we are With You
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we are With You

With the chemsex scene booming, are gay men using drugs to medicate complex issues around sex?

Experts say many men have a ‘sex problem’ and are using drugs as the solution. Traditional treatment methods may not be enough.

“You’re like Jean Claude Van Damme or Arnold Schwarzenegger and everyone else is below you.”

When the news of his sexuality filtered through his peers, many turned on him. They called him gay slurs in the street and he was beaten up on several occasions. He became terrified of leaving the house and his drug use increased because “you don’t want to be sober when you get that shit shouted at you”.

“The act of gay sex is still something that many cultures and religions consider to be a thing of disgust, sin or abnormality.”

But people have used substances to initiate and enhance sex for centuries. Is chemsex really that different to people all over the country getting drunk on a Friday night to help find a partner in a bar or club? Both work to remove inhibitions, creating the possibility of engaging in behaviour that the person in question may think twice about if they were sober.

“When I was on drugs I didn’t realise I was human. I didn’t realise if you cut me I bled.”

Its prevalence is due to its unique ability to remove people’s inhibitions while increasing their sexual abilities. Stephen describes how “when I was on drugs I didn’t realise I was human. I didn’t realise if you cut me I bled.” Kos explains feeling like “the hottest guy in the room” when he’s slammed. Under Stuart’s definition engaging in chemsex must achieve these ends. If two men were to smoke cannabis to enhance sex this isn’t chemsex as it wouldn’t disinhibit the men in the same way.

“I represent somebody that they can trust, somebody that isn’t going to judge them, somebody that is prepared to enter into their world.”

Observing Sheath’s one to one sessions at the Armistead LGBT centre in Liverpool city centre, it’s clear that, while he works for a drug charity, his work is not confined to substances. One minute he’s giving detailed HIV prevention advice, the next he’s using psychodynamic techniques to help his client understand how early trauma has made him fearful of intimacy. He teaches his clients meditation techniques to help manage their anxiety and is always only one text away. At the end of a session he gives the client a ‘slamming pack’, including clean needles and condoms and gives them a demo in safe injecting. One client also complained of physical symptoms similar to those of Hepatitis C, so Sheath organises for him to be checked by the nurses at the centre immediately.

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