By Anders Zanichkowsky
June 26, 2013
Today is a hard day to rain on people’s marriage parades. I’m doing it anyway because my stomach is turning to lead and my heart wants to throw up and silence will make it worse. This issue is far from over and my silence, I feel, is the problem to begin with.
I’ll start with an introduction: I am — first and foremost — a queer activist for economic justice. I support a radical redistribution of wealth, and I stand against capitalism and what it does to people’s bodies. As for marriage equality, I am not just unenthusiastic or reserved about this as a goal for the LGBT rights movement — I actively boycott it, and would like to see it abolished as soon as possible.
In my work, I have three priorities for queer economic justice: Prison and the criminal justice system, physical safety (health care, freedom from violence), and poverty (housing/homelessness, income/wages, etc.). Perhaps it doesn’t go without saying that queer and trans people are disproportionately impacted by these issues, particularly trans people and/or people of color, and also that my work in these areas is not limited to the impact on queer and trans people. And it definitely doesn’t go without saying that I think marriage is a totally inappropriate way to deal with any of these issues.
With that, I have two main problems with the marriage equality movement: 1. That its operation takes a tremendous amount of money, energy, and attention away from far more pressing issues. (Sometimes this is clear and direct, such as California spending $43 million on Prop 8 while $85 million was being cut from HIV/AIDS services. Sometimes this is more subtle, the successes of which can be measured when every single straight person I know uses their approval for same-sex marriage to demonstrate their allyship to me.) 2. That its strategies actively work against movements for queer economic justice, by removing capitalism, meaningful immigration reform, and gender/sexual deviance from the discussion entirely.
Let’s strip away the sentimentality for a moment and consider that legal marriage is intended as a site for hoarding your wealth. In fact this is one of its primary historical purposes. This is why in modern times you get rewarded with tax breaks and shared benefits (or stand to lose them if you’re very poor) and, regardless of income, you are encouraged by our government (and society in general) to lock down into a nuclear family unit and not share any of your shit with people you don’t like. (No really, I mean it — stop thinking about love for a second and think about that.)
It’s true that the promises of marriage are very, very real — especially for people who are just barely hanging onto the next highest class rung. Of course it can help some of them keep their hold on it — it is designed to do that. I will never deny that marriage can provide concrete, material benefits to some poor, working class, and lower-middle class people, and I’m not passing judgment on individual choices about whether to take advantage of those benefits when your life would kind of suck otherwise. I am generally in favor of people having shit they need, and of short-term solutions for short-term problems.
The problem is that the marriage equality movement, which is the real subject here, is not about individuals and it is not interested in other solutions. The marriage equality movement, like the institution of marriage itself, is a major distraction from the fact that our government refuses to sustain social services and public benefits in the first place — a process the marriage equality movement is now mimicking by stealing all the money. This is where I find myself so frustrated with the majority of Democrats/liberals/progressives on this issue, who claim we are walking in the same direction with different steps. Just because some people will get more money from something does not mean that a national fight for that thing is an economic justice project. It’s a trap of linear logic that so many have fallen into, and following it is like building condos in the middle of a housing crisis — as it turns out, most things have more than one opposite, and the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.
It is not a coincidence that the rhetoric, imagery, and marketing of the marriage equality movement is so utterly assimilationist, and this is where my problems extend to issues of personal safety. This movement intentionally and maliciously erases and excludes so many queer people and cultures, particularly trans and gender non-conforming people, poor queer people, and queer people in non-traditional families. This movement whitewashes, breeder-izes, and cis-sexxifies the criteria for acceptance and civil rights, ignoring the most extreme threat to queer and trans people’s civil liberties: That if we cannot pass for straight and cissexual, we are deemed worthy of violence, detention, and death. In recent (and predictable) developments, conservatives who have joined the same-sex marriage bandwagon are using it as a wedge against single parents, immigrant families, and others. (Sometimes, the enemy of your new friend… is the person you should actually be friends with.)
So, to recap why I’m against it: Marriage promotes hoarding in a time of class war; marriage thinks non-married people are deviant and not truly deserving of civil rights; marriage doesn’t even know that 2.3 million Americans are incarcerated.
Last, I’d like to respond to the common statement that marriage is an important vehicle for raising awareness of all kinds of other LGBT issues, promoting acceptance of LGBT people, getting all LGBT people a pony and an espresso machine, etc.
