Why Do Gay Men Love Drugs?

I’m Alexander Cheves, a writer, author, and sex educator. My nickname is Beastly. I give adult advice on this blog — no question is off-limits. To ask me something, email AskBeastly@gmail.com or send a message via the Ask Beastly contact form.

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Hi Beastly,

First of all, love the blog, thank you for all that you do in your writing to push positivity and liberation in the way we think about sex. That being said, I could really use some of your insight.

I’m recently single after a long term messy relationship. I’m in my late 20s and I’ve recently moved to a new area in a big city. The thing is, drugs (as in chems) seem to be a huge thing where I live. In fact, it seems impossible sometimes to find someone to hook up with that isn’t high on G or T. I love sex, and I’m going through a big, explorative Slut phase atm that I’m enjoying a lot. I’ve never done G but I’ll admit that I have a curiosity about it – but it feels almost toxic that I’m feeling almost obligated to do these drugs in order to have sex with the guys I want to have sex with. I’ve been exploring quite a few things, including fisting, group stuff and general merriment. It seems that these drugs are so closely tied into these worlds though.

I’ve tried reading online advice on the subject and the drugs themselves, but I would really appreciate your insight into the topic as most of it just seems like scare tactics. Any help, advice or insight would be much appreciated!

Thanks!
Guy in an explorative Slut phase

Hi Guy,

Welcome to sluthood. Yes, drugs are tied to these scenes. The drug I worried about — and sought help for — was T (crystal meth) and, like you, I felt it was a prerequisite for the sex I wanted. Six years ago, a gorgeous ex-pornstar in West Hollywood with a 10-inch dick told me that if I wanted to play, I had to “parTy.” I didn’t know what that meant, but I was clueless and eager and horny, and I went to his fancy apartment and used meth for the first time.

Since then, I’ve enjoyed Tina in less luxurious places — in the apartments of lost and broken people, in grimy bathhouses and sex club bathrooms, with people I had fun with but don’t remember. I don’t mean to glamorize it — that’s simply the life, and it should feel familiar to those who’ve chased the thrills I’ve chased. I am grateful to say I’ve never had major problems with the drug or developed harmful usage patterns — I’m in my longest period without it and don’t have any desire to pick it up again — but I know many men who did develop major problems with it, men who like the sex I like, and the only difference between us is random chance and the good people I have in my life.

I’m now familiar with drugs — no longer clueless and eager. My knowledge and appreciation of drugs came through using and working through them, seeing their joys and downsides. Drugs, like sex, get glamorized and damned. To some, drugs are forbidden fruit — they must be wonderful. To others, they are the devil’s work, the corrupter of youth, a commodity of society’s lowlifes — they must be terrible. People have these same polarized views of sex, and like sex, drugs are both of these perspectives and neither of them — they are not as great or as terrible as anyone thinks. Drugs have led me to some scary places, but they have also led me to wonder.

Some of the best parts of queer culture come from drugs, and it would be wrong to condemn them outright. And this post would be useless to you (and to everyone reading it) if I simply said don’t do them.

With the sex you’re seeking , drugs are unavoidable. Some fisters might not admit this, but fisting is entirely connected to drugs. Inserting a hand in the vagina or rectum for sexual pleasure has probably been done for thousands of years, but what we call fisting today is much more than that — shoulder-deep fisting and forearm fucking and prolapsing and double punching — and all this, as far as human sexual practices go, is relatively new. The modern fisting scene has only been around since the ’60s and ’70s — exactly when synthetic drugs and amyl nitrates became widely and recreationally available.

This doesn’t make fisting bad. On the contrary, fisting is beautiful. But let’s call a spade a spade: fisting is largely a drug-dependent fetish. And it’s not the only one: massive orgies, circuit parties, all-night dance/sex events, and other erotic scenes are all drug-reliant, and I think some of these experiences are not complete without a mind-altering substance. I count my nights at the Black Party as some of the best of my life, and these nights have never been sober. You shouldn’t do Black Party sober — it’s not meant to be done sober.

We must admit that beautiful things come from drugs. Disco, Gay Brunch, house music, drag — can you imagine these things without drugs? If you’re going to explore the wonders of our world — and you should — you will likely experience some of it while getting fucked up. Queer culture is a drug-friendly culture. Drugs are such a part of gay male culture in particular that they are inseparable from some of our favorite activities.

