When it comes to living life as a gay man in present-day, there is no textbook to lead the way. “Chemsex,” though not a complete guide, serves as an educational view into gay men, their relationship with sex, and how drugs continue to be a part of the culture. Intense imagery and heavy-hearted addicts give a disturbing gravity to what is an all-too real problem in many communities of gay men across the world.

 

ChemSex2The documentary is a conversation with more than 20 gay men—all of whom are, or have been connected to London’s Chemsex scene. Chemsex, as the movie defines, is the sexualized drug use of Crystal Meth, GHB/GBL, and/or Mephedrone. The panel is made up of men who have gotten out of the scene, men who are currently in the scene and men who have witnessed the lives of loved ones destroyed by the scene. Many of the interviewees talk with a blank, solemn stare, void of any life or emotion. Others talk with sadness and concern in their voices—truly burdened by the impact that drugs have had on themselves and their community. The group also has a small portion that seem to have hope for a drug free community.


Fairman and Gogerty frame the connection between drug use, fetishes, and HIV/AIDS. The “on-the-edge” lifestyle of the fetish community in London has become more than just a leather harness and a sling—and it does not always lend itself to being particularly careful. Not only is bare-backing—sex without a condom—a regular occurrence, but sharing needles to inject the drugs is commonplace as well. Track marks and bruises amongst a sweaty orgy of men give, what could be brushed off as, a worst case scenario. In reality, though, the worst case seems to be death— from overdosing or illness. What came as a shock was the apathy surrounding this possibility.

ChemSex3
Meeting in dark, dungeon-like rooms, the men tie off an arm, pull the strap tight with their teeth, and inject themselves, quickly losing any inhibitions. This kind of “high-risk” behavior is how many people that take part in Chemsex are HIV/AIDS positive. The virus is so prevalent that some of the websites for meeting others in the community have posts from men who want to get “pozzed up;” a normalized goal for negative Chems of all ages—some barely even old enough to drink. The virus has just become a normal part of Chemsex.


“Chemsex” not only shows the drugged-out and disinterested sex these men have become addicted to, but also some of the reasons behind the addiction along with some of the solutions that are starting to gain momentum. One man in particular, David, is part of a clinic where he is one of the first people to address the Chemsex trends within London. He provides some reason into what causes these men to take part in Chemsex and works with them while they are recovering, or trying to recover.


The film is well put together. The production was very cohesive with detail oriented cinematography. And the audience is introduced to an ChemSex5entire plethora of issues that normally go unnoticed. In an hour and 23 minutes, “Chemsex” makes serious claims and observations backed with evidence that give gravity to the seriousness of the issue.


With that said, it does leave the audience with a few unanswered questions about the scene. What is sex like for these men after they get clean? What exactly is the prevalence of these addictions on mainstream dating apps like Grindr or Scruff? What happened to the men whose names we were not given?


Chemsex introduces the audience to this un-surfaced topic that has a grave impact on our community. Though it does not answer all of the questions, Chemsex serves as a great introduction to an issue that is much larger. No gay man should miss this film.


Sponsored by #Boom Media, "Chemsex" will screen at QFest - St. Louis' LGBT film festival - on Monday, April 25 at 5 p.m. at the Hi-Pointe Backlot Theatre. Click here for a full schedule of films and ticket information.

 

 

 

 

 

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