Monday, July 16, 2018

Food is a Substitute for the Female Body

QZ |  Original recipes in a cozy home kitchen, intimate details about family life and domestic bliss—and painstakingly arranged food that oozes sexual overtones. These are the features of a successful food blog.

Often referred to as “food porn,” the trendy phenomenon highlights the seeming contradiction between femininity and feminism while also allowing women to shape the possibilities for women’s identities in online spaces. In contemporary social culture, women are encouraged to be feminists and pursue professional ambitions while still maintaining their femininity and domesticity. Their chief value in society is to reproduce and feed their families while denying their own appetites. These blogs reflect the digital identities of women who have been required to embody multiple contradictions—and look delectable while doing so.

In the food blogosphere, some of these sexualized conventions include the overabundance of “oozing” food, including runny egg yolks that are captured dribbling over neat vegetable beds, chocolate lava cakes with molten centers that drizzle over porcelain plates, and frosted cakes depicted with glazes dripping down their tall sides. There is also something sexually tinged about many food blogs’ penchant for “cheeky peeks,” a photographic motif that peers inside the hidden layers of elaborately decorated cakes. Examples of this include cakes stuffed with candy, desserts whose batter is painstakingly dyed and assembled to reveal ombre and checkerboard patterns when sliced open, and an array of gravity-defying layer cakes.

Pornographic imagery is built upon women offering their bodies to the male gaze, but food porn recognizes and appreciates the creative and technical skills of the woman behind the camera. In this way, food is used as a substitute for the female body; food bloggers offer intimate domestic details from their kitchens, rather than their bedrooms. Food porn can therefore be seen as a way of recognizing the active and creative capacities of women’s bodies rather than the more passive and objectified positions of traditional erotica.