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Health and Wellbeing

What is Chemsex?

By Konrad 20 Dec 2019

Chemsex has been big news within the world of queer men for several years now. Chemsex is often referred to as Party-and-Play, or simply PNP. You might also see references to High-and-Horny, or HNH.

In simple terms, chemsex is using drugs to alter your sexual experience. It’s the opposite of sober sex. The drugs involved are usually methamphetamine, mephedrone, or   GHB/GBL.

The downsides of chemsex can include an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections, as well as wide-ranging health and social impacts. The drugs involved in chemsex are highly addictive, and their use can sometimes lead to an endless chase of the next high and an unquenchable thirst for even more intense sexual satisfaction.

Is chemsex unique to queer men?

While the connection between drugs and alcohol and sex is nothing new, what makes chemsex something that is unique to queer men is the cultural factors that impact the enjoyment of guy-on-guy sex. 

These factors include systemic homophobia, cultural and religious attitudes, internalised homophobia, and the way that hook-up apps and location-based smartphones have shaped our experience of sexual encounters.

The combination of these factors can see queer men taking risks they may not otherwise take - risk-taking in pursuit of pleasure.

Chemsex isn’t just about the drugs, chemsex is a sexual phenomenon fuelled by the highs and lows of the queer experience.

Where does Chemsex happen?

One of the interesting things about chemsex is that this is generally something that happens in private spaces, behind closed doors. You’re most likely to be exposed to a chemsex situation at a private party in someone else’s home.

The consent question

One of the problematic aspects of having drug-fuelled sexual encounters – or being at a private party where the drugs are out and everyone is getting a bit loose – is that boundaries and judgement all tend to get a bit blurred.

In studies about chemsex, it’s clear that there’s a considerable number of guys who don’t really remember what went down when the drugs came out. One of the consequences of this is that guys who take part in chemsex also report high numbers of incidences of non-consensual sex.

If you are high on drugs that enable you to lose your inhibitions, how does that impact your ability to consent to who you have sex with and how you have sex with them? What responsibilities do we have to the men that we are sharing our chemsex encounters with? If you’re at a private chemsex party, what are the rules when it comes to consent?

Need some help with chemsex?

If you or someone you know is finding it difficult to manage their chemsex encounters, try and speak to drug and alcohol specialists who understand what chemsex is and the complexity involved. Your local sexual health service will probably be able to refer you to an appropriate specialist, or search online for support services designed for queer men grappling with chemsex issues.


This article has been written by Gareth Johnson for Gaydar.net.

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