Chemsex is an extremely confronting documentary. It has to be. Directed by William Fairman and Max Gogarty, the film focuses on a subculture embedded in social networking, such as Grindr, that allows men to hook up not only for vanilla sex, but drug-fuelled sex. Admittedly there’s nothing new about the combination of sexual activity and narcotics, whether you’re gay, straight or bi. Chemsex knows this and instead highlights the how easy it can be to go from a gripping one-night thrill, to something much darker.
Fairman and Gogarty, with no narration, follow the lives of several chemsex aficionados as they live and love across the UK. All ages, all different walks of life, they have all been part of the chemsex lifestyle which sadly threatens to consume them whole. On the other side of the coin is David Stuart, a health worker at 56 Dean Street, an outreach centre in London. Stuart doesn’t look upon his patients as good or bad. They’re just people. ‘It’s not binary!’ he points out.
Stuart has seen, as we do through the documentary, how the phenomenon goes from being a cheeky dare to something that chips away at a person, leaving them utterly hollow. Despite insistences from some that they can, as the old cliché goes, quite any time they want, they often find out too late that they can’t.
There will be some who use Chemsex to propagate a myth which reinforces their own problematic ideas of alternative lifestyles. They will see men talk openly and honestly about the pain they put themselves and others through. They will see men exposing their souls to an unjudging eye. They will hear their stories and, despite everything, they will come out the other end sharpening their caustic putdowns and gearing themselves up for their next outpouring of bile, whether online or, sadly, in parliament. What they say will not be the least bit helpful and will simply demonise these people, whilst turning their backs on the good work David Stuart and his colleagues do every single day. Don’t be one of those people. See this with your eyes wide open.