[ This is the huge column entry I submitted for the 'Love/Lust/Sex' issue of the Ontarion]
The word Aphrodisiac is derived from the name of “Aphrodite”, the Greek goddess of sexual desire/love, and it is usually used to refer to certain foods, drugs, or media that are used to “stimulate” sexual desire. There are a lot of products out there claiming to be aphrodisiacs, some work, some don’t, and some are just plain dangerous!
For starters, let’s look at products like ginseng and yohimbine. Herbal supplements like these tend to work more on a “Dumbo’s magic feather” principle rather than producing any actual chemical effect to give guys an erection or make women wet and ready for sex. Wanting sex is as much a mental state as a physical state and taking a pill that is “supposed” to get you horny is still likely to help get you into the right mental state for sex (AKA the placebo effect).
But what about foods, like oysters? The idea that eating certain foods will get you ready for sex or will improve your sexual equipment seems to come from the notion that “you are what you eat”. Foods like sausages, asparagus, oysters, eggs and clams resemble various parts of the human anatomy (c’mon, use your imagination!) and so the idea is that if you eat these foods it will stimulate the “corresponding” part of your body. As you probably have guessed, this is just another placebo effect for your mental sex drive (which doesn’t mean that it isn’t an ‘aphrodisiac’, just that it doesn’t physically do anything to your body by itself).
Spanish fly is an “aphrodisiac” that most people have heard of as a date rape drug. This drug is made from the dried bodies of a little beetle found in southern Spain and France which are powdered and treated to extract the drug “canathardin”. This Drug is an irritant that is used in agriculture to encourage reluctant breeding animals (like cows) to “get it on”.
After being swallowed, the drug gets into the bladder and when the animal urinates, it burns the lining of the bladder and urethra. On it’s way out, it also stimulates the clitoris and labia in female animals. In males it creates large and painful erections. The animals then have sex to try to relieve the intense discomfort.
Doesn’t sound very “sexy” does it? Besides making sex not very fun for a human who has ingested some Spanish fly, there are other problems. Dosing for a Human is much trickier than for large animals: one drop too much and the person you were “trying to seduce” will go into convulsions and has a 50+ % chance of dying.
There are other common drugs out there that are loosely be thought of as aphrodisiacs because they do lower inhibitions. As I’m sure many students who are of age have noticed, alcohol can be very effective for this. Also, marijuana, used sporadically, can be an erotic enhancer in people who are already feeling romantic. But these drugs really don’t do anything to turn you on by themselves, they depend on your attitude and enhance whatever emotion you’re feeling; they aren’t really aphrodisiacs. And mixing drugs and sex can be a dangerous combination because things could get out of hand; resulting in anything from rape charges to pregnancy, AIDS, or even accidental death!
There is a chemical that is considered a true aphrodisiac by many professionals and you can even find it in your own body (though you can also buy it): testosterone. This hormone flows through the entire body and causes a powerful, long-lasting, sexual desire in both men and women. But, when taken as a supplement, it can cause all sorts of problems. In men it causes atrophy of the testicles (and if you ask any guy whose got ‘em, it would be a big deal if they shrank) as well as enlarging the prostate, giving a male user all sorts of problems when he wants to pee. In women it can cause masculinization (which is not usually desirable): the clitoris enlarges, hair grows more thickly on the face and elsewhere, the voice deepens, etc. Testosterone use can also lead to extra aggression and uncontrolled anger, which, to be honest with you, is not very sexy at all.
So far this hasn’t made aphrodisiacs sound very effective has it? But I did promise that I would tell you the best aphrodisiac out there. There does exist a safe, inexpensive, non-toxic aphrodisiac that is readily available and works on both men and women. It has been around for at least 5 thousand years and the proof that it works well is that it has been restricted, prohibited, destroyed, and just possessing it has landed people to jail or even gotten them killed!
Pornography. When your penis/clitoris is touched in a sexual situation, the sensitive nerves on these organs transmit signals up to your brain and spinal cord telling the rest of your body that you are aroused and your body responds: your pupils dilate, your breath and heart rate increase, and your sexual organs start producing lubrication (in both sexes). But there’s something else that can set these wheels in motion too; just seeing an attractive member of the sex that you desire, who is naked, with their sexual equipment exposed, triggers the body’s arousal reactions too! And looking at pictures of said naked person is processed by the brain in pretty much the same way as seeing the person in the flesh. (And yes, this applies to both men AND women!)
But, like any sexual tool, it’s important to use pornography responsibly. It’s not healthy to lock yourself in your room and look at your porn all day (and you also run the risk of TMS – traumatic masturbation syndrome). Porn can be used as a compliment to your sexual relationships with real people. Couples can watch a porn video together, or flip through a skin magazine, and both can feel the aphrodidict effects of the material; then, once the juices are flowing, they can have wonderful sex together.