Food porn

Food porn is a glamourized visual presentation of cooking or eating in advertisements, infomercials, blogs[1] cooking shows or other visual media.[2] These may be foods of a high fat and calorie content,[3] or exotic dishes that arouse a desire to eat or the glorification of food as a substitute for sex.[4] Food porn often takes the form of food photography with styling that presents food provocatively, in a similar way to glamour photography or pornographic photography.


The term food pornography is used in Frank Chin's 1978 copyrighted story "Railroad Standard Time." The term appears to have been coined by the feminist critic Rosalind Coward in her 1984 book Female Desire[5] in which she writes:

"Cooking food and presenting it beautifully is an act of servitude. It is a way of expressing affection through a gift... That we should aspire to produce perfectly finished and presented food is a symbol of a willing and enjoyable participation in servicing others. Food pornography exactly sustains these meanings relating to the preparation of food. The kinds of picture used always repress the process of production of a meal. They are always beautifully lit, often touched up." (p. 103)

It is important to realize that the term food porn does not strictly deal with the connection, often established throughout history, between food items and sexual contents. In the United States, food porn is a term applied when "food manufacturers are capitalising on a backlash against low-calorie and diet foods by marketing treats that boast a high fat content and good artery-clogging potential".[3] The origin of the term was attributed to the Center for Science in the Public Interest[3] which began publishing a regular column called "Right Stuff vs. Food Porn" for its Nutrition Action Healthletter in January 1998.[6][7]

In the United Kingdom, the term became popular in the 1990s due to the TV cookery programme Two Fat Ladies after the shows producer described the "pornographic joy" the pair of them took in using vast quantities of butter and cream.[8]

Connection with business

Taking a picture of food became one of the norms for younger generation in the world. Study from YPulse shows 63% of people between thirteen years old to thirty two years old posted their food picture while they are eating on social networking services. Moreover, 57% of people in the same age range posted information of the food they were eating at that time.[9] From the percentage, food and social media are starting to connect together as trend. People using the hashtag #foodporn helps the food industry to track audiences on social networking services.


The term food porn has shifted throughout its first appearances. Articles mentioned food porn as early as the late 1970s. The phrase food porn was used in a literal manner, describing food that was unhealthy for human consumption, directly comparing it to pornography. Its use then took on a new meaning, being used to describe food that was presented and prepared in a manner that was aesthetically appealing.[10] It took on this use for over a decade, until the social media boom that was created by the internet. Once the early 2000s hit, the terminology evolved into a way of documenting meals that are recognized for their presentation. This desire for food has flooded the internet, having significant effects on social media sites that provide the ability to display such as Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter. The popularity of displaying food in a physically appealing manner is driven by the users that create these communities. The use of hashtags that the users of these sites have adapted to, allow food porn to connect people in a way that documents anything about the food such as, foods that reflect cultures, calories, presentation, preparation, delicious taste, and anything else that adds to the authenticity of the meal.


The term "food porn" refers to images of food across various social media platforms such as TV, cooking magazine, online blog, mobile apps, websites and social media platforms. The reason why food porn is strongly connecting with popular culture is due to the fact that people are exposed to food in their everyday lives.[11] Food porn is not specific to social media platforms and could also be part of the category on newspaper and online blog. Moreover, food porn is experienced globally. Language barriers that exist culturally can be bypassed by the usage of #foodporn. Food porn is used collectively by the online users and is does not exclude or privilege one food over another.

Pornographic metaphor

Contemporary literature and cinema consistently connect food and sexuality. Scholars note historical links between eating and sex, such as male and female humans coming together throughout evolution around food and creating offspring—two essential needs for survival.[12] Today, a more obvious connection exists between the physical acts of eating and having sex in popular culture. In his book Food: The Key Concepts, Warren Belasco examines this particular resonance between kitchen and bedroom in modern-day vocabulary: "these intensely sexualized associations between eating and loving make it difficult to adopt the asceticism implied in eating responsibly. If pastry, sugar, fat, meat, and salt are so closely tied to life’s most intimately pleasurable experiences, who would ever want to cut back on them?"[12]

Observing the #foodporn revolution through the lens of digital pornography, scholars have proposed various underlying implications that this social media phenomenon has on users today. Food porn does not supplement sex. It substitutes food as a dangerous desire or a delicious dream. Pornographic images and videos often depict an exciting, unrealistic setting whose very purpose is to stimulate desire for these forbidden fantasies—scandalous images gain attention due to humans fascination with others’ private lives, and porn represents these unattainable visions. Unfortunately, this glorification of the ultimate fantasy severely limits what sex is interpreted as for viewers. For example, the pornography industry has been criticized for primarily featuring white, heterosexual actors (focused on the male’s pleasure), and thus excluding people of other races, sexualities, and abilities.[13] Food porn is argued to operate similarly: it provocatively idolizes unattainably expensive meals at exotic restaurants that, for many, is out of financial reach. Food porn implies a limited accessibility, while idolizing the concept of "leakage" that offers a vicarious thrill and makes viewers feel energized by this scandalous viewing. Food porn, it is argued, embodies a new relevance when the pornographic metaphor is emphasized—underneath the oozing hamburgers and foot-tall brownie sundaes is a glorification of invading privacy and unspoken implications about who can access these fantastical treats. On this analysis food porn glorifies a particular, wealthy lifestyle meant to be universally stimulating but realistically available to a small percentage of people due to financial or logistic factors.

See also


  1. "Buttermilk & Sriracha Fried Chicken: Recipe". The City Lane.
  2. Probyn, Elspeth (1999). "Beyond Food/Sex: Eating and an Ethics of Existence". Theory, Culture & Society. 16 (2): 215–228. doi:10.1177/02632769922050485.
  3. 1 2 3 Davis, Simon (2000-05-10). "Unhealthy eating is new fad in US". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2000-05-12. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  4. Bourdain, Anthony (2001-11-04). "Food Porn: Lust for the gastronomic – from Zola to cookbooks – is nothing new, but maybe it's time to shelve it". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  5. Coward, Rosalind (1984). Female Desire: Women's Sexuality Today. Paladin. ISBN 0-586-08447-9.
  6. "1998 Index". Center for Science in the Public Interest. Archived from the original on 2009-02-07.
  7. "April '98 Right Stuff vs. Food Porn". Center for Science in the Public Interest. Archived from the original on 2008-05-07.
  8. "Ben Viveur: Pornographic Joy". Ben Viveur.
  9. "#FoodPorn: The Growing Influence Of Social Food | Ypulse". Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  10. "What 'Food Porn' Does to the Brain". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  11. "Where Food, Drink and Pop Culture Meet". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  12. 1 2 Belasco, Warren (2008). Food: The Key Concepts. Oxford, United Kingdom: Berg. pp. 36–37.
  13. Parreñas Shimizu, Celine. ""Sexual Problems: Heteronormativity, Pornography and Asian American Men"" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Renaissance Hotel, Washington D.C., <Not Available>. 2014-11-28<>

Further reading

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