Bottoms Up: Alcohol, Sex and Me

We have created a new web page, dedicated to articles written by gay and bisexual men, and all men who have sex with men, who have had challenging experiences with alcohol during their life. 

By creating this page we hope that readers, who also may have issues, will be able to relate to the events and experiences that the writers have been through. Alcohol affects many of us in different ways, but we are not alone. Our common struggles can connect us and provide hope to overcome difficult experiences.

Axis: A Portrait By Chase Ledin

One down. I should have pre-gamed. No one likes a sober lout. Evan rides the stool behind me. We discard the day’s gossip. He came for the boys plural, the ones he couldn’t catch under the boss’s nose but resolved to finger fuck in the crowd for anyone to see. Evan lines up a second round and…

Two down. I think I see Virginia West enter. Evan reminds me, don’ you fuckin’ stare. Even when glaring down the twinks, their jockstraps yanked into some unholy anal knot, amounts to dealing trade. Don’ fuckin’ stare. I’m eyeing the lad whose shirtless back fills in an unnatural parabola of empty stars. Cookie cutter moulds blow away from the source and into perspective. I wait until he turns, but he doesn’t so I buy another round...

Three down. Evan places a napkin in my lap. The man turns around, and he’s my ex. When did he get that tattoo? I unwrap the napkin, swallow the blue delight. The ex grabs hold of a man, mid-thirties, tight-green shorts. He wriggles the man’s phone out and refuses to return it without a kiss. One down, how many to go? I don’t feel delight. Evan hands me the next shot before sliding down the bar…

Four down. I feel something. Which is more than I can say sitting at a desk writing legal judgments to dispossess the poor I’ve never even seen growing up in suburban America. This is a lie, but to get through the day I’ve learned to swallow my delight rather than face the inhuman bureaucracy of my work. Now the ex is making out with two boys at once. I don’t contain my laughter, but the club’s too loud for anyone to notice…

Five down. The lights streak into magenta, hazel, sun. For a moment, I am not here. The earth is shunting without me. I’m dancing with three boys at once. I can’t keep my eyes on any longer than a second, and one is my ex. He smiles in that cruel way one says I love you. To compensate, he hands me another shot. I hesitate with the light before…

Six down. I live sideways. I feel fucking fantastic. No alliteration intended, but it does seem that way. Sober I’m as anxious as they come. Flying loose, I don’t mind the odd hand fumbling around my crotch. The ex is crunched between two leather lads in full attire. Unusual for a casual Midwestern night. He doesn’t blink. Evan cups my ass, though I’ve asked him not to, and greets me with a drink that blurs into the starry dance floor…

Seven down. I’m not sure how I missed the drag show. Virginia West is definitely dancing in partial make-up next to me. I’m burping somewhere in the night, and I’m not sure if it’s a sign to keep dancing or the delight fizzling in an empty stomach. I tell Evan I’m going home. He stops. My attention is shot. I go to the bar for one last drink. That’s it…

Eight down. Some semblance of a high street. Maybe downtown. The leather lads have my elbows, one on each side, followed closely by the ex and green-shorts. Evan is prancing behind with some girls he met at the bar we stopped by on the way to…

Waking up. I am naked. It’s starry the night. I must be somewhere familiar. Somewhere close to home. The sheets are sweaty and stained. The books are titleless shadows. Bodies and heaps on the floor. I get up to piss. The ex is wrapped around ass-bare green-shorts. The leather lads are still in the common room fucking. When they see me, they ask me to join. Who was in bed? I go to the toilet. I stay there. This is not my home.

Nature’s Cruel Trick By David Barbour.

