Along with pumpkin-flavored everything and holidays, every fall brings another cuffing season to find someone to hold through the cold months. But meeting someone special has literally never been harder, requiring you to flirt while staying six feet away from anyone new and covering up half your face. If you’re feeling daunted, it might be time to try a vegetarian and vegan dating app Veggly. Their website reports that in the last two years the app has grown to over 200,000 users. Although it’s breaking news on several websites like The Sunday Times, VegNews, Publico and DatingNews.com, in the grand scheme of dating apps, 200,000 users (for an app that’s available worldwide) is relatively small, considering the reported numbers of 78 million vegans across the globe (in comparison to Tinder’s 7.86 million users in the U.S alone).
It’s only two years old though, and has grown 25 fold over the past year, showing the increasing demand of an exclusively meat-free relationship. It’s of course important to have values align in a relationship and makes complete sense why vegans seek out vegan partners. And yet, there are still a ton of vegans who are in relationships with meat eaters. A quick Google search of “vegans dating non vegans” yields a slough of articles discussing the topic.
As a vegan myself, I’ve never actually dated someone who is also vegan, and to be honest it’s because I haven’t found one I’ve clicked with. As someone who desires assertiveness and dominance in a partner, I wondered: is there actually something more masculine about men who eat meat? Do they possess a more assertive quality or exude more confidence? Or is it because I haven’t met enough vegan men?
It’s an interesting association that I’ve heard over the years, men proclaiming other men to be less masculine when adopting a vegan diet, or fearing “man-boobs” from consuming too much tofu and not enough animal protein. A while back I even had an older male relative mock a non-vegan boyfriend of mine for eating tofu with me for dinner, claiming the excess estrogen wasn’t good for men. Without conducting an ounce of research himself—and against my fact-based information I gave him—that boyfriend never ate tofu again. It really bothered me that he couldn’t see past the disinformation.
I recently asked two of my male friends who have both gone back to eating meat after over seven years of veganism how they felt when they began to eat meat again. Did they feel more aggressive? More energetic? More masculine?
Friend 1 reported feeling more satisfied or more complete, healthier even. Of which he related to feeling more masculine because he possessed a different kind of energy than he did when he was vegan. His vegan diet produced for him a higher, nervous energy (associated with the feminine), whereas eating meat gave him a solid, contented feeling (associated with the masculine). He prefers the latter, but for him, it’s about his health—he didn’t mind tapping into a more feminine energy and he still possesses the same caring qualities he did when he was vegan. His personality didn’t change.
Friend 2 said that while he didn’t experience a huge difference in how he felt, the types of activities he was able to to do as a non-vegan—like fishing—made him identify with masculinity more. He recognized that a vegan diet is believed to be more feminine, and in that regard felt the change in terms of his masculinity.
Friend 2’s point is interesting because activities like hunting and fishing (which involve the aggressive act of killing) are inherently “masculine” if we follow the “hunter vs. gatherer” approach to men vs. women. But while he may feel more masculine, I still reject those activities—I find them difficult to swallow and they are definitely not something I’d like my life partner to do. However, Friend 2 is still quiet, kind, thoughtful, and considerate. While his activities changed, who he was did not.
The Atlantic reports that the “idea of veganism is rolled up with qualities like compassion, conscientiousness, and empathy—for animals or the environment. By modern American cultural standards, these are feminine traits. Violence, physical domination, and self-interest are masculine.” But in today’s world, this theory encourages toxic masculinity, which not only harms women and non-gender-conforming individuals, but men themselves who feel they have to uphold these values against their own authentic beliefs. (Check out this essay by a man on being liberated from toxic masculinity through finding veganism.)
In a study called “How Masculinity Exacerbates Gender Disparities in Health Behaviors,” Nakagawa and Hart reveal that “dominant masculinity often legitimates unequal gender relations by positioning ‘superior’ masculine qualities against ‘inferior’ feminine qualities.” They discuss that there is a direct link between how masculine a man feels in relation to how much meat he consumes. Nakagawa and Hart hypothesize “that experiencing a masculinity threat leads men to express more attachment to meat consumption.” In other words, insecure men who worry about not being seen as masculine overcompensate by eating more meat.
The Atlantic also discusses this masculinity threat: “taken to an extreme, some men believe that the primary ingredient in the Impossible Whopper and countless other vegan products will literally turn them into women,” when giving initial feedback for Burger King’s soy-based meat alternative.
This of course is scientifically disproven, “At a purely practical level, experts presented with the breast question have cited the basic fact that men in many Asian countries have long consumed soy-rich diets. They do not have gynecomastia (development of breast tissue).” Furthermore, meat-eating is linked to shorter and weaker erections as well as erectile dysfunction. “When I think of a manly man, I think of someone who has strength, endurance, sexual prowess and fertility,” Dr. Aaron Spitz, former lead delegate of the American Urological Association, told New York Post. “What the scientific studies are showing, is that the more meat men eat, the more quickly they lose their . . . manly manhood.”
In terms of dating, what does this mean? If it’s wrong to associate meat-eating with masculinity (or to use meat-eating to overcompensate for insecurity), it’s just as misguided to associate veganism with “femininity”—or rather more accurately, effeminateness. While femininity has culturally been linked to compassion and caring, it’s important to note these qualities shouldn’t be associated only with females. Any time we prejudge someone’s personality for their demographics, whether that’s race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic or immigrant status, or indeed diet, we are dehumanizing them. The more we learn to see people for who they are, the better chance we will have of living in harmony with one another—or even finding love.
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Photos: Veggly.com, Nordwood Themes, Popovic, Chewy, Montes; Unsplash.