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Sex on the Edge
by Heather Caldwell
Jul 2003
Originally published in Playboy
Citation:   Caldwell H. "Sex on the Edge". Playboy. July 2003.
From the chill spaces of clubland comes foxy, the latest orgasmic desginer love drug. The only thing it's missing is a warning label.


Hello, ladies, love your costumes." says the naked hippie guy who greets us. He's staring at my breasts, but I can hardly blame him: My torso is bare and painted gold except for my bronzed nipples and matching armband. "Thank you," I say, looking past his shoulder. "A girl always has to accessorize her nipples." The theme of this evenings party is Shipwrecked. In my body paint, silver leather shorts and black calf boots. I'm like some randy figurehead on a pirate ship. My friend Isabel and I start to make our way through the massive industrial loft in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn. We're bobbing in a sea of sweaty bodies gathered by our hosts, a group of underground artists. Inside a life-size snow globe, a blonde bursting out of a feather corset waves to the crowd. When naked hippie guy tries to maroon us in a corner, we set sail for a new temperate zone--an igloo made of white nylon tent material.

We have entered the "chill space." Judging by my nipples it's an apt name, but that has nothing to do with the cold. Everywhere, couples are languidly knotted together like octopi in heat. A disco ball spins lazily above, and refracted bits of light strobe across flesh and faces. I stumble past stacked fur pillows and a candlelit incense altar. At first the 10 or 12 couples spread out around the edges of the circle don't seem to be looking at anything, but after my eyes adjust to the darkness I see that in fact they are staring intently at a prone couple rocking vigorously by a wall. The girl is on top, and her ass rises and falls steadily. Her navy-blue canvas sailor skin is pulled up around her waist, and I can't take my eyes off the rhythmic jiggle of her cheeks.

I glance at Isabel, who is busy giggling off compliments on her slutty mermaid costume. "Are they really having sex over there?" I say to no one in particular.

From the shadows to my left someone says, "Yeah--they're on foxy."

This isn't the first time I've heard of foxy, a drug so new in the culture no one but the most adventurous psychonauts knows where to get it, or even that it exists. But the Shipwrecked party is the first time I've seen it live up to its rumored effects. I'd heard it described as the sex drug to end all sex drugs: Viagra, ecstasy and acid rolled into one. As we watch, a security bouncer marches over to the writhing couple, taps them on the shoulder and gestures for them to leave the premises. For several seconds, I watch incredulously as the couple continues undaunted.

That's when the thought enters my head: I need to get my hands on some of this stuff.


The Making of a Chemical Cocktail

The research chemical 5-methoxy-N,N-diisopropyltryptamine, or 5-MeO-DIPT, otherwise known as foxy, first came under scrutiny in a drug bust in New York City in 1999 when a Drug Enforcement Administration agent seized 12 capsules in a small plastic box marked "Foreplay." After investigating, the DEA noted that users reported effects akin to those of LSD and ecstasy (visual hallucinations, intensified tactile sensations and auditory distortions). But the most notorious effect of foxy was the one alluded to on the box: The DEA described it as "feelings of love," and the highly regarded drug education website Erowid.org says the drug has a "significant erotic component." Since 1999 foxy has become popular enough that a DEA warning surfaced on January 28, 2003, clearing the way to classify foxy as a Schedule I controlled substance through an emergency scheduling procedure. The drug became officially illegal two months later, on April 4 (after this story was written).

Foxy first came under scrutiny when a DEA agent seized 12 capsules in a small plastic box marked "Foreplay."
While the rise in foxy's use is recent, it was developed around 1980 by Alexander Shulgin, the renowned experimental chemist. Now in his late 70s, Shulgin is famous for writing a 1978 research paper that described ecstasy (MDMA) as an empathy drug (see The Trip-master, p. 68). Although foxy bears little chemical resemblance to ecstasy, dealers sometimes pass it off as a kissing cousin. Authorities say they have seized it at raves and clubs nationwide.

"I've heard of foxy being much more sensual than ecstasy," says Tim Santamour, executive director of DanceSafe, a national drug safety organization. Santamour first learned of foxy when he visited San Francisco two years ago. At the time, he says, it was most visible in the gay community. Since then, the organization has tracked its spread to a broader demographic as news of the drug has circulated through the world of urban nightlife. "Now we see it in Seattle, the Bay Area, Boston," says Santamour. "And its use is growing in New York City."


