Identity

Straight Edge Women Describe What It's Like to Go Totally Sober

Can't imagine life without a drink, a cigarette, and an occasional joint? These girls can.

by Lea-Natascha Wyss
Jul 21 2016, 2:00pm

Photo by Jesse Morrow via Stocksy

This post was originally published on Broadly Germany.

At this point in human history, it's never been easier to indulge your hedonistic side with so little effort. A quick shag? Swipe right a few times on your dating app of choice. Drugs? Order them off the dark net from the comfort of your own home. Alcohol? Until the government bans the trifecta of one shot of vodka, Red Bull, and another shot of vodka, feel free to indulge your debilitating caffeine habit and your need for booze in one convenient drink!

In spite of this, more and more people are deciding to lead a healthier, drug-free life—you just need to look at the latest clean eating trends for increasing evidence that we don't just want to get hammered every weekend. And ever since Minor Threat sang about having better things to do than snorting white shit up their noses in 1981, that's exactly what straight edge people have been doing. To find out why—and how—people choose to give up drinking, smoking, and doing drugs, we spoke to five women in the straight edge scene.

Colleen doesn't tell people she's straight edge when she first meets them. Photo courtesy of subject

Colleen, 24, straight edge for five years

When Colleen was a teenager, she drank a lot at house parties and concerts—sometimes to the point of unconsciousness. "When I was a bit older, I decided from one day to the next that I wouldn't drink alcohol anymore," she told Broadly. "In Berlin you see a lot of people who are fucked up because of alcohol or drugs, unfortunately. We also had a bad case of alcoholism in my family, which also influenced me a lot. Drinking booze and smoking, to me, means supporting a system that I don't want to support. I'm also a vegan, so a drug-free life is close to that. I don't want to put anything inside of me that could change my essence."

Her group of friends knows about her lifestyle and are totally supportive, she says. Nevertheless, the 24 year old doesn't mention right off the bat that she's straight edge. "Strangers often react stupidly and aren't understanding, which is because alcohol is unfortunately quite established in our society. So you're an exception if you don't drink. People always look really puzzled and don't understand why a young person wouldn't drink. But occasionally people will find my lifestyle super cool, but they still say they could never live that way themselves."

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Colleen doesn't see it as a problem if her partner sometimes drinks. But she also distances herself from casual sex. "For me, being straight edge is also about treating other people with respect. Always having new partners in your bed isn't respectful to me. Sex is an intimate thing that I don't want to constantly share with new partners."

Colleen has also noticed that the straight edge scene is dominated by men, even though she says the gender breakdown in her own straight edge friendship group is "very balanced." She adds: "At shows, the female contingent is very minimal and you don't find too many female hardcore bands. That could be the reason that more men engage [with it], because it's more accessible and present for them."

Kat gave up alcohol, smoking, and drugs when she was 16. Photo courtesy of subject

Kat, 34, straight edge for 18 years

Kat's grandfather was an alcoholic, which had an hugely formative influence on her. When she was 16, she decided to kick alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs to the kerb–but she only discovered the word that described her lifestyle choice in the mid-90s. "I liked having a label for my lifestyle, even if I didn't have anything to do with the kind of music that is associated with that back then. Since I'm predisposed to addiction, smoking, drinking, and drugs will always be a bad idea for me." For Kat, being straight edge means "sober living for the revolution."

"So I do things that I probably wouldn't do if I were drunk," she explains. "Being straight edge is a personal decision, whereas being vegan is a decision you make for other beings. I don't have a crystal ball to see the future in, but right now... it feels like being straight edge is a lifetime commitment for me."

Kat defines as pansexual; for her, it's the person that matters and not their gender. But she wouldn't be together with someone who didn't share her lifestyle. "I've had it all—watching Netflix in a smoky living room, kidding [around with] a guy who smelled like alcohol, worrying if my partner would take too much speed at a rave and wake up with someone else. I don't need to repeat any of that. For an affair, maybe, but not for a relationship that's supposed to have a future."

Anna drank and smoked for years before going straight edge. Photo courtesy of subject

Anna, 26, straight edge for several years

"For me, it's either abstinence or total failure. I know myself by now and I know that it's totally easy for me to get addicted to things. I want to avoid that," Anna explains. The 26 year old drank and smoked cigarettes and weed for years. "I saw in my friend group what drugs can do to people and I didn't want that for myself. But I'm still for the idea of letting people do what they want to do as long as they don't harm others and they're old enough to know the consequences."

Her motive for being straight edge is also political. "In this world, so much of what goes on is wrong and I can't change any of that by getting fucked up, just to make it more comfortable for me. I live straight edge because I want my senses to be sharp. Because I know how I can be when I'm not sober and I can't stand myself that way. I live vegan for others. Being a straight edge vegan for me is the consequence of me wanting a better world for everyone and me trying to do my part for that."

Friends from before tried for a while without success to convince me to drink with them, which I found totally fucked up.

