So, what’s the deal with chemsex? You might’ve heard the term thrown around, or maybe it’s totally new to you. Either way, it’s something that’s gaining more attention these days, and for good reasons.
At its core, it’s about using certain drugs during sexual activities to enhance the experience and reduce inhibitions. It’s a phenomenon that’s particularly noticeable in some parts of the homosexual and bisexual communities, but it’s not just limited to them. In this article, we’re going to unpack what chemsex is all about. From the drugs commonly used and the culture surrounding it, to the health risks and the big question of why it matters. Let’s understand and shed some light on a subject that’s often kept in the dark. So, let’s get started, shall we?
The History of Chemsex
Alright, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what chemsex really means. When we talk about chemsex, we’re referring to the use of certain drugs, specifically during sexual activity, to enhance the experience. This isn’t just having a couple of drinks to loosen up; it’s about using specific substances that can significantly alter sex. The term ‘chemsex’ might sound modern, but the concept isn’t entirely new. It’s been around in different forms and under different names across various cultures and eras. Arguably, taking chemicals during intercourse has been happening since the beginning of recreational substances – centuries ago. However, it’s gained more visibility and a specific identity in recent years, especially within some urban gay and bisexual communities. The Priory Group writes:
“The origins of chemsex originate on sexual networking apps for gay men, the phrase coined by the gay men’s health sector, referring to the use of any combination of drugs that include crystal methamphetamine, mephedrone and/or GHB/GBL by men who have sex with men (MSM), before or during sex.”
Chemsex sessions can last days – with some orgies going over the entire weekend. But why do people take part in these exploratory experiences? Well, the drugs most commonly associated with chemsex are a bit of a lineup: we’re talking about things like Crystal Meth, Mephedrone, GHB, and GBL. Each of these has its own effects, from ramping up your energy levels to making you feel more relaxed or uninhibited. They’re known for their strong effects on both the mind and body, which can make sexual encounters feel more intense, last longer, and sometimes feel more connective. It’s not just about physical pleasure; there’s a psychological aspect to it as well, where users feel a deeper connection or escape from reality.
Chemsex isn’t just a random occurrence; it’s often organised, planned, and can involve multiple people. It’s a subculture with its own rules, language, and norms. However, it still can sometimes be difficult to know when an individual is engaging in chemsex. The LGBT foundation writes:
“It may seem like something that should be obvious, but it is easy for people to be taking part in ChemSex without necessarily knowing. Some people first get introduced to ChemSex through their partners, and eventually will begin to take part. Others may go to a party that they found through a hook-up app or social networking, and then discover it is actually a ChemSex party, which is commonly called a chill out.”
It is quite common for chemsex to happen in larger groups, and for it to occur over several hours, if not days. Apps like Tinder and Grindr are often used to plan these events.
It’s important, when thinking about chemsex, to know which substances are used and why.
So let’s talk about the main players in the scene – the drugs themselves. These aren’t your everyday recreational drugs; they’re a specific set that’s become somewhat synonymous with chemsex culture. Each of these drugs has its own unique effects that contribute to the overall experience. These substances can either be sniffed, injected or even boofed (place up the rectum).
Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth)
Let’s start with the big one, Crystal Meth. This is a powerful stimulant that can give you a massive rush of energy and euphoria. It’s like flipping a switch that turns you into an Energizer bunny, but with a lot more intensity. People often use it because it can make you feel super confident, lower inhibitions, and ramp up sexual desire. But, as you can guess, it’s also pretty risky. It is highly addictive.
Next up, Mephedrone, often just called ‘M-Kat’ in the chemsex world. This one’s a bit of a party favourite because it can make you feel all chatty and euphoric. It’s like being at the best party of your life, where everyone’s your best friend and you’re feeling top of the world. It’s often used to enhance that social, connective aspect of sex.
GHB and GBL (G)
These two are often grouped together because GBL turns into GHB in your body. They’re a bit different from the stimulants because they can make you feel relaxed and uninhibited. Think of it like a chill pill that also has a bit of a sensual side. It’s popular because it can reduce anxiety and make physical sensations feel more intense. The issue with this substance is that it is very easy to overdose, and fall unconscious.
Now, here’s the thing about these drugs – they’re not just enhancing the party; they’re also cranking up the risks.
The drugs used in chemsex, like Crystal Meth, Mephedrone, GHB, and GBL, come with a laundry list of potential health risks. We’re talking about things like heart problems, increased blood pressure, and the risk of overdose, especially with substances like GHB, which has a very narrow window between the amount used for desired effects and an overdose. Then there’s the risk of dependency and addiction, which can have long-term impacts on your physical health.
In addition, engaging in chemsex often leads to riskier sexual behaviour. This includes having multiple partners, engaging in unprotected sex, and increased chances of transmitting or contracting STIs, including HIV. The drugs can lower inhibitions and impair judgement, leading to decisions that might not be made under sober circumstances. A 2020 study found that trans individuals and queer men who used meth consistently had a higher risk of contracting HIV. In addition, a research paper in 2018 also highlighted that those engaging in chemsex were more likely to be diagnosed with hepatitis C.
But it’s not just the body that’s at risk; it’s the mind too. Regular use of these drugs can lead to a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and psychosis. The come-down from these drugs can be particularly rough, leaving individuals feeling emotionally drained, anxious, and depressed. As always, sometimes it’s the scars that aren’t visible that cut the deepest.
But why do people use them despite the risks? Well, it’s complicated. It would probably be something that no one could truly understand unless you’d tried it yourself. Perhaps for some, it’s about chasing that ultimate sexual experience, something that feels out of this world. For others, it’s a way to escape, to cope with things like stress, anxiety, or deeper psychological issues. It’s a mix of seeking pleasure and, sometimes, a way to deal with pain. But in addition, it could be about connection. The Guardian writes how chemsex can bring people in the homosexual community together:
“They don’t want a drug like heroin that isolates them and helps them dissociate more. Gay men need a drug for a different purpose. They want a different drug: ecstasy, cocaine, all these kind of drugs that were popular with us throughout the 90s. They enable you to empathise. You take ecstasy on a dancefloor and you’re not alone any more. That’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.”
Chemsex often happens in private parties or gatherings, which can range from a few people to larger groups. These aren’t your typical house parties; they’re more like intimate get-togethers where sex and drug use are the main events. It’s a scene that’s largely underground, partly because of the illegal nature of the drugs involved and partly due to the private nature of the activities. This can be a place for people to socialise and feel apart of something.
So there you have it. There is no doubt that the culture of chemsex is complex and multifaceted. It’s a world that offers connection, escape, and pleasure, but also comes with significant risks and challenges. Understanding this culture is crucial for providing the right kind of support, but also for keeping open-minded.
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