Fox Hunt

After I'd seen the couple doing the Dumbo mambo, I decided to do some serious research into the substance-friendly sex scene. I called my sister in San Francisco. "You want to try what?" she asked. "Don't you remember that guy Ben at the music festival who was on it and couldn't stop touching himself?"

"Well, maybe he didn't have anyone else to touch."

"Maybe," she said. "He kept insisting he was keyed into the erotic vibe of the crowd. But what do you expect at a rave?" She then put me in touch with her friend Rob, a self-described authority on foxy and one of the few people who still had a job in Silicon Valley.

"Foxy makes me feel superstrong and fast, like I'm Bruce Lee," Rob told me on his cell while cruising the highway with his girlfriend Kim. "One time Kim and I were fucking. It was long and intense, and she came for what seemed like 20 minutes. Afterward she told a friend: "My orgasm was so big it needed its own area code.

"Wow," I said. "But this wasn't on foxy."

"No?" My heart sank.

"We were on acid. You should try that. It's like a cubist adventure. You're having sex with buildings."

No thanks. I thought. My one experience on acid made me feel like I was more likely to throw myself off a building than have sex with it. Ecstasy is the only drug 1 can imagine using to heighten sex, but when I tried it I was so content to snuggle under my flannel sheets. I never got around to molesting my boyfriend.

"But what about foxy," I persisted. "How does it compare to sex on e?"

"With sex on e," said Rob, "you forget what you're doing. With foxy you can have four hours of foreplay followed by great sex."
"With sex on e," said Rob, "you forget what you're doing. With foxy you can have four hours of foreplay followed by an hour of great sex--and no hangover."

He explained that he and his girlfriend Kim took foxy on a romantic getaway weekend in Mendocino. "We'd been going out for two years, and we wanted to do something special. We took foxy and lay naked in front of a fire. Kim said she felt like she was getting shagged by the song we were listening to."

He paused and I heard them conferring. "She wants me to tell you she felt like the music was entering her, she says it was totally hot, and you should try it soon."

As the week progressed, foxy seemed to pop up everywhere. At a bar in Williamsburg, Isabel and I ran into her ex-boyfriend Tony, a cute young dropout. He was on his way to a club to meet some of his friends, take some foxy and dance until dawn.

"Have you done foxy before?" I asked.

"No. Why?"

"Do you know what's going to happen? Do you know anything at all about the drug?"

"Why would I want to know what's going to happen?" he said. Grateful to Isabel for her weird taste in men, I insisted we accompany Tony to the club and babysit in case he ran into trouble.

The three of us hopped into my 1972 Cutlass with the top that won't go up even in the dead of winter and headed to the far corners of Queens. Isabel nudged me at a red light and flashed a mysterious vial she'd ferreted out of Tony's pocket. It held a healthy teaspoon of clear liquid foxy. I could tell she was contemplating taking it.

Outside the trance party, I inspected the vial. It smelled disturbing, like New Jersey. Tony drained the contents and led us inside.

It was a site-specific techno music extravaganza, with hundreds of severe, angled hipsters grooving robotically in a dank basement. By the time we located Tony's friends, the foxy had kicked down their doors and was pistol-whipping their synapses. "I don't have the vocabulary to describe what I'm feeling physically," said Seth, a scruffy sound engineer in his mid-30s. Then he swung his girlfriend Chloe over his shoulder like a kid on a jungle gym.

I intercepted Chloe as she skittered past me on the dance floor. She looked like a hot elfin sex therapist. "What are you feeling?" I asked her, social-worker polite.

"Last night I dreamed I was giving sex tours of Hollywood with Eminem. This shit makes me think I could actually pull it off!"

She said she felt radiant, childlike, omnipotent. "I invented belly dancing," she announced to the crowd. Watching her, Seth said, "Doesn't Chloe seem like a nine-foot-tall Helmut Newton model? I think she's the sexiest woman who's ever existed."

Ten minutes later they were in a rush to get home. Tony watched them go and then turned to Isabel. "Hey, so, are you dating anyone right now?"


