The philosophy of living with only the enjoyments of natural highs - that is, the ones generated by the human body. Approved highs are bungee jumping, mountain biking, moshing, acting self-righteous and picking fights with smokers and drinkers.

Disapproved highs include nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, marijuana, prescription drugs, in some extreme circumstances, sex, and persuading others through dialogue, not violence.

Straightedge seems to have veered in the hands of jerks to have a highly negative connotation. Being straightedge should be a personal choice, not a religion to be forced upon others. I don't partake in drugs, but refuse to call myself straightedge. Straightedge has come to imply that the person has a problem with others doing drugs. I say what they put in their body is their own damn business, just like what I put in mine is mine.

Too many people calling themselves straightedge have done stuff like beat the shit out of a guy just because he was lighting up. Not doing drugs can(and should) be a point of pride in your willpower. Beating someone up because they have a different opinion than you should not. But those kind of self-righteous asses have polluted the otherwise simple idea of personal freedom from substance abuse.

I don't drink or do drugs.
But I would be ashamed to be called straightedge.
sXe is an offshoot of punk culture that focusses on control. Straight-edge is about controlling your life. This means no alcohol, narcotics, smoking, or promiscuous sex. Many straight-edgers also become vegetarians or vegans but that's not a requirement for being straight-edge. Additionally, many straight-edgers don't use caffeine. Poison-free.

Straight-edge originated with the Minor Threat song Straight Edge. The X's come from "all-ages" punk shows where minors had X's put on their hands to show they couldn't buy alcohol. Straight-edgers started putting X's on their hands as a show of solidarity.

It seems I'm a straight-edge, though I'd never heard of it before yesterday.

Straight edge is a subculture whose members do not take alchohol, narcotics, tobacco and do not partake in casual sex. It is also common for members to refrain from eating meat (perhaps even going full out vegan), taking modern medicine (whether just pain killers, or all the way up to the point it threatens their life), or taking caffeine (although this is actually rarer than you might think). Many believe if you've ever been a regular user of drugs/alchohol, or even if you've used them at all, you can't be a true sXer. I am straight-edge but only in the base definition.

There are a wide variety of reasons. Some simply don't want to mess up their bodies. Some don't want the shallow, immature thrills these substances will give (almost all are under 25 or 30 so social drinking consists of drunken binges rather than a calm beer). Some want to keep their bodies, or especially their minds, pure and free from chemical influence, whether through artificial or natural hormone. Others believe these things are what threaten the natural/sane/balanced way of life, or that it threatens the enviroment too much (these are generally the most rabid and those that dont take any of the above substances except perhaps caffeine. They blame overpopulation especially on these things, with not a little truth to it). Some simply are rebelling against the mainstream universality of these things. Some have been hurt by drug use and want no part of it.

I am straight-edge but not really in the subculture. sXe culture is centered around hardcore shows. It is not uncommon to see a sXer at a punk or metal show but their home is hardcore. I prefer ska, skapunk and punk to hardcore. However, many non hardcore scenes have largish minorities of nonhardcore sxers (South Shore of Massachusetts is one).

Straight edge members generally wear a large black X on the back of their hands. This is a reference to the marks that clubs put on minor's hands to indicate they can't drink. The subculture has hijacked this symbol of exclusion into one of rejection (similar to the "We're here and we're queer" manuever). Many choose not to wear the mark, I am one of these, because of a lack of desire to show off. Others don't wear it because at gutter/street punk shows fights often break out between drunk punks and sxers.