Anna isn't close to many of her friends from her pre-straight edge life. In the beginning, she thought that the two halves could be united, but found it too stressful. "I can't relax when the people around me are drunk or are on drugs. The few that I know are bearable when they've consumed alcohol. I don't know if it goes hand in hand, but people develop differently and at some point there was nothing that held us together once alcohol was out of the picture for me. A friendship can't survive off of nice memories alone. Friends from before tried for a while without success to convince me to drink with them, which I found totally fucked up."

Anna, in contrast with others in the scene, is more liberal when it comes to casual sex. "I decided for myself, that a relationship isn't necessary to have sex, especially because there's a huge spectrum beyond a hetero-monogamous relationship. As long as everything is happening between two consenting adults, what's wrong with it? The only thing I think is really important, is that everyone is on the same level." She wishes there were more alternatives to heteronormative, male-dominated straight edge culture. "I always get happy when the musicians at big shows make a point of saying that that they support having women, queers, and other outlaws in the front of the pit. When I see people on stage that don't fit into the gender binary, then I'm all the happier."

Maureen first identified as straight edge when she was 16. Photo courtesy of subject

Maureen, 24, has always been straight edge

Maureen told Broadly that she's always lived according to straight edge principles, though she only started identifying as straight edge when she was 16 and first heard the term from punk friends. "Avoiding substances comes from the fact that I grew up with a parental figure who suffered from addiction. Later, I still didn't have any desire to get fucked up, even though there were some non-straight edgers in my friend group.

"Plus," she explains, "since I still have intimate relationships with people with substance issues, I continue to see the dark side [of drugs and alcohol]."

"My friend and family react positively or neutrally about the subject," she says. "That means it doesn't make a difference to them or they're happy because [it's the] lifestyle that's good for my health. I often get respect and recognition from people. Some people are happy that I can be a designated driver and so they have the chance to get a ride home with me."

If you get fucked up on drugs and alcohol every weekend and puke your soul out of your body, nobody says anything.

"Oh, but then there are people who think they have to feel sorry for me," she adds, explaining that she's often on the receiving end of comments like, "Wow, I could never do that," "Aren't you missing out on something?" or "Do you even have fun partying?"

The 24 year old doesn't necessarily see herself as part of the straight edge scene, even if she lives the lifestyle, so she doesn't expect that from a potential partner. "I've never had a 'straight edge relationship,' if you want to call it that. But my current boyfriend has avoided substances for a while—two years, to be precise. I've had and have intimate relationships with people who have had a bad relationship with substances or even are addicted. So I don't want to exclude having a relationship with someone who has substance issues. We never know where love will take us."

Maureen doesn't regret her decision to be straight edge, even if it means never touching alcohol in her life: "I like feeling my feelings more than drinking them away, even if they're sometimes uncomfortable."

Melixxx was first offered booze when she was 12. Photo courtesy of subject

Melixxx, 24, straight edge for almost 9 years

Melixxx came into the straight edge scene through music. "I was quickly frustrated by the nihilism and destructiveness of classic German punk, which made old school hardcore my preferred source of music," she said. "Minor Threat and the like. PMA. The classics. Back then I would say, 'No thank you, I'm straight edge,' when people offered me alcohol.' She was 12 at the time. Three years later, she toyed with smoking and drinking at 15, but quickly decided it wasn't for her and ended her experimental phase after six months.

"No, I don't swat cigarettes out of peoples' hands. I'm also not a member of a cult. I'm doing it for myself," the 24 year old says. "I think it's paradoxical that people give me weird looks for taking care of my body and the environment, respecting fellow humans, and living a vegan life, which makes me more tolerant and respectful than my peers. But if you get fucked up on drugs and alcohol every weekend and puke your soul out of your body, nobody says anything."

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She doesn't have a problem with people who are less inhibited with their consumption, as long as she doesn't have to be in a relationship with them. "If I had a partner who didn't live vegan and straight edge, then smoking would be a big no go," Melixxx explains. She considered herself asexual for a long time, before realizing she was gay—which makes looking for a partner in the straight edge scene difficult. "The selection of non-hetero, vegan, straight edge women in the circles that I move in—who also fit into my personal criteria and who I think are interesting—is at a minimum. I know more men than women who are straight edge. It's like the famous old search for a needle in a haystack."

For Melixxx, it's easy to explain the dearth of women who choose the straight edge lifestyle. "Hardcore and straight edge is something for really hard people. You have to prove yourself. People often only attribute hardcore and straight edge to beefed-up, testosterone driven men. Women here, as is so often, are only a nice accessory that you like to have around but don't want to say anything. They only really get accepted in the scene after being there for years or if they're together with a guy from the scene."

She says that her time in the scene has shown her "that there are other people like her out there and it's okay to be who I am." But as with all things, the lifestyle is far from perfect: "I once wrote that the hardcore and straight edge community is only a reflection of the majority of society, with better music. And I still believe that."