Better Loving Through Chemistry

The popularity of sex drugs is nothing new. Every time a fresh, illicit psychoactive chemical appears, it's rumored to be the next love potion. In this regard foxy follows the trail of LSD, MDMA, GHB and 2C-B. The Prozac Nation of 1962 was called My Self and I by Constance Newland, who took LSD 23 times in analysis to overcome her sexual frigidity. Both GHB and 2C-B were hyped as sex-enhancing drugs until the mid-Nineties to late Nineties; an English over-the-counter brand of 2C-B called Erox showed an intertwined couple on the packaging and claimed the contents were meant "for the temporary alleviation of male impotence and female frigidity." But all of these boutique drugs burned quicklv through their target audience and were dismissed. thanks to scary and sometimes devastating side effects or lack of efficacy.

Still, the search continues. "A switch to a psychedelic culture would definitely lead to increased intimacy and exponentially improved sex," insists Daniel Pinchbeck, author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey Into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism. "In terms of the development of our culture's erotic potential, it would be equivalent to the discovery of electricity."

Viagra is the most popular and biggest prescription drug to be marketed exclusively for sexual performance. Originally prescribed for primary impotence, Viagra is now widely used for recreational purposes as well. It is one of the most counterfeited drugs in history; dealers are combining it with ecstasy and selling it in nightclubs as Sexstasy. Meanwhile, selling and distributing Viagra for off-label use continues unabated. In this sense it's the first sex-enhancing drug to blur the boundaries between recreation and medicine.

In its name alone foxy holds the promise of a pharmacologically turbocharged orgasm. However, the problem for many people with a sex-enhancing club drug is its psychedelic edge. A sorority girl might be able to drop e on a Tuesday night and take a test the next day, but middle-aged golfers don't want such a trippy high. And even though I saw foxy in action--maybe because I saw it in action--I still wasn't sure it was right for me.



Drug Net

One day at home I received a mysterious e-mail. The writer, a college kid named Josh who was a friend of a friend, claimed to have extensive experience and information on foxy. He urged me to call him if I wanted to find out more. So I did. I liked the idea of talking to a possibly cute boy I've never met about a sex drug I've never taken. Along with his friends, college kids from Massachusetts and Tennessee, Josh bought a gram of foxy from an Internet site selling a slew of freaky research chemicals. He told me he'd taken foxy once a week for the past two months.

"Foxy is the psychedelic where sex is most appealing because it triggers intense concentration," Josh said, sounding like Dan Rather. "Unlike acid, foxy allows you to focus on sexual gratification. After an orgasm I can get an erection in a couple of minutes, which I can't normally do. And the more you have sex on foxy, the more you want to have sex, which doesn't happen on any other substance." I'd heard enough. I immediately went to see my boyfriend, John.

After I gave him the latest, John said, "Are you going to spend so much time investigating this sex drug that you won't have time to have sex with me? Why don't we just do the damn drug now?"

At that point I got in touch with my inner prude. I talk a big game, for sure, but did I want to take a hallucinatory research chemical that might give me leukemia or leech my highlights? "This is a possibly dangerous thing we're considering," I said. "Let's not rush it because you're horny."

"Fine. But you may want to check out the web page I bookmarked for you."

I could tell a trap had been set. The page was a foxy trip report from Erowid. org, the drug info website:

"Ten P.M. Clothes are torn off from each other and rubbing of bodies continues. We finally engage in the act. I cannot describe the images and feeling running through my head and body at this moment. Groans and moans are coming out of us that I have never heard out of the most primal animal. Sweat is everywhere, and the sheets are soaking wet."

John and I looked at each other and sealed the deal.

I called Tony. He'd bought foxy from a friend who had paid $79 for a gram from a research chemical company website. Once diluted with water, it produced approximately 50 doses. Tony used an eyedropper to package the drug in tiny glass vials that once held 3.5 milliliters of maple flavoring. He sold us two vials for $50.


Wet and Wild

In the 1973 manual Sex, Drugs and Magick: A Journey Beyond Limits, Robert Anton Wilson wrote, "The future will be much wilder and hairier than the immediate past." With this in mind, I drank the vial of clear liquid safe in the confines of my apartment and waited for my future to begin.

The taste was terrible. Secretly I felt secure in the knowledge that I would at least weather it better than John. He downed his dose and shuddered violently. "I feel like I just licked the tracks of the fucking subway!" he moaned. Here's a guy who's such a straight-edged vegan he won't drink sake, for Christ's sake, and I have him squeezed between my legs ingesting questionable research chemicals invented before Reagan took office. But all I can think about right now is that someone should call in a weapons inspector to check my mouth for a stash of war chemicals.

