Vegansexuality. Vegan-what?

“Left-wing girls get horny from right-wing talk. How leftist a girl may be, and how conscious they are about the world, in their panties they are all right as hell.” This quote stems from a show performed by Dutch comedian Hans Teeuwen in 2013. During the show he demonstrates how ‘left-wing’ topics such as poverty, climate change and sustainability ought to be fucked out of a girl – hard, not soft as ‘left men’ do. Teeuwen is known for his harsh comedy and controversial subjects. He is a comedian who digs where it hurts: he mocks women, religion, art and the disabled. His joke about ‘left girls’ was widely popular and has been repeated in many Dutch conversations. It is also how a discussion I recently had with a man ended. He was sitting between me and a friend during a dinner. We were talking about politics and life whilst the direction of the conversation started shifting. He stated that women are simply not made for careers the way men are, and we, both young women, could not agree less. A few hours, and drinks later, he came up to me on the dancefloor and said, “Yeah I know that in the end all you left girls just want to be taken by a right guy!” Not knowing that this quote is inspired by Hans Teeuwen, it left me rather surprised. On the one hand wanting to prove him how wrong I think he was, whilst on the other side knowing it was not worth my energy. I decided to ignore the comment, and he to ignore me the rest of the night.

I can only imagine Hans Teeuwen’s face when hearing a term like ‘vegansexuality’…

‘Vegansexuality’ appeared in 2007 as a new word, a new ‘sexual preference’ (which it not really is) and a new controversy on the internet. It refers to those who prefer sexual relations with others who do not consume meat or other animal products. During a survey some women publicly answered that they indeed preferred relationships with men who are also vegan. Although these were only a few women, the internet exploded. The Christchurch Press highly sensationalized this term and its website generated over 110,000 hits (and Google over 21,000 new references to ‘vegansexuals’) within two days of the original release. The New York Times magazine included vegansexuality as one of the top 70 ideas of 2007. For many vegans this term was hardly a revelation, as many indeed do prefer relations with like-minded people when it comes to their diet as it stands for more than just food: it’s about broader ethical and political beliefs. But for some non-vegans this was a shock, now these crazy vegans have really gone too far…

Researcher Annie Potts studied the online responses following this online discussion. And this is where it started to become really interesting. The majority, and there were thousands, of reactions came from ‘omnivorous men’ and were immensely negative. It was all about vegan and vegetarian women ‘fighting the dark side of their sexuality’ and resisting their attraction to men who do eat meat. These analyzed responses included comments such as:

“Vegans are like Catholic priests. Everyone KNOWS priests get horny… it is biology. Everyone KNOWS vegans finds themselves salivating despite themselves at the distant smell of hamburgers on the grill…it is once again…BIOLOGY.”

“Want to do her on a bed of rare steaks.”

“Hemophilia, insanity, birth defects of all kinds and a general diminishing of the genetic lines . . . in other words, these loons will eat themselves right out of existence. They will become extinct. And that’s the best news I’ve heard all week.”

Jack Marx, from The Sydney Morning Herald’s ‘The Daily Truth’ blog described himself seducing a vegan lover and consuming her gastronomically and sexually:

“All this talk of veganism, meat eating and sex is making my mouth water. Like those corn-fed pigs that you can order at some fancy restaurants, vegans are sort of primed with the luscious fruits and vegetables on which they’ve stuffed themselves. Picking up a vegan, then, is the perfect recipe for a hot and tasty evening for two, and a delicious memory for one . . . a table set only for one; a ‘bed’ of roast vegetables in which a space has been cleared just for my ‘guest’; a reach around to gently plant an apple in the mouth.”

In her research Annie Potts writes that what really stands out in these hostile responses is a sense of outrage that vegans and vegetarians might prefer a sexual relationship with one another, instead of with ‘normal’ omnivorous people, accompanied by a deep desire to forcibly discipline such deviants back into line. In that case vegansexuality challenges ‘the male sex drive discourse’ that assumes heterosexual men have the need – and the right – to have sex with any woman they want, and all women must be available to meet this desire.

Most vegans actively use their bodies, specifically what goes into their bodies, to take an ideological and political stance. Becoming vegan is a major change in one’s lifestyle and represents an alternative ideology. Seeking to politicise food choices and practices, veganism can be considered “as a transgressive and an embodied political practice which has the potential to disrupt established social order and institutions which rely on human dominance over other animals”. Veganism is thus thoroughly embodied, which can mean that meeting possible sexual partners with the same embodied ideologies, might have a strong (physical) effect of (sexual) attraction. It is like finding out that the other person plays on the same team. It not only includes them into your in-group, but also tells something about similar experiences of inclusion and exclusion. As written by Annie Potts, it is also the idea that vegans actually prefer sexual relationships with one another, hence excluding the majority of people, which evokes violent responses from some men. They not only not understand it, they also feel actively left out.

By some veganism is thus seen as a threat to a meat-eating culture, to traditional values and in this case even ‘heterosexuality’. As Annie wrote, some men responding to vegansexuals want to forcibly put them back into line, back where they belong. Just as some online respondents want to discipline these women by using language of sexual abuse, Hans Teeuwen would like to fuck poverty, climate change and sustainability out of a left-wing girl. Of course the latter has to be seen in the right context, as comedy, but it is telling about certain societal dynamics when it comes to left-wing, right-wing, sex(ualities) and food. These are sensitive dynamics, they are about intimate choices; what one eats, why, who one sleeps with and why.

So although vegansexuality might at first sound as something extreme or outrageous, the idea itself is not that exciting. But categorizing people into ‘extreme’ groups, certainly is. And as shown here, can start online debates that don’t have anything to do with actual debates, but mutual misunderstanding, frustration and lack of communication.

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