For one thing, it’s really not. This movement targets a ton of queer and trans people for exclusion when it markets such narrow inclusion, and there is no inherent connection between “I think those two dudes who look like Anders should be able to get gay married” and “I think that chronically homeless trans woman should be given $2000 so she can come live next door to me.” In fact, I would argue that acceptance of the former strengthens rejection of the latter.
For another, the promise to “come back for” queer economic justice issues after marriage is squared away is pretty insulting to those of us already working in those movements, or to people in dire straits whom marriage cannot help. It’s also a pretty little lie, because it will absolutely never be convenient for people with class privilege to prioritize poverty issues. And, as it turns out, the powers of gentrification only grow stronger when your white picket fence is legally installed. If your excuse is that you’ve just got a few other things on your list right now, at the very least I would like you to acknowledge that we are not on the same page at all. Honestly. The most disappointing aspect of this divide for me, on days like today, is that marriage equality people don’t seem to see that there is one. This is far more troubling to me, and much harder to interrupt. It is more than a question of political projects, it is also a question of philosophy and analysis, without which political projects are irrelevant at best.
I’d say that I’m open to talking about this with people who support marriage equality, and of course in the end I will. But “open” is the wrong word today. I feel resigned to this conversation, and rather cheerless about its prospects. But I suppose, being the truth, it’s as good a beginning as any.
By Max Daly
June 3, 2013
Weeklong, unprotected orgies fueled by intravenous doses of crystal methamphetamine are an increasing feature of London’s gay sex-party scene.
The orgies—or “slamming parties,” as they’ve been dubbed (“slamming” is a euphemism for “injecting”)—are known to a small but rapidly expanding section of London’s gay community. They are covertly organized over social networking sites like Grindr and Bareback Real Time.
However, that’s not to say they’re particularly exclusive. As long as you’re gay, don’t mind potentially exposing yourself to a host of STDs, and can get into the idea of taking Viagra and injecting crystal meth (and sometimes mephedrone) for several days straight, you’re welcome to swing through the revolving doors and join the party.
The various slamming get-togethers are pretty fluid affairs, taking place over several days and in several venues, from darkened private homes and West End saunas to dingy apartments and suburban mansions. There are constants, however—the nonstop porn being streamed on massive projector screens, the cascading synth lines of shitty Euro trance, and the glow of guests twiddling with their iPhones as they attempt to get hold of more drugs and bodies to invite along.
“This new scene of bare-backing and injecting is pushing the limits of what’s socially acceptable,” says Tim, a 39-year-old web publisher who hosted and attended slamming parties for two years before giving it up. “Injecting crystal meth makes you incredibly horny and willing to do anything. People turn into animals when they come up on it. It’s basically a blizzard of sucking and fucking.”
Yes, the scene might sound a bit like the more hedonistic, cosmopolitan equivalent of dogging, less Micras, more Mosley madness—Dogging: A Love Story reimagined by William S. Burroughs and Tinto Brass. But, given the sharing of needles and lack of condoms, the repercussions that come from these blizzards of sucking and fucking are arguably much more grim than what you’re left with after a stolen encounter in a Stevenage lay-by.
Specialist drug services are witnessing a rise in gay men addicted to injecting crystal meth and, more worryingly, a jump in gay drug users who are testing positive for HIV.
According to David Stuart, director of Antidote—London’s only dedicated LGBT-specific drug-and-alcohol support service—the number of crystal meth and mephedrone users injecting the drugs in a sexual context leapt from 20 percent in 2011 to 80 percent in 2012. Seventy percent of those injecting are reportedly sharing needles. “It’s a staggering and frightening increase,” Stuart told me.
And, of course, what makes these slamming parties unique is the slamming itself. Injecting meth (or “Tina,” as it’s commonly referred to in the gay community) provides a far more intense, longer, and therefore cheaper hit than smoking it, ramping up your libido and stripping inhibitions. It’s turned London’s already pretty athletic gay sex-party scene into an extreme sport, with revellers apparently averaging up to five sexual partners a session.
“The one thing I want to do on crystal is to get fucked by the biggest dick,” says Tim, whose teeth have rotted away due to a combination of being HIV positive and many years of injecting and smoking meth. “I was known as a total party bottom,” he continued.
