There's a binary choice to make in response to the realization that you're getting older. You can either begin or intensify the contemplation of your own mortality; or you can invoke the only line of Dylan Thomas you can half-remember and start doing things that assert that you won't be shrugging on the cardigan of acquiescence anytime soon. For good or ill, as I barrel toward the big 4-0, I find myself in that latter category. That's why "chemsex" caught my attention.
In this anemic milieu of 2016 -- marked by resurrected mom jeans, apprehended AR bunyips, and meticulously doctored photos of eggs Benedict -- chemsex sticks out like a sore penis: a sore penis being the absolute best-case scenario arising from what Wikipedia defines as: "a subculture of recreational drug users who engage in high risk sexual activities under the influence of drugs within groups."
The page goes on to tell us that chemsex is: usually but not always used by and associated with gay men; typically fueled by methamphetamine, but also mephedrone, GHB, and GBL; usually taking place for many hours or even several days; likely to cause "crystal dick," necessitating the use of erectile dysfunction drugs; credited with the emergence of a new, more virulent form of HIV; known to make enthusiasts more vulnerable to more immediate threats, such as robbery, date rape, or assault by someone whom they meet for sex.
OK, so while I'm all about raging against the dying of the light, this all seems like a bit much. But then I learned that there's another definition of chemsex -- one that sits between the headline-grabbing apocalypto-clusterfuck described above, and "Netflix and chill." I’m talking about two people, hanging out, enhancing their lovemaking with their more mainstream substance of choice. In comparison, it sounded almost quaint.
Of course, combining sex and drugs has been around as long as sex and drugs themselves, long before #chemsex. And for good reason, it would seem. Some people mix drugs with sex simply because it allows their minds to better connect with their bodies, allowing them to feel sex more keenly and have bigger, better, and more orgasms. Others use drugs to become disinhibited enough to have the sex they’d be too ashamed to enjoy sober. (It should come as no surprise that both definitions of chemsex derive from and are more commonly used in the UK: a place in which sex without the use of booze and/or drugs is practically unheard of. Trust me, I'm from there.)
Either way, this is the level of edgy I'm talking about. I texted my showgirl girlfriend Alex to ask if she’d help me with this new assignment. She replied with an emphatic "let's do dis." Then I picked up some weed and cocaine from a couple of friends who tend to have it on hand, and dug up some MDMA capsules I'd acquired in the past year or so and hadn’t had occasion to use. Let's do dis, indeed.
First off: MDMA
BACKGROUND: I love MDMA. Some of the best nights of my life were spent rolling on molly and its speedier precursor, ecstasy. It was on a mix of these drugs and others that I fell in love with my ex-wife during a 10-day bender in Ibiza. Later, a girlfriend introduced me to the concept of "home rolling": a term than means battening down the hatches, and taking MDMA at home, getting cozy, and opening up. The sex I'd had on these evenings had taken place an hour or two after its euphoric effects were at their zenith. At the peak, sex didn't interest me nearly as much as rolling around on a sheepskin rug, playing with ice, synchronizing our breathing, and seeing the ordinarily dubious virtue of deep ambient house music.
Alex and I had home rolled once before, but again, didn't have sex until the feel-good neurochemicals loosed by the drugs had begun to come back under control. My goal on this occasion is for us to be having sex during the three different experiences' apexes. To that end, I take a portion of a Viagra pill and plan for us to be in the throes of hooking up when the MDMA starts doing its thing. My theory with sex and the drugs that tend to thwart erections is that if you're already in the midst of the former, the effects of the latter on your appetite for and ability to have sex will be overridden.
METHODOLOGY: We start fooling around at around 1am. The molly hits me first and I move quickly to build up an indomitable momentum by getting the sex proper underway. For the first time in my life I am at both peak rigidity and peak roll. It feels incredible though the lust that typically underlies a thumping erection is definitely harder to connect with. Alex catches up to where I've been for five or six minutes, then shortly thereafter requests a short break to cuddle and say nice things to and about one another -- which I am very easily talked into. Curses! The love fest takes the wind out of my sexual sails, and two full hours pass before I'm interested and/or able to resume having relations with Alex.
