For the VegBoston blog I am always interested in including all facets of the veg community and culture, because as I have stated countless times before, veganism is a far cry from a mere dietary choice (for me at least). While the Atkins diet and other trendy weight-shedding-shams come and go over the years, vegansim is an ethical choice that has the potential to work its way into all aspects of our lives.
One night while grabbing some essentials from Whole Foods (Symphony), I saw VegNews on a magazine rack and decided to pick up a copy. There was a brief blurb about an online vegan sex-store and it dawned on me that this blog has never covered that aspect of people’s lives: the time spent behind close doors where fetishes, kinks and life’s most intimate preferences take center stage.
I sent out a couple emails to a few proprietors of vegan online sex stores in hopes of getting positive responses to my requests for interviews. One of the only people who was interested in providing information about the erotic-vegan business was Margi Baum, someone who I still know little-to-nothing about. Baum’s store is called VeganErotica and it specializes in bondage gear, items that many people associate with leather.
Baum’s store offers belts, collars, harnesses, “hitting toys”, restraints, and other accessories used by those those keen to BDSM. Baum’s custom-made playthings are made of Lorica, a synthetic leather that according to her website, is comprised of, “50% polyamide microfiber and 50% polyurethane.”
Baum was not the founder of VegErotica, her boyfriend and his roommates were. Eventually she inherited the site and is presently in charge of managing the erotic-Lorica cyberstore, something she does when she is not at her nine-to-five job doing data entry.
Besides VegErotica, other cruelty-free sex stores exist, notably Sensual Vegan. Sensual has garnered a slew of awards and has a large selection that includes everything from Glyde vegan condoms, self-pleasuring toys, BDSM gear and books geared towards educating those who look to expand their sexual horizons into less orthodox territory.
I was unable to get an interview with the woman who runs Sensual. For a while I expected my entry on vegan-erotica to be short with little testimonial–I was not interested in merely giving a run down of someone’s website.
When I looked at Baum’s email interview a second time, I noticed she mentioned something interesting, something that the vegan community should start a serious dialogue on. When I asked her what improvements she thought could be made to the erotic-vegan scene, she mentioned a collaboration between vegan stores and non-vegan stores. “I frequently see such a finite line between the vegan and non-vegan communities as far as clothing and accessories,” says Baum via email. She elaborated, and talked about how she does not supply high-quality rubber and latex products, but those who do are also major vendors of leather goods.
According to Baum, many vegans refuse to purchase items from these suppliers, “For better or for worse the people I’ve heard from who are vegan kinksters have been morally or ethically opposed to even browsing these sites because they sell leather.” This conundrum is exacerbated due to retailers’ unwillingness to create a page for non-animal products, “Some have even expressed concern that if they differentiate their ‘leather community’ customers will take offense,” says Baum. Furthermore, Baum is afraid to post links to non-animal products on leather-vendors’ websites, because people will think she is promoting the use of leather.
There is the quandary. Do we give our hard-earned cash strictly to vegan stores that only sell vegan products, or do we venture out and purchase non-animal-products from those who sell both?
The staunch hardliners might tell us to never support the companies who support the killing and commodification of animals, an extremely valid point. Also, by buying from vegan-specialty stores we are supporting those who support us, we are creating a cycle of commerce that keeps those with ethics afloat as we continuously go back and buy their products, products made with cruelty-free intent.
On the flip side, if we buy our goods and services from someone who caters to everyone, can we show mainstream society and non-specialized retailers that the masses want ethical goods? Could this in turn create a shift in the marketplace? It worked for organic food, what was once a niche group of home growers has blossomed into a commercial necessity. Regular people wanted organic, and now stores who are strictly in the business for profit, provide pesticide and hormone-free goods that come complete with the USDA stamp of approval.
It is a tricky question, one worth pondering, discussing and debating. Do we remain as our own faction, making others come to us, or do we branch out and buy our animal-product-free goods from those who couldn’t care less, showing them that we do care and that it is a buyer’s market, so they better smarten up?
Think about it.