Most information you’ll find online about drugs has an agenda. If I type a question about a drug into Google, the first twenty links will be articles sponsored by rehabs and addiction centers, which pay large sums of money to Google to appear first, and these articles make everyone feel like an addict — recovery for them is a for-profit business. The rest of the articles will be “professional” studies, non-profit organization pages, websites for concerned parents, 12-step group-finders, and chat forums where strangers who should not be trusted write about their experiences with drugs. Most of these websites will reflect antiquated beliefs about addiction and substance use — they will not feature current, progressive theories and will generally pathologize all use as harmful. The anonymous chat forums are maybe the only helpful items on this sad list of resources, because you might stumble into some useful information, but you’re just as likely to find info that is patently false.

So here’s my first bit of advice: Be wary of drug information online. Even scholarly articles will parrot old myths and stigmas. I think the best sources for drug information are 1) good, trustworthy people who recreationally enjoy substances but still maintain careers and responsibilities and keep their lives together, and 2) harm-reduction and/or substance-use counselors. You will have to hunt for both.

Drugs are everywhere. Gay men enjoy drugs in the biggest cities and the smallest towns. So don’t think that your new city is some kind of drug nexus. It’s just a place, and I hope it’s an exciting and rewarding one. Every queer man exploring sexually will have to contend with drugs, and self-described sluts — people who want lots of sex and have a positive view of sexual exploration — must contend with substances more heavily. Most sluts I know are recreational drug users.

Statistically, LGBTQ adults are twice as likely as heterosexual folks to use drugs and almost twice as likely to suffer from a substance abuse disorder. If drugs are an integral part of our culture, they are also part of the inheritance we pass down between generations, which means we literally inherit problems. I first used meth with an older gay man. The only meth addicts I know are gay men. Younger gay men tend to learn sex from older, more established gay men. Problems get handed from one to the next.

So how do you enjoy the things you want while avoiding problematic, harmful drug use? Walking this line is hard. In fact, I think it’s one of the hardest parts of being queer. I have found the most success with moderation and harm-reduction, not total abstinence, and as I’ve grown, I’ve found that I must be selective with the people I give time and energy to.

Harm-reduction is simple enough: Are you using drugs correctly? Are you getting them from people you trust and using them with people you trust? Do you have a disaster plan — an escape route, a way home, someone to call, somewhere to crash, whatever — if the experience goes badly and you need to leave? Do you have someone nonjudgemental who you can talk to about your experimentation? Do you have good people in your life — friends who keep you in a healthy place, not a harmful place? Do you have a good doctor? Do you have easy access to a sexual health clinic? These are the questions you must ask before you start to explore drugs. If you have good people, good friends, good support, a good clinic, and people to talk to, you’re doing well.

You must learn from those with more experience which drugs you should not mix together — alcohol and G, for example — and what the drugs actually do. Set personal boundaries before you get started. I decided a long time ago that I would never put a needle in my arm, and I never have. It’s a boundary that I just can’t cross. I decided years ago that if I ever found myself pointing (injecting), I have to involve my parents and feel their shame and disappointment, and in doing so, I would confirm every negative view they ever held of gay men, and that’s something I can’t do. (I recommend setting a similar boundary, because needles are a dark road with few good ends.)

I learned the hard way to be more vigilant about my drug use during high-stress situations like having a new job or moving to a new city. If I’m going through a breakup, I’ll be tempted to use a lot, and breakups are “red alert” periods for me — months when I need to attend group meetings and have a competent therapist.

Recognizing “red alert” periods is part of the harm-reduction exercise of analyzing motives. When you think about going out for a wild night and using a drug, analyze why you want to go out and get wild. What are your motives? Are you lonely? Are you stressed about work? Are you feeling insecure? Are you trying to escape your bad feelings? Do you miss someone? When motives are negative — escapism, insecurity, anxiety, pain — it’s easier to slip into dangerous usage patterns and problematic behavior.

Motives can be positive, and positive motives tend to result in less problematic behaviors. Drugs can be used to celebrate. It’s Pride! You just got a big promotion! You’re visiting a guy you’re into and you want to enjoy a hot weekend with him. You finally have a long break from work and want to go out. You’re going to a big gay party/leather event/whatever. It’s your birthday! Positive motives serve us better. It’s okay to use drugs to enhance sex and make a fun weekend better. It’s okay to use drugs as a reward for some accomplishment or just for getting through a tough week. You’re less likely to develop a dangerous dependency when you see drugs as an enhancement or a reward rather than a crutch or an escape.

Analyzing motives is part of what some therapists call “scaling,” which is an activity that harm-reduction counselors often do with their clients — my harm-reduction counselor has done it with me. Scaling involves mapping out (even on a physical piece of paper) the feelings, scenarios, amounts, motives, and time (how long you use) that separate mild recreational use from problematic use. Doing this requires you to analyze the periods when your drug use felt manageable and when it did not, and this can give you the ability to create a mental tool, a “scale” composed of markers and red flags that alert you when using might be a good idea or a bad one.

