According to the splendid BBC television series The Supersizers Go Victorian, 150 years ago respectable women were expected to be decorative, demure and uninterested in sex or food. Thankfully, being squeezed into corsets on a daily basis must have helped to suppress their appetite for at least one of those things, but the other was apparently enjoyed a lot more than we previously thought. These days, however, you would think that it is no longer frowned upon for women to enjoy sex or food, but attitudes may not have changed as much as you’d think. Modern magazines are filled with images of slender celebrities and models alongside bikini diets and tips to ‘slim into that party dress’, so the message a lot of young women are still getting is that eating lots is bad. Also, despite the inclusion of many pages of sex advice in these same magazines, it is still usual for a lot of people to label a promiscuous woman as a slut or even a whore. Sadly, even women do it! So, though it is now socially acceptable to enjoy sex and eat a healthy amount, whatever you do, don’t talk about it and definitely don’t get addicted to either.
Addiction is described as a persistent, compulsive dependence on a certain behaviour or substance. When something becomes freely available, it’s easy to become addicted. Who hasn’t waited at a train station or stopped to re-fuel their car and ended up buying a snack when they’re not even hungry? How many women accept one-night stands or overuse their vibrator simply because the option of havingan orgasm is there? Sex and food represent the most fundamental human drivers and thus share a common pathway within the brain, relating to survival and reward. This intense feeling of satisfaction is exactly why addiction is possible in both cases and, combined with today’s moral outrage at overindulging in such things, is perhaps also why guilt is common. If only we could learn to exercise a little bit of self restraint. One of my grandparents always used to say – about food – that a little bit of what you fancy does you good. I like to think that the same is also true of sex. We don’t need to be an all-or-nothing kind of person… we should enjoy what we like but stop when we’re full. Don’t do it because you can; do it because you want to. That way, you’ll enjoy it even more.