Food porn

Pornography involves watching somebody else have sex.  In South Korea, there is a new fad of watching somebody else eat.  It’s being called “gastronomical voyeurism.”

The news story, excerpted after the jump, speculates on some reasons:  More and more Koreans are living by themselves and miss the social interaction of eating with someone.  Many Koreans are on diets, restricting what they eat to the point of being able to take vicarious pleasure in watching someone eat sumptuous food for hours.  But I wonder if it is something even more primal.

Human beings have a powerful appetite for both sex and food.  Both offer intense sensual pleasure.  Could there be a relationship between the capacity to take sexual pleasure from a visual image on a screen–which is also quite odd, if you think about it– and the capacity to take gastronomical pleasure from a visual image on a screen?  Do both represent some kind of twisted evolution or devolution?  Another example of the visual image infecting and dominating every other sense and our entire sensibility?

And is what South Koreans are doing any different from what we Americans do when we watch the Food Channel and obsess over restaurant reviews?  Is that too a kind of disordered appetite?  After all, the Seven Deadly Sins included both lust and gluttony.  Is there a connection?  Or is our love of food–including the relatively new phenomena of watching television shows about food and idolizing chefs as the new rock stars–a completely innocent pleasure?

From This lady earns more than $9,000 a month by eating food in front of a webcam | Odd News – Yahoo News:

34-year-old Park Seo-yeon used to work for a consulting firm but has left that job. Why? She’s earning more than $9,000 a month to eat on camera. Going by the name, “The Diva,” she sits down to a table of food and eats for up to three hours. Her viewers chat with her and send her “virtual balloons,” which Reuters says, “translate into cash.”

So, what’s the deal? The Diva thinks it’s about enjoying something through someone else, “People enjoy the vicarious pleasure with my online show when they can’t eat that much, or don’t want to eat food at night, or are on a diet.” One of The Diva’s fans, 26-year-old Park Sun-Young says it’s about approximating the feeling of having company, “It feels as if I am eating that much food with her. I think that’s what the show is about. And probably, it’s comforting for people who eat alone.” Apparently, eating alone is something that is happening more and more in South Korea. Reuters points out that within 15 years, a third of the nation’s population could be comprised of one-person households, the fastest rate amongst developed countries.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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