I’ve been wondering about chemsex lately…


Terms like ‘chemsex’ and ‘party and play’ usually refer to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) using certain drugs in their sex lives, often in a group setting. For many in our community, sex and substance use are closely intertwined. In this article, anonymous opens up about his thoughts and experiences with chemsex.

I’ve been wondering about chemsex lately. Yes, I enjoy it. It’s on another level of having sex. Physically, it opens doors that are mind-blowing and it can last for hours and even days. You totally give yourself over to the sex and it is all-consuming. You are liberated. It offers you ways of enjoying sex beyond the ‘vanilla’. And the intensity takes you beyond the everyday, the mundane, the boring…

But, but, but…

What has struck me is how difficult it is to talk about drug use, in a sexual setting and otherwise. It is so stigmatised. It is all around us but never discussed; it is seen as ‘private’. When people do discuss it, it is always at the extreme opposites. One end is “Don’t judge… We are men, we do sex… What’s wrong with having a party… I’m just having fun” while the other end is a position of “Just say no”. There’s nothing in-between.

I think we need to talk about the positives and the negatives and have a more nuanced discussion. And to understand what works for you and make more informed, conscious choices.

There are downsides to chemsex. Afterwards, it takes a long time to come around, to get fully back into my body. It’s not like a hangover where you feel you want to die. You are there and you are present but it’s a bit like being underwater. You are about 30% switched on to what is happening around you on the Monday following a party weekend. It is only really around Thursday that you feel, ‘OK I am fully back in my body and my mind is clear.’

I also think it increases low-level impatience and anxieties. There is a frustration with ‘normal life,’ not being able to take it slow or even sleep. The everyday world is boring and not enjoyable and I need to be rewarded and want to escape. These feelings do not necessarily dominate, they are just there; they creep up on you and take you away from everyday enjoyment.

What also interests me is how chemsex fulfils heterosexual society’s stereotypes and narratives about us as gay men. We are seen as nothing more than sex; not full human beings with emotions and vulnerabilities. Sex dominates our identity.

And for me, there is very little caring and connection as full human beings with emotions in chemsex. It is really about sexual performance; that is the connection. I think as gay men we are very good when it comes to emotionless sex and we package it in very appealing terms.

I also wonder what impact it has on our relationships and how it shapes our intimacy as gay men. When you do chemsex, does it become more difficult to be with your partner on a Sunday morning, going for a walk, having a sober lunch and feeling fully present on Monday morning and enjoying it?

Chemsex does leave me with a little bit less of my soul. I feel that something has been spent and not added.

So, ja, what now? I enjoy it and will probably continue to do it. But I also want to lessen my overall anxieties and feed my soul and grow. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Hopefully, as a gay community, we can talk a bit more openly about all the aspects of our behaviours and culture with judgement and without stigma.

If you are worried about your drug use and wish to talk to a peer harm reduction counsellor (someone who understands what you may be experiencing), call/message Engage Men’s Health on WhatsApp or Telegram on 082 607 1686. They can arrange a free and anonymous session for you (subject to availability).

  • For advice on harm reduction (tips to make chemsex / substance use safer) click here.
  • For more info about common chemsex drugs and their effects click here.
  • For resources and info about substance use help and support click here.

This article was written by a contributing writer who wishes to remain anonymous. These are the views of the writer, which may or may not reflect those of Engage Men’s Health and its affiliates.

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