Exposing a drug fuelled, self-destructive seam within London’s gay community, William Fairman and Max Gogarty’s Chemsex makes for intoxicating viewing.
The Lost Boysby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
First there was the global crisis and now there’s Chemsex. For nothing it seems, whether it be splashing the cash on the never-never or indulging in a heady cocktail of drugs and sex, is holier than the gratification of the senses. Drugs are easily accessible and cheap, while thanks to mobile hook-up apps, sex is just a few swipes and clicks away – a technological new wave that is also seeing the number of cases of HIV explode in Asia and fuelling London’s Chemsex scene. And so, to coincide with World AIDS Day and global HIV screening campaigns, William Fairman and Max Gogarty lead us into the dark world of Chemsex. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Uncovering an epidemic of sex-fuelled crystal meth, GHB and mephedrone addiction within London’s gay community, Chemsex reveals a darker side of gay culture that even its devotees don’t much like to talk about. And yet, thanks to a group of soul-baring young gay men seeking an escape from addiction, William Fairman and Max Gogarty tell their story. They’re all connected in one way or another with Chemsex – some devouring every minute of all tomorrow’s parties come at once while others are struggling desperately to escape it. And as we witness orgies and men shooting up, Chemsex isn’t always an easy watch – not least as we watch interviewees break down with shame, humiliation and regret as they bear witness to the scene that is both their everything and undoing.
From the post-coital cigarette to stiff drinks and performance enhancers, sex and drugs have long been intertwined. Only now, as hedonists seek to combine the natural high of the orgasm with the chemical rush of a cocktail of intoxicants and methamphetamines, that heady combination has gone supersonic. Drug abuse has been given a make-over, whitewashed with a slang that involves ‘pins’ and ‘slamming’ rather than needles and injecting. But it’s a pleasure ride, we’re warned by the leading expert in Chemsex and the pioneer of London’s sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street, that’s not as simple as just getting high.
Refusing to assimilate into the straight world of marriage and children, or perhaps unable to find “the right one” and escape the loneliness of singledom, this infernal pleasure dome is the gay man’s playground – the result, it’s suggested, of unaddressed, deep-seated shame and internalised homophobia. And so, fuelled on a cocktail of tranquilisers and stimulants, gay men are able to cast aside all inhibitions, suddenly free from the pressures of the gay world and able to seek out a more accepting community of their own.
There’s no doubt that William Fairman and Max Gogarty’s documentary is vitally important, lifting the lid on an invisible and dangerous underground scene. It’s perhaps most impressive in its no-holds-barred access to the lives, sessions and confessions of a group of men who find themselves at the margins of society. And while Chemsex reveals the experience of drug abuse rather than exposing the physical effects of abuse, the testimonies make it tragically clear; as interviewees tearfully reveal hardened arteries, overdoses, addiction and a nihilistic acceptance, even desire, towards getting it over with and contracting HIV. Shocking, disturbing and excruciatingly compelling, William Fairman and Max Gogarty’s Chemsex reveals both the dark pleasure and raw pain of life inside the inferno.
Chemsex is released on 4th December 2015 in the UK