People who take multiple illegal drugs are ‘significantly’ more likely to engage in BDSM and have sex with strangers, study finds

  • Researchers polled 2,631 adults at a British musical festival in 2016 and 2019
  • They found that more than half of those surveyed took multiple illegal drugs 
  • Of the multiple-drug takers, 40 per cent said they engage in ‘non-traditional’ sex 
  • Of such activities, sex with friends or strangers and anal sex were most common

Individuals who take multiple illegal drugs are also more likely to engage in ‘non-traditional’ sexual acts like BDSM, anal sex or sex with a stranger, a study found.

Researchers polled 2,631 adults at a British musical festival in 2016 and 2019 about their recent experiences with taking drugs and having sex.

They found that 68 per cent of respondents had taken an illegal drug, while 54 per cent had taken multiple drugs and drunken alcohol. 

In a sub-set of 966 of the participants who had reported taking multiple drugs, 40 per cent reported engaging in non-traditional sexual activities.

Researchers polled 2,631 adults at a UK musical festival in 2016 and 2019 about their recent experiences with taking drugs and having sex. They found that 68 per cent of respondents had taken an illegal drug, while 54 per cent had taken multiple drugs and drunken alcohol

‘Our study revisited the well-worn phrase of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll”,’ said paper author and sociologist Mark McCormack of the University of Roehampton, London.

‘Recreational drug use and non-traditional sexual activities are linked and have also become the norm. Indeed, adults who report taking at least two illicit drugs are more likely to engage in non-traditional sexual behaviours.

‘The music is no longer rock ‘n’ roll and the sex has changed as well.

‘About 40 per cent of the adults in our study had some kind of sex outside of the traditional heterosexual monogamous norm.

‘Behaviours such as having sex with a friend or stranger, engaging in anal sex or BDSM have become normalized in a similar way as smoking cannabis or taking party drugs have for many young adults.’ 

Specifically, the team found that in their subset of 966 drug takers, over a quarter (28 per cent) reporting having had sex with a friend, 19 per cent had sex with a stranger and 11 per cent engaged in anal sex. 

Not as popular was BDSM, which less than 10 per cent of respondents engaged in, while less than 5 per cent had sex for money, paid for sex or had chemsex.

Individuals who take multiple illegal drugs are also more likely to engage in ‘non-traditional’ sexual acts like BDSM, anal sex or sex with a stranger, a study found (stock image)

‘Music festivals make excellent sites for research on sex and drugs because there are 10,000s of adults crowded into a small space with spare time on their hands, waiting to be entertained, explained paper author Fiona Measham.

‘It takes a degree of tact and courage to approach strangers and ask them whether they have had anal sex, with someone other than their partner, or for money.

‘Some readers might be surprised that people would disclose something so personal but so long as they believe it’s genuinely anonymous, they are quite candid.

‘The fact that we were able to complete this survey at all shows just how much attitudes to sex are changing.’

‘Music festivals make excellent sites for research on sex and drugs because there are 10,000s of adults crowded into a small space with spare time on their hands, waiting to be entertained, explained paper author Fiona Measham

‘These are not necessarily simply youth-oriented or drug-prolific events — we visited more family-friendly festivals as well,’ said paper author and psychologist Liam Wignall of Bournemouth University.

‘The average age of survey respondents was 27. Our findings are not about teenage experimentation,’ he continued.

Instead, he added, the findings ‘speak to a growing normalization of drug use and diverse forms of sex, with both considered to be increasingly acceptable leisure activities for a large minority of adults.’

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Contemporary Drug Problems.

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