Why are nice picture/gif/video about foo called "foo-porn"?



I was browsing Reddit and I discovered many subreddits named after foo-porn, to name just a few:

It seems that foo-porn means nice picture/gif/video of foo, which are absolutely suitable for work. As far as I know however, usually "porn" means "pornography". Actually, searching the keyword porn with Bing.com even gives me something like:

Your country or region requires a strict Bing SafeSearch setting, which filters out results that might return adult content. To learn more about SafeSearch requirements in your country or region, see How Bing delivers search results.

My question is: Why are nice picture/gif/video about foo called "foo-porn", even if foo is completely not related to pornography?


Posted 2017-05-31T09:22:59.863

Reputation: 1 159

2foo is an all-purpose variable that can contain anything. It is roughly synonymous with "universal placeholder". – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2017-05-31T10:51:21.413

31It's also worth noting that this usage is not common, and is primarily found among Internet communities, or perhaps even just Reddit. If you say to an average person on the street "Take a look at this Food Porn" they'd not necessarily know what you meant. – Muzer – 2017-05-31T16:02:12.430

16@Muzer I don't think that's true at all, based on my experience, "food porn" is in common usage even among older generations who don't use online forums. – Jack M – 2017-05-31T17:08:57.243

10Personal anecdote: many years ago in the elder days of the Internet a colleague and I came across a web site devoted to pictures of absurdly high calorie food. After we had spent several minutes staring in wonder at various dishes I turned to my colleague and said "You realise this is food porn, don't you". I'd never heard the term before, it just seemed an obvious description. – Paul Johnson – 2017-05-31T18:04:25.693

3All the answers and comments so far describe it as something pleasant/idealized/fetishized, but isn't it mostly a derogatory term? Most of our literature, cinema and other noble arts revolve around sex, almost never directly depicting the sexual act itself. Remove all the subtlety and embellishment and give us a close-up of banging genitalia - that's porn, a shameful pleasure of unwashed masses. Similarly, a lot of our life revolves around food - remove everything but give us a close-up of a dish, that's food porn. Etc. Did I get it wrong? – Headcrab – 2017-06-01T06:13:48.367

1@Headcrab "Did I get it wrong?" Possibly... Porn (in the traditional sense) tends to be used derogatorily by people who don't like/approve of it to describe what other people (who see themselves as having a "healthy interest in sex") like to watch -- a lot depends on one's point-of-view. The foo-porn usage hangs more off the "like to watch" part than the derogatory part. It's almost a case of an irregular noun: "I appreciate artistic nudes", "You watch smut" and "He/she/it devours porn" :-) – TripeHound – 2017-06-01T06:56:07.233

1Bear in mind that this usage is also NOT universally accepted and there exists an corresponding subreddit /r/NoSillySuffix dedicated solely to removing all mention of porn from these sites. – Chris Petheram – 2017-06-01T08:44:22.413

@Headcrab I don't think so. Someone might say "I spent an hour looking at food porn and now I'm starving"... Generally these images are extremely beautiful, well-crafted food... perfectly plated and drool-worthy. – Catija – 2017-06-01T23:49:33.827

@Headcrab - I think this borrowing of the term “porn” is more sarcastic than derogatory. I don’t think that “food porn” or “puppy porn” carries the same negative baggage that “smut porn” would. – J.R. – 2017-06-03T01:01:27.923

Umm, "food porn" is an acceptable expression, but please never use the phrase "puppy porn". – Dawood ibn Kareem – 2017-06-03T04:10:57.890

@DawoodibnKareem I'm curious what does "puppy porn" mean; it sounds adorable! Also, I guess I should never use "pussy porn" either :/ – nalzok – 2017-06-03T04:50:10.913

@SunQingyao, "puppy porn" has two possible meanings: cute pictures of puppies, and pictures of sexual activities involving puppies. So it kind of slides back to the original meaning of the word "porn". This creates a mental dissonance which the listener will want to resolve. – Paul Johnson – 2017-06-03T21:10:24.160



A definition of porn could be gratuitous images/moving images of naked people and sex acts intended to excite and arouse. The use of foo-porn implies the use of this definition, but replacing "naked people and sex acts" with "foo".

From Cambridge Dictionary:

porn - pictures, books, television programmes , newspaper articles, etc. that are intended to be exciting for people interested in a particular subject or particular product


Posted 2017-05-31T09:22:59.863

Reputation: 4 574

33Gratuitous, exactly. In my shop we call (among ourselves) stock photography shoehorned into a video or website to associate the message with happy family life "lifestyle porn", and stock photography suggesting that the client embraces a wide range of ethnicities and genders "diversity porn". – StoneyB on hiatus – 2017-05-31T10:42:05.350

6Of course, this (actual) usage of the word totally ignores the etymology (πόρνη = prostitute) – Hagen von Eitzen – 2017-05-31T14:51:21.687

25@HagenvonEitzen Sure. But the etymological fallacy is a fallacy. – David Richerby – 2017-05-31T16:39:19.127

"gratuitous images/moving images of food intended to excite and arouse" - I don't think those are intended to arouse, maybe just excite. – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You – 2017-05-31T18:54:43.943

14@ShadowWizard There are other appetites than the erotic which may be aroused. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2017-05-31T21:46:04.637

From my own understanding of the word: If it makes you want to do it (i.e. Food Porn making you want to eat that particular dish) or you feel moved by the appearance of it (i.e. a breathtaking scenery would be Earth Porn) then it's porn. – John Hamilton – 2017-06-01T14:18:33.390

1@HagenvonEitzen that doesn't matter. In English, definitions are based on usage. – user428517 – 2017-06-01T22:31:06.573


Its a humorous extension of its original meaning. "Porn" in its original meaning of sex-porn (for want of a better term) means images that people like to look at because they create pleasant sexual sensations and emotions. Hence "food-porn" means images that people like to look at because they create pleasant sensations and emotions associated with food, and so on for the other examples.