The name is based on a song by Minor Threat

To elaborate on mcSey, the 1980's punk band Minor Threat, lead by vocalist Ian MacKaye, was most probably the founders of the Straight Edge movement. They honestly belived that one could have a lot of fun, even without artifical stimuli like alcohol, drugs, religion or promiscuous sex. Their stance was not necessarily anti-commercial, but since they refused to buy anything, they were frowned upon by the established community.
After the break-up of Minor Threat (sob), the straight edge-movement was dormant for a short while, but experienced an upsurge in the post-grunge mid-90's as young people tried to find a new niche in a world suddenly filled with a lot of new quasi-religions. Always ready to take things to the next level, the retro-straight edgers adopted the cross on the back of their hand (used by a lot of nightclubs to denote minors, so they would not be served alcohol), vegetarianism (and later veganism), environmentalism and a host of other annoyingly Politically Correct attitudes.
The founder of the movement, Ian MacKaye, is said to be very displeased with the way his happy-go-lucky philosophy of cheap living turned out to become an militant anti-everything movement for disgruntled teenagers. I know I would be.

sXe

You see it on the hands of kids in D.C., in New York, in California. You'll even see it here in PA--what does it mean?

Straight Edge

I'm not a fan of straight edge, just as I'm not a fan of organized religion. It's the anti-hippie stance, born from the Washington, D.C. hardcore punk scene:

No drinking
No smoking
No drugs (except for medication)
No sex (usually premarital)*
No meat (this is more an individual thing)
Be politically/socially active

I couldn't be straight edge, even though I like Minor Threat/Fugazi:
I like drinking
I like smoking (though I quit)
I like drugs (though I quit)
I like sex (um, I refuse to comment on the ground that it may incriminate me)
I like meat

(I am, however, politically active.)

You should throw all these things out if you want to be considered straight edge. However, I find it to be as restrictive as any religion. Why? Prescribing my behavior tends to annoy me. Punk's not supposed to make me feel guilty--that's why I'm not a Christian.


*Zeolite has informed me that sex is ok, but not promiscuous sex. To which I answer, OK, but who defines promiscuous?

Straight Edge (sXe) is a more philosophical offshoot of the punk movement, a reaction to the hedonism and self-destruction that characterised punk. The basic tenet of the philosophy centres around the issue of self-control. The goal is to regain as much personal control over your own life as possible. sXe is the only youth counter-culture to actively discourage drug use, alcohol use, and casual sex.

Straight edge is a lifestyle centred around personal development and well being, while encouraging fun and togetherness. sXe is not just about being into contemporary punk music acts and being against drugs. It goes deeper than this. The movement wishes to attract people away from dependancy lifestyles centred around drug habits (legal or illegal) and unhealthy and exploitative eating and general living habits common in modern cultures. sXe is not dogmatic, there are no hard rules, these are for you to decide. Nobody should dictate like the police, or preach an ideology like the church or state.

The term itself is believed to have been coined by the band Minor Threat of the punk rock/hardcore scene in the early '80s. Their singer Ian MacKaye eschewed the nihilistic tendencies of punk rock, promoting instead the simple (almost simplistic) philosophy of "don't drink/ don't smoke/don't fuck."

The original definition of straight-edge only included the rejection of mind altering substances and promiscuous sex. It has since been expanded to include a vegetarian or vegan diet, abstinence until true love and commitment, an anti-abortion stance, and sometimes compulsory heterosexuality. All of these are dependent on the individual and the particular scene - some scenes are very militant about some of these, particularly veganism, while others are relatively open.

The X on the hand comes from the practice of marking minors' hands at all-ages punk shows so they couldn't buy alcohol.

Information taken from the sXe FAQ.

This node title is inaccurate in that this has to do with "straight edge", but has little to do with punk. There are a lot of straight edge types who don't consider themselves punks or feel they have anything to do with punk culture.

One thing I cannot understand at all is where sex got introduced to the concept of straight edge. I've heard plenty of straight edge bands and read plenty of straight edge essays and none of them mention sex one way or the other. The Minor Threat song mentions nothing about it. As far as I can tell, the current definition is "no drugs".

Thanks to fondue for clearing up some of what chaosape said, but your writeup contains even more problems. Who are you to say that straight edgers are slightly boring people, or that they are in need of attention (who isn't, anyway?), or that a lot of them have too much money? There is absolutely nothing about being straight edge that involves money in the slightest. In fact, considering how expensive most narcotics are, I'd imagine any extra income they appear to have comes from not spending 50% of their paychecks on beer every week.

