As human beings, we have biological needs for nutrition (food, water), elimination (faeces/urination/perspiration) and to express our sexuality. Meeting our nutritional needs is totally acceptable in a social context, which means we can eat and drink in public, either alone or with others. In fact, eating and drinking socially has become something that gives many people a huge amount of pleasure and fulfilment. With regards elimination (going to the toilet or perspiring), although not a taboo in Western societies, we’re certainly expected to do it discreetly and almost apologetically. And as far as fulfilling our sexual needs is concerned, this is only socially acceptable if it’s done in private and, on the whole, within the frame of the social construct of marriage. Furthermore, sex is bound up in a whole array of moral judgements and expectations.
Why this distinction between what are, in the end, equally important and necessary biological needs? I guess this question might shock some readers. I realise that if we don’t eat, drink or defecate, we’ll die, which isn’t the case if we don’t have sex. And I’m not proposing we all start to have sex in public. Nevertheless, I feel we’ve created a tremendous social block towards an in-built mechanism that’s an inherently beautiful and necessary part of our human constitution.
In a contradictory kind of way, I have to admit that I often feel uncomfortable eating in public. Eating feels like such an intimate thing. I fully agree with van Lysebeth when he writes: “To eat is also an act of intimate fusion, much more intimate than to have intercourse because what I eat becomes my very being.” I feel much more at ease eating alone – which of course is likely to be considered an anti-social attitude in mainstream society, where meals have often become synonymous with sharing time with loved ones. All the same, I can’t deny the feeling I’ve experienced. Moreover, if we eat alone, we can be more conscious of what we’re ingesting, which I’m certain is healthier than mindlessly scoffing down what’s on one’s plate whilst chatting about the latest reality show or the failures of our political system; and it’s a more respectful act in the sense that it’s important to acknowledge that other forms of life (animal, vegetable, mineral) have been given up for our own wellbeing. That’s why I find business lunches/dinners/breakfasts a total no-no – it’s much too intimate and obscene for me to eat whilst talking about work.
Sam Red, 26 July 2015
 Van Lysebeth, A. (1995) Tantra – The Cult of the Feminine. Weiser Books: Boston, p.286.