It has always been my opinion that perception is everything when dealing with how people look at one and another. Being gay this is even more important. General society has a wide and varied looked at how we live our lives. When talking about circuit parties that are very popular within the LGBT community, understand that I am not placing everyone in the same "boat", however to deny that sex and drugs run rampant at most circuit parties would be a lie.
I began to think about this topic quite by accident. While talking about circuit parties with a good friend (who travels to many of the circuit parties) we were on the topic of drugs and sex and he stated "I don't think you realize how expensive circuit parties are, how much sex and drugs are available at most of them. It's not something to idealize." What he told me had me thinking, how bad could it really be? You have to understand I live in New Orleans, and one of the South's largest circuit parties is Southern Decadence. Some will yell and scream "it's not a circuit party? Or "You don't know what you're talking about?" Regardless this is my opinion, you don't have to agree or like it, but then ask me if I care?
So, having frank conversations with friends who routinely travel to party weekends like Up Your Alley in San Francisco, the White Party in Miami, or Southern Decadence in New Orleans. I realized that my friends were mostly urban, white, and sexually adventurous. These events bring together sex, music, travel, and the unspoken promise of party drugs. Most circuit parties give a percentage of their funds to LGBT organizations. But if seen as a business - which they are - these events drive a global industry catered exclusively to gay men with deep pockets. The LGBT organizations have no problems accepting the money raised. I do understand that for most this is a major source of money. However, when you try to teach and preach safer sex, HIV education; you in my opinion become a hypocrite.
In the United States, the general public has embraced the monogamous, family oriented image of gay men. But the homophones of American who opposed anything gay just have to glace behind the "black curtain" of these parties and see hundreds of gay men engaging in different "cultural traditions - one that would surely affirm all their ugly prejudice. For example during Southern Decadence you want sex, it's not hard to find. A few of the bars/clubs have no problem with men having sex there, just spend your money. I mean the police at one bar are no more than 20 feet.
These parties can be overwhelming. You discover that party drugs have a nasty habit of increasing sexual risks, you realized that you have paid large fees to get in only to be disappointed., you come to understand that your need to be around other gay men has been manipulated and banked on.
"I remember the last time I stumbled out of a circuit party in New York City at 6 in the morning, trembling and sweating, so fucked up I could hardly speak and walk. In that moment, I felt like a child playing a man's game - or, more accurately, a man being childish". Personal Quote
For example a federal study last year of 6,000 men who attended circuit parties (Southern Decadence, Folsom Street Fair, Hustlaball) found that 95% took at least one illegal drug, 68% reported to having unsafe sex with someone they did not know, 89% abused alcohol, 74% used "poppers", 52% admitted to having a "gang bang", 33% reported they blacked out.
Regardless of how you feel about circuit parties the fact that they raise large amounts of money for LGBT organizations, and have a huge impact on the local community. Many cities report that they have very few issue with party-goers, and don't see a increase of crime. According to local law enforcement they will see an increase in hustlers, drugs, and rape. Local hospitals might see a spike in ER visit; mostly for alcohol, and drug overdoses.
"These parties are creating (HIV-positive) clients," said Troy Masters, publisher of LGNY, a gay newspaper in New York City that has opposed the parties. "You wouldn't find the American Cancer Society throwing a smoking party". A number of charities and public health officials are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with what has become the "dark side" of circuit parties: widespread drug use and random, unprotected sex the very issues they try to discourage. These concerns have lead major HIV/AIDS service organizations to try and detach themselves from the controversy by allowing the parties to be run by promoters, who take a cut of the proceeds and send the rest to the charities, and in some cases charities are worried about the public perception that they support and condone the behavior, and therefore, trying to remove themselves from the party entirely.
For some in the LGBT community circuit parties are a source of great fun, can be liberating, but they do come at a price. Is that cost worth it? We make our own choices and decisions regarding our lives and how we live them. For me personally, what other people do with their life is their own business, if it doesn't concern me I don't care. But you can't pretend or ignore that circuit parties have a darker side, it's just a fact.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Surveillance Report, 2014; vol. 26.. Published November 2015. Accessed 14 Apr. 2017.
Mattison, Andrew M., Michael W. Ross, and Tanya Wolfson. "Circuit Party Attendance, Club Drug Use and Unsafe Sex in Gay Men." Circuit Party Attendance, Club Drug Use, and Unsafe Sex in Gay Men. Journal of Substance Aguse, 01 Sept. 2015. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.
Weidel, James J., Elias Provencio-Vasquez, and Janet Grossman. "Sex and Drugs: High Risk Behaviors at Circuit Parties." American Journal of Men's Health. Mens' Health Network, 22 July 2013. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.