In The Future of Sex Education workshop, we received food-based metaphors that are extremely culturally specific. This was especially the case in  common descriptions of the human body:

The workshop participants eagerly outlined 3 major ‘stereotypes’ of breast-shape descriptions. They are extremely physical, literally and not exactly imaginative. However, their selection process was intriguing. (Once again I found myself having to exercise the neutral host mask and resist in protesting about being offended.)

木瓜 – papaya (木瓜  is often a replacement term for ‘boobs’- as most women believe in their oestrogenic properties) – describes large breasts

扣肉 – steamed pork (meat known for it’s moisture and tenderness, cooked with layers of skin and fat, slowly fried and them steamed under low heat) – is a term for medium pert breasts

竹尖 – bamboo shoot (a source of heritage and room for growth. most of the girls in the workshop grew to be very attached to the shoot) – describes smaller breasts

In the research interview, analogies of penis size were also compared with lip balm, carrots and mooli (white carrot-shaped vegetable largely eaten in Asian cuisine as a pickle). The analogies surrounding sizes and food interestingly came from both parties and whilst everyone was curious about the interpretation, they were also inherently offended by their existence.

Image from Hotshots (1991)

Using food metaphors to describe bodily anatomies is a basic social format for the faint-hearted. It’s present in many cultures the media. There’s an understanding through repeated experiences that links food and sex. Food is something that we eat everyday. We need and accept it as a healthy part of our living structure. We search to understand the nutrients we receive from it, how we consume it and the sheer variety in which we can enjoy from it.

These analogies were used predominately to avoid any offence, but somehow felt much less savoury than an honest description. The hosts & I really began asking ourselves if being offended was really a bad thing at all. Maybe it reminds us that we are somehow human. Should these analogies exist at all?

Most of the workshop participants  wanted their children to understand sex but didn’t want the awkwardness of facing this themselves. They suggested nursery trips/tours that would lead children to understanding sex in the appropriate depth. Each of them wanted a truth to be presented but felt too shameful to confront these topics themselves.

Will there be a service design for offence and shame? or is it just called bravery?

Is food going to lead the way?

Will analogies one day design out offence?

Written by Lisa Ma

Lisa Ma socializes activism. Combining ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa creates platforms of engagement from surprising insights and processes that deeply resonate with the global technological community. The emergence of clicktivism – to protest at the click of a mouse – is trivializing activism. Lisa argues that although activism doesn’t necessarily benefit from technology, we need to evolve how activism contributes to technological societies. To illustrate this, she designs dilemmas and creates social events that are perceived as activism but function as services.

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