Crystal, pleasure and sex between men

The Crystal, Pleasures and Sex between Men project was funded by the NHMRC and WA Health and began in 2017.

Crystal methamphetamine (aka ice, crystal, tina, meth) has had a particular impact on the gay community, where it is often used in sexual contexts such as dance parties, sex parties, sex-on-premises venues and saunas, and in private groups. In this study, we took a social practice approach to examining gay men’s crystal use. We drew on the concept of sex-based sociality – a unique pattern of social relations within the gay community whereby sex and drug taking can be part of building belonging and connectedness. We drew on this concept to develop more nuanced and relevant understandings about the ways crystal is used, the pleasures and risks associated with its use, and the everyday strategies men may employ to reduce these risks.

The specific aims of the study were:

  • To examine gay men’s patterns of crystal use and sex practices
  • To document how men protect themselves in situations of drug use and sex
  • To investigate how drug use and sex contribute to social relationships and identities for gay men.

Data was collected in four Australian capital cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, including 88 interviews with gay and bisexual men and 35 key informants working in the health policy, sexual health, harm reduction and blood borne virus prevention fields. The project is now in its final year, and includes an innovative knowledge translation phase.

Detailed project description (PDF) [396 Kb]

Find out more about the study



Related publications from the project group:

Bryant J, Hopwood M, Dowsett G.W., Aggleton P, Holt M, Lea T, Drysdale K, Treloar C (2018). The rush to risk when interrogating the relationship between methamphetamine use and sexual practice among gay and bisexual men. International Journal of Drug Policy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.12.010

Dowsett, G.W., et al. (2005). Good gay men don’t get “messy”: Injecting drug use and gay community. Sexuality Research and Social Policy. 2(2): 22-36. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-013-0409-

Hopwood, M., Cama, E., & Treloar, C. (2016). Methamphetamine use among men who have sex with men in Australia: A literature review. Sydney: Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW Australia. http://doi.org/10.4225/53/58d4418d0a14b

Hopwood, M., Drysdale, K., & Treloar, C. (2018). ‘Sunshine on a rainy day’: Crystal methamphetamine use among gay and bisexual men in Perth. Sydney: Centre for Social Research in Health, Sydney. http://doi.org/10.26190/5be39b00ad585

Hopwood, M., Lea T., & Aggleton, P. (2015). Multiple strategies are required to address the information and support needs of gay and bisexual men with hepatitis C in Australia. Journal of Public Health, 38 (1): 156-162. http://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdv002

Hopwood, M., Lea, T., & Aggleton, P. (2015). Drug, sex and sociality: Factors associated with the recent sharing of injecting equipment among gay and bisexual men in Australia. International Journal of Drug Policy. 26(2), 210-213. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.10.01

Hopwood, M., & Treloar, C. (2013). International policies to reduce illicit drug-related harm and illicit drug use. In P. Miller (Ed.), Interventions for Addiction: Comprehensive Addictive Behaviors and Disorders, Volume 3 (pp. 735-743), Elsevier Inc. San Diego: Academic Press.

Lea, T. Hopwood, M., & Aggleton, P. (2015). Hepatitis C knowledge among gay and other homosexually active men in Australia. Drug and Alcohol Review, 35(4), 477–483. http://doi.org/10.1111/dar.1233

Lea, T., Mao, L., Hopwood, M., Prestage, G., Zablotska, I., de Wit, J., & Holt, M. (2016). Methamphetamine use among gay and bisexual men in Australia: trends in recent and regular use from the Gay Community Periodic Surveys. International Journal of Drug Policy, 29 (1), 66-72. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.01.003

Lea, T., Mao, L., Bath, N., Prestage, G., Zablotska, I., de Wit, J. & Holt, M. (2013). Injecting drug use among gay and bisexual men in Sydney: prevalence and associations with sexual risk practices and HIV and hepatitis C infection. AIDS & Behavior, 17(4), 1344-1351. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-013-0409-0

Lea, T., Kolstee, J., Lambert, S., Ness, R., Hannan, S., & Holt, M. (2017). Methamphetamine treatment outcomes among clients attending a treatment service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. PLOS ONE, 12(2): e0172560. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.017256

Southgate, E., & Hopwood, M. (1999). Mardi Gras says ‘be drug free’: Accounting for resistance, pleasure and the demand for illicit drugs. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 3, 303-316.

Southgate, E., & Hopwood, M. (2001). The role of folk pharmacology and lay experts in harm reduction: Sydney gay drug using networks. International Journal of Drug Policy, 12, 321-335.