Party and Play – Understanding Chemsex

Party and Play (Chemsex) is a term most commonly used when gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) use certain drugs in their sex lives.

These drugs can enhance the sex they are having, make them feel euphoric and lead to stronger orgasms. They can also be used to change the person’s psychological experiences, such as increasing their confidence or removing inhibitions.

The most common drugs used in chemsex are crystal meth, cat, cocaine, and GHB. These drugs, often used with alcohol, are referred to as ‘chems’.

Sex under the influence of chems may last for many hours and some guys can push these sessions to a whole weekend or longer. It can be with multiple sexual partners but can also just involve a couple, or lone masturbation. Chemsex is most common among gay, bi and other MSM, but straight people often also use drugs and alcohol to enhance sex.

There are lots of ways that men engage in chemsex. Some guys do it with a partner or with someone they have just hooked up with, others go to, or host, parties where there are lots of guys using chems and having sex with each other. Some guys go to specific venues like saunas or sex clubs where chemsex is commonly associated with the venue.

Guys looking for chemsex often use social media websites or apps to meet other guys. Some may be quite open about the fact they are looking for chemsex by using terms like ‘H&H’ (high and horny), ‘P&P’ (Party and Play), ‘Chillout’, or a capital ‘T’ (for Tina, meaning crystal meth) in their profile names or messages. Other drug-related slang words like ‘cloudy’, ‘sharp’ or ‘to the point’ communicate the type and preferred way of doing a drug but also function as an indication that the person/people are open to chemsex.

Why do guys do chems and have chemsex?

Unfortunately, most gay, bi and other MSM have been brought up in societies, cultures and communities where same-sex sexuality and intimacy is frowned upon or seen as “dirty” or “immoral”. This can create an unconscious sense of stigma and shame about same-sex sexuality, and drugs can be a way to cope and manage these feelings.

People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) also often face social stigma, discrimination, and other challenges not encountered by people who identify as heterosexual. They also face a greater risk of harassment and violence. As a result of these and other stressors, sexual minorities are at increased risk for various behavioural health issues.

Some men may use chems to help them deal with, or free themselves from issues like:

  • insecurities
  • stigma
  • self-doubt
  • shame
  • anxiety
  • loneliness
  • prejudice
  • escapism

Most men’s involvement with chemsex begins by seeking pleasure, connection, or intimacy. However, sex on drugs is very heightened and many men may find it difficult to go back to having sex without drugs.

The recreational use of drugs for chemsex can also lead to psychological or physical addiction and health, relationship, and work problems. Drug use can further lead to risky sexual health behaviours, putting them at higher risk of HIV and other STIs, so it is important that you take precautions.

Researchers have found that people who identified as being lesbian, or gay were more than twice as likely as people who identified as heterosexual to have a “severe” alcohol or drug disorder, while people who identified as bisexual were three times as likely to have this kind of substance use disorder. Those who were unsure how to identify their sexual identity were five times as likely to have a substance or alcohol problem.

  • For advice on harm reduction (tips to make chemsex safer) click here.
  • For more info about common chemsex drugs and their effects click here.
  • For resources and info about substance use support click here.
  • To talk to a peer harm reduction counsellor (someone who understands what you may be experiencing), call or WhatsApp Engage Men’s Health on 082 607 1686. We will arrange a free and anonymous session for you (subject to availability).
  • Engage Men’s Health offers free and professional HIV and STI services in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City. This includes free HIV treatment, PrEP and PEP. Call or WhatsApp us on 082 607 1686.