With dawn just about to break, I go down on her until she has what she describes as a massive orgasm. Then, upon her request, we have sex Hellenistically, with very little fuss, and a similarly gargantuan orgasm making my spine fizz and tingle for sometime afterwards. As we chat and spoon in the aftermath, Alex tells me that her experience of rolling while having sex is pretty similar to my own.
CONCLUSION: Sex on molly felt great! But then, everything we did on molly felt great: the cuddles, the talks, the stretching. Hell, even rearranging my kitchen cabinets or flossing my teeth would be a sublime sensory adventure. It wasn't until the morning that a more animalistic lust for one another returned with a vengeance.
Next up: Marijuana
BACKGROUND: I've gotten stoned on numerous occasions and enjoyed it (for 30 minutes or so), but unlike several of my closest friends, I've never been able to make it part of my lifestyle. The advent of vaping weed certainly removed the lifelong problems I've had with taking smoke into my lungs, but getting more than a tiny bit high has always meant getting a big bit dumb and frankly, I can ill afford to go there. Still, I'll give it a try.
Alex's experience with weed is even more limited than mine.
"I don't think I do it right," she says as I hand her the Pax vaporizer I'd borrowed from my friend, a marijuana super-user. "I don't think I've been really stoned more than once or twice when I was 21."
She's now 33. In fact, today is her 33rd birthday. I set an alarm so that we don't miss the 9.30 dinner reservation I'd made some weeks in advance. It's 6pm.
METHODOLOGY: After a few giant pulls and some elapsed time, I'm pretty sure that I have done it right, my whole body feeling as if it is ensconced with a warm static electricity. I am relaxed in body, though as the weed begins to futz with my mental faculties, I fret about looking conspicuously fucked up if and when we make it to dinner. Alex is still unconvinced that she has the wherewithal to get high and takes several more big pulls. We make out and cover each other's pink parts with coconut oil. I'm harder than a roll of quarters, but while I'm aware of the sensations, I'm not really thinking about what's happening: a difference that I don't usually contemplate. Sounds and images and feelings I've tucked away since my youth enter then leave my mind, one after the other. I'm falling through an insane wormhole designed by Jim Henson, and Sid and Marty Krofft.
"This is happening," says Alex suddenly. "I'm soooooo stoned."
We start to have intercourse though I forget this fact often and for what seems like hours at a time, my eyes clenched tight. Only the dryness of my mouth interrupts the amazing journey I'm taking into dusty recesses of my mind. When I open my eyes I'm slightly surprised to discover a naked woman underneath me. I'd almost forgotten all about her. Atypically for us, we're having missionary sex only. We hold each other tightly but we're clearly both off somewhere else.
"Have we been doing this for hours?" asks Alex after experiencing a seemingly transcendent orgasm paired with a vision quest. "I think I need a break."
It has in fact been around 40 minutes, though it has felt like an eternity. She talks about her recent thoughts collapsing on one another, as if they are bouncing back off the walls of my bedroom and into her brain some seconds or minutes after she's first experienced them. Her description so perfectly describes my own experience that I become paranoid that she can read my thoughts.
We resume humping like two planks of wood rubbing up against each other until the alarm sounds another 35 minutes later. I hit snooze and somewhere in the ensuing 10 minutes, manage to remove my thoughts from the nostalgic images ricocheting around my braincase long enough to achieve something like an all-body orgasm. I take a shower and emerge to see Alex perched on the couch, looking as if she's been lobotomized.
"I'm a real ding-dong," she says, and winces. "I kept falling into these mental rabbit holes, then coming to and realizing that I was having sex, then thinking, 'I'm really going to need lube soon' before I headed back into a rabbit hole. Man, I'm gonna feel this."
CONCLUSION: For me, sex while stoned was like getting a really good back rub while trying to stay on top of a Game of Thrones season arc. The incredible physical sensations feel off in the distance as you put all of your energy into keeping track of what on Earth is going on.
We made our dinner reservation without incident, came home, and agreed that sex while stoned is not nearly as fun as watching Bad Milo while stoned. Seriously, try it.
