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by Amanda Hess
Things are easier said than done, or so the old adage goes, and we couldn't agree more. That's why we do The GOOD 30-Day Challenge (#30DaysofGOOD), a monthly attempt to live better. Our challenge for June? Go vegetarian.
For today's socially conscious consumer, the ethical implications of putting animal products in our mouths is a constant source of discussion. Less attention is paid to the role of animals in other orifices. But for vegans—who eschew all products made with or tested on animals—getting off means scouring lubricant labels, hand-picking latex condoms, and investigating porn stars' diets. Want to pork in a pig-free way? Get down doggie-friendly style? Here's how:
Vegan condoms. Prepare to get turned off: Safe human sex often requires a little animal involvement. Most oral contraceptives are produced by pharmaceutical companies that test on animals; the milk protein casein turns up in many latex condoms.
In recent years, the safer sex industry has made efforts to help vegans protect themselves against disease (and prevent babies). Almost a decade ago, Boise-based condom distributor Caryn Thompson embarked on the expensive and time-consuming process of importing, distributing, and certifying casein-free condoms from Sweden. After spending years navigating the FDA and another six months vetting the condoms through the U.S.-based Vegan Awareness Foundation, Thompson's O!Zone Wholesale is now the sole U.S. importer of certified vegan RFSU condoms. From there, RFSU condoms are distributed online or through brick-and-mortar specialty sex shops, like Portland, Maine's ethically-minded CS Boutique.
RFSU isn't the only condom manufacturer that doesn't use casein, but it's one of only a handful of companies that come with the vegan stamp of approval. "I thought it was important to get the information out there," Thompson says. "For people this matters to, it really matters."
But proving a product's vegan bonafides doesn't always end at certification. Glyde Condoms, which sells rubbers that are certified vegan through the UK-based Vegan Society, tries to one-up the competition by marketing its products as "the only really vegan condoms." And after dealing with sex-product companies that "have been murky and non-committal over the years about whether their products are truly cruelty-free," web outlet The Sensual Vegan now requires retailers to issue a signed statement swearing that their sex aids are totally vegan. "I want to be able to sue any company that lies to me about the vegan-ness of their products," the shop says.
Tired of hunting down ethical rubbers? There's always surgery. As The Sensual Vegan puts it: "Other than vegan condoms, the only reliable option for preventing pregnancy is sterilization."
Vegan lube. Are you slathering animal products on your genitals? Possibly. Lubricants like Luvena contain the dairy-derived enzyme lactoperoxidase; K-Y Warming Liquid capitalizes off the work of honeybees.
In recent years, some lubricant manufacturers have stripped their products of animal derivatives in order to court sexually active vegans. Until May of last year, Good Clean Love marketed "natural" and "organic" lubricants to the vegan community that contained a "small percentage of lactoperioxidase, something like .001 percent, that was part of the preservative system," Good Clean Love "Love Evangelist" Liz Spannuth told me over e-mail. The company has since nixed the ingredient. "In our experience vegans are very fastidious about educating themselves on product ingredients," she says.
Speaking of fastidious niche markets, last year Elbow Grease Lube pursued vegan certification for "Encounter," a line of animal-friendly lubricants specifically targeted at women. Jennifer Zwak, Elbow Grease's director of sales and marketing, says that the product development "wasn't 100 percent focused on the vegan community," but rather at all women who are "concerned with the products they're putting in their bodies." Vegan products "appeal to the majority of the female market," Zwak claims. "I have never heard from any woman who's turned off by a vegan personal care product."
Elbow Grease also markets male sexual aids, which may or may not be vegan. Vegan certification "isn't as much of a selling feature" for the male market, Zwak says. Actually, "it's kind of irrelevant. When it comes to intimacy, I think because their genitalia is external, the male population tends not to be as conscious about this stuff." Zwak continues, "They think about it like putting lotion on their bodies. They're not reading all of the ingredients in the lotion they're using."
But for some vegan consumers, the sex-specific business model can be a turn-off. "I do get people who ask: Is your whole company vegan?" Zwak says. "Some people want everything we make to be vegan."
Vegan porn. Forget about using animal products on your body. What about using bodies that use animal products? For vegan consumers interested in consuming other vegans, there's Veg Porn, an adult photo site that exclusively features models who maintain a vegan or vegetarian diet. Veg Porn markets itself as sexual material for "herbivores and those who love them"; "omnivores and 'semi-vegetarians need not apply."
The website's narrow focus hasn't led to resounding economic success, but for some vegans, it fills a need. "Just the entire idea of them being compassionate and not dirty really gets me going," one vegan message board member wrote of the site. "When I see a 'cute' guy or girl, I automatically wonder if they're a vegan. And if not ... then I'm not very attracted to them."
Photo by Matthew Beck
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