Edit: this article on CNN has some "ruin porn" along with a discussion of the meaning of the term and how it frames the topic.

Paul Johnson

Posted 2017-05-31T09:22:59.863

Reputation: 421

20I think you're on the right track here, but also worth a mention is how this borrowing of the term "porn" is meant to be partly humorous, and it's part of the internet culture as well. In other words, I wouldn't refer to a mural of flowers on a painted on a city wall as "flower porn," but I might use that term in reference to a floral page on Pinterest. – J.R. – 2017-05-31T20:17:16.487

1And you should realise that images depicting sex are never called sex-porn. – Mr Lister – 2017-06-01T10:02:12.333

8@MrLister: Not yet they aren't. :-) – Paul Johnson – 2017-06-01T16:57:07.610

2My first sighting of "foo porn" was "gun porn". I think it accurately describes gun enthusiasts' enjoyment of looking at a well designed, properly maintained weapon. It implies a sexual connotation only to emphasize the potency of the experience. – TecBrat – 2017-06-01T17:10:18.577

4@J.R. are you saying the internet is for porn? – user1306322 – 2017-06-01T19:50:02.827

@user1306322 Yes! Thank you! Finally, someone else who gets the joke. +1 for you =) – Oberst – 2017-06-03T03:33:07.740

1This begs the question, what do you call porn (the erotic kind) that is themed around foo? – Amani Kilumanga – 2017-06-04T10:08:31.017


I (speculate) that it has something to do with it being a Supernormal Stimulus.

A picture of people can be made more and more pornographic by makeup and poses and clothing which accentuates the desirable sexual characteristics. Even more by careful use of lighting and camera angles. Again more, by surgical enhancement. More and more by image editing afterwards, and by the presentation, until the picture has gone from interesting to eye-catching and attention arresting and driving the viewer wild.

Similarly, photos of the planet are not Earth-porn, not even if they're pretty. But if they're an extreme place (cliffs, desert, mountains), taken at an unusual time (dawn, dusk, solar event), taken with High Dynamic Range image processing, with careful composition, image editing ... then they take the "nice picture" response right the way up to "wow!".

e.g. this is not earth-porn:

But this is:

Even though they are both fields. I think it's that deliberate raising and raising of wow factors all the way to maximum which differentiates between classic foo-enthusiasm and foo-porn.

The focus is no longer on the content for itself - where the field is, who uses it, what techniques they use for farming, how they protect crops from birds, who was on holiday when they took the picture - the kind of things an enthusiast of 'foo' might be interested in. The focus is now on the WOW factor of the picture, the content could be substituted for any content without it mattering. The content is less important. Gun enthusiasts care about guns, gun-porn cares about making the viewer think 'wow'. Train enthusiasts care about trains, train-porn cares about making the viewer think 'wow'.

And so porn is the first, most common, most popular thing which used that technique, so the name comes from there, and the more extreme more taboo, rude, term wins out over any normal everyday term like 'processed pictures' or 'nice pictures' or whatever.


Posted 2017-05-31T09:22:59.863

Reputation: 494


Great explanation; I think you've nailed it. See rifle. See rifle porn.

– J.R. – 2017-06-02T15:20:37.677

@J.R. Your second link might be more "rifle bling" than "rifle porn", but they are closely-related ideas. – zwol – 2017-06-03T20:21:22.857

@zwol - If you can find a better example, please post the link! :-) – J.R. – 2017-06-04T19:59:48.407


"X-porn" means people are fetishizing X. Here's another example: Back when Cheers was on TV, people used to describe it as "time porn" -- the people on the show had huge gobs of leisure time, which normal people could only sit there and drool over (i.e., be envious of). "Time porn" implied impossible, exciting, even forbidden amounts of free time.

Tom Hundt

Posted 2017-05-31T09:22:59.863

Reputation: 224


-porn has come to mean a perfect, idealized version of the item discussed. The first I ran into this suffix use was food-porn. It was used for the cooking shows and magazines that showed a perfect dish that was filmed or shot by camera multiple times to get it right. In the end, it looks easy, and perfect at the same time.

Vacation-porn and retirement-porn soon followed. As if there were some perfect way to do either of these.

JTP - Apologise to Monica

Posted 2017-05-31T09:22:59.863

Reputation: 207


According to the FAQ of /r/EarthPorn, the term originates with Anthony Bourdain, who has hosted various culinary TV programs.

The comment referred to in the FAQ entry states he

coined the term "foodporn" when he discussed how many cooking shows use techniques - lighting, camera angles, et al -- to entice the audience that were pioneered in the porn industry.

Since then, usage of the term has spread to other topics.

I've mostly seen it used on Reddit, though. I'm not sure if everybody would understand it in other contexts.


Posted 2017-05-31T09:22:59.863

Reputation: 127


Okay: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pornografic

--> 2nd meaning: obscene


"causing uncontrolled sexual desire"

The result of uncontrolled desire is amongst others the inability of looking away.

Now if you have a group of people that like certain things that usually also means they like looking at those things.

Therefore a list of things that you like looking at is obscene/pornografic as it makes it hard for you to look away.


Posted 2017-05-31T09:22:59.863

Reputation: 191