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Did You Know South Koreans Love Food Porn?

“Food porn, the glorification of food as a substitute for sex, is not an entirely new phenomenon. Nor, perhaps, is the ‘objectification’ of food: displays or descriptions of food — and its preparation — for an audience that has no intention of actually cooking or eating any of it.” – Anthony Bourdain[1]

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]What is food porn?[/inlinetweet] The term was first coined by feminist critic Rosalind Coward[2] in her book Female Desires. Depending on who you are asking, its meaning varies. For some, it is about presentation, for some about pleasure, while for others it is literal pornography. Bananas, zucchini, and cucumbers can carry phallic associations, and cherries, strawberries, melons, coconuts and so forth could symbolize breasts and vaginas. Some find pleasure in how the food is presented to them, while some like to watch other people eating.

The Korean portmanteau muk-bang translates to ‘eating broadcast’, a phenomenon that is gripping young South Koreans. A BJ (Broadcast Jockey) eats copious amounts of food while simultaneously broadcasting the process to a live audience. Some attribute its cult status to fear of eating alone, some tune in to eat vicariously through the BJs, some just out of loneliness. There is an option to live chat where the fans of BJs can send ‘star balloons’, a virtual currency that can be exchanged for actual money.

Due to its rise in popularity, several BJs vie for the attention of the viewers through different means like cooking while broadcasting, and some role-play for attention or just try to be funny for the viewers; popularity translates to money.

How is muk-bang related to food porn? Gastronomic voyeurism isn’t a new concept. The success of cooking shows proves that. With muk-bang, it has successfully transitioned to a new age of technology where you can interact with a person far away while eating. Something as intimate and visceral as cooking and eating for pleasure while being keenly watched lends a fetishist and voyeuristic aspect to muk-bang.

Technology has made it easy for viewers to tune in to the channels of these BJs without revealing their identities, from the safety and anonymity of their own devices. It seems South Korea’s cultural aspect of eating socially has transitioned to the virtual age where anybody can eat with anyone. Somewhat.

 

[1] Bourdain, Anthony (2001-11-04). “Food Porn: Lust for the gastronomic – from Zola to cookbooks – is nothing new, but maybe it’s time to shelve it”. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2015-09-15.

[2] Coward, Rosalind (1984). Female Desire: Women’s Sexuality Today. Paladin.