Straight edgers don't listen to "quasi-commercial metal" by any definition I know. You seem to be describing a very small portion of people who seem to be more suburbanites by my understanding. Also, in regards to your "don't try to be clever" advice, I can't say that cleverness has anything to do with straight edge culture, but I'm certainly not ready to tell any culture to stop trying to be clever.

macjedi, Mike isn't straight edge. He drank a lot of beer in that movie. Alcohol is a drug. Looking like a nerd and being "hardcore" does not make you straight edge.

That sign on straight edger's hands is the letter X, not a cross, though there are some religious straght edge groups. These groups are one of the examples why the 2002 Olympic Committee has "Straight Edge Groups" as one of the possible terrorist groups in the Salt Lake City area. Certain groups in that area take straight edge very seriously and have been known to seriously injure people for not putting cigarettes out when asked. THESE PEOPLE ARE IN A VERY SMALL MINORITY OF STRAIGHT EDGE CULTURE. Very few people who fit a straight edge definition are at all violent.

I myself have never used narcotic drugs, including alcohol and I don't even call myself straight edge. I go to shows and never pick fights. If people smoke around me, I move away and rarely ask someone to blow their smoke away. I know plenty of people who totally fit into this category and don't go out of their way to label themselves one way or the other. I also know a good number of people who call themselves straight edge and none of them are at all violent.

From what I can tell, straight edge is about regretting the early age at which most people decided to get high or get into drugs.
Orthodoxy can be the bane of any leftist movement, and the punk rock scene (whatever that may mean) is not immune to it. "Lefter than thou", or , in this case "straighter than thou", tends to destroy any progress that supposed progressives can actually make.

As a public service for the Orthodox Straight Edge folk out there, I present to you a sampling of things Ian MacKaye, the man who first gave voice to the concept, has said about it:
As an ancilliary note, notice how often Ian is answering the same questions. Journalists: do your research!


Monkey Magnet, March, '96
MM: Let me ask you about straight edge. Whats your personal view of what it means to be straight edge?

Ian: Well, first off, the song "Straight Edge," it was just a song. It wasn't really about being straight edge. When I wrote the song, I was in high school and I was straight and I was being made fun of perpetually by all my friends, because virtually everybody I knew, with the exception of a few tight friends, was just a stoner. They were just dope kids, that was the '70s and everyone was like that. I was just ridiculed for being straight, and it just enraged me to the point where I'd just say, "Fuck You!" You know, this is my life and if I don't want to fuckin' get stoned, then that's my business. So I wrote a song about that right to decide what you want to do with your own life and that people have to respect that. So it's ironic to me that, years later, there's this movement that in some ways is extremely fundamental, where it's not about the right for people to decide to do with their own lives. It has more to do with the evils of alcohol or drugs or whatever, which was really not at all what my intention was. If you read the lyrics, I think youll find it's all about personal decision.

MM: I'm aware of that. At the same time, there's been this whole movement in which people kind of..

Ian: Yeah, but as you know, I play no role in that movement. I wrote the song. I coined the phrase, but I never was a part of it. I was never down with any of it. On the Out of Step record, I say, "This is not a set of rules." It's like, for me, every interview I've ever done, it's like, "Nope, it's not a movement. It's not about that." And I just stepped off of it, because I'm not into militancy. It just sounds too military, and I'm not down with that.

MM: We interviewed Heckle, this band from New Jersey and they were ripping on the straight edge scene there, saying that people were doing it just to conform. Have you seen much of that?

