Vegans are infamous for being a super sexual bunch. After all, our plant-based diets—naturally low in artery-clogging saturated fats—provide us with extra energy, increase our blood flow, and lower our stress levels, all of which have been shown to boost sex drives. Plus, we’re kind, and a kind lover is a generous lover.
While most vegans are used to checking our food labels, even seasoned vegans can forget to check his or her personal products for animal ingredients before getting down. If you (or your partner) like it veggie-style, then this breakdown of exactly what is in those condoms, lubricants, and toys is for you.
Latex comes from the sap of the rubber tree, which sounds plant-based, right? Unfortunately, the latex found in most condoms and many sex toys is manufactured with the milk protein casein. Luckily, cruelty-free companies have been researching alternatives for years and have come up with a process of replacing casein with a vegetable extract from the thistle family. Phew!
Animal ingredients aside, many condoms also contain ingredients I wouldn’t want to slather on my goods, such as glycerin, which can cause yeast infections, and parabens, which can disrupt hormone balance and have been linked to breast cancer. Luckily, all-natural vegan condom companies such as Glyde Condoms, Sir Richard’s, and Unique Condoms exist for those of us who don’t believe animals should suffer for our good times.
The name alone is a pretty clear sign these are not vegan, and for the cruelty-free connoisseur, the mere thought of using animal skin for pleasure is cringe-worthy. So how did these even become a thing? Lambskin condoms were originally thought up as an alternative for those who are allergic to latex. Are they really made from skin? Sort of. The contraceptives are comprised of a thin layer of sheep cecum—a part of the intestine. Yuck.
Oral contraceptives are controversial for many female vegans who don’t want to contribute to animal testing but also don’t want to get pregnant, or are perhaps suffering from a health condition commonly treated by oral contraceptives. Unfortunately, as of now, no oral birth control is vegan. Why not? As required by the US Food and Drug Administration, they are all tested on animals. Plus, many of the pills include the milk byproduct lactose. To complicate things further, hormonal birth control contains synthetic estrogen and progesterone, which have been shown to have an effect on aquatic animals when they are excreted into our water system.
Just because your favorite product doesn’t contain animal products doesn’t mean it’s cruelty-free. For instance, Trojan claims its condoms are free of animal byproducts, but its manufacturers, Church & Dwight, have frequently been blasted in the media for its animal-testing procedures. Unless a manufacturer touts itself as cruelty-free, assume they undergo some sort of animal testing, so stick to brands you know are safe.
The rubber used in many sex toys can also contain casein or gelatin. And if your product lists “glycerin,” contact the manufacturer because many glycerin sources are derived from animals. To stay safe, consider purchasing your toys from a vegan retailer such as Kinkclusive or The Vegan Sex Shop. And if you’re a cruelty-free BDSM fan, there are plenty of leather-free options. Many of these options, however, include pleather, a synthetic material created with petroleum and/or the chemical-heavy PVC. This resource-depleting process is controversial for many eco-minded folk, so it’s important to decide whether you’re down with synthetic kink, or if you’d rather opt for some organic cotton wrist ties. Check Etsy for all your leather-free BDSM needs.
From wax to the dairy-derived enzyme lactoperoxidase, many personal lubes contain animal ingredients. As consumers smarten up to what’s going in and on their goods, more conscious companies are surfacing, and that’s fantastic. Some great vegan lube options are Sliquid, Good Clean Love, Yes, and Wet Platinum Premium Lubricant. Of course, if you want to keep it extra natural, don’t forget coconut oil—the lube of the gods. But be careful with this slippery solution because tasty as it is, it will stain your sheets.
Portions of this article were adapted from The Lusty Vegan, a Cookbook and Relationship Manifesto for Vegans, and the People who Love Them by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg, © 2014 by Vegan Heritage Press.