I’m not sure exactly what’s “new” about chemsex — Haven’t people been doing drugs and having sex since the dawn of time? Even if you distinguish doing drugs and happening to have sex from doing drugs with the express purpose of enhancing (??) sex, this is still nothing new.

But for whatever reason, the idea of chemsex is currently very captivating. (Maybe it’s because of that word — “chemsex” — it sounds so slick!) Generally, it’s discussed via the framework of men who have sex with men within the context of club life and various party scenes. Interestingly, a writer/reporter for Glamour UK — Gemma Askham — recently contacted me with a series of interesting and in-depth questions re women and chemsex.

This is what Gemma wanted to know:

1. Do you think that women having sex on drugs is becoming more mainstream and, if so, why?

2. Chemsex is particularly prevalent in the gay community, with chemsex parties orchestrated via apps like Grindr. Do you think Tinder (and similar heterosexual apps) may have a similar influence on the numbers of straight women and men having drug-fuelled sex? This could be in terms of facilitating sex on drugs (i.e. it’s easy to find someone else into it) – OR as a backlash to it (i.e. the mentality of onto-the-next apps like Tinder makes us search out a deeper sexual experience, and drugs can give us that).

3. I’ve been speaking to drug and sexual health clinics in the UK and, interestingly, the main demographic they’re seeing for people participating in sex on drugs is older (30s, 40s) and professional – it’s not the teenager ravers you might presume. Why, in 2016, do you think this demographic in particular is turning to drugs to have a good sex life? Why are drugs the sex-enhancer of choice?

Unfortunately, Gemma caught me at a very busy time. Given her tight deadline, I asked her to distill her query down to one key issue. To wit: Why, in 2016, do you think women are turning to drugs in order to have a good sex life?

Here’s what I had to say:

There are myriad reasons women may be turning to drugs in 2016 in order to have a good sex life, and none of them are exactly new. Be it due to the medicalization of sexuality (eg a “‘healthy’ sex life looks like…”) or the idea that drugs may somehow enhance an experience — sex included — these are not new patterns, ideas, or beliefs.

The idea that “chemsex” is more of a 30s/40s thing is very interesting though. As people age, they often throw off the trappings of youth — and one common sustained trapping of youth is a negotiation of normative ideas regarding sexual behavior. It may be that “chemsex” is an artifact of people growing past ideas about what sex “should” be like in lieu of sexual exploration. Regardless of how one feels about sex behavior, the idea that women in their 30s and 40s may be participating in chemsex parties definitely shows a move away from antiquated ideas about what women’s sexualities should be — and that is new.

You can read Gemma’s full piece in the print issue of Glamour UK‘s June 2016 issue. I haven’t seen it, but she let me know that it would be there.

What do you think about this idea though — Is chemsex “new”? Is the fact that women in their 30s and 40s do it something unusual, liberating, new, and/or distinct from men doing it? Or, are people just fucking how they want, and we’ve only just started paying attention?

chemsex

(pictured: what Google says “lady chemsex” looks like)

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Got a sociology question? Need some social justice informed life advice? Contact Dr. Chauntelle right here.

Get Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment on Amazon and CT.com

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