February 26, 2009, - 2:37 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
In recent years (perhaps, decades), I’ve found George Will to be less conservative and more dull.
But his latest column is an exception. Will has an interesting piece riffing off of the Hoover Institution’s Mary Eberstadt, who argues that “food is the new sex.”
By that, she means that whereas rampant sex is now the word of the day (see baby mamas and baby daddies everywhere, including the home of a would-be Veep), we’ve transferred our previous morality and puritanical mores on sex to food.
I would agree with that, except that if we had so much morality on food, why are the majority of Americans obese and a good percentage of them morbidly obese–now more than ever? In fact, the majority of yelling and screaming we hear from “food victorians” is against thin models. At the same time, fat clothing and lingerie stores continue to prosper. There’s Torrid–where you can buy thong underwear in size 24–and there are now many laws protecting fat people and making it harder to discriminate against the volunarily slovenly and calorically-gifted. Our society encourages this stuff.
And as people have gotten less disciplined in giving in to their base urges on sex, they’ve also done the same with food. It’s an overall lack of discipline and judgment.
What Will and Eberstadt really should have said–or perhaps, meant to say–is that it’s the liberals who’ve transferred their morality from sex to food. After all, the same crowd that comprised the feminists and free lovers of the sixties and seventies are the same aging hippies who populate the ranks of the food police and make up the clergy of new age medicine, vegetarianism, and raw foodism.
Still there is merit in what they say, if you consider it with that qualification:
Put down that cheeseburger and listen up: If food has become what sex was a generation ago – the intimidatingly intelligent Mary Eberstadt says it has – then a cheeseburger is akin to adultery, or worse. As eating has become highly charged with moral judgments, sex has become notably less so, and Eberstadt, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, thinks these trends involving two primal appetites are related.
In a “Policy Review” essay “Is Food the New Sex?” she notes that for the first time ever, most people in advanced nations “are more or less free to have all the sex and food they want.” One might think, she says, either that food and sex would both be pursued with an ardor heedless of consequences, or that both would be subjected to analogous codes constraining consumption. The opposite has happened – mindful eating and mindless sex. . . .
In 50 years, Eberstadt writes, for many people “the moral poles of sex and food have been reversed.” Today, there is, concerning food, “a level of metaphysical attentiveness” previously invested in sex. . . .
Eberstadt says two generations of social science have produced clear findings: “The sexual revolution has had negative effects on many people, chiefly the most vulnerable; and it has also had clear financial costs to society at large.”
Today the “all-you-can-eat buffet” is stigmatized and the “sexual smorgasbord” is not. Stigmas are compasses, pointing toward society’s sense of its prerequisites for self-protection. Furthermore, as increasing numbers of people are led to a materialist understanding of life – who say not that “I have a body” but that “I am a body.”