Open the Cage

My name is Alexander Cheves. My nickname is Beastly. I write about sex. I wrote a book.

Have a question? Email askbeastly@gmail.com or go here.

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Hi Beastly,

I was reading your blog titled Why Do Gay Men Love Drugs? and thought it was a really well-written, fascinating perspective on the matter.

As someone who has experimented with the “Alphabet” of substances, I find myself in the days after a weekend of “extended sessions” striving to regain a semblance of that sexual drive while I’m sober. For example, I love wearing ball stretchers and butt plugs when I’m high but can never muster the energy to do it when I’m sober.

It’s obviously impossible to reach that same level of ecstasy without the use of drugs, but is there any way you can establish a semblance of that sex drive while sober? I’m often jealous of the guys I see on Twitter who can actively wear a plug or chastity cage all day, every day without any additional help.

Thanks for your time, and keep up the amazing work.

Hi there,

First off, we can dispel some Twitter myths. Despite what Twitter gays claim, no one stays plugged all day, every day, and even subs in long-term chastity take breaks for cleaning and sanity. And here’s my honest opinion: while I think everyone should try the kinks they want to explore for as long as they want to explore them, I think most round-the-clock fetishes are unsustainable over years, and I think many folks who commit to them as lifetime aspirations eventually move on — just because 24-7 lifestyles like permanent slavehood and round-the-clock chastity mandate so much energy and attention and intrude so substantially on daily life.

Life is filled with hurdles and curveballs, and while 24-7 kink can be grounding and centering — I think that’s what it is at its best — it’s hard to focus on being someone’s “slave” or staying locked when your parents die or you lose your job. I am generally not a proponent of 24-7 fetish lifestyles, as I don’t believe they are conducive for…living.

So I can’t suggest viewing the “all day, every day” thing as ideal. It’s okay, and quite normal, that your body has limitations, that it can’t quite do what it does on drugs. No one’s body can. That doesn’t make you faulty. That makes you human. That makes you normal.

If you pulled back the curtain on these Twitter men you admire, I imagine you’d find that many of them share in this struggle. Almost everyone who likes kinky, adventurous sex has enjoyed it with some chemical help. Drugs aren’t necessary for good sex, but they certainly make certain kinds of sex easier. Even if you weren’t interested in plugs or chastity — even if you were just a straight, vanilla bro — you’d likely feel more confident in bed after a few drinks.

Interest, desire, and the drive to play can be developed and strengthened without substances so that you’re able to enjoy your sex life without them. There’s nothing wrong with getting fucked up, but drugs have side effects and harsh comedowns, and enjoying them too much can create dependencies that can be hard to break.

The erotic drive is a muscle: it requires practice and training to get stronger. You might need to treat your kinks like a gym membership. Some days after work, you might not feel motivated to sit on a plug or lock up, especially not sober, but you should do it so you can train your mind. I don’t always want to work out, but I always feel happier after an hour at the gym, and the same is true, in my life, for butt play. When I do it regularly, it trains my “horniness muscle” — the erotic part of my mind — along with the added bonus of physically training my butt for the sex I like. Solo self-pleasure, when given time and attention, can be a really powerful way to connect with your sexuality and explore your mind and its struggles.

This regular routine (commit to it, say, three nights a week) might not be enjoyable at first, but like a gym membership, you should stick with it to see results. The brain will form new neural connections, the mind will adapt, and you’ll likely find that watching some TV plugged or spending a few hours in chastity when you’re not high becomes easier and more fun. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid substances forever, but this regimen can help you have the option of enjoying sex you like without drugs. It’s okay to treat drugs as an enhancement to make sex better. People run into problems when they see drugs as a necessary requirement for sex.

I also have to recommend meditation. If you’re not sure where to start, try the Headspace app (I’ve been using it for over seven years). As an atheist, I was initially resistant to meditation. But meditation is not a religious activity, though various Eastern religions invented and refined its techniques. But if you scrap all the talk of chakras and energies, meditation is simply the methodical observation of one’s own mind. Focusing on things like the breath becomes an exercise in observing one’s thoughts, emotions, and feelings with some objectivity and distance, which makes them easier to manage.

Even better: Find a good substance use counselor who supports a harm-reduction or moderation strategy (in other words, not one affiliated with a 12-step program). My counselors at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in New York have been some of the most important people in my life. They helped me turn the process of taking breaks from meth — abstinence periods (not sober periods; other drugs were okay, so long as they didn’t cause problems) — into something like a game. We would pick a length of time (one month at first) and see if I could go that long without using meth. There was no punishment if I couldn’t make it, and the only reward at the end was that I could plan a fun party night.

We never said the word “relapse,” a word dripping in weighty cultural shame. The idea of “relapsing” comes from an antiquated theory of addiction cobbled together in the 1930s. Bill Wilson’s “Big Book” is a weird amalgamation of pseudoscience and Christian mysticism that has not held up under the lens of modern medicine, and 12-step programs have an abysmally bad efficacy rate. Evidence shows that only 5 to 10 percent of people in AA stay sober.

When I made it to a month, we aimed for three months. I did three, so we went longer. Sometimes I met my goal, sometimes not. (During the pandemic, when many people sunk into harmful usage patterns, I had my longest streak without meth at ten months.) The only rule of the game was that I practice sex and explore my sexuality as much as possible in those “off” months — I could not endure a three-month break from sex. Practice makes perfect, and I eventually found that, out of a sheer need for sex, I discovered new parts of my sexuality to explore. In time, I found a way to enjoy my wildest kinks without getting high, and the allure of meth withered. I found other substances that worked well and did not have such harsh side effects, like ketamine and psychedelics, and exploring these alternatives was encouraged by my counselor.

