oyster on the half shell with a tuft of microgreens meant to resemble a vulva and tuft of pubic hair. an excellent image to describe aphrodisiacs.

placebonoun – A harmless pill, medicine, or procedure that has no therapeutic effect, designed merely to calm or please someone.

aphrodisiacnoun – A placebo, usually a drug or food, that is believed to cause sexual desire in people.


The concept of aphrodisiacs is nothing new. The belief that certain topical and digestible substances have a direct and stimulating effect on the libido is something that exists in almost all cultures. But is there any truth to them? Science says “meh, not really”. Arousal and libido are too subjective and specific, too nuanced, to be attributed directly to certain stimulants. But what of the little blue pills? Sure, Viagra and other libido enhancers exist, and work, but they aren’t aphrodisiacs.

It’s all in your head

To be an aphrodisiac there must be an element of suggestion and belief. These seemingly innocuous foods and ingredients ‘work’ through the power of suggestion, which is not the most modern or reliable approach. In fact, one could argue that the belief in aphrodisiacs is antiquated and misinformed, but that would be a shame. Aphrodisiacs may not do what they claim they will, or at least not to the degree they promise, but that doesn’t mean they are useless. Because the placebo effect is psychological, you can use that to your advantage and ‘lean in’ to aphrodisiacs and enjoy their suggestion of arousal.

Getting in the mood is what matters

Sure, sharing a plate of oysters with your date may not make you both horny because the oysters possess an unstoppable elixir of lust, but they can make you feel like they do. The suggestion that oysters (one of many examples) make you horny can be enough to successfully make you horny. Whether it’s their briny, musky depth of flavour, or the slick, vulva-like texture, these deep-sea treats are definitely provocative, but they don’t contain enough of any particular chemical or compound to justify their reputation. However, if going through the motions of feeding your lover a slippery little mollusk gets your motor running, what is the harm in that? Does it really matter how you get to that place? So long as everyone is comfortable and consenting, using aphrodisiacs to set the mood or heat things up is completely harmless.

Take the pressure off

One thing that aphrodisiacs do amazingly well is give us a sense of permission to be horny and seek arousal. And why not let yourself get swept away with the concept? Is the chocolate your partner is feeding you the driving force behind why you want to suck more than just their fingers? Nope. But it gives you license to enjoy the moment (both the intimacy and the treat) without guilt or shame because how could you not? This is not to say that we can blame bad behaviour on the power of aphrodisiacs (or any other mood altering substance) but if you need some encouragement bust out the chocolate covered strawberries, or indulge in products like this lube, full of “horny goat weed” (regardless of aphrodisiac effects, this is just a great lube).


Want more aphrodisiac info? Check out Aphrodisiacs Are Bogus over at Love Is A Fetish.


Violet Fawkes

Violet Fawkes (she/her) is a freelance writer and sex blogger focusing on pleasure education, erotic fiction, and the intersection of identity, kink and mental health.