Dear God I do hate hate you

My God you’re a prick,

For creating a world where so few men like dick

Save for their own

Which they’d probably lick


It’s caused me no end of trouble and strife

Your Bible’s demand that men find a wife

The book makes it plain and abundantly clear

It’s intrinsically evil to ‘choose’ to be queer


You create us all sick

Then command we be well,

And for lots of us gay folk

Life can be hell


So we drink, dance or fuck

Do whatever we can,

To blot out the pain

Of your spiteful grand plan


Of course I do jest

For it’s people I fear,

Who created your myth

As the evidence makes clear


It’s not you at all

It’s them that’s to blame,

For attacking the love

That dare not speak it’s name


But when it does

And it does more and more,

We encounter the problem

I mentioned before


We live in a world

Where so few men like dick,

It’s nobody’s fault

Just nature’s cruel trick


Whether people or nature

You will no less find,

That these issues can drive one

Out of one’s mind


So we drink, dance or fuck

Do whatever we can

To blot out the pain…


But I’m fucked if I can.

Untitled By Fraser Serle

I grew up thinking I knew all that there is to know about the dangers of drinking too much alcohol, or so I thought.  But no one ever told me about Beer Goggles, and like when you have a hellish hangover you vow ‘never again’.

My most memorable Beer Goggles experiences were getting off the with same guy twice, it was only when I felt his moles that I remembered we’d met before…and then there was the farter... instead of jumping in a cab home with my housemates I went off with a random man at the end of the night. He lived in a hovel, and after sex just guffed without shame.

The point of this story is that we all have different motivations for modifying our behaviour; for me sexual regret (usually caused from getting a lumber when pished) is mine.  Information about the risks of liver disease, cancer etc... are too abstract.

So, if you’re concerned about how much alcohol you drink find your reason to make a change. And if you slip up then don’t fret.

I know alcohol gives me the horn and can get me into bother, so I now drink much less, pace myself with water or often don’t booze at all. 

Darkness Falls By Brian Green

I was dressed as a black cat once for a birthday party, and later that night fell and banged my head off a concrete floor. Was resuscitated by a gay woman then came round when the bearded paramedic got there. Also earlier in that day i had photo shopped myself onto the moon with the heading Darkness Falls. How eery a prediction was that then. Had been off drink for months due to a science program about diets that i was participating in for BBC2. When in A&E i awoke to having Jesus, a nun, and Mr Spock by my bedside. It was rather surreal.

Bored games By Walter Lewd

I mistimed my arrival tonight and the place is half empty. I head to the bar while surveying the crowd, one eye scanning for the men I know, the other lingering over the men I don’t. I coyly avoid their glances, never returning their gaze, the expert game-player. I refuse to feel sexualised but my body is not in my control, it is not liberated in this space. It is activated without my consent for the consumption by others. The male gaze dehumanises me. It is a meat tenderiser: pounding, tearing, stripping. A necessary evil I choose to endure.

“Hiya, did we chat online?”

I didn’t see him approach from the dance floor. He wears a black wrestling singlet with yellow piping and 14-hole black Doc Marten boots. The singlet is at the limits of its tensile strength and the areas of modesty fabric barely cover any of his flesh. His cock and balls are compressed so tightly they are a walnut below his belly. He is dripping with sweat and his face is fixed with an expression suggesting that he incessantly arrives at his own surprise party.

His eyes are fixed on me as he leans in close. I can smell him. I’m sure some ‘daddy’ told him his natural smell was horny. But probably 5 years ago when he was thinner, fresher and still reeked of youth. He tells me I look exactly like my photograph. This comment throws me as I am careful with what I put out there. I try to be friendly, not inviting but he furtively glances down and up my body. I don’t react. I attempt to keep eye contact, hoping he notices my disinterest. From his neck, a stream of sweat begins to find its way through scant chest hair, between rolling hills of breasts and over the considerable mound of belly. An anaemic landscape of scrub, rivers and hills. It repulses me.

“Nae worries, babe”. He saunters away, belly and arse undulating as he moves.

I decide to stand equidistant between the dancefloor, the toilets and the bar, a sweet spot for observing the crowd. A specific aroma starts to envelop me and particular memories begin to surface in my mind. I had assumed that poppers had been banished to the bedside cabinet of history and exiled from the dancefloor by ridicule and better pharmacology. It’s like the sickly scent of Redbull filtering through an open-plan office on a Monday morning. It is not a welcome aroma.

“Hey, did I talk to you online?”

