In 2018 Bristol was named one of UK’s hotspots for STD’s.
The spread of syphilis and gonorrhoea is caused by unprotected sex, and recent studies indicate that since the medicine PreP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, use of anti-HIV medications to keep HIV negative people from becoming infected with the virus) have been on the market, STD’s have risen in the gay community.
2300 were diagnosed with syphilis in 2018, and the diagnosis rate for gonorrhoea was 57.5% per 100,000 in Bristol alone for men.
Chemsex is the consumption of drugs to facilitate sexual activity. Refers to a subculture of recreational drug users who engage in high-risk sexual activities under the influence of drugs within groups. Which has led to be known as dark side to the gay community in Bristol.
According to the health equality and rights organisation for LGBTQ+ people, the numbers of gay men attending chemsex parties have increased.
One of the ways gay men hooks up with each other is by Grindr.
The app operates in the way of showing other gay men near you with the accurate distance. You can choose what you are looking for, which is everything from networking, friends, dates and relationship.
Most of the people on the app are in seek of a one night stand, which Grindr is known by being the hook-up app compared to other dating apps on the market. It is truly a good app to use when you are new in a city where you can meet people for a drink or simply meet for a one night stand.
Chemsex is where more than 3 people usually meets up to have sex while taking drugs.
Chemsex parties are widely spread across major European cities, were they tend to be professionally organised, but I did not expect it being part of the underground gay community here in Bristol.
One of these parties was organised by Tony’s friend a few months ago. Where Tony entered the house and could hear moaning from the first floor. At first Tony did not know what he was getting into, until he sat down and got a glass of GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyrate), which led to joining the party up stairs where there were around 12 men naked.
Tony spent around 8 hours at the party, but there were people who had arrived Friday night and left Monday morning, these parties can last for days Tony told me. Tony have participated in several chemsex parties in Bristol, and when I asked him why he joins the parties he said “It is kinda of my escape, its just the best of two worlds”.
The dark side to chemsex parties aren’t the fact that gay men are meeting up to have sex and getting high on drugs. It is the fact that these parties are taken place without any protection, overdoses occurs regularly as well as sexual assault.
The last party Martin, a 23 year old student attended was a few weeks ago where he got too much GHB and woke up on his stomach with a man on him while three other men was stand around him.
Martin did not report the incident to the police, and it is the first time he have told anyone that he got rape. Martin is in his early twenties and says it is very common for older gay men to invite younger hot guys over with the promise of sex and drugs. But I did not except this to happen.
When I asked him why he did not file a report at the local police he said “Its the same of it, I did not want it to become public”, that is why I have altered Martin’s name.
According to Tony it is an addictive environment, where it isn’t so much about the sex it self but the drugs that are available to consume: “I get filthier when I am on drugs, I do things I could never do if I wasn’t on them says Tony. It is like an award in my social life, if I don’t get high, I can’t have sex”.
“I think its like an escape from our daily life, where I work hard from Monday to Friday and find peace doing chemsex. I have organised a couple of these parties myself, and I know the time to be on Grindr to find boys who wants to join. When you are high on drugs you end of having dangerous sex, you don’t really think”.
“When I held chemsex parties I usually get my drugs trough a dealer that is known to supplement drugs like G, crack and cocaine and then I just wait for it to happen. I know it isn’t a safe environment to be in if you aren’t careful. As anything else there are risks. Protection is the last thing on anyones mind when there are half a dozen naked men walking around you”.
Between 2014 and 2015 Stephen Port, known as the ‘Grindr Killer’ murdered 4 young gay men in London after meeting his victims trough the dating app Grindr where Port would offer them drugs and initially overdose them with G.
When the muders were brought into the media’s attention, new allegations involving chemsex incidents of 58 cases where people died from GHB poisoning in London alone, sparked a conversation within the gay community but the talk did not change anything. Hook-ups with strangers still occurs, as well as chemsex parties in the city with lifelong scares.