Crystal methamphetamine and sexual sociality in an urban gay subculture: An elective affinity

Adam Isaiah Green, Perry N. Halkitis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper draws on 49 qualitative interviews to explore the contextual antecedents of methamphetamine use in a sample of gay and bisexual Manhattan men. The paper distinguishes itself from the public health literature on crystal methamphetamine use in this population by shifting the analytic focus from individual-level factors of drug use to the role of social context. While individual-level factors - including self esteem and social awkwardness - are related to methamphetamine use, we argue that these factors arise in and are exacerbated by interactional pressures attendant to Manhattan's gay sexual subculture, which revolve around the expectation of peak sexual performance. Because methamphetamine is associated with increased self-esteem, increased libido, greater sexual endurance, diminished sexual inhibition, and a higher threshold for pain, the drug is used strategically by gay and bisexual men to negotiate sexual sociality and increase sexual pleasure. Hence, we suggest that there exists an elective affinity between Manhattan's gay sexual subculture and the particular pharmacological effects of methamphetamine - whereby the former strongly favours the latter as a systematic pattern of response. In turn, this relationship is linked to unsafe sexual practices or the social conditions that put gay men 'at risk of risk' of HIV infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-333
Number of pages17
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Drug use
  • Gay men
  • Methamphetamine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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