Again, lost in my own thoughts I didn’t see him approach. Confused by the same opening line as before I hesitate. He mirrors me in dress but a different colour shirt distinguishes us. Older and taller with parted peppered hair and a striking long grey beard. I consider lying to him for variety, blundering through a greeting but something is bothering me. Like the prod, prod, prod of morning wood in my back from a slumbering one-night-stand but my morning hangover is kicking in. He lunges closer and through the stale stench of tobacco from his beard I see his teeth, yellow, and his eyes, dead. A shark contemplating its next meal.

“You on your own?” He slurs. I lie about a boyfriend on the dancefloor but to be honest, it’s an ineffectual lie in this context. I’d be surprised if he, or any other guy gave a fuck. Monogamy is never presumed and is never a deterrent on this scene. He doesn’t flinch and keeps my gaze. I can see his mind processing the information; considering it, determining its true meaning. Robotically his eyes move away from mine before he slopes away. Thankfully, I’m not worth the effort. I’ve been thrown back.

I find it difficult to stand without being jostled by bodies to-ing and fro-ing from the dancefloor. A variety of body types in various states of undress smear past me. The music seems louder and the venue busier. Everyone is happy. I’m out of my depth. I check my phone. No signal. Deep in a swirling crowd, I am on my own. Only alcohol will help.

This time I did see him approach. Chatting to his friends he would occasionally look over. I kept his glance. His eye contact unthreatening, or game-playing, more inquisitive. Not the usual type I would go for but youth trumps category these days. Late 20s, shaven head, dark tight beard, green eyes. But short, very short. A Glaswegian graphic designer working in retail, I would eventually find out.

“Remember me? Didn’t we chat online?”

That line again. As I stare at him wishing for a recollection a haze of green light begins to illuminate his face. Ah. He starts to talk, it does not stop. A tsunami of information, details and descriptions, come flowing out of him. All his questions he answers himself. I smile, nod and look for an opening. I’ve had a few beers now and I’m in the mood to talk but his chatter is frantic and continuous. Every detail is critical and important, nothing can be said without impassioned emphasis. Coke? MDMA? Tina? Something…

He leans in for a kiss. Our mouths meet and he chews at my lips with the same ferocity as his stream of consciousness. It’s unpleasant but I’m caught off guard and I let him eat me. He pulls back suddenly, telling me he has to be careful. His boyfriend can get jealous. No, not of me, god no. His boyfriend will go off in a huff looking for someone else to snog.

I have learned not judge, or even understand, relationships. Couples make up their own rules and codes of agreement that keep them together. Forms of individualism that exist within union. Knowing how I should proceed is another game that is played. A game where the rules are never stated but you learn through mistakes and assurances. How much I am prepared to engage with this game depends a lot on alcohol and desperation. Tonight, not so much.

“Want to hook up sometime?”

“Sure, why not...” What? Why did I just agree to this? Just. Say. No. He gives me his phone, open at contacts. I type in my name and number. With any luck, he’ll forget in the morning. I head to the bar. Three people deep and it’s nearly 3am.

A Scotch pie is a thing of rare beauty, especially at three in the morning. Standing like a sober oasis, in a sea of swaying drunken men, a table strains under the weight of several trays of freshly baked pastry. The selection is traditional: indistinguishable grey meat or macaroni.

Pie in hand, I make my way down the slope onto the Grassmarket where other clubs are emptying their drunken hordes onto the street, singing, screaming, shouting. The echo under South Bridge is deafening. I notice the nostrils flare on men I pass. They stop, silent, momentarily frozen in a lost memory: a Scotch pie for a French madeleine. I am a fox surrounded by hounds with no camouflage to protect me. My aroma, whether flesh in pastry or flesh in clothing, singles me out for challenge. I pick up speed and wolf down the blood temperature pie in the hope I will escape before they emerge from their static stupor.

