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In The Family
Are Oysters Really an Aphrodisiac?

There are more effective ways to get in the mood.

No matter how far we progress as a civilization, one pursuit that never seems to get old is the thirst for foods to consume to enhance our erotic prowess. The global market for erectile-dysfunction medication in 2017 was valued at $4.82 billion, and despite zero scientific evidence, millions of people still query the web for aphrodisiac foods like chocolate, roasted ants, stag pizzle, and yes, oysters, all of which are promised to turn us into pneumatic sex machines. None of these foods have demonstrated any aphrodisiac powers in clinical settings, but the oyster myth is especially stubborn.

The 18th-century Italian writer Giancarlo Casanova documented eating 50 raw oysters for breakfast to fuel up for a long day of seducing women, but the oyster-as-aphrodisiac tradition stretches as far back as Roman times; the emperor Vitellius purportedly once downed 1,000 in a single sitting. We’re not scientists, but we’ll hazard a guess that if your goal is to get busy, there are more effective ways to spruce yourself up than slurping dozens of still-living bivalves out of their shells.

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Max Falkowitz

Max Falkowitz is a food and travel writer for The New York Times, Saveur, GQ, New York magazine’s Grub Street, and other outlets. He’s also the coauthor of The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook with Helen You.