We're not off to a good start. A few moments pass while we both stare into space. John says, "Well, at least there haven't been any fatalities reported. As far as we know, anyway." I pop a piece of gum into my mouth and chew like crazy.

"I brush my hand carelessly across my lap; the response is immediate, electric and sharp."
Oddly, I begin to feel a tingling flush of warmth between my legs. It's absurd. No one could take a drug called foxy and get hot 10 minutes later--life just doesn't work that way. Besides. I'm so busy waiting to puke that I can't pay attention. I brush my hand carelessly across my lap; the response is immediate, electric and sharp.

Experienced foxy users say it's not a beginner's drug, and I'm starting to see their point. Right after we take it. we figure we have some time to gather supplies from the store--candles, raspberries, water--before it kicks in. But by the time we make it out the door, we are tripping so hard we find the dull sidewalk overstimulating. "I don't think I can make it," John says, eyeballing 74th Street like a bazaar in Bombay.

Back upstairs, I suddenly feel like the incarnation of femininity, but not in a sexpot way; more Botticelli's Venus than Madonna. I saunter up to John and shimmy slowly down his body, and it doesn't feel absurd. Clothes, even the kind by La Perla, seem unnecessary, so I shrug them off to the accompaniment of Seventies soul. John turns out the lights and watches me dance. I don't notice he's filming me until I hear the clicking of his video camera. I motion him to follow me into the bedroom.

Now my body is a strange combination of hot and cold--one second I'm trembling, and the next my thighs are slick with sweat. Although the physical sensations are like nothing I've ever felt, I'm mentally unchanged. I can speak clearly. but because of the delicious electrical rivulets running along my tongue. I'd rather kiss John's lips and the soft nest of his throat. Everything, suddenly, is a sex toy: a hair on his chest, the bedroom curtains blowing in the breeze across my ass.

Shivering from the subtlest waves of pleasure, I close my eyes as John runs his hands over me. "Do you realize you haven't stopped moving your belly erotically for three hours?" John says, and I say, "Seriously?" We've put on a CD of Algerian raï, a spell of Saharan wailing and drumming. I'm no longer aware of the boundaries of our bodies, only the rhythm they make together.

John turns me over. "You feel so subtle," John whispers, sounding out each syllable like they taste good in his mouth. I've been uncontrollably wet all night, and now, at last, I'm ready. The foxy sex is searing and endless. Foxy sex turns my skin inside out. Together, John and I shape-shift into different positions like figures in a Mayan hieroglyph.

I'm a Venus flytrap, about to snatch an orgasm the size of Alaska. I don't need an area code because I don't want anyone to call.

The postsex cigarette hour is filled with weightless intimacy. Some drugs lead to a comedown period of hellish introspection, but not foxy. "It's not like This Is Your Life, "John says, "starring you and your brain and all of your neuroses." I can barely remember my problems, my gripes, the lingering doubts I have about John's suitability as a long-term partner. In fact, I'm almost disturbingly serene. I've gone from being a hypochondriacal girl on the rag, so to speak, to a yogic instrument of divine will. Nothing he could do would hurt me right now. I wouldn't care if John went dancing with 15 sluts in white go-go boots and I stayed home and ate Twinkies.

The sex never seemed to stop, even when we hopped into a cab at one A.M. en route to an after-hours dance club. Our cabdriver dialed all his margins so tight and with such precision that I could have whispered into the ears of the passengers in the cars next to us. Sometimes he fucked the road, stroking it with effortless, powerful confidence. He made it look easy to charge red lights that magically turned green as we crossed the line. During the smooth ride we witness a procession of lights and flitting human minidramas unfolding down Broadway through Times Square. Everywhere the night went, there was a beat, and we were always in sync with it.

Whoa. Maybe this was too much of a good thing.


The Comedown

I slept long and hard the next day, and when I woke up I gathered my thoughts. 1 realized that the unique aspect of foxy was the way in which I had remained entirely lucid and coherent throughout the experience, despite the overwhelming physical sensations coursing through my body. Unlike date rape drugs like GHB, Rohypnol or Ketamine, I never felt like 1 was in danger of passing out or confusing my boyfriend with his roommate. I was perfectly capable of conversing with the doorman at the club, and I didn't have mushv. drug-addled conversations with strangers.