The Lost Years By Garry Mac

I’m a fountain of cum in the shape of a man. I’m deliriously horny and starved of emotional connection. I’m 19 years old, and I’m terrified. I’ve got social anxiety; chronic generalised anxiety, actually, but that manifests as profound social anxiety in situations that require proximity to other human beings – kinda like this one. My anxiety controls me so much at times that I can barely tolerate myself…

When I was younger, I thought that chronic meant really bad. Then I got older and realised it actually meant “lasts a really long time”. It’s all about time. Back then, I had no words for anxiety, no way to describe this fear inside me. Just a howling void at my heart, a black hole annihilator that demanded filling, but which left me too scared to do anything about it. I had a remedy, though, a cure which I’d used for so long it might as well have been the cause; my medicine was alcohol.

I’d been drinking since I was about 13. I grew up in Glasgow in a working-class family, surrounded by an extended group of people with a lot of familial pain and trauma. I watched the so-called adults around me blot out their pain by getting pished. I didn’t realise this at the time, obviously; I just thought that drink made you happy, then sad, then angry, by turns, and watched family members argue and fight with each other and thought it was the alcohol that made them this way. I was too young to realise that the alcohol was only allowing them to drop their masks, to manifest their real feelings in an entirely unreconstructed and unhelpful way.

Having been around alcohol my whole childhood, it was hardly a surprise that as soon as I was able to, I got drunk. And then did it again. And again. And again.

During this period of early adolescence, I began to realise I was gay. I didn’t want to be, didn’t ask for it. For one, there was shame that all those bullies at school and in my neighbourhood, who’d wielded ‘gay’ as a slur against me, were actually right. For another, I’d seen what adults thought of gay folk – I’d heard it all through my childhood. So, having learned, unknowingly, from the adults around me, I transmuted my fear and shame through alcohol. Quickly, getting drunk at the weekends with my pals in the park became a form of escapism, which carried me all the way through my adolescence and into my mid-20s.

This was the mid-90s, so by the time I came out at 16, (with my two best pals at school (but not out at school, you understand)), we were right in the middle of the emergence of homosexuality as an accepted capitalistic demographic. We were on TV! We had a burgeoning scene of pubs and clubs we could escape to, a world where we could ostensibly “be ourselves.” But we were actually running away from ourselves. On one hand, we had the constant stream of homophobia, criticisms and stereotypes; on the other, we were peddled capitalist identities that, yes, still stereotyped us: told us where to go, what to do, how to dress, what to listen to – who to fuck. What was left if we rejected both? Mostly, we were too scared to find out. So, we poured out the drink and poured ourselves into the latter, trying to escape the hurt of the former.

Sex and alcohol were inextricably linked from the start. I engaged in promiscuous sexual activity from the age of 16. I’d love to say I was a Casanova, a Lothario, a peerless lover setting sail on a vast ocean of experience – but I wasn’t. I was a drunk, horny teenager, who often couldn’t even get it up. Most of my encounters were drunken debacles. And the rest were emotionally painful; I was so full of shame and Catholic guilt that I could never enjoy myself. An inevitable catch-22. Petrified by shame and anxiety so that I couldn’t chat up guys sober, I’d get wasted and have bad sex. A vicious cycle. The worst of it was, I wasn’t the only one: everywhere I looked, my pals and peers were doing the same.

We were a generation of kids who grew surrounded by familial and social homophobia, talked about openly in the press as perverts: What does it do to a child’s brain to have to hear that and contend with the fact that, god help him, this might be what he is? And then on a dime, the world turned; whip speed social change ushered in a new dawn for the tolerated homosexual. But we carried the scars of those previous accusations and condemnations with us in our hearts; internally homophobic, shame-laden teenagers, hearing the world around us say “it’s so great that everything’s changed for you now, so great that it’s acceptable to be gay.” A million backs being self-patted, the progressive left. Was it acceptable now? That’s not how it felt to us. To us, it felt like we were living out every stereotype, every fear we heard growing up. Dispossessed, feckless, promiscuous. So, we hammered the drink and that led inevitably to drugs. Everything became more glorious, more profound, more dramatic – and more dangerous.

