A globally lauded maker of indie, woman-focused pornography has decided to ring in 2018 with a public pledge to be vegan, connecting the decision to her feminist ideals and thrilling many of her fans.
“I think that being respectful towards animals and nature goes hand in hand with many of my main beliefs, especially when it comes to feminism,” wrote Erika Lust in a New Year’s Day blog post that she teased to her 72,700 Instagram followers. “I can’t believe that it took so long for me to awaken!”
Lust, who is Swedish and based in Barcelona, and who has recently been profiled by Refinery29, Self, Playboy, Bazaar, USA Today, Wired, and the Netflix docuseries Hot Girls Wanted, has become a powerful and award-winning game changer in the world of erotic filmmaking because of her revolutionary approach of focusing on women’s pleasure and the emotional aspects of sex. She’s also a mother of two young daughters — and now a proud vegan.
In her blog post, Lust explains that she began thinking about her decision following a particularly gluttonous summer getaway in Costa Brava, when she indulged in lots of meat, cheese, fish, pastries, and ice cream.
“I even posted the picture below on Instagram, and many of my fans and followers were commenting, saying things like ‘a plate of dead animals, not sexy at all.’ Those comments started to make me feel a little uncomfortable, and I couldn’t get them out of my head,” she writes. “Also lately many of the performers I usually work with have been advocating for a plant-based diet.”
She was encouraged by that newfound healthy feeling, she explains, along with the insights gained from the documentary What the Health, by Kip Anderson, and from vegan advocates such as Melanie Joy, who explains the irrational psychology of the “global atrocity” she calls “carnism” in both a TEDx Talk and in her book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows.
At first, she tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “It was a matter of health. But then I discovered that it’s also about compassion, about the planet, and about a better and more fair world, and that’s of course linked with the core values of feminism.”
The ideals of veganism and feminism have been entwined by many for decades. In 1990, Carol J. Adams published The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, which the New York Times called “a bible of the vegan community.” In it, Adams summarizes in part on her website “how a process of objectification, fragmentation, and consumption enables the oppression of animals so that animals are rendered being-less through technology, language, and cultural representation. Objectification permits an oppressor to view another being as an object. Once objectified, a being can be fragmented. Once fragmented, consumption happens — the consumption of a being, and the consumption of the meaning of that being’s death, so that the referent point of meat changes.”
Earlier, in a pivotal 1983 Ms. magazine article titled “The Club, the Yoke, and the Leash,” Aviva Cantor declared, “Nowhere is patriarchy’s iron fist as naked as in the oppression of animals, which serves as the model and training ground for all other forms of oppression.”
And while abstaining from animal consumption is also healthy — which is typically the main point behind the rising, celebrity-endorsed trend of what’s now more often dubbed “plant-based” eating — early feminists saw that point more as a fringe benefit.
“Our vegetarianism stems from a broader base of reasoning than that of personal health,” write the owners of Bloodroot Feminist Restaurant & Bookstore, founded in 1977 in Connecticut (where it still exists), in their collection of essays, The Second Seasonal Political Palate, published in 1984. “It comes from a foundation of thought based on feminist ethics: a consciousness of our connections with other species and with the survival of the earth. Of course we know that a diet based on grains and legumes, vegetables and fruits is personally healthy. But regardless of how much is learned about food combining, vitamins, basic food group needs or about problems with pollution or chemical additives to meat, the fact remains that dependence on a meat and poultry diet is cruel and destructive to creatures more like ourselves than we are willing to admit.”
The leaving behind of these powerful old-school ideals was recently lamented by Broadly writer Alicia Kennedy in her article “Vegetarians Don’t Care About Feminism Anymore.” She writes, “There are deeply ingrained cultural reasons for why it’s so difficult to break free of the dominant discourse around meat and masculinity,” such as how meat has “long been a status symbol — in gender, class, and even nationalism.”
As Adams told Kennedy regarding new ways of marketing veganism with macho, “plant-strong” messages, “Why can’t we be ‘plant-kind’? Rather than saying, ‘Veganism is going to challenge basic concepts of masculinity. Veganism is going to shake up the gender binary. Veganism is going to reject the sexual politics of meat,’ what happens is we end up accepting the dominant discourse and the patriarchal way of framing. It’s just like, ‘Hey, you don’t have to worry about your testosterone. You don’t have to worry about your masculinity.’”
And if anyone can grasp that concept, it’s Erika Lust, who has managed to turn the idea of pornography around — away from patriarchal messaging and imaging — in a very similar way. “I realized that the only ones participating in the discourse of pornography are men. Chauvinistic men. Narrow-minded men. Men with very little sexual intelligence,” she shared in a TEDx Talk about her eureka moment. “Everywhere, the role of women is under debate. Everywhere except in the porn industry. It’s time for porn to change. And for that, we need women.”
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