. 



Originally published in Woroni Vol. 72 Issue 5 ‘Cum As You Are’

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