I can’t cover all the methods of harm-reduction here — I cover some in this post, and all the ones I’ve listed are but a few — but know that, despite what many so-called experts say, self-moderation is possible for many people. Most gay men I know self-moderates their drug use. Some have more success doing this than others. In those times when we need help moderating, it’s important to seek it. This help can be professional, psychiatric, or simply friend support.

I can’t overstate the importance of friends. You must surround yourself with people who inspire your healthiest habits and a positive self-image. I think this is the most necessary part of harm-reduction — having good people — and I privately suspect that this is the real reason why 12-step groups work for some people. Take away all the religious stuff (and all the toxic, cruel contingencies) and 12-step is simply a group of friends who support you.

As adults, selecting people can be a long and painstaking process. Kids generally don’t think much about the influence of friends because they’re thrown into social environments where they are forced to interact with others their age, but adults can choose a) how sociable they’ll be and b) who they’ll be sociable with. This is a mighty responsibility and you must make decisions that are good for your mental health. You won’t always do this successfully, and when you recognize that someone is not good for you, it’s important to learn how to let go of people. Adults have limited stores of time, money, and energy to spend on friends, so we must be selective. If people don’t make the cut, cut them out.

You need friends you can call when you’re too high and freaking out and don’t know how to get home, and since you’re a queer man, I promise that the ones in your life most likely to be these friends are other queer men. This is how we have protected each other for generations.

You need a lovely night on drugs — most people do — but you also need to work, sleep, love, pay bills, and be as healthy as you can. It’s possible to have all this. Find and learn from the people who do.

Love, Beastly

Hey Beastly!

I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I find it fascinating. You’re sharing some very personal stuff and that’s brave AF.

Many of your experiences resonate with me. I come from an evangelical family in a very conservative country (Peru), and that has shaped my struggle to accept myself and my desires for other men.

Currently I’m dealing with the stigma of bottoming. I’m mostly top and I enjoy it, but sometimes I feel like I want to bottom more. I’ve enjoyed bottoming, but only if particular conditions are met (individual, mindspace, scene) but most of the times it hurts and makes me feel uncomfortable. Tops make me specially uncomfortable, and “Alpha attitude” is a total turn off.

I know bottoming is a matter of practice, but what keeps me from it is the internalized stigma of being less manly for letting others use you, the contempt I feel from tops.

On the other hand I feel these self destructive urge to go to some orgy and let countless men breed me. I have some friends who do it under the influence of drugs and that makes my dick hard as a rock; makes me wish to get high on something so I can let myself go (and I don’t do drugs).

I know you’re not my therapist, so, my question is: How do you feel about the relationship between self destructiveness and extreme sexual practices with growing up in a gay-negative environment? are these feelings something you need to learn to overcome or a valid unrelated desire?

Love, K

Hi K,

It’s not “self-destructive” to get bred by strangers. You’re needlessly pathologizing sexual behavior. I get fucked up and bred by strangers all the time — or at least I did before COVID-19 — and I also hold jobs, pay rent, take care of my mental health, maintain friendships and relationships, and progress through life.

A lot of guys enjoy hardcore sex with drugs, but there are sober pigs everywhere. Although drugs are often involved in intense sex — and are enjoyed by everyone, queer and straight — there are many people who “let themselves go” without chemical help. As long as you get tested before and after a slutty sex event, receive regular STI testing to stay on top of your sexual health, maintain your mental and emotional health, and maintain your responsibilities and relationships, you’re doing great — you’re being responsible while fulfilling your fantasies as a sexually-active adult.

Adventurous sex gets pathologized as “self-destructive” because most people have moralistic and conservative views of sex. But these views are optional — you can reject them in favor of a more liberal (or libertine) perspective. Like mine.

Most gay men grow up in gay-negative environments, but not every gay man likes extreme sex — so, no, I don’t think there’s a substantial correlation between trauma and sexual adventurousness. I’m sure that, for some gay men, trauma plays a role in their adult sex lives, but that’s a moot point because all past experience, good and bad, shape a person’s desires. It’s impossible to determine what early triggers inspire one’s adult kinks. Humans aren’t simple algorithms. You can’t plug in an experience and produce an adult with certain sexual interests. We don’t work that way. My kinks and fetishes are a product of my collective experiences, pleasurable and painful, and I don’t believe the painful experiences alone made me like hardcore sex.

But if they did, who cares? I’m happy to be kinky, and kink is healthy. Even if my kinkiness came from something bad, it’s not bad. I’m grateful to whatever formula of experience made me this way, because my kinkiness has made me who I am now. Your desires are normal, K. You don’t have to link them to negative experiences in your past. You just want to have fun and enjoy your life. So does everyone else!

