Food and Sex

...If, for example, the shared possession of the labial zone by two functions* is a reason for the production of sexual satisfaction by the eating of food, the same factor also helps us to understand why it is that eating disorders arise when the erogenous functions of the shared zone are disturbed...

Sigmund Freud, The Psychology of Love

* eating and sexual stimulation

In the child, sources of excitement, which represent early versions of sexual stimulation, include vibration or rocking, stimulation of skin surfaces (baths, hugging), fighting with other children (muscle activity), fear, intellectual work or concentration.

Freud referred to the oral stage of development as 'cannibalistic'. If development from that stage does not proceed as it is meant to, it may impact a child's future sexual development.

Impulses travel in both directions - sexual stimulation causes wish for food, eating causes enhanced attention resulting in sexual stimulation. Freud was not referring to eating disorders in the modern sense, but it is easy to see that his ideas might apply. Maybe many of those who suffer from eating disorders are 'stuck' at the oral stage of development. The sexual impulse is diverted into a circular pattern involving food and eating. It may be that the person cannot always recognize sexual arousal, or needs, as these are quickly transformed into a desire for food, and what the person becomes conscious of is the need to seek food, rather than satisfy a sexual need.

A symptom has more than one meaning, and serves to represent several unconscious trains of thought.

Sigmund Freud, The Psychology of Love

Not many people are able to find in one object the 'unificaton of all desires', and sex and affection may become separate issues. This split may occur when we cannot reconcile our desires with our conscience or with the demands of civilization, or biology.

As a teenager, when I experienced sexual feelings, I did not have a clear moral impediment to action, but I had a confusing mix of personal circumstances. I was shy, and did not take initiative myself. I had an unusual skin condition, which I did not believe anyone would accept. It could be that I was sexualized early, and while capable of feeling excitement, I was not organized or mature enough to work out the practical issues. But it could also be that I didn't think I could have sex except during the summer when my skin would look normal, and so the rest of the time I dealt with the feelings by 'putting them off', or putting them on hold. I knew I was less attractive when at a higher weight, and so I ensured I would not have to face the pressure of sex. Eating became both a way of acting out sexual feelings, and a way of making sure I would not have the opportunity in real life with a real person to act them out.

...The drive-force for the further continuation of the sexual process is absent, and the trajectory as a whole becomes shorter, the preparatory action in question replacing the normal sexual goal... this harmful case comes about when the erogenous zone or the corresponding partial drive has contributed to an unusual degree to the gain of pleasure during infancy. If additional elements arise and contribute to fixation, a compulsion may easily come into being in later life, resisting the reclassification of that single pre-pleasure into a new context...

Sigmund Freud, The Psychology of Love

E.g., Eating disorder - fixation at oral-labial stage. Object choice in puberty is about renunciation of the childhood objects and sublimation of the original partial drive. When I became sexually aware at puberty, I had no outlets, and may have channelled my sexual drive into my relationship with food. It is natural for all children to go through phases of oral, anal and urinary eroticism. Whether these phases of development are passed through normally or abnormally depends on individual circumstances. At puberty, I may have reverted to the oral stage, which had remained latent through the phases of my early sexual development. For me, eating became a sexual substitute which hindered 'real' sexual satisfaction.

This is not the whole explanation of my disordered eating patterns, but it may be one of the contributing factors, or an angle that is worth considering. Food could also have become an outlet for dealing with other 'unacceptable' drives, such as aggression.















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