I don't think I've talked much about my bizarre relationship with food here, but I think that I'm not alone on this one.
Language is itself a system of symbols used to signify concrete objects and actions, but in the process of language creation, representations often get directed else where from their signified objects. As a result, for me, there are a lot of trigger phrases that elicit an emotional reaction that goes beyond the reaction associated with those signified objects.
And a lot of them have to do with food. Actually, a lot more to do with food than with sex, which is strange, I suppose, for someone who was brought up in America's sexophobic culture. Bil's post last week and the ensuing comment discussion where everyone was repeating the phrase "eye candy" got me to thinking about my disproportionate reactions to food/sex linguistic connections.
My relationship with food is complicated and not something that I'm willing to fully discuss on this site. But the short story is that I've dealt with poor body image all my life, ever since I was much younger and my mom put me on my first diet at age 8. My weight's gone up and down and up and down, I've eaten myself silly some days and then gone for months eating one meal a day and then running eight miles. (I'm in a much better position now, thank you.)
So then I think about the connections people make between food and sex, saying that someone who's hot is "delicious," or Perez Hilton marking boy pics as "yummy," or us calling such photos "eye candy," and how I just think the whole thing is disgusting. Sex isn't an act of consumption!, I think, it's an interaction! It's a connection!
Just this past month, for example, I had a big ol' reaction to Patricia's post about the risks we take with food and those we take with sex, comparing them and seeing what comes from such a comparison. It was well-written, an interesting set of observations, and it spoke to a whole lot of people. But my response to the food/sex connections was knee-jerk rejection. It was a visceral distaste.
I think buried somewhere in all that is a distaste for mixing my thoughts and reactions to food with anything else. Don't get me wrong, I love good food and I'm great in the kitchen, but it's the consumptive aspect, the bigger picture, the ways what I eat now will affect me in the future, that's complicated.
I know that I'm not going to stop people from using the phrase "eye candy"; it's out there and it's not going die without me. But, looking at the bigger picture, what I am looking to examine are the ways that we connect various seemingly unrelated subjects. Why are food and sex so often conflated in the ways we discuss them? Is it that both are seen as consumptive? Is it that both are bodily desires? Is it that they're basically all that animals see as the ends in their lives, and that we're really not above thinking like animals?
And why is it that we can say that a hot guy or gal is "yummy," but the pics I've captioned and littered this post with feel inappropriate? Is it that actually thinking about physically and literally eating other humans is beyond the pale, but doing it abstractly is OK?
I think that, no matter how complicated my relationship to food is, that there is something distasteful (yuk yuk yuk) about looking at other human beings in the same way that we look at food. The fact that we generally use such language, or at least where I hear it the most often, is when we're talking about pictures of attractive people instead of about the people themselves says that such language is stemming from a reduction of sex and not sex itself, that it's coming from sexual desire divorced from a connective end, in the same way that consumerism separates all aspects of our lives from connection with others.
And that's something that we should examine and criticize, making sex and sexual desire about something that doesn't involve other people, concretely or abstractly. But we can enjoy the pics in the process.