Rhino horns won’t make you horny this Valentine’s, but a nice box of chocolates might

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Photo Credit: Channing Miller | Daily Texan Staff

Foods such as strawberries and chocolate might be innocent separately, but together on a Valentine’s night, they might evolve from more a tasty treat to a potential aphrodisiac.

According to Human sexuality professor Nancy Daley, aphrodisiacs work not only because of what is being consumed, but how it is being consumed and with whom it is being consumed.

“If it’s foods that you’re consuming as a couple, there’s something erotic about it,” Daley said. “It makes your mouth water, about making all those sexy gestures with mouths and fingers, strawberries and melted chocolate. There’s a kind of foreplay aspect to those types of aphrodisiacs.”

The most commonly referenced aphrodisiacs in pop culture and old myth include green M&M’s, oysters, chocolate and even ground rhino horn. Daley said while some of these are indeed aphrodisiacs in the ways they are often consumed, they may not truly be biological aphrodisiacs in practice.

“Aphrodisiacs are substances that can produce or maintain levels of sexual arousal,” Daley said. “There’s always the question of whether they actually exist, since sexual arousal involves blood flow. Anything that would be a real aphrodisiac would be something that increases blood flow.”

Daley also said there are historical precedents for ancient people consuming strange things, such as rhino horn, as aphrodisiacs. 

“You can see from cave drawings that there was a belief that if you wanted to have the attributes of a certain creature, you ate that creature,” Daley said. “They didn’t know anything about RNA or protein synthesis, so if you wanted to be as strong as a mastodon, you would eat mastodon, and that would convey its strength to you.”

Given Daley’s description of aphrodisiacs, they may seem difficult to find and strange to use. However, according to Amy Myers, Austin herbalist and owner of Amy’s Apothecary, this simply isn’t so. She said most people have a few aphrodisiacs in their own spice cabinets. Myers has previously taught classes concerning homemade aphrodisiacs in her shop.

“We did a combination of culinary-type herb-like things you can find in your own kitchen,” Myers said. “Cardamom and cinnamon, ginger, we did some goji berries and pine nuts, blueberries. These are all aphrodisiacs, and some less common herbs.”

Martha Hopkins, an Austin resident and co-author of “Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook,” is no stranger to aphrodisiacs in the kitchen. She said they don’t have to be expensive or take a lot of time or effort to make, and that overeating is an enemy to those seeking a happy ending to their aphrodisiac meal.

“I’m a foodie, and when we go out, we tend to eat way too much,” Hopkins said. “That is not conducive to having sex. But when you’re eating pure protein and a little bit of bread and one glass of wine, you’ve just sort of taken care of your body while eating something that looks like you do. For example, asparagus is a phallic symbol, albeit slender.”

While aphrodisiacs may enhance libido or turn on a willing partner, Daley said they are not a fix-all and, as such, should only be used between consenting partners. Otherwise, they are ineffective.

“Historically, one of the ways aphrodisiacs have been used has been in nonconsensual situations,” Daley said. “We’ve got to come down very hard against that sort of thing. You shouldn’t think that feeding somebody with strawberries and chocolate is going to make them fall all over you sexually, either. My recommendation would be have fun with somebody that you know and like and don’t expect too much. Also, stay within your budget.”