Hear me roar cry for help.


  By David Stuart | @Davidastuart


We are lucky bastards. We’ve got it all. We fought through centuries of sex in the shadows, criminalisation, the blackmailing years. We avoided the fates of Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing and countless other anonymous victims of societal homophobia. Lest we forget.

We fought for sexual liberation at Stonewall, and beyond, and we’ve expressed it proudly in our leather harnesses and pink go-go shorts at countless subsequent gay Pride parades. We’ve taken sex away from the public toilets and parks, and parked it proudly on our smartphones for all to download, click, block and swipe. Gay porn is a robust, wealthy industry, and we resource it without shame, advertising the latest titles in shop windows and inviting the hottest porn stars to be hosts of our favourite nightclubs.

The evidence of our sexual liberation is tantalisingly on display for anyone strolling through our gay districts, past sex shops advertising the porn titles and fetish gear that were once hidden in suitcases under our beds. We celebrated the demise of pre-marital sex being a sin for our straight siblings; not that that was ever an issue for us. No, we were always exempt from religious or cultural shackles such as that.

There’s still more to do of course; slut-shaming/PrEP-shaming is still a thing, and those few ‘good gays’ who judge the vulnerable many for not consistently using condoms, or for succumbing to the availability of chems... well they’ll eventually retreat back behind their keyboards and find something else to troll. This brilliant fight for sexual liberation is mostly won, and the evidence/consequences are all around us; won through the sweat, suffering and activism of our forebears.

We deserve to be proud of such achievements. Even defensive.

And we are. We’re defensive about the liberties we’ve fought for, understandably. We’re defensive about our right to party, our right to use drugs, our right to have as many partners as we choose, and to have 24 hour saunas. Hetero-normative is a dirty word, and a longing for monogamy expressed on Grindr will unleash a swathe of rejections that could either force you into abstinence or drive you to chems. At the very least, it’ll make you date-less tonight. Vanilla is an accusation rather than a preference. Gosh, even seeking chem-free sex is a challenge if you’re online in the wrong GPS zone on the wrong day of the week.

Is it possible for sexual liberation to ever go too far? What would too far mean?

I don’t think we’ve gone too far.  Sex is awesome, however you like it. It’s always a good thing amongst consenting adults, (and whatever appropriately-sized objects we wish to include). I do think though, that sex can be complicated for gay men. We hid our desires from a sometimes judgemental and cruel world as teenagers. We feared rejection and torment for our most innocent and natural longings. We grew ashamed of our awesome feminine traits. We developed fears of disease that we took into the bedrooms with us. We desperately sought community and inclusion in places that might not always have been the most conducive to our emotional development. And a lot of these experiences created vulnerable adults trying to survive and avoid rejection amid a defensive and sexually liberated culture that sets standards of beauty and sexual confidence that only heroes and narcissists can thrive in.

And so, we developed tools to cope, tools that make us heroic. Super-grooming, fitness, fashion; all the things that guarantee inclusion. We learned the sex moves from our pornography, we fine-tuned our straight-acting performance skills to perfection; we make brilliant actors. We fit in on the dance-floor, and we appear invulnerable. We communicate this confidence online with strong opinions, and we are always ‘fit and sorted’ and up for it on Grindr. Such, such high standards. Gorgeous, gorgeous, vulnerable young men with such high standards. And when the performance fails... we have the easy availability of drugs to deliver what is expected of us.

Or what we expect of ourselves.

Sexual liberation is a brilliant thing. Imagine trying to cope as gay men without it. But it must exist in tandem with an awareness of, and affection for, our vulnerability. Our innate need for intimacy and inclusion. The hero in bed with us, the hero we’re trying to be, must also have the space to be proudly vulnerable; and to have that vulnerability celebrated and nurtured. ‘Cos they are fine, sexy things, imperfection, diversity and vulnerability. As are the courage and honesty required to unleash them and let them flourish.

The greatest thing of all, is the kindness we possess to allow our friends and lovers to communicate their fears and vulnerabilities to us. In the bedrooms, on the apps, on Facebook, on the first date. We might have to overcome our own bravado to be that kind; we might have to be the first to express a vulnerability, model it proudly, before another finds the courage to reciprocate. When it works, it’s awesome. And the good news is.. it works every time. Every damn time.

Sexual liberation is a brilliant thing; but to survive it intact amid an HIV epidemic and chemsex trends, we need to be robust. We need to be better.

We’ve overcome so many hardships, achieved so many things; one of them being sexual liberation. It’s mighty, hear it roar. But it’s not so loud that we can’t hear the cry for help our community is shrieking. The cry for help that exists in the chemsex problems, the busy sexual health clinics, the online cruelty and the loneliness our brothers experience. A celebration of our vulnerability is one more hurdle we’ve yet to leap; so let’s be a great community. A brotherhood of vulnerable, sexy, kind, great gay men.


David Stuart manages the chemsex clinics at 56 Dean Street, and curates the Dean Street wellbeing programme.


Chemsex support at 56 Dean Street: for gay men who use drugs for sex. Walk-in appointments Tuesday evenings, Thursday afternoons and two Saturday afternoons each month. For details visit www.chemsexsupport.com.


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