ChemSex and Consent
Published: 25 September 2018 Tags: By James Harris
This year’s Sexual Health Week(24-30th Sept) is all about consent. Here we look at the issues surrounding consent at ChemSex parties in particular, and other things you should know.
ChemSex is when gay, bi and other men who have sex with men take drugs that enhance sex and lower inhibitions. It is linked to the rise in digital media and dating/hook-up apps which has made sex on drugs much more accessible to gay and bi men.
The assumption is that merely turning up to a ChemSex party is to give consent. This is false. No assumption should ever be made about consent – the only guaranteed way to be completely clear on consent is to have it verbal confirmation, i.e. as an emphatic ‘yes’ or ‘OK.’ Sometimes the mere absence of words such as ‘stop’ or ‘no’ isn’t good enough. As stated by the LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop:
“Just agreeing to meet up with someone via an app or stepping through the door into a sauna or chemsex party/chillout does not mean you are agreeing to whatever anyone else wants to do. The law says you can change your mind at any point.”
Below are a few tips on how to support yourself and others at a ChemSex session:
- Never assume
- Capacity to consent
- Give consent voluntarily
- You can change your mind
- Be sure
- If bad stuff happens to you, it’s not your fault
- Monitor your intake
Being in a situation/environment where others are potentially open to a sexual encounter, is NOT reason to assume that their inability to say no = consent.
If you are asleep, unconscious or so out of it that you can’t make a decision for yourself then you cannot consent. Whatever anyone does to you while you’re in this state is done without your consent and is therefore a crime.
If you are threatened or coerced into saying yes, then you are not giving your consent freely. This can invalidate your ‘yes.’ Taking advantage of someone because they’re ‘out of it’ or unsure, vulnerable or inexperienced is not OK. It’s a crime.
Just because you've started, doesn't mean you have to finish. If you stop enjoying it, you can tell them to stop; it's your body and you decide what happens to it.
Don’t rush into a decision because you feel pressured – by yourself as much as others. A hurried decision made voluntarily may still be consent, but you may feel that you didn’t have time to think it through properly. Similarly, be certain that the other person/people involved are also sure – hesitation or uncomfortable body language can be a sign they aren’t fully OK with going further. Be confident that everyone’s down to play.
You are not to blame for the actions of others who took advantage of you. They are responsible for their own actions. If you think you may have been sexually abused, it’s important that you are listened to, know your rights and that you get the support you need. If you’re based in Manchester, we have great links with our local Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC). You can find a list of SARCs at The Survivors Trust website here: http://thesurvivorstrust.org/sarc/.
It can feel like a fine balance to monitor your Chems intake particularly when you’re in heightened situations or you’re already under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. We’d always recommend using your own equipment (needles, measuring spoon etc.), self-administering and dosing and ensuring that someone knows where you are and when to expect to hear back from you.
- Slamming safely: Injecting drugs like crystal meth and mephedrone is known as slamming. Pharmacies across Greater Manchester run needle exchanges, to find one near you please visit http://lgbt.foundation/needle-directory. Friday/Monday have some advice on safer slamming advice here: https://www.fridaymonday.org.uk/taking-drugs/safer-use/tips-for-safer-injecting/preparing-to-inject/
- Know what you're mixing: We’ve put together a page on monitoring your drug usage and how to balance taking different drugs. Visit PartySafe to find out how you can regulate using Chems: https://lgbt.foundation/partysafe/drugs
- Blackouts: Sometimes you wake up after a heavy night at a chill out, sex party or sauna and can’t remember a thing about it. If so, you might want to seek help, especially if you think you may have put yourself at risk of getting HIV or had sex you didn’t consent to: https://www.gmfa.org.uk/saferchems-blackouts
If you would like support with your chems usage or want to chat about your sexual health and wellbeing, including if you feel you may have had non-consensual sex, call us on 0345 3 30 30 30 or email [email protected]
Sexual Health Week: https://www.fpa.org.uk/sexual-health-week/sexual-health-week-2018
LGBT+ anti-violence charity: http://www.galop.org.uk/consent-chemsex/
Safe chem sex: https://www.gmfa.org.uk/Pages/Category/safer-chems
Sexual Health advice: http://lgbt.foundation/sexualhealth