All of these behaviours carried risk. I gambled with my life, every time I went out partying. Got so wasted I didn’t know my arse from his elbow. Too wasted to protect myself, sexually, physically, spiritually, ontologically… I don’t know how I survived those Lost Years, to be honest: I saw many of my peers fall, to addiction, to suicide. Saw them grapple with HIV or become hopelessly disconnected, fall out of the world into full-on alcoholism and long-term unemployment. But truthfully, most of us just grew up, in a fashion. We reckoned with our drinking in the long run, cut back, managed it.

Cos that’s what we do. We manage. I still have a problem with drink, and the problem is, I love it. I can find it hard to stop once I start. So now, I just don’t do it as much. I allow myself a few times a year to get blitzed, and almost always regret it, abstinence and age do a number on your hangovers. But it’s useful because it reminds me why I don’t do it the rest of the time. Blackouts and The Fear are enough to put me off for a while. But what’s left?

I’ve still got social anxiety. I’ve negotiated a better understanding of this over the years; I take medication every day, I’ve undergone therapy, and I know myself better now. But I still go to events where I don’t talk to anyone I don’t already know. I realise that sometimes I must come off as aloof or standoffish because of how well I front – when I confided in my pal of 13 years that I had anxiety and depression, she was confused and shocked – 13 years I’d hidden it, even from her. People think of me as confident, so when I hold back and don’t talk to people, I must register sometimes as cold or detached, when really inside I’m a writhing mess of panic. Trust me when I say you won’t ever really know how I’m feeling by looking at me – but I’m probably preaching to the converted here – many of us front, try our best to be ‘resilient.’

I’ve also gained a better understanding of my sexuality. I can now say that I am a queer gay demisexual man and own that, and no longer berate myself for not enjoying casual, anonymous hook-ups. I’ve worked out that what I want from sex is intimacy emotional connection. I’ve found ways to mitigate that when I’m on the apps – wading through large quantities of men who don’t necessarily understand or respect the boundaries outlined in my profile, taking my sweet time with those who do.

I’m still terrible at love; I’ve chosen badly and stuck with it far too long, chosen well and left because the grass looked greener elsewhere. I’ve fallen madly, badly in unrequited love, several times, with men who it turns out weren’t there to fix me, to fill me up, to stop up the black hole at my heart. I’ve felt bitter at that and learned to get better about that too. I’ve learned that “love” isn’t really what I think it is at all. I’ve realised that monogamy is one of their ideas - and not necessarily one of ours; we get to write the rules for ourselves, and fuck being put in a box.

Now I subsist on a diet of weed and coffee in equal measures: a counterintuitive combination that actually balances out well and makes me both creative and productive. I wouldn’t be standing here reading this without them, and you know what? Fuck it. It’s okay to admit that the without any stimulants at all, the world would be just too difficult for you.

But while I’ve mapped all this out better, sometimes I feel like I’m left with a life that’s completely mitigated and managed, so that all that’s left is virtual terrain; all coping mechanisms. I think that’s what modern adult life is, for so many of us. I miss spontaneity a lot, but without alcohol, spontaneity is terrifying. I’ll tell you what I really miss - I miss parties, clubbing, lost weekends.  But I don’t do them anymore because I find them so tempting. I’m a control freak basically, the opposite of the absolute chaotic mess of my younger self.

And maybe that’s the problem. We need to interrogate why so many of us need alcohol in our lives. We need to work out ways of loving ourselves, and each other, without it. Sure, we can cut back or stop, but maybe we need to be more honest with each other about what fills the vacuum when it’s gone. Because without the drink to hide our flaws, the alcoholic masquerade, we can find ourselves in dangerous terrain, burdened with the poor mental health that the alcohol both hid and exasperated.

I suppose all of that’s why so much of my work these days deals with trauma, mental health, interrogation of the past, reparative reading and writing and, yeah, talking. As gay men, we’re part of a very young social group – some of us here are from the very first generation that came out into a world of legislative rights. But because we’re so young, we need to have these conversations with each other, tell each other how we really feel – to maybe, sometimes, stop fronting and acting like we’re super-resilient. To admit that, yeah, growing up gay was actually fucking hard, and that everything right now isn’t supernormal, groovy and tolerant. That sometimes, because of what we’ve been through, we can barely tolerate ourselves.

So, what’s your story?
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