Health Sex and the London City - an A-Z guide Words by Liam Murphy | @liamwaterloo A gay to Z of the London sex scene A is for a gAy to z of London Apparently, an estimated 8% of London’s population is gay, making it a makeshift man-meat Mecca for homosexuals from across the UK and even the globe. What makes the capital wonderful is the cultural diversity of people… you can sleep with. Obviously menfolk don’t move here just to get laid, but it’s a perk (or a massive perk if you’re a size queen). It’s a great place to live, and people travel from far and wide to set up shop in London to enjoy the bars, clubs and everything the gay scene has to offer. But with the gay scene scattered across North, South, East and West, it can make it a difficult and daunting task to meet people, make friends or make out with other men. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide of what to expect from this fair city’s sexy side – The FS A-Z of sex, London-style.B is for bareback Chances are you’ll be told ‘no-one uses condoms in London’ at some point. Is that true? Of course not! Most gay men use condoms, but from time-to-time some of them don’t. There could be a number of reasons why you have unprotected sex – you were drunk, you were high, you forgot to buy condoms, you were lost in the moment. The responsibility for having safer sex falls on your shoulders. If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, then seek out PEP (see E). Condoms are everywhere – in gay bars, clubs, saunas, GUM clinics – so grab a handful when you next see them and keep stocked up. If you enjoy sex without condoms then make sure to regularly test for HIV and other STIs. C is for cruising You can do it on a train, you can do it in the rain, you can do it in a park, you can do it after dark, you can do it in the gym, or in the loo… fuck it, let’s screw – cruising! While there’s no specific law against cruising, it’s probably best to be a bit discreet, because if you’re caught at it in a public place and someone complains to the police, you could be in trouble. Your own safety is also important. Be smart, research the cruising area, be aware of who’s around and don’t carry huge wads of cash with you. Cottaging – having sex in public toilets – is illegal and you could be arrested whether you’re discreet or not. D is for 56 Dean Street 56 Dean Street and other GUM clinics throughout London should be on your speed dial as a sexually active homosexual in the capital. If you’re lucky enough to be dipping your pitta (sex, I mean having sex) then you should be looking to get a full sexual health check-up at least every six months. To find your nearest clinic, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/clinics. E is for emergencies What happens when you fuck up fucking someone? Sometimes accidents happen – the condom slips off or you forget to use one altogether – so what do you do? If you’re worried you’ve put yourself or your partner at risk of HIV, then PEP is available at clinics or at an A&E. PEP is a month long course of medication. You can take PEP within 72 hours of being at risk and it could prevent you from becoming infected with HIV. It’s not an excuse to have unprotected sex with (gay) abandon though; it’s not 100% guaranteed to work. For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/pep. F is for fisting and hard sex Fisting, watersports, BDSM, toys, double penetration; these are just a few of your favourite hardcore sex things, and when in London, they’re certainly easier to find. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with the extremes of sex – who wants to do it missionary their whole life? – but just make sure you know your (and your partner’s) limits and that you’re fully clued in on the risks involved. G is for G (GHB) One thing about living in London is that all sorts of things become readily available to you: 24-hour fast food, a massive Topman, several hundred thousand coffee shops and, for better or worse, drugs. G (also called GHB) is a particularly common drug used during sex, as it can make you horny and reduces your inhibitions. If you get offered G while you’re hooking up with someone, there are a few things you should know. Your reduced inhibitions mean you could end up having unprotected sex. It can also be easy to overdose on, resulting in a coma, respiratory collapse and even death. It’s addictive and withdrawal symptoms include confusion, anxiety, panic and hallucinations. For more info, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/ghb-and-gbl. H is for HIV+ men It’s thought that around one in seven gay men on the scene in London is HIV-positive. If you are HIV-positive and living in London, GMFA holds the Poz Pub Crawl on the third thursday of every month where HIV-positive men get together and go for a drink in Soho. At the same time challenging the stigma of people with HIV. Fancy it? Then find out about the next event on GMFA’s Poz Pub Crawl page: www.gmfa.org.uk/Event/pozpubcrawl. I is for internet And internet-enabled mobile phones. When you’re using one of the many wonderful branded location-based dating apps in London, it can seem like the choice of eligible bang-meat available in spitting distance is too good to be true. That’s part of the beauty of this city. There are at least 20 hot guys per square mile. Once the pleasantries of asking about their professions, their hobbies and how big their dick is are out of the way, it’s always best to be upfront about what you want when it comes to sex, especially safer sex. Ask if they use condoms and ask if they have condoms and lube so you always turn up forewarned, forearmed and ready for foreplay... and the rest. J is for jabs Hepatitis B is an infectious little bugger that can cause jaundice, fatigue, nausea and liver pain, among other less than delightful effects. Fortunately, you can be vaccinated at GUM clinics and it just takes a short course of injections (usually around three) over the space of a few weeks. It’s worth doing for your health and the health of others, and it’s easy to endure a little prick. For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/hepatitis-b. K