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Veganism and Masculinity

Blog Post by Contributor Shiri Raz, PhD Candidate, Bar-Ilan University, Israel.

The model of male sexuality in Western culture has undergone a dramatic change in recent years. If just a few years ago, “a real man” was one who ate steak – preferably as raw and bloody as possible – today the sexually appealing alpha male is the healthy man who prioritizes physical activity, which displays sensitivity and awareness; who chooses to consume only plant-based food while leaving animals off his plate. Any way you look at it – whether socially or in terms of health – the image is the same: veganism is the new model of masculinity for the twenty-first century.

“A vegan man is someone who is not afraid of prejudice and sticks to his truth. Could anything be more attractive?” asks Hila, a 26-year-old who celebrates her singleness and is meticulous about choosing her partners. Ronen, a 31-year old who has been in a steady relationship with a vegan man for two years, agrees: “To me, vegan men are a winning combination of intelligence and sensitivity. These are men who are aware of their health and that of the world. Many fail to fully comprehend the implications of animal-based nutrition on their bodies and the environment. To me, that kind of ignorance is a turnoff.” Sheila, a 54-year-old divorcee and the eldest of the group, shares from personal experience, saying that the difference between a date with a man aged 50 or older whose nutrition is primarily plant-based, and a date with a man whose diet is mostly animal-based, may often amount to the difference between a night of shared pleasure and a night of impotence, mutual frustration and shame. These statements are also validated in a survey conducted by the dating app Zoosk, according to which vegan and vegetarian men receive more contact requests than omnivores.

“The more meat a man eats, the greater the risk of losing his masculine prowess,” claims Dr Aaron Spitz, senior urologist and author of the bestselling “The Penis Book” (2018). Spitz was behind the study examining the role of animal-based nutrition on the strength and duration of the male erection, which is described in one of the more memorable scenes in “The Game Changers” – the new film by James Cameron, Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In this scene, which gave rise to a great deal of tumult on social media in the US and worldwide, Spitz challenged three professional athletes to test the effects of a plant-based dinner vs a meat dinner on the intensity and duration of their erections that night. The results were similar in all three – the stiffness and intensity of the erection were significantly higher after a plant-based meal compared to that occurring after a meat dinner, and duration was also accordingly higher, by hundreds of percentages.

Thanks to these findings and others presented more comprehensively in professional journals; veganism is gradually becoming a synonym for male potency and maximum physical prowess – in and outside the bedroom. One such study is that conducted by La, Roberts and Yafi, which prove in their article: “Diet and Men’s Sexual Health” (2018) that the quality of sperm in males on an average western diet (including meat, eggs, and dairy) is inferior to that of males on a plant-based diet. Another example is the comprehensive research performed by cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn et al. (2018), who found that a vegan diet improves the quality of men’s sex lives in many aspects, including the duration and intensity of erections, rate of satisfaction, and libido.

These findings are echoed in public consciousness, whether in living room chats among males who discover for themselves the results of foregoing that Friday night chicken, or thanks to the more public choice made by a growing number of athletes to adopt vegan lifestyles. Among these is five-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, renowned basketball player Kyrie Irving, boxer David Haye, footballers Jermain Defoe, Chris Smalling and Fabian Delph who all play in top global leagues, and many others. Defoe, who is ranked the seventh-highest goal scorer in Premier League history, attributes his success to the vegan lifestyle he adopted several years ago. When asked by The Guardian about the choice of veganism and the difficulty it poses, he responded: “I don’t find anything hard to give up… because I know the feeling scoring goals gives me.”

These testimonies from the playing fields take part in forming a new image of male virility, whereby a strong man is he who fills his plate with legumes and vegetables.

Yet a different reason for the new and sexy re-branding of veganism is it’s being an educated choice resulting from political and social awareness of animal rights and the destructive influence of the animal industry on our planet. It is also a choice harboring an element of daring and the expression of individualism. When a man chooses veganism, and not only for health reasons, he expresses independent thought, awareness and sensitivity to animals and his planet. These are traits of leadership, courage and confidence, which have always been considered sexually appealing.

A clear example of this is actor Joaquin Phoenix – none other than the Joker, who has taken Hollywood by storm and tops the list of sexiest men in American film. Phoenix is one of the world’s most prominent celebrity animal rights activists. He is behind the important documentary “Earthlings”, which documents the way humans have treated the animals in our world, he regularly attends protests against the meat industry and conducts frequent interviews on the issue. Phoenix spoke about animal rights when winning a Golden Globe for Best Actor. In his Oscar acceptance speech, he said: “whether we’re talking about gender inequality, racism, queer or animal rights – we’re talking about the war against injustice. We’re talking about a battle against the belief that one nation, one person, or one species, have the right to claim and exploit another.”

Phoenix is not the only man participating in the birth of the new sexy vegan man who stands for his principles and is sensitive to others. An increasing number of men – opinion and industry leaders who have chosen veganism and speak in favor of this choice – have started to appear around us, gradually reinforcing the public perception that veganism is sexy. Among these, we can name Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Zack Efron, Liam Hemsworth and others. The list keeps growing, paving the way to the understanding that choosing veganism proves a man has a sensitive heart, a thinking mind, and a backbone (but not only!) that is erect and impressive.

According to Esther Perel, a global authority on couples and sexual therapy, a healthy libido runs on two foundations: the foundation of confidence and security and the foundation of daring and adventure. These are two often contradictory but crucial human needs that create an experience of lust and sexual attraction. In many ways, veganism responds to both needs: a vegan man is one who is secure and confident enough to make his individual choice and face criticism and skepticism but is simultaneously brave enough to choose something new, to release old habits and embark on new culinary adventures.

Also, perhaps vegan men are perceived as sexy simply because of that warm feeling we are evolutionarily hardwired to get when we see a man holding a baby in a jeans commercial. According to fascinating evolutionary psychology, compassion and sensitivity for the weak are testimony to that man’s potential for parenthood. In light of this, it is possible that beyond all theoretical explanations, something deep in our biology finds it hard not to be attracted to these qualities, as our old cultural conventions regarding the consumption of meat crumble and collapse.

Whatever the reason may be, there is no doubt that the model of male sexuality in the twenty-first century is no longer that of a man who considers himself above others or one who needs rest after devouring a hefty load of fatty ribs – but rather a sensitive and thinking man who can make love all night, and whose choices express an awareness of the world and compassion for others.

Shiri Raz – PhD candidate; psychoanalysis and hermeneutics program at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Shiri focuses her research on the psychoanalytic and linguistic aspects of people’s mental attitudes toward the consumption and use of animal-based products.  Shiri serves as a therapist for couples and individuals, specializing in work with vegans and mixed couples (vegans and non-vegans) in Israel and worldwide (through video chats). She is an animal rights activist, academic lecturer, resident lecturer for the Vegan Friendly association’s educational program and for the Animals Now (non-profit) organization, and a public speaker.

Veganism and Masculinity

Liz Hirky, PhD

Liz Hirky, PhD, is a licensed psychologist with specialty training in clinical health psychology and interpersonal psychodynamic psychotherapy and over 25 years clinical practice experience in hospital, academic, and private practice settings. Currently, she is the Director of Clinical Training for the Clinical Psychology PhD Program, Health Emphasis, at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. Dr. Hirky’s private practice is based in NYC; for additional information, click here. Liz is currently Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Animals and Society Institute, an independent non-profit think tank, whose mission is to advance human knowledge to improve animal lives, in order to create a compassionate world where animals flourish.

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APA Reference
Hirky, L. (2020). Veganism and Masculinity. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Feb 2020
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