Sex Not Food

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Sex, not food? What, I'm sure you're wondering, is Maria going to be talking about now?

Allow me to explain. I love food. I am a food blogger, among other things. But with Valentine's Day coming up, I got to thinking about how I too often see, in my own life and in the lives of those around me, that we as a society are so much more comfortable talking about food than sex. And as a result, we often confuse the two. Women, especially, I think, use food as a way to communicate our desires, and when that doesn't work, we use food to submerge them. We attempt to fill our desire for intimacy, connection, love and, yes, SEX with food.

A recent report in The New York Times analyzing what people search for online confirmed my suspicions. For both men AND women, the number one thing searched for is "sexless marriage." Combine that with the search data we see at Men's Health, Women's Health, and Prevention magazine (don't worry, it's all confidential!) and I'm convinced of the following: Everyone, EVERYONE, wants and needs sex to be healthy and happy.

Just look at the ginormous success of 50 Shades of Grey. It proves that yes, women are HUNGRY for sex. But the other truth is that men need to feel safe, appreciated, and encouraged to communicate and share.

Many people "turn off" their sexual desires using food, excessive exercise, or misplaced moral judgment. People channel their desire (or need for fulfillment) into all sorts of things -- careers, hobbies, porn, or affairs. And the stereotypes? Try and forget them for a minute.

What we've seen through our data is that when men come to our sites looking for sex info, their next step is usually to visit an online dating site. They're looking for real women to connect with. When women come to our sites looking for sex content, their next stop is usually a toy store. And no, not toys for their kids. It's the brutal truth...women love power tools just as much as men. I have one married friend who jokes that, "The reason women like to cuddle after sex is that THEY ARE NOT DONE." Men, do you know if/when a woman is having an orgasm? A real orgasm?

What does this all mean? For whatever reasons--maybe it's for the sake of the kids or for financial reasons or because it's easier or because of the food--too many people are staying in sexless marriages, wondering what's wrong with them or why they get sick or depressed.

It can be totally demoralizing and hurtful for both men and women to feel rejected and unwanted, or that their needs are not normal or appreciated. Or another way of looking at the issue at the heart of things is that too many people are not communicating to their partners about their true desires and needs.

One of the most interesting set of scenes from the Golden Globe-winning television show The Affair starts with a husband and wife having sex. The husband asks the wife to look into his eyes; she laughs, but can't do it. Later, his lover (also married) tells a friend about a moment when he looked into her eyes--in that moment, she felt truly seen for the first time in her life. We all want to be seen. In fact, the act of "gazing" into each other's eyes is a proven technique for building intimacy.

I know, it can be hard--especially if those wishes aren't mainstream or what you think everyone else is doing. If there's one thing I've learned from my studies, it's that there is not much that isn't "normal," and maybe that's all right.

Look, it's awkward for everyone. But it's time for all of us to start talking about it. It's also time for us to realize that the true hunger isn't for food or even sex, but for deep connections and intimacy that only lovers can share. And that, my friends, is the most delicious soul food of all.

For more from Maria Rodale, visit