How Can Chewing Gum Be Sexy When Gum Itself Is Really Gross?

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Gum wall

In a recent “study” (lol) by Beldent gum, several pairs of identical twins were placed in the Buenos Aires Museum of Contemporary Art — the siblings were dressed exactly alike, the only apparent difference between them being that one was chewing gum, the other was not. Museum patrons answered questions about the pairs, including “Which one seems like he has more friends?” and “Which one has a better sex life?” Overall, 73 percent of the viewers preferred the gum-chewing twin.

Okay, on the one hand, I’m inclined to call bullshit on these Very Scientific Results That Were in No Way a Big-Budget Commercial Whatsoever. The gumless twin is left staring creepily into space like a weirdo; the other looks more comfortable because he (or she) has at least something to do. But! Big but! Gum chewing is hot, no doubt about that. Exhibit A: Scarlett Johansson’s smoking hot Jersey girl in Don Jon.

Don Jon

Exhibit B: Joan Jett.

Joan Jett

Exhibit C: Cher (Alicia Silverstone) in Clueless.

Cher Clueless

So, why does chewing gum have this effect on us? To paraphrase Ms. Horowitz herself, “Anything you can do to draw attention to your mouth is good.” Makes sense. Chewing gum draws attention to our mouths, which we use for kissing and licking and sucking and saying arousing combinations of words like, “Let’s have sex all over each other,” and “I’m bringing home pizza.” The jaw movement also forces you into having facial expressions, at least momentary, accidental ones, which makes you more appealing to strangers than the average zombie-faced passerby (c.f. Beldent’s unfortunate gumless twins).

But! Possibly an ever bigger butt! Gum is fucking disgusting, you guys. It’s a chunk of human cud that does little more than disguise the scent of the more than 700 species of bacteria that call your dirty-ass mouth home. Should you swallow it, you’ll later shit it out basically “unmolested” because your body has absolutely no idea how to deal with it. If you don’t, you mash it with your teeth for 15 minutes, bathe it in your salivary enzymes, then — what? Wad it under a desk or table? (No, please don’t do that.)

Gum, I think, is an interesting case study in the liminal nature of sexy and gross, especially as it pertains to body parts (mouths) and bodily functions (chewing). Take, for example, butts. Butts are great, butts are A plus things, butts are very sexy, but they’re also instrumental to the production of poops and farts, which — to most of us, anyway — are decidedly unsexy. On a related note, anyone who has ever received a contextless, unsolicited dickpic (which, at this point, is everyone, yes?) knows what I’m talking about.

This isn’t by any means a problem to be solved: it’s human nature, and the sexy-gross dividing line varies from human to human (what is sexy to you might be gross to me, and vice versa — whatever floats your boner boat!). But next time you see a smokeshow making his way through a pack of Big Red, do your best not to look that gift horse in the mouth.

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