Some slamming parties are more extreme than others, with those at the harder end of the scale usually involving hardcore S&M, whipping, and bondage. And if two people want to indulge in something others might not be comfortable with—like fisting or scat, for example—then they carry on the party elsewhere.
“People are often awake for days with no food or water, just fizzy drinks and Dunns River Nurishment [a nutritional milk supplement],” Tim told me. “But the stupid thing is that no one can ever come, because crystal meth stops you from coming—as does Viagra—so it’s just never-ending sex. It’s painful. Most people end up with no skin on their dicks and some end up in hospital because of panic attacks brought on by too much crystal,” he continued.
Tim says that, although he was one of the first to organize slamming and sex parties, the scene has become more widespread in the last couple of years. And many of the people now involved in bareback slamming are reportedly well-heeled professionals, despite the extreme nature of their drug use.
“There are those who pay for the drugs in order to attract parties. And, at the other end of the scale, there are people who are invited to parties because they’re well hung and can get an erection on crystal with or without Viagra,” Tim told me, before recounting one of the parties he held a few years ago. “People came down from Manchester one time and there were about 12 guys coming in and out of my house. I remember my dark, sweaty living room with half a dozen men having sex with each other. Everyone else was checking out the internet for people in the area or squabbling over which porn stream to watch.”
Tim says the golden rules to holding these kind of parties are to hide your keys and your drugs, and to lock your doors, “otherwise your drugs will be gone and you’ll have guests freaking out in the street.”
Victor—a 23-year-old Romanian who moved to London four years ago—has just finished treatment for crystal meth addiction after being involved with the slamming party scene.
“I had used cocaine and ecstasy before coming to England, but I met a dealer and he introduced me to lots of people. I tried smoking crystal meth and drinking GHB. I had great sex,” Victor explained. “The first time I injected Tina was at a party in West London. Everyone was injecting and I tried it and it gave me an even bigger high. It was so incredible. I wanted that high again. I had no inhibitions, I tried new things, I got involved in sex parties. It was crazy.”
Both Tim and Victor know how deadly the slamming scene can be. Both have friends who have ended up in the hospital, died, or committed suicide, either because of the psychological effects of meth addiction or because they had contracted HIV or hepatitis C.
David Stuart told me that around 75 percent of the 800 men being treated at Antidote’s services are HIV positive, with 60 percent failing to adhere to their HIV treatment when under the influence of drugs. “Lots of things are driving [the drug use], including the ease of finding the drugs themselves and the use of internet sites to find sex parties and drug dens where people can carry out this behavior,” he told me.
Stuart said the motives for getting involved in the scene are more complicated than pure hedonism. “Many gay men feel their sex is ‘diseased’ or sinful—the kind their parents disapprove of. A culture of online hooking up for sex is eradicating the usual process of developing an intimacy of sorts before having sex. Drugs can overcome these problems, too, providing an uninhibited abandon that these men rarely feel.”
Yusef Azad is the director of policy at the National AIDS Trust, which, as an organization, has sent a letter to all London councils calling for action to address the lack of specialist services that address the “recent and rapid rise in the use of crystal meth in the context of high-risk sex.”
Speaking to Azad, he explained the circumstances that prompted that letter: “What has changed is the sort of drugs that are used and the context in which they’re used. A lot of drugs are moving from clubbing to private sex parties. Apps like Grindr are facilitating networking among gay men for extended sex sessions on drugs. Everything we are hearing from clubbers and gay men on this scene is that it is prevalent and increasing. Three years ago, this wasn’t mentioned at all.”
For both Tim and Victor, being involved in such an intense sexual scene has left them unable to have sex without the drugs. “It’s boring,” says Victor. “I can’t get horny without drugs. So for me now, I cannot give up drugs without giving up sex. It’s a been a huge waste and it’s ruined my life.”
Max Daly is a journalist and author specializing in social affairs and illegal drugs. He is the co-author of Narcomania: A Journey through Britain’s Drug World, published by Random House
Follow Max on Twitter: @narcomania
More stuff about drugs:
Copyright © 2013 Vice Media Inc.
[Photo: Tim, who used to organize “slamming” parties until he got out of the scene a couple of years ago.]