I really don’t think your question is about “self-destructiveness.” I think you want to bottom and you wish you were more comfortable with it. You’re dealing with feelings of shame associated with bottoming — you think bottoming makes you emasculated. You dislike tops because you see them as enjoying a sex position closer to “straight,” and you feel disdain from them because of that. Being a man who fucks, in your mind, is a step closer to heterosexuality, while being a man who gets fucked is a step “lower,” a step closer to the stereotypically feminine gay man you likely don’t want to be associated with.

You must combat these harmful, antiquated ideas about bottoming. Everything you want sexually is part of gay sex, which is universally abhorred by homophobic people. To them, a top is no less a faggot than a bottom is, so you might as well enjoy getting fucked, because anything you do with a man will mark you as a miscreant in their eyes and will be hated by those who are intent on hating you. Why let their perspectives affect yours? Those people mean nothing to us. They are trash — discardable, useless humans who live and die on the wrong side of history.

The shame and stigma you’re feeling are part of the classic bottoming complex, and the only way I know to work through it is to explore bottoming more and get royally, beautifully fucked. Good bottoming is transformative. You will feel powerful, not inferior. You will feel stronger, not weaker. That’s what good sex is supposed to feel like — for everyone.

You’re a man who mostly likes topping but also wants to get fucked by several tops in a nasty, druggy sex group. None of this makes you a lesser man or a lesser human. If anything, it just makes you more interesting.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a wild night on drugs. Almost every queer man I know enjoys drugs, and the few that don’t are sober because they had problems with their usage in the past. At the same time, every queer man is directly or indirectly impacted by drug abuse — they have concerns with their consumption or they know someone who’s heavily addicted to meth or they know someone who’s dead. But I reject the impulse to pathologize queer men as a populace or blame us for our drug use — we simply live in a drug-friendly culture. I believe that heavy drug use among MSM (men who have sex with men) exists because gay culture is a party culture and always has been. We love a good time.

The pre-AIDS gay culture of the ’70s — the first time there was a public, visible gay community — was a drug fest and we’re still living in the cultural aftereffects of that. In the time since those first visible years, we made the best discos, dance music, parties, performances, nightlife, art, and creative spaces in history. We fought a plague, organized public demonstrations on America’s TVs, and changed the course of human history. We invented dance culture. Creativity and partying are such established parts of our legacy that they’ve become self-perpetuating queer stereotypes — we’re still the best party organizers, producers, directors, designers, artists, actors, florists, musicians, and so on. I do not think the relationship between queer men, queer trauma, creativity, and addiction is always causal — I think in many cases it’s simply correlative.

Here’s another reason why drugs are so prevalent in our culture — a reason your question touches on: Drugs are a band-aid solution to the fears and insecurities many men associate with bottoming. Many gay men worry about being emasculated and many are terrified of poop. They override these feelings with drugs. In this way, drugs become a crutch for confident bottoming. Remember what I told your comrade above? Positive motives (celebration, reward) tend to work out better than negative motives (sexual dependency, escapism, and so on). Many men come to rely on drugs — from alcohol to meth — in order to bottom, and that’s how drug use can become unhealthy.

There’s nothing wrong with liking drugs and sex — they go well together — but if drugs are the only way you can have enjoyable sex as a bottom, you have a problem. You might need to spend a year learning (or relearning) how to have sex without substances, and if you need a counselor or community support to do that, that’s okay. It’s very possible, even for heavy users, to unravel those neural connections and rediscover great sober (or mostly-sober) sex. I’m not committed to sobriety, and total sobriety, while mythically touted as the ideal alternative to active drug use, is not the only way to stay healthy. Moderation and harm-reduction measures go a long way.

As you explore, get a real therapist — one that’s not attached to a 12-step program or religious institution. Seek an unbiased, sex-positive, queer-friendly counselor to talk to. Sex isn’t always easy, but when it’s good, it liberates me from the shame I felt when I was younger. Good sex is healing, and it sounds like you need someone to lick your wounds.

Love, Beastly

2 Comments

  1. do you know about this site? it’s highly informative and comes from a harm reduction place. one can learn a hell of a lot of here, and one can also ask questions of experienced users. i’d also encourage the first writer above to check out some of the more easily managed drugs that are also really amazing, like k and e/molly. https://dancesafe.org/

    Like

  2. Thank you so much for your reply.
    I was honestly kind of scared to look what your reaction would be to my question.
    I think you nailed it about me and my desire to bottom. I’ll take the advice on harm reduction and using to enforce positive emotion intead of scaping negative ones.
    It’s gonna be a long journey but I’m looking forward to it.
    Love, K

    Like

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