The Universal Aphrodisiac


by Scarlett Lindeman

Sometime around the fifth century A.D. the term “olisbokollix” in the ancient lexicon Hesychius appeared on a Greco-Roman scroll. The term went along with a sketch of a woman holding a cucumber-shaped baton. The word and its visual depiction means “bread dildo” (kollix, bread; olisbos, dildo) referring to a phallus presumably constructed out of dough, baked, and then used for human pleasure. It is one of the oldest references to combine food and sex, though the relationship of the two surely began before the written word, continued, bound and extended throughout history.

Fucking a baguette, while logistically puzzling (it is biodegradable!), marks an early start of our inextricable collusion of food and sex, sex and food. The mythology of desire and what incites it has been attached to certain foods and though the ingredients may differ, the theme is universal: every culture has its aphrodisiac, usually multiple, efficacy debatable. The tangled relationship makes sense: eating, like sex, is a necessary and primal urge, one of the few (like shitting and sleeping) that is pleasurable.

Faith Te, Eggplant No. 2, Oil painting on gessoed matboard, 2009

Faith Te, Eggplant No. 2, Oil painting on gessoed matboard, 2009

Like the bread dildo, the word aphrodisiac emerges early, from the Greek aphrodisiakon from aphrodisios, ‘pertaining to Aphrodite’, the goddess of love. Vegetables in erotic shapes, herbs that get the blood pumping, fruits with sensual textures can be construed as aphrodisiacs. The act of eating easily connects the mind to lustful thoughts –at least for those with active imaginations. And while there is little proof that any ingredient and their chemical properties facilitates love, aphrodisiacs are culturally significant, constructed by folklore and woven into the consciousness of the populous. There is no doubt that the desire for desire is potent, and when aided by placebo effect, works just as well as a shot of Viagra.

Here are a few ingredients in the lengthy tradition of associating food with sex:


Luscious, honey-sweet, with a provocative shape, figs are both sensual and freighted with historical significance. Paradoxically, figs represent both modesty (in the leaf covering the most intimate parts of Adam and Even in the Bible) and sexuality as the ripe fruit connotes fertility.


The shape, the slippery texture, the slurp –it is hard to eat an oyster without racy thoughts. High in minerals and zinc, great for fertility, they contain amino acids that help trigger the production of sex hormones.


More than all of the other items in this list, chocolate as a sexual stimulant has the most convincing scientific evidence. Chocolate is rich in phenethylamine, an organic compound that acts as a central nervous system stimulant in humans.


In ancient Greece, artichokes were considered to be strong aphrodisiacs. People believed that eating this thorny thistle increased the chance that a pregnant woman would give birth to a boy. The French believed that consuming artichokes cause a rush of blood to the genitals. Plucking leaves to reach the center… how suggestive.

Cherries, Strawberries, Raspberries

The many connotations of berries. Cherries, with their glassy shine, are markers of school-girl virginity. Strawberries were once thought of a symbol of Venus, the Roman god of love. And the plush, velvety skin of raspberries are erotic. They’re all full of antioxidants and phytochemicals, which are pretty sexy, too.


“The durian falls and the sarongs fly up” so goes a saying in Indonesia, where this odorous fruit is eaten as an aphrodisiac. The erotic properties of this “blood-warming” fruit have been known for centuries.


Long associated with virility, ‘avocados’, by some Nahuatl translations, means testicles, because of their shape and because they hang, in pairs.


The capsicum in chile peppers acts similarly to endorphins making the heart rate speed up, the body sweat, and causes a red flush in the cheeks and lips, all characteristics of sexual arousal.

Phallic fruits