In the end, what looked like an exercise in restraint became a journey of exploration. It unlocked doors for me. I had two substance use counselors who did this approach with me over the course of two and a half years until I graduated from the program — when they decided that I was ready to keep going on my own, and others needed their help more than I did.

If you can’t find a therapist like this, attempt your own version of what I did. Gamify it. Set goals (a week, a month, three months, whatever you think you can do) and see how long you can go, and in those periods, keep practicing sex. Set a sex training routine. Work your erotic muscle.

To recap: 1) Don’t believe Twitter and stop comparing your sex life to people online, 2) train your mind through meditation, and 3) seek a therapist or counselor who supports moderation and/or harm-reduction strategies or, in lieu of one, practice your version of my strategy above.

Final point: Be patient with yourself. I never used drugs to a harmful extent, but the amount I was using was not working for me. It stunted my productivity and exacerbated my depression. I needed help and support from friends, lovers, and good counselors to get my usage to a better place. I still like drugs, but they are no longer a heavy, dark thing hanging over me that I have to worry about. Getting here took years, and there were times in those years when I felt impatient and dispirited, even hopeless.

Don’t give up hope, and don’t give up on your sexuality. You have the stuff in you to enjoy kinky, adventurous sex. If you simply don’t enjoy chastity and plugs when you’re sober, that’s fine — there’s no pressure to enjoy them, and you should find other things to explore and reserve those two things for your party nights. Your sexuality exists inside you and has more facets and avenues than you can imagine, just waiting for you to explore them. Your sexuality is not a pill you can swallow or a pipe you can smoke. Drugs bring out the natural kinks you were born with — they do not create them.

The animal is in there. You just have to learn how to open the cage.

Love, Beastly

How can someone who wants to stay relevantly sober (besides alcohol and maybe poppers) navigate the scene and still be nonjudgmental toward harder users? Essentially advice for those who are sober pigs in the group sex scene?

Hi friend,

What I think you’re asking is how to be comfortable among harder substances while also abstaining from them. Speaking from my experience, when I’m avoiding a substance, I can’t be anywhere it’s happening.

I’m not sober, but I suspect most sober folks will agree with me on that. If you’re trying to avoid meth, you should not be in a place where meth is happening. If you find yourself at such a place unintentionally, don’t try to tough it out — make some excuse and leave.

Peer pressure and social anxiety are hard to overcome. It’s easy to feel confident that you will resist when you’re home or at work. That confidence tends to vanish when you’re surrounded by hot people having fun and smoking (or pointing). When I am avoiding meth, I generally know what events and spaces to avoid, but on the off-chance that I accidentally find myself somewhere people are using, I have an exit line: “My roommate texted me and there’s drama. I’m sorry but I have to go.”

Feel free to steal this line. I find that the minute I tell a gay man that drama is afoot, no further explanation is needed. At a sex party, nobody wants drama — they very nearly usher me out the door.

This lie is also not necessary. It’s hard to hide discomfort and humans are good at sensing unease. In a sex space, unease can kill the mood, so if you’re not comfortable, they’d rather you not be there. You can always just ghost. No one will mind — and if they’ve been using a lot by the time you got there, I guarantee they won’t care. They likely won’t even remember you were there.

I maintain there are a few unspoken rules of sex spaces. One rule is that, depending on the number of attendees present or the size of the party, you can’t pick and choose what parts of the space or what people in it you want to enjoy and which ones you don’t. If you’re at a large, slutty dance party, circuit party, sex club, or bathhouse where hundreds of people are in attendance, this rule changes, as you can leave one group for another with no explanation or hard feelings, or tuck away with someone into a more private space to do what you want. But the smaller and more isolated the group or space, it’s all-or-none. In a tight back room, you share in the complicity and activity of the space, or you leave. In a private sex party in someone’s home, it’s politely understood that you will partake to the same degree as everyone else, or leave.

This means that if you’re in a sex group of six men and everyone is doing meth, you’ll kill the mood by being the odd man out, and you should politely leave. Sure, they might be hot, but there’s always another group — and you can find men everywhere who are sober (or mostly-sober) pigs just like you, men you will have better fun with.

Love, Beastly

Hi Alexander, this is Dominic from Italy. I am sorry to bother you but looking online and searching what “Christal meth” is, one of your articles came up. A person very close to me who lives in Barcelona after months of trouble admitted that he got problems with that drug. I am really worried for him as I truly love him and want to help him. Do you know if there is any help group for this problem in Barcelona? Thanks a lot
Dominic

Hi Dominic,

You sound like a good friend, but I’m not sure I can help — and I’m not sure you can, either. I’m not in Barcelona, so I only have the Internet to look for resources, same as you. The website Therapy in Barcelona lists several queer therapists and even sex therapists, all of whom are based in Barcelona, so that might be a good place to start.

But first: Has your friend asked you for help? If he hasn’t, there’s not much you can do without his involvement or against his will. He told you he is struggling with meth, which means he has acknowledged a problem. Many people can’t do that, so that’s a good sign. Since he’s in Barcelona and you’re not, he will have an easier time finding resources and support there than you or I will, and that task, should he undertake it, completely falls on him.

In any place where drugs are, there will be people struggling with them, and assuming he’s queer, he is certainly not the only queer man in Barcelona struggling with meth. But it’s up to him to seek help. You can’t do that for him (unless, of course, he asks you to — but again, you’re not in Barcelona, so that’s an odd request, as you can’t be of much help without being there).

The best thing you can do is love him and listen to him — without judgment, panic, or alarm. For people who feel ashamed and alone because they’re struggling with drugs in a world that stigmatizes drugs, the friends who love, listen, and do not over-react are life-saving. Be someone he can call and talk to about this stuff with. That’s what he really needs.

Love, Beastly

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