This is for the February 2015 Carnival of Aces: Cross Community Connections. Also, veg*n stands for ‘vegan and/or vegetarian’, and, when I use the term ‘veg*n’, I also include semi-vegetarians.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like asexuality and veg*nism have much to do with each other at all, and in a way, they shouldn’t have anything to do with each other.
Okay, you know that’s not really the end, especially since this is a multi-part post.
The most obvious connection between the asexuality community and veg*n communities is, there are an awful lot of veg*ns (particularly vegans) in the asexuality community, in much higher proportions than you would find in mainstream society.
Okay, back that up. There is a much higher proportion of veg*ns in the English-language asexuality community than in English-language societies in general (excluding India). In a Hokkien-language or Hindi-language asexuality community, encountering so many veg*ns would not be strange at all.
Are there a disproportionate number of ace-spectrum folk in veg*n communities? I don’t know the answer, but my guess is ‘no’.
So … why does the asexual community have a disproportionate number of veg*ns? Again, I don’t know the answer, but I can speculate…
1) First of all, anyone who has spare time and energy to interact extensively with the asexual community has a degree of privilege. Now, many of the world’s poorest people eat an almost entirely plants-based diet because it requires less resources, but they don’t identify as veg*n, and among the subset of people who have regular internet access, veg*nism is somewhat correlated with privilege. I’m not talking about privilege on the scale of multi-billionaire vs. someone who makes 120,000 USD per year and has less than 1 million USD of wealth, more on the scale of those people who make 120,000 USD per year vs. someone who works at McDonald’s because it’s their least bad economic option and, since they aren’t paid a living wage, they have to take advantage of free McDonald’s meals to fill their stomach.
2) Second, the asexual community is a nascent community. In particular, I mostly interact with other ace bloggers, who are particularly likely to be activists and/or intellectuals. Guess what is somewhat correlated with being veg*n? Being an activist and/or intellectual.
3) Third – I think this is the really interesting one – is straight-edgeness. I wasn’t even aware of the term ‘straight-edge’ until this thread at the Asexual Agenda, but I’ve been subconsciously aware of the idea for a long, long time.
I used to be the bleeding edge of straightness (not to be confused with hetero orientations). I wasn’t having any kind of sex, I had never had more than a sip of alcohol, I was a semi-vegetarian who then became a vegan, and I totally abstained from anything with more caffeine than chocolate. I’m still very straight-edge – it’s been months since I’ve drunk anything alcoholic, I am still not having any kind of sex, I am still vegan, and I still don’t drink coffee – I’m just not quite on the bleeding edge anymore.
Vegans often get very annoyed with the concept of ‘straight-edge’ (even if they don’t name it that). Veganism is about ethics first, and vegans don’t have any ethical objection to drinking alcohol. In fact, I’ve met vegans who are *very fond* of drinking alcohol, and proud of it. Sex does not come up so much … well, except maybe for the times when vegans try to make veganism seem ‘sexy’ in order to persuade more people to go vegan, or when trying to get vegan condoms. But even so, alcohol consumption (or lack thereof) and sexual activity (or lack thereof) doesn’t have much to do with the question of whether it is right or wrong to skin, debeak, cage, force-feed, steal milk from, sexually assault, boil alive, grind up alive, slaughter, or otherwise torture/enslave nonhuman animals. Vegans (including myself) are irritated when people associate veganism with straight-edgeness because we consider an evasion of important ethical questions. In other words, if someone brings up straight-edgeness in connection with veganism, it’s probably because they don’t understand veganism.
And that is a key difference between asexuality and veganism (and many other kinds of veg*nism, though veg*nism is so broad it’s hard to generalize) – asexuals are generally only trying to become comfortable themselves, not to persuade others to become asexual, or to claim that it’s unethical to be non-asexual. Vegans, on the other hand, often try to persuade others to become vegan, and do consider being non-vegan to be unethical. Understanding this key difference is so important that I will dedicate the next part of this series to it.
Ah, but if I am so irritated by veganism being linked to straight-edgeness, why did I put that on my list of why there may be a disproportionate number of veg*ns in the asexual community? Simple – if you’re already openly straight-edge on one axis, it may be easier to be openly straight-edge on a another axis. I sure know that it’s much easier to openly talk about how I don’t drink (much) alcohol in the asexual community than in a lot of other places. That said, it is no easier to talk about abstaining from caffeine among Taiwanese veg*ns than other Taiwanese people, which implies that this hypothesis has its limitations.