Eating for Arousal

photo: Paul Sarkis

Next to sex, eating is the most sensual act I know. My favorite sexy food is the cupcake. Biting into one of these sugar-fueled snacks makes my whole body tingle. I'm lured by the creamy, overly sweet frosting just begging to be licked; after consuming one, I long to be kissed. The word's taken on an erotic connotation for me, perhaps fittingly, since a tabloid reporter told me during Martha Stewart's incarceration that cupcake is a slang term for pussy.

For Peggy Williams, co-owner of L.E.S. bakery Sugar Sweet Sunshine, cupcakes are a solo sensual delight. "I'm a private cupcake eater. I have a ritual. The two of us (me and the cupcake) nestle on the couch. I savor each and every bite, trying to make it last as long as possible. Usually it's the last thing I do before going to sleep. And I'm always regretful when it's gone."

Everyone has a food that whets more than one appetite. After asking friends and strangers about theirs (ruling out alcoholic beverages, which provide their own sensual buzz), I was amazed by the range of edible erotic possibilities. Wendy Shanker, author of The Fat Girl's Guide to Life (Bloomsbury, 2005), lusts after cappuccino. "I've always believed in the promiscuous power of cappuccino. It's the perfect mix of bitter and sweet, serious and frothy. You have to dig around for the best part of it—the steamed milk—with your tongue or a long utensil. That's sexy either way (if you know what you're doing)."

My friend Nadine insists she's a prude who doesn't like the idea of food and sex mixing, but nevertheless, cantaloupe (and only cantaloupe) does the trick for her. "When I bite into a piece of cantaloupe, the sweetness and juice turn me on. If I were to run a food over someone's skin, it would definitely be cantaloupe." Whereas fruits ranging from mangoes to strawberries to figs got many votes, my old roommate Jessa gave an original answer. "French toast is so sensual. There's the sizzle as the eggs are frying and the smell of vanilla and sugar. It's best if you're being watched by someone who just got out of bed, because French toast is the perfect food to have after just-woke-up sex, and it gets you horny all over again."

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For the food lovers on's message boards, all sorts of nibbles are erotic. Melanie enjoys the traditionally aphrodisiac oysters for their texture. "I find juicy foods to be the sexiest. There's something primal in slurping the oyster out of the shell with its natural juice." Katya favors Turkish treat sigara borek. "Filo dough is wrapped around a mixture of feta and herbs. The final presentation is therefore cigar—some might say phallic—shaped, and when you take a bite there's a cheesy, creamy explosion in your mouth."

Photographer Paul Sarkis got me hot and bothered with his food fetish. "Eating sashimi is like a shameless act of oral foreplay. The delicate texture of a fresh slice of ahi or yellowtail, the subtle, salty-sweet scent of it, the slick sensation on your tongue—it's primordial. I've raised a few sushi chefs' eyebrows trying in vain to stifle the purring noises I make when I'm eating their creations." Someone else told of a girl watching a guy grill a piece of salmon, taking the tender, pink strip of fish in his fingers, flipping it over and tending to it so well that she finally couldn't stand the heat and jumped him. I'll certainly never look at fish the same way again.

They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but what about the way to his cock, or to a girl's tender bits? Is it possible to get someone in the mood with a well-cooked, sexy meal? According to Jacqui Malouf, author of Booty Food (Bloomsbury, 2004), it certainly is. "Good, bad, or burnt, there's something erotic about being nurtured with goodies made by a lover. When a new special someone in your life shares their favorite dishes, you really see who they are, and that kind of naked authenticity is truly sexy to me."

Diane Brown, author of The Seduction Cookbook (Innova, 2005), likes to add some spice to her racy meals. "I love guacamole with serrano chiles, for the creamy, smooth sensation of avocados and the flush you get when you eat a chile; it's just like kissing someone you really like." Allison Bojarski, a writer for Gothamist Food, knows a thing or two about sexy guac. I once watched her wield a huge knife as she deftly halved an avocado, and got turned on as she explained the dish's intricacies while slicing and paring. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a girl with a chopping board. Bojarski says a sexy supper must include proper lighting and cater to your lover's specific tastes. "An ideal erotic meal needs to be slow, deliberate, almost teasing—but ultimately satisfying."

Food palates may also reflect sexual ones, claims Malouf: "I believe people who don't like chocolate don't like sex, and people who order chicken all the time will only have sex in the missionary position." For the record, Malouf, who urges couples to cook together to ensure intimacy, has a passion for cheese. "I love foods that go after all of my senses, like silky, stinky, nutty cheese that makes love to my mouth, nose, and mind all at the same time. These cheeses are always earthy and musky; they even smell like sex."

Anyone who's ever eaten a Popsicle or licked an ice cream cone in public knows the erotic potential of food. Licking, sucking, nibbling, biting, swirling, savoring, swallowing—all of it, with the right food and the right person, can be the prelude to hot sex. I've given a boyfriend a blowjob while he ate Vermont cheddar cheese, lain on a cold kitchen floor while having ice cream licked off my stomach during a photo shoot, and offered countless fingerfuls of vanilla buttercream frosting.

My voyeuristic side gets off on watching others eat, especially hot girls slowly, sensually enjoying dessert. Giving a lover a taste, proffering your fork across the table and letting the tines slide across their tongue, can be the best kind of foreplay, the slow, sexy kind that has you getting up from the table before you're done to feast on each other. At a certain point, it doesn't matter what the food is, as long as it's eaten with someone you want to be intimate with. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a cupcake to eat.

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