But if foxy leaves your mind alone, it has its way with your body. Watching me strip naked, John had said, "This drug wants to dance." A week later 1 still felt like a primo hottie. and so, apparently, did Chloe, who called to tell me she'd found herself absentmindedly dancing while getting dressed for work in the morning. "I was grinding away alone, in front of the mirror," she said, "and I couldn't believe how unselfconscious I felt. Foxy has changed the way I experience my sexuality."

But not everyone has such a positive experience. My friend Isabel had taken the same dose and spent most of the night dry-heaving. She did own up to a few good moments on the drug: "Later in the trip, lying next to each other on the bed. we started moving our hips together ever so slightly. It was more like muscle contractions and releases than movement, and it was unbelievable. We found a groove where we were attuned to each other and completely fused. "

Like Isabel, many people report spending the night going down not on their partners but on their toilets. One of the more curious aspects of the drug is the split between accounts from users who love it and those who hate it. Erowid.org judiciously divides its testimonials into sections with titles like "Glowing Experiences," "Mystical Experiences," and "Train Wrecks and Trip Disasters." Surf through these reports and you can't help feeling repelled by the bad effects of the drug. Users experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The "heavy body load"--physical discomfort--produced by the drug can outweigh everything else. "Making love," wrote one user, "was the only thing that made me forget how lousy I felt."

"I haven't had any reports of fatal overdoses from foxy." says Santamour. "I know some people who've been taken to the hospital because of uncontrollable vomiting." There is general agreement that slight differences in the dose can make the difference between healthy postcoital glow and a trip to the emergency room. "Foxy is an unusually dose-sensitive drug, which is why some people aren't taking it," says Santamour. "Maybe an analogue of foxy will take off later that won't be as sensitive."

Erowid.org posts a standard warning to all potential users of research chemicals: "When you're taking a new and unstudied drug, you're making yourself a human guinea pig. The drug you are taking may be perfectly safe. It may even be beneficial. On the other hand, you may take it three times and suddenly find yourself 20 years old and having Parkinson's disease."

The site goes on to warn readers of the harrowing tale of MPTP, an impurity sometimes generated during the manufacture of a synthetic drug called MPPP (MPPP was created by underground chemists looking for a legal heroin substitute in the late Seventies.) A 23-year-old grad student developed permanent Parkinson's-like symptoms after using contaminated MPPP a few times, and scores of others experienced similar effects: tremors, blurred vision and speech difficulties. The MPTP case was a basis for the DEA's development of an emergency scheduling process to criminalize some uncontrolled drugs.

According to spokesperson Rogene Waite, the DEA's push to classify foxy as a controlled substance was based on a "large increase" in the incidence of law enforcement encounters involving the drug, as well as "evidence of its distribution and use as a legal alternative to club drugs." The DEA says foxy poses significant risks to public health and has no accepted medical use in the U.S. Waite, as well as everyone else I interviewed, claims that little information exists on how research chemicals like foxy interact with other drugs or pharmaceuticals. No one can begin to guess the drug's long-term or short-term effects. Tryptamine, the parent molecule of foxy, is known to cause convulsions or death in animals.

Ultimately, the question of whether people can use their brains when they're using drugs is almost as tricky as the question of whether they can use their brains when they're having sex. The one sure thing about foxy is that there will be more of it before there's less--until another research chemical replaces it. But unless a big pharmaceutical company comes up with a more reliable version of foxy, no one but hard-core tripsters is going to be in a hurry to down some and head for the hot tub.

Now I find myself in the position of fielding questions about foxy from friends. I've become the expert. There seems to be plenty of the stuff still in circulation. When people ask if I would recommend it, I say no, solely based on my friend's bad experience with the identical dose I took. The fact is that I had a wonderful experience on foxy. I just can't be sure I'd have the same one again.

At a dinner party recently I met a research scientist working on amphetamines. I asked him nervously what he thought of my foray into sex on drugs. He hadn't heard of foxy, but after I told him the scientific name he was able to sketch the molecular structure of the drug on his napkin. He stared at it for a minute, pondering. "So," he said at last, "the first time you have the best sex in your life, the second time you have even better sex than that, and the third time ... you wake up with nerve damage."

He shrugged. "Or not." With that he returned to his appetizer. We didn't talk much the rest of the evening.