Traipsing through the supermarket or pharmacy looking for protection can be a daunting task. Forget banana-flavoured or ribbed for her pleasure – it’s hard enough making sure your ethical shopping standards extend to the bedroom. We’re bombarded with options for sex protection left, right and centre – and advertising loopholes mean we’re not always getting the full picture when it comes to the environment. Whether you’re shopping for condoms, dental dams, or visiting your doctor for prescribed birth control – make sure you’re doing it the ethical way.
Disclaimer: Let’s not forget that the environmental effect of eradicating condoms based on veganism or ability to biodegrade would not make much sense. Less condoms = more babies = many more carbon footprints.
Although the major obvious downfalls of lambskin condoms – like, they don’t stop the transmission of STIs and they’re inherently non-vegan – we will say they are the only condom on the market that is fully biodegradable. So, for those in committed relationships not looking to get pregnant – this could be the condom for you. The heat transferring abilities of lambskin condoms give a ‘barely there’ feeling. Still somewhat readily available at the supermarket and pharmacist, they’re great for those with latex allergy – or, best of all, those looking to leave a smaller carbon footprint behind.
Polyurethane & Other Rubber-Based
Rubber is a natural and plant-based material – but, similarly to latex – often contains the milk protein casein and, in some cases, gelatin. Another possible problem is material is vulcanised. Rubber goes through a process called vulcanisation – basically, where the rubber is hardened with sulphur at a high temperature. Oftentimes sex and health brands use animal-based stearic acid to vulcanise rubber, rendering it non-vegan. Animal-based stearic acid are sourced from euthanized animals, making its implications far more dire than it’s plant-based counterpart.
Enter: the most common condom. Your run-of-the-mill, latex, lubricated condom. Before we dis the entire material, remember that some latex condoms are still ethical to some standards. Many latex condoms are totally vegan, using a vegetable instead of animal protein. What you have to look out for is the milk protein casein, that is more often than not added to latex condoms. This protein renders the product non-vegan. Here’s some even worse news: although some say latex condoms should biodegrade, because latex rubber is made from the sap of rubber trees – due to additives (like milk proteins) in condoms, they are totally non-biodegradable. Eek.
Before we go into more detail, let’s just lay it right out there: there is no 100% vegan hormonal birth control. Research shows that all hormonal birth control options contain some milk protein. However, reliable birth control exists – the kind without hormones – that provides many women reliable birth control. Here are a couple options that should cater to your ethical standards the next time you find yourself at the doctor. Some popular forms of non-vegan (aka birth control with hormones) are the generic birth-control Pill, and copper IUDs. If veganism is important in your sex life, avoid IUDs that contain hormones.
Most ethical shoppers have, at one point or another, become intimately familiar with the wonders of essential oils and other all-natural, non-harmful ingredients that feature heavily in cruelty-free beauty and health products. So, it should come as no surprise that there are many totally viable, effective alternatives to products that are harmful to animals and the Earth.
Let’s start off with some amazing news: for the most part, lubes are free of animal products. Collective cheer! However, like with any production process, there are multiple steps that could mean the end-product ends up unethical by many standards. Animal testing is the biggie: there are so many loopholes for companies to worm out of admitting their testing practices. A company can – and many do – label themselves ‘cruelty free’, when really the product is not. Perhaps the final product was not tested on animals, but some of the individual ingredients may have been. One ingredient to look out for in lubricants is glycerin (something you should avoid anyway). Many glycerins have animal origins so, unless the ingredients specify ‘vegetable glycerin’, steer clear!
Most candles contain animal byproducts and are therefore not considered vegan. There are alternatives that burn just as well and smell just as sensuous – so you can set the mood and feel good about the products you’re using. Soy-based candles are the most popular vegan alternative – and they’re relatively easy to find. Rule of thumb? Unless the packaging specifies the product is Vegan, it’s most likely not.
Edible & Flavoured
It can be hard enough navigating your meals and grocery shopping either as a vegan, vegetarian, or just a vigilant ethical shopper. When it comes to sexual products that you can eat? Forget about it. Whipped cream is out of the question(the combo of a dairy product and a cream cannister is less-than-ideal). Fruits are a simple, sweet way to overcome this problem. But if you like your intimacy treats in the form of flavoured lubes, arousal oils, body chocolate and flavoured condoms – things get a little blurry. Again, looking for a product that is labeled ‘Vegan’ is a good place to start. Scan the ingredients, and look for dodgy additives like glycerin, shellac, gelatin, milk proteins, or any other animal-based products. Don’t let the complications get in your way so you miss out on the fun: food and sex are two of life’s biggest pleasures, after all!
TOYS & ACCESSORIES
Being an ethical shopper should not mean missing out on all the fun. News flash: it’s very possible to be a vegan BDSM-enthusiast. But for real – cheeky costumes and accessories for roleplay, as well as full-on sex toys are available readily and ethically: you just have to pay closer attention. Just as you buy clothing and accessories for day-to-day wear, it’s especially important to take note of unfair labour conditions or companies that don’t take environmental considerations when purchasing your bedroom goodies.
Roleplay & Costumes
For any vegans, leather is automatically a no-go-zone. Lucky there are high-quality, vegan-friendly alternatives out there. Be careful when you shop: sometimes faux-leather actually contains real leather. Weird, right? Feathery nightgowns, furry handcuffs, lacy negligee: what’s considered ethical and what’s not? The only difference to when trying to shop your sex life ethical is that, when shopping for everyday clothes, you usually have more options. Stick to brands that advertise their practices, and don’t be afraid to do some online research beforehand.
We already know rubber and latex more often than not contain animal ingredients by way of additives. But a lot of other materials popularly used in the manufacturing of sex toys aren’t vegan-friendly. Silicone, jelly and even some metals contain animal ingredients in the form of additives like dyes and flavours. There is great news though: totally vegan and eco-friendly sex toys are readily available, but may require a bit more time to find. For example, glass and crystal toys are fast becoming popular with eco-conscious buyers. The trick? Just make sure they are free of dyes or other icky additives. Some sex toys are even beginning to utilise solar power – so it may be time to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, if you catch our drift…
Let’s conclude by saying: there are options. Our sex life is a consistent and very real part of our our day-to-day so it makes sense to extend your usual ethical-buying practices to your intimacy products and accessories. A little more thoroughness and time may have to be dedicated to make sure your choices are reflecting the planet’s best interest. Sex is, after all, the most natural thing in the world… so your sexy goodies should follow suit.