What a strip club taught me about veganism


Casa Diablo in Portland, OR, is the world’s first vegan strip club. Or something like that.

I visited recently.

Now, I’m kinda a prude (example: when a male friend knowingly told me to bring lots of ones on my trip to Portland, I thought, “but I’m bringing my bike — I won’t need bills for the MAX!”) and had never been to a nudie bar or had any desire to visit one, but felt compelled to go to Casa Diablo because it’s, you know, a vegan strip club. And I’m vegan, so I belong anywhere that’s vegan, right?

So I went to Casa Diablo. By myself.

I sorta thought it would be like the strip club in that episode of Parks and Rec, where they take Tom to a strip club to cheer him up after his divorce and there’s a buffet and Ron Swanson eats lots of shrimp (only sub “shrimp” for “vegan mac and cheese”).

Yeah, that’s totally what I thought a strip club would be like. I was wrong. There was no vegan mac and cheese.

A handwritten sign on the bar advertised a Southwestern tofu scramble, but all I saw were titties, titties, titties, and even a bit of vadge. I was the only girl in the room wearing a shirt, so I drank half a PBR and texted awkwardly with a friend before heading out.

The other girls left me alone, though I really wanted to have a frank conversation with each them — ask them how they got on the pole and whether they were happy stripping. Like a sister, or a mom, and all. (8.29.12 edit: I don’t mean this in a judgmental way. I’m just legitimately curious about their profession.)


The moral of the story is this. As vegans, we can be so excited to be vegan that we want to support each and every vegan business or product just because it’s a vegan business or product. We sometimes eat vegan foods that we don’t need to or want to eat just because they’re vegan and there, or get excited about products that aren’t very good just because they’re vegan, or become caught up in movements just because they seem like the thing to do.

But we don’t need to do this. We have choices.

We can so desperately want to support our movement, to find commonalities, to no longer be the weird kids, that we can lose sight of ourselves as individuals. Just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s good for us on an individual basis, and being super-duper pumped for something bad or weird isn’t doing the movement any favors.

Be true to yourself. Don’t feel obligated to support a business, product or movement just because it’s vegan.

You don’t need to take a second helping just because you’re at a vegan restaurant, unless you are still hungry. You don’t need a vegan tattoo, unless you want one. And you certainly don’t need to watch topless girls fondle themselves for male enjoyment, unless you want to.

Just support the things you like and forget the rest. Veganism isn’t yet mainstream, but we have options. Don’t settle or feel obligated to do anything you aren’t comfortable with doing.

Tags: Casa Diablo

13 Responses to “What a strip club taught me about veganism”

  1. August 27th, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    FoodFeud says:

    Haha, well, I love the title of this post and I also love that you actually went by yrself! It’s totally true that we don’t need to support things just because they’re vegan but I think the fact that we are vegan means we are open to a lot of new experiences and this is just another one of them! Potentially you could have really enjoyed yrself. It’s important (and fun) (and scary) to try new things blindly but it’s also cool to test the waters – THEN, of course, we don’t need to take seconds of a meal or buy every book by a vegan author if we don’t want to.
    Anyway, kudos. Cool post. And now I know there’s a vegan strip joint… Were the girls “alternative” in any way? I wonder if they were vegans themselves…Hmm.

  2. August 27th, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Megan Watson (@veganwtsn) says:

    Thanks for taking one for the team on this one for us! I always think of this when vegans say they are hitting up the vegan strip MALL and now it is complete with an actual vegan strip club. I’m glad they are not all sharing a sidewalk with Herbivore and Food Fight Grocers.

  3. August 28th, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    Helen says:

    @FoodFeud — You are totally right: there are so many things that I have done and tried that I wouldn’t have otherwise because they were vegan, some of which I liked and some of which I didn’t! Thanks for such an insightful comment.

    @Megan — I am glad they’re not next to FoodFight and Herbivore too! This place is way the heck out there, and would totally cheapen the vegan mini mall awesomeness…

  4. August 28th, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    Leah says:

    Wonderful article.

    This is the EXACT reason I don’t like PETA. They are so single issue! Veganism shouldn’t happen at the expense of women (vegan strip clubs). It shouldn’t happen at the expense of workers (Burger King). And so on and so on and so on. Veganism is among other things an ethically beneficial decision. Help animals, and help others who are exploited too!

  5. August 28th, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    Helen says:

    Totally, Leah! Veganism isn’t a single issue philosophy — it’s about just making the world a better place for everyone, not for some at the expense of others. Agree with you 100%!

  6. August 29th, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    Jes says:

    Wow, incredible that you managed to work up the nerve to go by yourself! And a great post written from your beliefs. :)

    I, personally, support strip clubs and the sex industry–I have many friends who are strippers and they’re 100% happy with their employment (i.e. not exploited in any way). I often visit strip clubs & enjoy the vibe, but there are definitely times and places that it is’t the best. I’m sorry you had such a bad experience, but it’s definitely important to clarify your own belief system and I love that you wrote about it!

  7. August 29th, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    Helen says:

    Thanks for your perspective, Jes! I haven’t crossed strip clubs off my list as things I’d never do again, but I would want to make sure that I was with other people and that everyone working there was happy — I can see stripping as a profession as having the potential to be either very empowering or degrading, depending on the joint, and this one was not my jam.

  8. August 29th, 2012 at 2:54 PM

    Helen says:

    Hmmm… Jes, that part about wanting to talk with them does sound a bit judgmental! I really meant it as more out of curiosity about their job than looking down on them.

  9. August 30th, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    Dawn says:

    I read this post days ago and finally am commenting. I loved this. I’ve been oh so curious about going there for years, primarily because I’ve never been to one. I think you’re crazy bold for going on your own! And for openly and honestly describing your experience.

    I so often fall into the “it’s vegan, so it must be awesome!” line of thinking – sometimes consciously, and sometimes not. I loved that you tied this experience to this tendency, because it happens often for many. I’ve slowly learned to only read the blogs of those vegans I genuinely like reading, only buy the books of those I want to support and the same with quality vegan products. It’s way better to support the things you actually think are worth it than to be a blind fan of everything. Because honestly, some vegan stuff out there is crap. It’s rarely said, but it’s true. Great post as always, lady.

  10. September 13th, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) 2012 says:

    [...] I’ve already written about my visit to Portland’s vegan strip club — knock that one off the vegan bucket [...]

  11. September 26th, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    Angela says:

    Awesome, I have been to a couple of strip clubs some have good vibes and others not so much. However giving something a shot because of Veganism is great. Nice job and well done!

  12. August 4th, 2013 at 7:29 AM

    Vegan Bloke says:

    Agreed, you don’t have to support a business because it is vegan; but equally you can allow that that business has a right to exist as long as it is not illegal and those working there are doing so of their own volition. Let’s not have veganism pushed down the path of dogmatic feminist puritanism.

    If this business is attracting punters who would not otherwise eat a vegan meal then it is a start, albeit the proprietor could have found another way to target a ‘blue-collar’ male audience few of whom are going to influenced by ‘exotic dancers’ into becoming vegan, any more than by ‘glamour babes’ getting their kit off for PETA.

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