The Sexual Politics of Finger Food

21 04 2012

Food and fingers. Finger food.

Been thinking about the deep philosophical connection lately.


I get bored easily. There was nothing on telly. Aw come on – nobody’s making you read this. Stop moaning! OK – stop whining, moaning’s actually totally OK.

Flickr: licking fingers

So regular readers will be aware of my recent trip South of the line. I met some new colleagues for the first time and much flavoured ethanol was imbibed whilst consuming less than healthy food. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. I consider it economic foreign aid, and I sleep guilt-free. Well – a bit.

We ate things with names like “rattlesnake balls”. Thankfully these turned out to be jalapeño flavoured finger food, and not actually anything to do with herpetology. Much conviviality, and good humour with various snake-related travel tales. The deep fried balls of flavour were shared amongst us most politely with the use of forks, and made no particular impression on me at the time. (I usually like to dip jalapeños in habanero sauce just for shits and giggles – sometimes literally). Last night though, I met up with some old friends from my previous company. Folk were in town from Australia, the UK and all over the shop. I ordered nachos for the table and everyone tucked in.

At this point however, I noticed the communal behaviour. I consider myself a Canadian now. Blue passport and everything. However, I was brought up in the UK for several decades and as well as being fond of using words like “whilst”, “petrol” and “lift”, I have a personal space issue. Also table manners. Whilst (see – just can’t help it!) the communal sharing of rattlesnake testicles via fork struck me as unremarkable, I was much more alert to how people were sharing the nachos, since fingers were directly involved.

I think there are some pretty universally accepted behaviours. No “double-dipping” (which prior to moving to Canada I always thought referred to some dodgy sexual activity), which for the still uninformed is actually no more than dipping a chip (fry) or a crisp (chip) into a sauce, biting off the end, then repeating with the same item – thus theoretically sharing your spittle, gonorrhoea or whatever with the assembled group. The fact that the fingers themselves might be unwashed since their recent meeting with an eyebrow, dirty door handle or itchy scrotum does not however seem to cause any concern at all.

An example of a finger cot

An example of a finger cot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So we’re not exactly consistent in what is and is not acceptable group eating behaviour. As well as taking from the group plate, there’s also the possibility that someone may place items on your plate or even directly in your mouth using fingers. Usually items they don’t like and know you do. From general members of the group this is definitely verboten, but from particularly close friends, lovers or relatives this goes without notice as merely not wasting good food (for a given value of “good”), or perhaps even a sensual act. I’m not convinced even these criteria would excuse it if the doner was not of whichever sex you’re into. I look forward to reading thoughts on the matter. Being offered grapes directly to ones mouth seems particularly erotic. But enough – this was a pub, and no unfermented grapes were on offer, alas.

And then there’s the sexual aspect. There’s always been something sexy in watching a woman licking or sucking fingers. Either her own or preferably yours. I’m convinced this is the whole rationale for finger food in the first place – just to give men an excuse to put sticky sauce on food and pretty much guarantee the women in the gathering will be forced to lick their fingers.

And Esquire is always good for a comment on finger sucking too. Click the picture for the vaguely entertaining article.

Esquire: Why women suck mens fingers