is for Ketamine While you’re out enjoying London’s eclectic nightlife, this party drug might cross your path. Ketamine is essentially an anaesthetic which can make you feel as though your body and mind have been separated. While some enjoy the ‘trip’, it’s easy to get stuck in a ‘K-hole’ (which is not being buried by a ton of branded cereal) experiencing hallucinations and loss of feeling in parts of your body. Believe us – it’s much more fun when you can feel everything. For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/ketamine. L is for loneliness London may be a bustling metropolis but it can sometimes be lonely for a guy trying to make it in the big city. It can be easy to feel lost and isolated, especially when you are coming to London by yourself with no friends or family close at hand. Depression can be a serious thing, so if you feel like you’re spending too much time at home alone, there are plenty of social groups or sports teams you can join to meet new people. GMFA runs a number of groups for varying interests, including a book club and cinema group, so check out the GMFA website for the full run down: www.gmfa.org.uk/socialgroups. M is for MDMA and mephedrone MDMA, the powder version of ecstasy, has been a club ‘classic’ for years. As well as using it as a dance drug, people also use it for sex as it lowers your inhibitions, which again could lead to unsafe sex. If you’re going to take it, don’t use it with alcohol and stay hydrated with water and bear in mind you’ll look like a sweaty mess. Mephedrone – or Meow Meow – is the relatively new kid on the block and is generally taken by party-goers as it makes you feel excited and bubbly. It also makes you gurn like a pug. As well as this, the comedowns from the high can be horrific and people can stay up for days when slamming mephedrone during sex, which can affect your ‘normal’ life, including your career. For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/mephedrone. N is for NEXT! There are a lot of gay men in London and the selection of potential shags to add to your sex shopping basket is numerous. London is basically like an erotic TK Maxx. It’s easy to get carried away and constantly be looking to line up your next lay, and essentially be a bit of a slut. As long as you’re looking after yourself, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes it’s good to stop, take a breath and just enjoy your current squeeze instead of mentally lining up your next conquest as you kick him out of bed. Or even just go and visit a museum or something. O is for older gentleman “I can’t go into G-A-Y, I’m too old!” Has that ever crossed your mind as you’re perusing the bars of Old Compton Street? I know it can seem like London is a playground for the young, but there’s no reason to feel intimidated and there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the pop classics that some of the ‘youth-orientated’ bars belt out – besides, you were here first! When it comes to hooking up, some young guys like an older man and vice versa, so why not show them what a daddy can do. If you prefer a liaison closer to your own age, there are plenty of venues with an older clientele, free of cheap alcopops and boys wearing ironic t-shirts. P is for poppers Poppers – the ‘room odoriser’ that no room would want to smell like, unless that room is in a gay sauna. Taking a sniff of these can give you a head rush and when used during sex can relax your arse muscles, making it easier to get fucked. The trouble is, they also expand the blood vessels up there, which can increase the risk of anal bleeding, making it easier for HIV to enter the bloodstream if you’re fucking bareback. Not only that, if you use poppers too much, they can give you one bastard hell of a headache. For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/poppers. Q is for quick orgasm London makes it easy for a speedy hook-up with someone; just glance across a crowded supermarket and gesture with your eyes and you could be bouncing like a rubber ball before you can say ‘scan and pack’. As a result of this sexy spontaneity there are two words you need to commit to memory: Be. Prepared. Make condoms and lube part of your everyday accessories, like your gym kit or your Oyster card, that way you’ll never be caught with your pants down. Metaphorically, not literally. For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/sex. R is for relationships We’d all love to find the ‘one’, that special someone to settle down, raise a French Bulldog and bake muffins at the weekend with. Despite the high ratio of gay men in London, it can still be a complete bum-ache to find a boyfriend, especially as those guys on branded gay dating apps are seemingly only after one thing, and the boys in the clubs are too interested in downing shots of Sambuca and re-enacting the dance moves to ‘Work Bitch’. It doesn’t mean they’re not out there, it just means you need to try something different. How about a speed dating or networking event? Or joining a local gay sports team to expand your social group? Or that guy on Twitter you flirt with, maybe ask him for a drink? Try looking beyond the bars to meet someone new. S is for sex parties and saunas One of the capital’s more unique attributes is the frequency and availability of group sex get-togethers. Jump on any popular gay dating app and it’s likely you’ll stumble across a few invites to sex parties. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a bit of group sex if that’s your thing as long as you’re playing safe, but a lot of these shindigs are drug-fuelled, so be aware of what you’re getting into. Saunas are also a big part of the gay scene in London. While they aren’t cheap, they’re a quick and easy way to quell that sex craving. Again, never assume anyone has the same HIV status as you. It’s best to use a condom just in case. For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/condoms-and-lube. T is for Tina Tina is crystal meth, and if you haven’t seen Breaking Bad, here’s what it does. The reason a lot of gay men use it is because it can make you ultra horny and it keeps you awake for hours, seemingly perfect for partying and chem sex sessions. Because it knocks out your inhibitions, the risk of unprotected sex and exposing yourself to HIV goes up. Prolonged use of it can interrupt your sleep pattern, and in some cases lead to short-term psychosis. When people slam Tina – injecting it straight into their veins – it increases the risk of HIV and Hep C if needles are shared. For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/crystal-meth. U is for under the influence We all enjoy a drink, especially on a night out, but it can be easy to get carried away and get a little woozy on the boozy. The last thing you want to do is pass out in a club, or in the street, or in a sauna, or on top of someone…you get the idea. Plus think of the debilitating, humiliating hangovers. V is for Vauxhall Vauxhall is arguably the clubbing hub of gay London, especially when it comes to the ‘harder’ scene. If you like monotonous banging club tunes (or whatever the kids are calling it these days), leather harnesses or an avant garde cabaret act, then you can likely find a venue for you. Many of the places are synonymous with drugs, so if that’s something you choose to do, be safe, stay hydrated and bring a pair of sunglasses for when you stumble out at 10am the next morning. Everything in moderation! For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/drugs. W is for www.gmfa.org.uk For all your sexual health advice and needs, check out the GMFA website. From fucking to frottage, it’s got information about how to do it, who to do it with and what the risks are. X is for eX If you spend enough time in London, it’s likely that the city will be littered with the carcasses of ex-boyfriends and ex-shags. Metaphorical carcasses – please don’t murder anyone. Navigating these can be tricky; you can’t avoid everyone that you’ve swapped fluids with and sometimes you could be passing up a great friendship by giving them the cold shoulder. Sometimes you can actually meet friends through fucking. You’re getting that awkward sexual tension out of the way by seeing them naked, then afterwards you can just focus on being mates. It’s the friendship-penis theory. Y is for youth Oh to be young, dumb and full of…the sense of wonder that living in London brings. It may seem that London is tailor-made for the young, but there can be a lot of pressure. If you’re having trouble dealing with anything, groups such as Inside Out for 14-25 year-olds run by 42nd street provide counselling and therapeutic work for those with mental health issues, dealing with homophobic bullying, depression or even just feeling a little under stress. To find a youth group near you, visit www.ygm.org.uk/home/comingout/youthgroups. Z is for zzz There’s a metric fudge-ton of stuff to do in London, but one of the most precious is sleep. None of it is going anywhere, so take a break, get some shuteye and come back refreshed and ready to take on what the city has to offer. And by that, we mean men. HIV and the city - 55% of new HIV diagnoses are in gay men who were born abroad The latest figures from 2012 show that 55% of new HIV diagnoses were in men who were not born in the UK. What does this tell us? Lots of gay men come from parts of the world where they don’t feel comfortable to be themselves. Many find London’s liberal attitude to sex attractive. And so they should. But when we have so many people from different parts of the world coming to the UK, we have to make sure they get the best sexual health information possible as they may not get this from their country of origin. Whether you were born in the UK or not, here’s what you need to know. In 2014, 3,360 gay men were diagnosed as HIV-positive. Of those 3,360 gay men, a third are in their teens or 20s. About 80% of new HIV diagnoses are a result of having risky sex with gay men who don’t know they are HIV-positive. About 16% of gay men who are HIV-positive don’t know that they have it. Sex and HIV If you are HIV-negative and want to remain that way, here is the best safer sex strategy for you. Condoms: Using condoms while having sex is one of the best ways to stop becoming HIV-positive. Make sure you use plenty of water-based lube to make sure the condom doesn’t rip during sex. If you’re into long sessions or engaging in group sex make sure you change the condom every 30 minutes or so and with every new partner. PEP: We know most gay men use condoms most of the time. But accidents do happen. If you believe that you have put yourself at risk then PEP is a month long course of tablets, which is available from your nearest GUM clinic or A&E department. PEP can stop you from becoming positive but you need to start taking it within 72 hours after unprotected sex. For more information on PEP, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/pep PrEP: If you engage in lots of unprotected sex then you may want to look at PrEP. PrEP is a promising new way of preventing HIV infections. PrEP involves people who do not have HIV taking a daily dose of one or two of the drugs that are used to treat HIV. Studies suggest that this can prevent infection if the user is exposed to HIV. At present in the UK PrEP is only available to participants in a clinical trial (the PROUD study). For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/prep Get treated for HIV: In today’s world, someone living with HIV, who is on medication, can expect a near normal life expectancy. If you are diagnosed as HIV-positive, the best thing you can do to stop the spread of HIV is to continue taking your medication. A recent study showed that HIV transmission from HIV-positive men with an undectable viral load is close to zero. Stopping the spread of HIV is everyone’s responsibility. HIV testing No matter what type of sex you engage in, it is recommend that all sexually active men test for HIV and STIs at least once a year. If you engage in bareback sex on a frequent basis then you should test every few months. It takes roughly four weeks for HIV to show up in a test. For more information or to find a GUM clinic, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/clinics.