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From pleasure to moral panic? Tracing the history of gay men, sex and drugs

Gay men, sex, and drugs have long been co-conspirators. However, the representations and significations of them have altered radically across different cultures and historical time points. Because of the limited writing about their intersection before the decriminalisations/legalisation of homosexuality in The West, this talk will focus on how gay men, sex and drugs have intersected since the 1970s onwards with a major focus on Anglophone cultures, along with minor references to Francophone cultures.

Nagington will do this by exploring key texts that explicitly (either visually or textually) represent how gay men, sex and drugs have weaved different narratives in relation to risk and pleasure, such as: being boringly co-incidental and refusing narrative conclusions in the novel The Golden Age of Promiscuity; offering a positive multiplication of pleasure and risk in the writing of Michael Foucault; and the pornographic film Slammed; or being symbolic of something pathological at both the individual and cultural level as represented in a lot of the contemporary Anglophone research (particularly that written by David Fawcett) and the documentary film Chemsex.

Nagington will also present some initial findings from his ongoing longitudinal interview based research on “chemsex” in Greater Manchester. These different intersections will be explored for how they have given rise to a sense of what Stanley Cohen coined “moral panic”. In this vein Nagington will also hypothesise how a certain historical panic can be traced which has transferred itself from homosexuality, to HIV/AIDS, and finally to contemporary representations of chemsex.

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