Breaking the ice

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Meth-induced gay sex parties are on the rise in Hong Kong, Arthur Tam investigates what's fuelling the alarming trend

 

Meth is good for sex,” Walter tells us. This ‘chem fun’ user (someone who takes part in ‘drug-induced sexual activities’) has engaged in countless gay sex parties in our city where guys take the stimulant – also known as ‘ice’ – before and during sexual activities. “I would estimate that around 25 percent of the gay male population in Hong Kong has tried ice,” reveals Walter (not his real name, obviously).
   Sex and drugs have had a close relationship since rock ‘n’ roll began – but, in the past five years, methamphetamine and gay sex has become a new social phenomenon, not least here in Hong Kong. Some say it’s now the ‘drug of choice’ at private gay sex parties. Off the back of meth-based TV hit Breaking Bad, society is waking up to the dangers of the drug – but why are gay men in Hong Kong using it recreationally?
   “There are a few reasons why,” says HKU graduate student Sky Lau, who has been studying the rise of chem fun in the gay community for the past three years. “Back around 2008, the quality of ecstasy decreased because there were lots of impurities. Gay men complained they didn’t get high or horny off the new batches of E and there were adverse reactions like vomiting. And, in conjunction, raves decreased due to police raids. With a lack of parties, why would there be a demand for a party drug?”
   And so, claims Lau, with a lack of raves and ‘good E’, interest shifted to intimate household sex parties – and meth use at these soirees became known as chem fun. “It’s like watching a ball game with friends,” says Walter. “You have your beer and chips to liven up the atmosphere – and, for sex parties, you have meth, which goes for an expensive rate of $800 per gramme.”
   Lau has discovered through his three-year research that involved intimate interviews with 30 individuals, that ‘there is a sense of empowerment associated with sex parties’. Lau says: “You can choose what music you like, what porn you want to watch and decide when you want to play, how you want to play and when you just want to sit around and socialise. It’s a private space and you’re only bound to the social rules within your group. It’s qualitatively different from saunas, bars and clubs that are subject to commercial influences. It’s a space for self-discovery. For a lot of people, there are feelings of self-satisfaction and accomplishment because they can be uninhibited enough to push the boundaries of their sexual limits.”
   On top of this Lau has learned there are social stereotypes to dispel about individuals that participate in these parties. He says not everyone who engages in chem fun is an addict. In fact, according to his studies, most are fully functioning, rational accountants, lawyers, doctors and even policemen. “There are more [people who do this] than you think,” he says. And he says not all chem fun users are young. Ages range from 21 to 60 years old.
   But, of course, there are the risks and consequences of drug use. Besides the obvious health and legal risks, meth users are twice as likely to contract STDs and HIV. “It’s called crystal dick,” says Lau. “When you are high on meth, you get soft easily, so people don’t usually want to exacerbate that by putting on a condom.” Also, says Lau, users start lying to friends and family about their weekend excursions and often have to take sick leave from work after a night of intense partying. And, in the worst case scenario, they become addicted. Long-term use can cause ‘meth mouth’ (due to incessant grinding of the teeth) and irreparable brain damage. But, nevertheless, when presented with these risks, Lau usually hears ‘so what?’ from his respondents. “It’s simple,” says Lau. “The pleasure outweighs the risk.”
   Walter, now in his late 40s, decided to stop going to sex parties a year ago due to his age and also because the guys who participate ‘just aren’t up to snuff’. But he wants it to be known that those who engage in chem fun shouldn’t be judged. “Most of the people I know are fully functioning people who go to work and live normal lives,” he says, “and don’t affect anybody with their drug use other than themselves. And if they want to engage in certain desires, so be it, as long as they have a sense of control. People just like trying to find something scandalous in a story like this.”

For more details on this topic, email Lau at seadoghl1120@gmail.com.

 

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