February 3, 2020

The fourth annual Sex (and Drugs) Lecture at Mardi Gras 2020

If you associate Mardi Gras season with sex and drugs, then we have the perfect event for you! The fourth annual Sex Lecture is happening on Feb 17, and this year it’s the Sex (and Drugs) Lecture. The lecture is free, but you’ll need to register if you want to come along.

The lecture, presented by Dr Max Hopwood and Dr Kerryn Drysdale from the Centre for Social Research in Health at UNSW, will be looking at the role of substance use in the lives of gay, bisexual and queer men.

It’ll be presenting key findings from the Centre’s Crystal, Pleasures, and Sex Between Men study, as well as a review of past research on methamphetamine use among gay and bisexual men, and will be followed by a panel discussion featuring community members. “We are aiming for a lively, sometimes humorous, sometimes confronting but always thought-provoking session, which we hope will leave audience members with plenty to think about” Dr Max Hopwood told Pivot Point.

The study that the lecture is based on interviewed 88 gay and bisexual men from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth to explore their practices of drug-enhanced sex. “While we acknowledge there are significant risks associated with crystal use and sexual practice,” Dr Hopwood told Pivot Point, “we were keen to explore the social, historical, cultural and political aspects of men’s crystal use, and how the study participants managed risk in order to maximise the pleasures of sex on crystal.”

The lecture will talk through some of the findings as a result of this research. Something that Dr Hopwood found interesting about the results of the study was the way in which they “contradict – and expand – gay and bisexual men’s shared understandings of crystal.” Crystal is often thought of as “the ultimate sex-drug,” and Dr Hopwood told us that “while we interviewed many men who reported that crystal was great for sex, we also interviewed men who strongly disagreed.”

The study also found that gay and bisexual men enact care practices to reduce the harm caused by crystal use during sex. “For example, men with expertise in injecting taught inexperienced men about safer injecting,” Dr Hopwood told Pivot Point.

The sharing of care practices will be talked about more during the panel that follows the lecture. The panel features advocates and educators, some with lived experience of crystal use, discussing how best to encourage safe use and care for people who use drugs for sex or socialising in our communities.

Joe Lonn works in LGBTQ inclusive practice education for mainstream services at ACON and will be on the panel. When starting conversations with friends about their drug use, Joe told us that “what was most challenging for me to understand is that it is up to the individual to decide if their use is problematic.”

Despite that, these conversations are important to have. “As a friend, I did verbalise how their use affected me and my perception of how I felt it was affecting them,” Joe told us. “There is a level of trust you have to have with your friend to have those conversations. If you feel like you are ignoring something about their use, then maybe it is time to start a conversation.”

For Joe, starting the conversation is what’s important. “Explain your concern. You might fumble over words or maybe even use the wrong ones,” he told Pivot Point, “but the intention is coming from the heart,” and that’s what matters most.

To learn more about the safer practices of crystal methamphetamine during sex, and the latest research in this area, head along to the Sex (and Drugs) Lecture as part of the Mardi Gras program. It’s free, but make sure to register.


If you want to know more, check out the study’s ‘Crystal Clear’ podcasts, which feature data from the research and expert commentary from community members and health workers in three key areas related to gay and bisexual men’s use of crystal for sex: 1. Strategies for managing crystal use and opportunities for intervention; 2. Support needs of those who themselves support these crystal users; 3. Workforce development and engagement between health promotion, harm reduction, and AOD sectors in response to crystal use.