E for Ecstasy by Nicholas Saunders
Appendix 1: Reference Section
- 41 Women, sexuality and Ecstasy Use - The Final Report 1993,
by Sheila Henderson, published by Lifeline, 101 Oldham St Manchester M4
1LW at #15+#1.50 postage.
- From October 1991 to October 1993, Sheila Henderson conducted research
into young women, sex and drugs in the 1990's popular culture for Lifeline
in association with the North West Regional Drugs Training Unit and the
Centre for Research on the Social Aspects of Health at Manchester University.
The project is funded by the North West Regional Health Authority. The report
includes The Main Study with sections on Nature and extent of drug use,
Gender and drug use, Sexuality, Drugs and sexuality, Young women' cultural
reference points. In addition, the report includes Luvdup and DeElited below
(reference 41) and the Ecstasy Study (reference 182).
- Henderson looks at the gender dimensions of recreational drug use and
especially attitudes to and experiences of sex and sexuality. She is trying
to identify the "cultural reference points" - from magazines to
music - of young women who take drugs recreationally and focuses on "the
rave phenomenon that is flooding popular culture".
- Unlike previous work on illicit drugs, this study includes the possible
benefits of drug use such as the pleasure and fun that may be had under
the influence of drugs. The initial findings are based on 6 in-depth interviews,
47 questionnaires and 15 background in-depth interviews etc. The fashion
among female Ecstasy users at the time was skimpy lycra as well as styles
such as rubber, PVC and leather borrowed from the gay scene. Madonna was
a strong influence in popularising music forms and was an example of a woman
borrowing the fashion of the gay scene. Even negatively-biased media reports
have been good publicity for Ecstasy, Henderson maintains.
- Sex is not one of the foremost pleasures offered by Ecstasy. The motivation
for raving is more likely to be sensations of the mind, body and soul. The
pleasure of dancing with expression and empathy pushes sex into the background.
Henderson says that the attraction of raves for women derives from being
in a pleasurable group setting, from which the pressure towards and emphasis
on sex from men has been removed, in contrast to alcohol-based night life.
Interviews indicated that sex is the last thing women have in mind when
going to a rave.
- The sexual safety of raves is an attraction for girls, compared to alcohol-based
clubs, which are seen as cattle markets. Girls sometimes enjoy kissing at
raves because it feels good but is 'safe', i.e. is not going to involve
- People at raves are more tolerant of a display of homosexual affection.
Most women said they had no casual sex on the night of a rave and others
said less than when they used to go to alcohol-based clubs. A few women
said that after an E trip was an ideal time to have "long, slow sex"
along with some hash.
- Women seemed more prepared to take risks over taking drugs than over
having sex. After their first E, they were likely to take it frequently.
- According to Henderson, one reason why women are not into sex at raves
is that men on Ecstasy have less interest in sex and do not expect sex.
Most men have the opposite to an erection: a shrinking penis. One girl reported
being with other girls walking through a dangerous part of the city when
they were approached by a gang of men. They were scared until they realised
the men were on E, "then heaved a sigh of relief."
- Drugs are an intrinsic part of rave culture. Most interviewees couldn't
imagine going to a rave without taking at least one of the dance drugs.
These included cannabis, magic mushrooms, LSD and amphetamine besides Ecstasy.
Ecstasy was the drug of choice, though at only #2-#3 LSD was also popular.
- One said: "When you're on E it's like you're dancing on the notes,
and you just feel so up there it's like heaven. And you just feel so good,
you love everybody, you look around and you think 'Oh you're all wonderful!
DJ, you're wonderful!' If you get a good song on, you get vibes going through
your body like rushes; it's fantastic. I've never felt anything like it!"
Asked to rate the best experiences in her life, the same girl replied "First
E, music and dancing, then sex."
- Drugs were the primary reason given for involvement in the rave scene
by only 6%. Another 6% were involved in the culture without taking drugs
other than cannabis. 75% had used cannabis before getting involved, but
only 2% had previously tried Ecstasy. 90% of a sample of women had been
through periods of weekly use, frequently following their first experience.
- Early in the study, alcohol drinkers were looked down on and referred
to as "beer monsters". However, towards the end drinking alcohol
was often combined with Ecstasy, in spite of worse hangovers.
- Belonging to a wide family and feeling secure is another important attraction
of raving. "The first time I took E, I was with this bloke and I just
looked at him and I thought 'Oh I can't, don't wanna be with him any more'
and that was it. 'Cos there were so many other people and I just felt so
confident and you could tell them what you want and be/do anything."
However, relationships also form on E as told by a 17 year-old girl: "The
emotional impact of E is more of a problem than the physical [one] in my
experience. It's frightening how close you become to someone you do Es with,
but it's an exaggeration of what you already feel for them". Others
describe strong feelings for someone met at a rave, who they do not find
to be attractive when seen again elsewhere.
- 'Policing'. According to Henderson, an important factor determining
extent of drug use was that individuals tended to monitor themselves and
their peer group. By this she implied looking after and advising one another
when to modify drug use.
- Menstruation. A quarter of the women who used Ecstasy weekly for over
six months reported lighter or less frequent periods and sometimes no periods
at all for several months. There is no reason to suspect this is due to
a direct effect of the drug, but is likely to be the result of indirect
effects - suppressed appetite, sweating and all night exercise.
E is for Ecstasy by Nicholas Saunders (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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by Nicholas Saunders