Last night I sat in a We The Brave endorsed sold-out screening of “Chemsex”, a documentary featuring in the Encounters Film Festival, and I think you should try and see it if you can because I think I saw you in it.
Even if you have never been to London in your life, you may as well have been on that screen last night if you are a man who has sex with men living in any one of the major cities in SA. I suspect that you, like me, will not find it difficult to relate to the men that feature in this documentary. They come from many different walks of life, but they all share something with you and me: a desire to connect, to belong to find a connection, to be happy and to feel good. They just happen to be trying to achieve this with crystal meth syringes, ketamine and methodrone.
This may seem like a crazy statement to make, but how much crazier is it than getting trashed on neon green shooters on a dance floor in the hopes of finding someone special? We all do some weird and wonderful things to try and find what we’re looking for.
It’s probably because it has become tough to approach one another out there. If I see an attractive guy in a mall or restaurant, it would be almost insane behaviour for me to walk up to him and tell him that I think he’s beautiful. It would be far more acceptable to find him on an app on my phone and send him a message asking him if he’s a top or bottom and whether or not he’d like a line of cat or a glass of wine before we settle in to have NSA (so strings attached) sex, tonight?
The men in this documentary are not freaks. They are not just sad, weird examples of extreme cases of self-destruction. These men are educated, attractive, intelligent men who find themselves on a very treacherous path. I don’t necessarily see myself “slamming” my arm full of “Tina” tonight, but I did see the same wants and desires I have in the eyes of the men in that movie last night.
The guys tell their stories and they’re hauntingly familiar. The drugs make them feel good, help them to escape the harsh reality of solitude and anxiety. The ‘chems’ give them a reason to get together, to connect, feel “normal”, to have sex that feels extraordinarily incredible and feel a sense of belonging and have fun. It is also killing them.
We all want to be healthy and loved, but many of us continue to eat foods that will go on to give us diabetes or a heart condition. Many of us can’t socialise without litres of wine to lubricate the fun factor of our social engagements, and many a road to wellbeing is still being paved with cigarettes and toxic relationships. This documentary made me realise that we all have “chems” that we use, in one way or another. What are you using to escape? How do you self-medicate?
Chemsex will be screening in Cape Town tonight Friday 10 June at 8.45pm at Cinema Nouveau V&A Waterfront and in Joburg again this Sunday 12 June at 5.30pm at The Bioscope in Maboneng. www.encounters.co.za
Bruce J. Little is a contributing writer for Anova Health Institute. These are his views, which may or may not reflect those of Anova Health Institute and affiliates.