On Monday, sex educator Luna Matatas took to her Instagram stories. “Hey y’all, so apparently ‘Peg The Patriarchy’ made it to the Met Gala without credit to me or mention of me from the person wearing it,” she said in the video with an ironic smile. “You can help me, you can support me, I obviously don’t have a legal team to fight this.” The 41-year-old was referring, of course, to the “Peg The Patriarchy” vest that model Cara Delevingne wore to the Met Gala.
Matatas, a Canadian artist who hosts the anal sex-themed “The Plug Podcast,” trademarked the phrase back in 2015. Since then, she’s put it on coffee mugs, t-shirts, and a sex toy storage case. “Peg The Patriarchy” has taken off enough that Matatas’s assistant regularly surveys sites like Etsy to fight infringements. Seeing the phrase at the Met Gala red carpet was a whole new level, especially as it made headlines and went viral. Arguably, the outfit was in service of more than just publicity for the model and entrepreneur: as Vice’s Samantha Cole points out, Delevingne is co-owner of the sex toy company Lora DiCarlo.
“What’s mine will always be mine, but know that we see what you did, Cara,” Matatas wrote in an Instagram caption. (Delevingne and Dior have not responded to Jezebel’s requests for comment, but we will update if they do.) Beyond having her trademarked phrase used without credit, Matatas watched as Delevingne explained the meaning of “Peg The Patriarchy” as “a bit like ‘stick it to the man,” an interpretation that departs dramatically from Matatas’s own intended meaning as a “fat, queer, POC,” as she put it on Instagram.
Jezebel spoke with Matatas about seeing her phrase go viral and the original intended meaning of “pegging the patriarchy.”
JEZEBEL: How did you learn that Peg The Patriarchy had shown up at the Met Gala?
MATATAS: I teach sex and kink classes online. I was teaching a class and usually, I go on social media and go, “Hey, this class was fun!” I saw that I was tagged in a bunch of posts. I probably saw it half an hour after it went live. I only saw it because my community was tagging me in it.
It was weird, it’s a mixed bag at first I was like, whoah, seeing Peg The Patriarchy anywhere I’m always really excited and touched that my art is out there and then I was really disappointed. It would have been so easy to give credit. It’s such an extension of the tools of patriarchy to have competition, to have very callous ways of being in the same spaces together. We’re both feminists, let’s lift each other up.
How did you come up with the phrase?
I was teaching sex ed for a really long time from a public health perspective. I started teaching pleasure-based sex ed through feminist sex shops in Toronto. Being in that environment, it allowed me to take sex ed and put it in a context of examining equity and how that affects our gender expression, how that affects our sexual interest, desires, behaviors, safety. I wanted to create art and merchandise that marries those messages. So, I put it in a shirt, I went to Toronto Pride, and people loved it.
It originally just came out on tank tops and t-shirts and now it’s on coffee mugs and my own sex toy storage bag for hiding your naughty things. Tote bags, sweatshirts. I also print through local queer makers.
What does Peg The Patriarchy mean to you?
Peg The Patriarchy is about subversion. We’re using a fantasy metaphor of pegging and we’re talking about dismantling the system through subverting it. Patriarchy has no gender, it’s not about men, it’s not about anal sex. It really is about how does the system affects all of us in ways that make us subservient. It really forces us to be subservient to things like the gender binary toxic masculinity.
That’s a pretty different interpretation than the one Delevingne gave. She told a reporter, “It’s about women empowerment—equality, gender equality, you know—it’s a bit like ‘stick it to the man.”
I think people have lots of different interpretations and that might be one valid one. It is one that is wrapped in Cara’s specific social location. She’s a white, thin, very privileged person. For me a fat, queer, POC body with a small business, it’s really different coming from me and wrapping it in the equity we’re trying got seek out. When we center things around men or “sticking it to” whatever, it also takes away from the fact that we have our own internalized work to do. Although the behaviors of cis men uphold patriarchy, we all have toxic masculinity. It really takes away by creating a divisiveness among genders, when we need to obliterate the gender binary. That’s part of why patriarchy is upheld.
That part of the conversation was obviously not had through this walk down the red carpet. I gather this isn’t the first time you’ve seen someone else use the phrase.
It’s not. The first time it happened I probably was crying under my bed. It’s a personal and vulnerable thing as a maker to put your art out there. We can talk about trademarks, legal action, but I’m a small business, I don’t have a legal team that can fight Dior. It feels very gross, like, “Oh man, how are we doing this to each other, how are we tearing each other down by not giving credit?” But most of my experiences with people who use it are innocent. They’re like, “I didn’t know, I’ll take it down.” It’s wonderful to see a lot of people that I’ve met that way, who have stolen my work inadvertently, we become friends and lift each other up. It’s not hard to support each other and feel like there’s enough for all of us.
How would you like to see Delevingne and Dior respond?
It would be so wonderful just to say, “Hey, we love your phrase and we’re so glad that more people are seeing it.” That would be all: credit. I’m not looking for money I’m not looking to go legal routes. Credit would just help me a lot.