And finally: coke
BACKGROUND: It's an enduring irony that the perceived sexiest and most glamorous of all the recreational drugs is also the one most associated with an inability to achieve and/or maintain an erection. Its renown for bedeviling sexy times is the reason I won't go anywhere near the stuff if there's a fair possibility of my having sex within an hour or so. In social settings, however, I enjoy the odd bump as much as the next person.
The friend who gave the coke to me professed that any more than a modest line could become problematic.
"Even with Viagra?" I asked.
"Even then, things could get a little wobbly," he said. "Thing is, women seem to have a grand old time with it."
METHODOLOGY: In order to maximize Alex's enjoyment and minimize the chances of me having to thumb-in a softie, our third and final experiment begins with me taking some Viagra as I await her arrival at my apartment. I chop out a few lines of coke on the nightstand so that it can be in easy reach. Coming fresh from the stage, Alex looks suitably glamorous in full makeup, giant lashes, her bleached blonde hair piled on her head. Within seconds she's otherwise naked aside from specks of glitter. We start to fool around and soon I'm sporting the sort of tool that could come in handy should anyone need to open a manhole cover.
We have sex in the position preferred by most other mammals. At my prompt, she picks up the cut straw I put out for her and vacuums up a line. She catches our reflection in the mirror on the wall.
"It's cliché but I have to admit, this is pretty rock 'n' roll," she says. "Are you gonna do some off my ass?"
"Sure," I say, though I can't really think about set-piece theatrics until we're both high and in the groove.
As Alex confirms that the coke is working its magic, her feelings of well-being, competency, euphoria, and sexiness are further heightened, her glances in the mirror become longer and more frequent. I was with Alex the first and only other time that she did coke, and I remember the aggressively narcissistic streak it brought out in her then and now. She tells me to 'pound me out' and I oblige her.
Alex takes her second line and I snort the rest. We're face to face when I feel the coke begin to work on me. The bitter powder provokes a number of feelings, but the one I'm experiencing most keenly is relief that my methodical drug staggering has meant that I'm high while remaining large and charge. In fact, I'm so aroused that I have to take a pause to prevent myself from going over the edge. Alex is behaving even bossier than usual and isn't having that.
"Come on, come on!" she says then pulses her pelvic-floor muscle with so much vigor and so little warning that the end approaches very rapidly.
There's a 50/50 chance that I can fend it off, but I lose the gamble. The resulting orgasm is particularly low-wattage; slightly less enjoyable than a good sneeze.
Addled with coke, a particularly mean-seeming Alex decides that we're going to spend what will be a longer-than-usual refractory period by tying me up and discerning whether I like my privates tortured. (The jury is still out.) Cocaine-addled me decides that I'm going to have a decent orgasm while high on coke goddammit, and sets about transforming my roughed-up wet noodle into a serviceable erection. I employ every boner-salvaging trick that ordinarily works for me, but despite these tactics, I feel like I'm trying to pump up a blown-out bike tire. This display of bloody-minded futility goes on for some 10 minutes.
"It's OK," says Alex. "I don't think it's going to happen."
"No!" I say. "I've got this."
After another five minutes of what must be frightening-looking self-flagellation, I finally manage to scare up something I can use. I waste no time re-coupling with a surprisingly patient Alex, and some minutes later I have a mediocre orgasm.
"If it makes you feel any better, it didn't do much for me either," says Alex. "But you did get there two more times than me so..."
"Oh, yeah," I say. "Sorry. Would you like me to… ?"
"No," she says. "I'm tired. Get me back in the morning."
Final conclusion: meh!
Sober sex in the cold light of day had never sounded quite so appealing. While these three drugs augmented our experience of sex in different, mostly positive ways, they robbed us of the underlying stimulus to have it at all. The drive to ravage each other -- a central and enduring component of our seven-month relationship -- was dialed way down. It was clear that what we'd added to sex had taken something much more important away.
Call me old-fashioned but I haven't found anything that makes sex any better than atmospheric lighting, virgin coconut oil, and a playlist chosen for me by a Spotify algorithm. I guess I'll take that cardigan in beige.
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