‘Ruby Slippers’ sheet of LSD, by William Rafti, Wikicommons
The Wellcome-funded Pharmacosexuality project looks at the relationship between the pharmaceuticalisation of sexuality, health promotion, and recreational drug use in sexual contexts. We are particularly interested in how this relationship might change current paradigms of sexual health, as well as the ways in which this relationship has shifted across time.
The project uses archival and empirical research to develop a socially, historically and culturally informed approach to drugs and sex, which we have termed ‘pharmacosexuality’.
The project intervenes in debates about sex and drugs at a particularly significant moment. The use of illicit drugs in sexual contexts and its implications for public health is receiving closer attention than ever before. Current research remains focused on men who have sex with men involved in ‘chemsex’, viewed predominantly in terms of risk and harm reduction. But the pleasurable and experimental dimensions of drug use in sexual contexts, how it may shape ‘pharmacosexual’ identities, and its relationship with pharmaceutical interventions for sex, remains under-researched.
There is also a need to situate chemsex, as well as attempts to define and regulate it, within a broader historical frame: from the adventures of nineteenth-century poets and decadents with hashish and opium, to the acid-dropping experiments of psychosexual therapists and sexual revolutionaries in the 1950s and 1960s, to the public information campaigns of the AIDS crisis, sex and drugs have consistently been drawn together in profound but ever-mutating ways.
To investigate the past, present and future of this broader conception of ‘pharmacosexuality’ is the task that sits at the centre of the project.
The project is seed funded by the Wellcome Trust in 2018-19. We will use this website to outline our key research questions as we develop them, and to showcase work from our pilot projects. We will also give notice here of project events and presentations.
We also seek to bring together scholars and practitioners for a new interdisciplinary network in pharmacosexuality.
Pharmacosexuality is based at the School of Law, Royal Holloway, University of London and is supported by a Wellcome Trust Seed Award in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
The project team is Dr Alex Dymock, Dr Leah Moyle and Dr Ben Mechen.