Sigma Research

Chemsex as edgework: towards a sociological understanding

Sexual Health, 2018; 15(2):102-107 (doi:10.1071/SH17166).

Authors: Ford Hickson


Sexual sessions between men, organised through mobile technologies and combined with stimulants intended to extend and intensify the session have been reified into the phenomena of 'chemsex'. Understanding chemsex requires multiple levels of analysis and interpretation. This paper considers chemsex through the lens of edgework, a sociological category for voluntary risk taking identified in 1990 by Stephen Lyng. Edgework activities involve a clear and present danger to the self, intense emotions and sensations and an opportunity to exercise specialist skills. Using published research and other cultural products, this paper demonstrates that chemsex fully exhibits all the defining features of edgework. Chemsex is then positioned as an activity that epitomises the (gay) citizen as consumer in a technocapitalist age of pharmacopornographic consumption.

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For a full copy of the paper please email Ford Hickson

Available online