by David Stuart First published in FS Magazine by GMFA
Who indeed? Is it that dinner guest who spends the entire meal indulging his Grindr addiction? Or my mate who trawls the saunas all weekend seeking something my friendship can’t offer? Or that dude on Facebook whose every profile-pic is a topless, airbrushed glam-shot taken at a certain Soho nightclub? Perhaps that accolade has to go to the chem-sexers, our slutty brothers who abandoned the club scene in favour of weekend-long drug-fuelled sex parties, no-fantasy-goes-unindulged fun. By traditional definitions, I do think chem-sexers have to be the sluttiest of us all. I’m wielding the ‘slutty’ word around pretty casually here - though the word is imbued with connotations.
I am a gay man. Saunas, threesomes, open relationships, casual sex are all easy parts of my vocabulary. If promiscuity or sluttiness had ever been dirty words, we gay men have certainly reclaimed them, and with zeal. While the campaign was waged for marriage equality, a pre-existing campaign had long been fought for gay men to enjoy different kinds of sex and relationships to the models provided to us by heteronormality. ‘Slutty’ might just as well be a badge of honour as it is an insult.
How did we manage to reclaim sluttiness so successfully? And is it a good thing? I meet more gay men who aspire to be porn stars and go-go dancers than aspire to be a monogamous hairdresser. I know men who aspire to be DJs purely because it escalates them up the hierarchy of club scene popularity. I meet more gay men who work harder on their abs and than they do on their CVs. When I ask people to describe an ideal relationship, I don’t hear stories of cooking meals together at home, watching Downton Abbey; I hear a fantasy of dancing topless with a trophy boyfriend at the hottest circuit party. And daily, I have conversations with gay men who are brilliantly-skilled at negotiating Grindr dialogue, yet are terrified to admit that all they really want is to curl up in bed with a lover and argue over who gets what side of the bed.
So if we’ve successfully broken down the taboos and stigma around promiscuity, where does that that leave us? In part, it leaves us with an epidemic of sexualised drug use, increased HIV and Hep C infections and a horde of gay men who struggle with sober sex and baulk at dating. Trust me, I’m no fan of taboos or stigma, but I am a fan of boundaries, and it seems to me that healthy boundaries were the price we paid for the sexual liberties we fought for. I’m still struck by the contrast I see between research that suggests most gay men crave relationships over casual sex, and the reality of so few gay men actually pursuing relationships.
Perhaps I’m wrong; perhaps chem-sexers are in fact looking for ‘the right guy’; it does make a perverse kind of sense, that the more people you shag, the more likely you are to meet ‘the one’. More likely though, I think chem-sex is about the pursuit of fantasy; feeling horny, feeling disinhibited (something my clients tell me they rarely ever feel when they’re sober). I was more than a little surprised to hear how common a fantasy rape was for heterosexual women; or how commonly pistols in vaginas have appeared in straight pornography. Not my thing, but clearly it is a fantasy for some.
Point being, some things do belong only in fantasy.
Gay porn is littered with rape scenarios, cum-dumping, gang-bangs, breeding, chem use, needle-play and so much more. Awesome, I can get off on some of those things; and if I want to open that Pandora’s box, the chem-sex scene is only an app-click away on my phone, where the planet’s most powerful disinhibitors (Tina, GBL, Mephedrone) will facilitate all my fantasies. Furthermore, I feel a frustrated entitlement, to be horny and indulge my fantasies. Goodness knows, sober sex can be complicated; it’s the sinful sex, the sex my parents don’t want to know about, the sex that means awkward HIV conversations, the sex that invites potential rejection, the sex that obliges me to be fit. The sex which requires me to be vulnerable.
Consequences stop me from exploring those fantasies. Sure, we live in an instant-gratification society, and there are some very explainable reasons why drug use is so common on our scene.
Do not invest in the myth that these drugs can be used safely; they are tapping into something dark and unresolved in our gay cultural evolution, and the consequences are filling our sexual health clinics and drug services (and woefully, our mental health units and morgues).
Let’s enjoy our fantasies, explore them safely with our trusted partners, in role play. Let’s enjoy as many partners as we like (safely), we’ve earned the right to be slutty, without stigma; or if we’re seeking that one relationship, let’s not be afraid of the (possible) rejection involved in that pursuit, and explore the horniness of being truly vulnerable with a life partner. And keep the lid on that Pandora’s box that is chem-sex.