Why a simple lunch at a bistro might cause a colleague to ‘over share’ his life woes to me, I’ll never under stand. Usually I am skilled at avoiding too much information. However, my middle aged friend deftly concealed the coming ambush from behind the list of luncheon specials. Dropping the menu he launched:
“Are oysters really an aphrodisiac?
Normally at this point, I would be in some form of shock with such a clear understanding of his personal problem. However I felt sorry for my friend’s difficulties. But I was more sorry that this over-age-40 writer found the question so intriguing. Lest I over share our woes, let’s discuss the myths and science of oysters as a love drug.
Around 750 BC, a Greek poet named Hesiod set out to explain the origins of life and why we act the way we do. It seems that Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Heaven) were having some difficulties in their marriage. This was not helped by the fact that they kept having ugly children. Personally, I might have considered adoption after having a child with multiple heads, another with a bunch of extra arms, and a third with a big eyeball smack in the center of his forehead. But that’s just me.
For whatever reason, Dad locked the ugly kids in a cave. He insisted that he and Mom keep trying until they got it right. This produced no shortage of resentment from Mom and the freaks. Reaching her breaking point, she called upon Kronus (Time) to help. Conveniently enough, he had both daddy issues and a slight anger management problem. Kronus readily agreed to help solve the problem once and for all.
One evening Kronus crept into the celestial bedroom, jagged-tooth sickle in hand. Surprising Uranus, he overpowered him and “swiftly lopped off his father’s members”. He then cast them into the ocean. Uranus’ seed spread over the sea, and churned like foam. From this action oysters were created, their shape resembling that of Uranus’ gonads. But the disturbing little story didn’t end there. The frothy action in the sea produced more than oysters. It also produced a sensual beauty named Aphrodite. She rose from the depths of the ocean on a bed of oysters, accompanied by the love god, Eros. The two went forth to vex the world with sexual desire.
Ever since Hesiod offered this explanation, westerners have associated oysters with virility and stamina among men. The 18th century Venetian love machine Giacomo Casanova purportedly consumed 50 of the mollusks per day to aid in his conquest of European women. His account and other similar claims of oyster-powered sex romps led to the proverb: ‘Eat fish, live longer. Eat oysters, love longer’.
The amorous benefits claimed by oyster devotees reach mythic proportions. However, there are some plausible reasons to think that oysters may help give the libido a lift.
Oysters are high in amino acids which produce dopamine. One of several hormones in the brain, dopamine provides the “happy place” we all seek. Studies indicate that part of the function of dopamine is sexual motivation. Many a rat has died in a very happy state to determine this link. Humorous stories of elderly men in wheel chairs chasing young nurses around the hospital ward exist from early dopamine studies.
Our humble little mollusk is also known as a great source for zinc. This mineral helps boost testosterone levels, albeit indirectly. Testosterone is not only linked to fertility, it also helps with emotional attributes such as courage, stamina, and aggression. Thus the saying to the weak-kneed, ‘grow a pair’.
Perhaps the best explanation of the link between oysters and sensuality is found in Freudian psychology. Freud thought that the drive for sex was as basic as the quest to satisfy hunger. Whereas the need to satisfy hunger is universally acceptable, the drive for sexual satisfaction gets inhibited by a set of morals imposed upon us by society. One way for the libido to escape is through mysticism. By merely believing the oyster has a mystical power to heighten sexuality, the subconscious is able to freeitself from a self-imposed prison. In other words, if you think something is titillating, it probably is…at least to you.
Before rushing out to the nearest oyster bar, there are some serious cautions for those of us in the over 40 crowd. Raw oysters contain a high amount of sodium. If you are closer to life expectancy than birth, give serious pause before ingesting. Cardiac arrest tends to be a turn-off among most women. A red flag warning should also go up if you are diabetic, a current or previous cancer patient, or have any liver related issues, including a history of alcohol or drug abuse. Raw oysters are prone to a particular type of bacterium named vibrio vulnificus. The presence of this can be deadly for people with these conditions. Please consult with your physician before consuming!
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