It’s the new term to describe someone’s sexuality, but what does it mean exactly?
Jasmin Singer is musing over her past lovers while at home in New York: for some, she is swept up remembering the tender moments they shared together; for others, she knows immediately why the romance malfunctioned. They had conflicting views on the use of conventional sex toys, condoms, and lubricant.
No, Jasmin isn’t an ultra-conservative, nor is she an anti-contraception crusader.
She just really, really cares about animals, and as such, is a staunch vegan.
As the founder and co-director of Our Hen House, a website dedicated “to effectively mainstream the movement to end the exploitation of animals via multimedia platforms”, Jasmin’s veganism isn’t just a lifestyle choice; it is, as she says, “the best part of me”.
“It’s about living in harmony with my ethical beliefs, voting with my dollars, and using all of my meals to speak truth to power. But most importantly, I am not living a life of hypocrisy where I say I love animals but continue to [exploit] them, as I used to.”
This explains why she avoids sex toys, condoms and lubricants, most of which use animal products or are tested on animals. “Just as we don’t allow sex without consent, we shouldn’t be exploiting other animals, human or non, in [our sex lives],” she said.
As such, Jasmin chooses to identify as a ‘vegan-sexual’.
The term was coined by associate-professor Annie Potts, the co-director of the New Zealand Centre for Human and Animal Studies at the University of Canterbury, during her research of cruelty-free consumption in 2007. After her research paper Cruelty-Free Consumption in New Zealand: A National Report on the Perspectives and Experiences of Vegetarians and Other Ethical Consumers was published, there was a media storm.
Ms Potts told The Newsroom the “negative response of omnivores” (people who eat both meat and plants) to her study startled her; even fellow animal lovers questioned the need for the existence of vegan-sexuality. Jasmin has noted that by sleeping with other vegans, it means forgoing the opportunity to turn carnivores/omnivores/vegetarians into vegans using the most persuasive recruiting tool – sex.
The expression is less than a decade old so it’s hardly surprising the term has polarised the vegan world, a community that is rapidly expanding and includes one million Americans.
Many vegans like Jasmin are pleased the union of veganism and sexuality has carved its way into mainstream attention, and is finally garnished the awareness it deserves.
However, some vegans criticise the term, saying that identifying as a vegan-sexual could be translated as being a “vegan-convertor”, who only considers romantic pursuits with omnivores, and even vegetarians, in the hopes of luring them in with, as what Jasmin describes, as a “natural food tantric love spell”.
“Is it the responsibility of a vegan to change the plight of animals one non-vegan at a time? Well, yes. That’s the burden we live with, but the animals’ burden is a heck of a lot bigger than that. And besides, advocating for vegan food, and speaking up for animals, adds fulfillment and deliciousness to your life. As an animal activist, it is not a secret that it is my hope to have a vegan world. Whether or not that will actually happen is one thing, but in order to aspire to that, I will work in that direction. So there is no reason why a person I date wouldn’t fall into that category – a not-yet-vegan who I hope will eventually educate themselves about the horrific realities of factory farming, and embrace a cruelty-free lifestyle.”
The Newsroom contacted several members of the New South Wales Vegan Society. Some defended the term, others frankly didn’t see the big deal.
“As long as people have been free to choose their partners, isn’t it fair to say that they (hopefully) choose to date those of similar and values?” said Amy Victoria, a Sydney-based member of the society. “I’m not just a vegan-sexual, but also a lover-of-music-sexual, generally-accepting-and-opened-minded-sexual, good-sense-of-humour-sexual, not-putting-too-much-value-on-material-possessions-sexual, would-like-to-one-day-have-children-sexual.
“I think it’s a no-brainer that if someone feels that to consume animals products in any way is morally/ethically/environmentally wrong, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be attracted to someone who isn’t on the same wavelength as them because it is such a fundamental value. To me, being with someone who is vegan is important, but more important than being with someone who has any of the other numerous qualities and values that I hold dear,” Ms Victoria told The Newsroom.
Others in the society, who wished to remain anonymous, were reluctant to discuss the term with an omnivore.
“Judging by the poor standard of journalism these days, I would not trust any professional journalist, let alone a student, to approach this subject with the objectivity and respect it requires,” another society member told The Newsroom. “In fact, I would never trust any omni (omnivore) to write anything to do with veganism, due to the fact that they’re not living our lifestyle or sharing our mindset, the articles invariably end up as a piece of biased nonsense.”
Although members of the vegan society had plenty to say in regards to the term, none actually openly identified as a vegan-sexual. But, where Jasmin and these particular vegans can agree, is that their lifestyle choice is the best part of their being.
“I would only consider dating non-vegans if I had some hope that they might convert to veganism,” said Jasmin. “Veganism is the best part of me, and the person I am with needs to get that. If they aren’t vegan, and if they have no hope of or interest in ever becoming vegan, then they won’t truly embrace it.” – Sasha Godman
Top photo by Jessica Heckley.