July 31, 2007

Lips that touch lambchops, shall never touch mine

A recent New Zealand research report on attitudes about vegetarianism (Annie Potts and Mandala White, "Cruelty-Free Consumption in New Zealand: A National Report on the Perspectives and Experiences of Vegetarians and Other Ethical Consumers", New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies, University of Canterbury) includes a short section on "cruelty-free sex" (p. 98), which the authors summarize this way:

Some women felt squeamish about the idea of having intimate physical contact with a person who ate meat; sexual intimacy with meat-eaters was also opposed on more ideological grounds, viewing their bodies as composed of/from dead animals

This immediately reminded me of an earlier melding of sex and the morality of consumption, Sam. Booth and Geo. T. Evans' 1874 song "The Lips that Touch Liquor, Shall Never Touch Mine":

This aspect of Dr. Pott's report is taken to the next logical step -- coining a word -- in an article by Rebecca Todd in today's Christchurch Press, "Carnivore sex off the menu":

A new phenomenon in New Zealand is taking the idea of you are what you eat to the extreme.

Vegansexuals are people who do not eat any meat or animal products, and who choose not to be sexually intimate with non-vegan partners whose bodies, they say, are made up of dead animals.

The co-director of the New Zealand Centre for Human and Animal Studies at Canterbury University, Annie Potts, said she coined the term after doing research on the lives of "cruelty-free consumers".

In the news story, the research report's mention of "some women [who] felt squeamish" (about indirect contact with eaten animals) has subtly morphed into "many female respondents" who appear to be fighting against the dark side of their sexuality:

Many female respondents described being attracted to people who ate meat, but said they did not want to have sex with meat-eaters because their bodies were made up of animal carcasses.

(Note to self: good example for Ling 001 lecture on de re vs. de dicto reference.)

The research report mentions one man with similar concerns -- he says that non-vegetarian partners would have to brush their teeth carefully. This is not mentioned in the news story, which seems to assume that men have no preferences in this respect, or that their preferences don't matter. In either case, there's a striking psychological echo of the gender choice in the old temperance song.

[Hat tip: Reinhold (Rey) Aman]

[Update -- a reader comments:

"Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine."
I've always been tickled by this statement's ambiguity: "mine" could refer equally to my lips or my liquor. I try to live by the latter reading.


Posted by Mark Liberman at July 31, 2007 08:06 AM