Katy Perry seeks sexual liberation by transforming into dinner in her “Bon Appetit" music video (the song also features rap trio Migos). In the video, Perry lies face-up on a human-size cutting board as she’s prepped, cooked, and prepared to become a savory dish on the menu .
Perry sings sexily, “I’m fresh out of the oven, bon appetit, baby.” Despite the catchy and fun lyrics, many people were stunned by the Hannibal Lecter vibes. Vegetables are tossed on top of Perry, right before she’s thrown into a stew to meet her fate as a cutlet. One horrified viewer begged her to stop watching Malick. Other fans were simply shocked by the idea of eating flesh during a feast.
The combination of cuisine and erotica for a cannibalized eye, however, is not a new idea. In fact, 3 times a year, New Yorkers head to Brooklyn to eat a gourmet dinner off naked bodies at the legendary LUST event. Produced by New York artist & entrepreneur Abby Hertz, LUST is an immersive sensual dinner party that features semi-nude male and female models covered with succulent food. Guests are encouraged to gorge off different meats and vegetables off the models.
Hertz was inspired by Meret Oppenheim’s surrealist Spring Feast, in which food was served atop a nude female in 1959. It was so scandalous and horrifying at the time that the model had to be replaced by a mannequin. But the cannibal-style dinner was designed to be a celebration of life and beauty. It also was a subversive act against the strict moral code restricting pleasure and skin exposure.
There have been other interpretations of human platters for consumption since Spring Feast, yet LUST has been the most popular revival in recent time. Since its debut on Valentine’s Day of 2016, it has picked up media steam for its salacious display of dinner combined with other kink and musical performances. The parties have been covered by the New York Times, Cosmo, and many other outlets.
Hertz was enjoying minor fame when LUST surged in popularity. At the time, she was already well-known for painting her vagina and pressing it on paper. She performed her one-of-kind vagina paintings live at many venues, including a celebrity cabaret venue in downtown Manhattan in front of Perry. Even with her established success, she experienced a rise in popularity as news spread of her erotic parties.
LUST is designed to be a sexually liberating night for everyone involved. People are encouraged to shake off the dusts from their cubicles and enjoy a sensual meal. The performers, who are covered in food and sauce, interact with guest as they eat off them and express pleasure or discomfort. In a previous interview, a dinner model said the experience was extremely empowering. She didn’t feel objectified at all. Instead, she giggled as a man ate a kiwi off her breast and exclaimed to Bedford + Bowery, “I’m treated as a human being while being eaten off of as a platter!”
It seems "Bon Appetit" was hoping to convey the same sexual agency and tantalizing effect of LUST’s cannibal feast. Near the end of the video, Perry lies on a platter as patrons hungrily take their seats in what appears to be a strip club. Migos sit aside and help her break free from the fate of being dinner. They throw cash and assist in tying up the guests. Once released, Perry rises up on stage and performs a pole routine. She wrote on Twitter, “Hot and ready to serve, but make no mistake, I’m not your piece of 'meat,'” with emojis, a link to the video, and the hashtag #sexual liberation.
But any message of sexual freedom is lost in conflicting messages. Perry enjoys being cooked and prepped, but ultimately has to break free from being just a platter. This pull and tug leave a sour taste. It erases the empowerment and subversiveness in the erotic experience of the cannibal feasts as Perry is held hostage by the concept.
Hertz told BUST she considers LUST a celebration of “life, sensuality, and pleasure.” There are aspects of this in Perry’s video but ultimately the intimacy and pleasure Hertz and her predecessors created in their artistic feasts are flattened into objectification in "Bon Appetit."
Watch the video below:
Top picture via YouTube
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Patricia is a writer, activist, and aspiring journalist. She likes writing about politics, sexuality, and feminism. She is a bit of a wanderer and has lived in Morocco, Australia, and India. Recently moved to Brooklyn, she is currently learning to navigate NYC subways.