Ian: I think there's far too much attention being paid to all of this. As silly as kids might be for being straight, I'd also say the guys in Heckle are pretty silly for spending the time making fun of kids who are straight. I mean, who cares? Growing up is like a fucking difficult, scary-as-shit time. People are just trying to get a leg up, something to hang onto while they try and figure out what's going on. Some kids get into dope, some kids don't. Some kids ride bikes, some read books; who gives a fuck? Who cares? They're just trying to get through. If anything, I'm glad I wasn't singing a song about being a junkie or whatever, because I feel like a lot more kids can come back from being straight than can come back from being a junkie. It's just a fact. I don't know why people are so concerned with what other people do with their lives, including people who make fun of straight edge kids or straight edge kids who make fun of other people. Who gives a fuck? Live your own damn life and respect other peoples right to do the same.

1996 (source as yet unidentified)
SOS: What do you have to say about the rumors about you not being straight edge anymore, are they true? There's been a lot of stuff going around, we didn't want to believe it but... Or do you even care about the movement anymore?

Ian: I wrote a song called "Straight Edge" in 1980. From the very beginning, I said I was never interested in the movement aspect of it, because I always felt like the song was a celebration of personal choice. Individuals decide how they want to live. It wasn't about forming a group of people or a big gang to have a movement, because a movement has a sense that it demands involvement, recruitment, or whatever. For me, it's more like a concert of individuals and many people who shared ideas who had tolerance or respected other people's choices in their own lives. When I wrote the song, I was going to a high school where virtually everybody got stoned. I personally did not, and I was made to feel like an idiot about it. So I wrote a song about my choice not to. This is 1979, 1980. But from the very beginning, I made it clear that I was not interested in the movement aspect. The way I look at it is, individuals make choices, and we have to let them. They're the ones that have to live their own lives. So we have to respect that, and they have to respect my choice as well. Since then, there's been many, many people who have gotten involved in straight edge at the movement level. The majority are totally cool, well-minded people who are just dealing with a tough bunch of years. Teenage years are fucking hardcore. Not that it gets a whole lot easier, but that particular time is real tough. I've known a lot of people who have done great, constructive things with straight edge, and they've used it to propel themselves through a tough time in their lives. And I think that's really, really important. There's also some people I know who have made it a militant thing, who have used it as an excuse to get violent on people and beat people up. I'm totally in opposition to people using that idea to inflict damage on people. I think that's totally ridiculous. That aspect of the movement is disgusting. But, the other aspect is cool. People are doing things, playing in bands, looking out for each other, and that's fine. I don't have any regrets about that. But I've never been a part of any of that.

As far as the rumors are concerned, since the very beginning, when I wrote that song, even before I wrote that song, people made jokes about seeing Ian doing this, that or another thing. I'm so used to people telling me that they saw me do this or they heard me do that or whatever. At this point, I'm 34 years old, and it's a little weird being repeatedly asked about my personal life by people all over the world. Particularly since I don't tout what I do and don't do. I certainly don't go around telling people what to do with their lives. So it's a little odd, a little weird to be constantly asked about that. Sort of like being stopped every few blocks to see if your underwear is clean. Having said that, on the other hand, I don't mind also saying that I understand why people do it, and I don't have a problem telling people it was never a joke for me, it never was something that I was fooling around about. So, I don't think people have much to worry about. It wasn't and idea I created to sell records or make my band cool or make me cool. It was an actual element of my life, and it continues to be exactly that. It's something that I will take to my grave, and I will never get involved in things that are a complete waste of time.

April '97- (source hazy)
PSF: How did the idea of 'straight edge' come about?

Ian: It was just the title of a song that i wrote. I guess I coined the phrase but certainly never intended to start a movement.

PSF: Do you still follow this?

Ian: I am still straight, but have never really been involved with the 'straight edge movement'.

Unpop.com, 1998
Unpop: It's no secret that kids consider you a role model, either as the leader of their favorite band, or as a spokesman for Straight Edge, etc. Do you enjoy that or is it something that you've just accepted?

Ian: I've accepted it. Maybe people see me as inspirational or maybe some see me as being really stupid for not taking my piece of the pie. But I'm not too concerned about it. I just go about my work and I don't think about what other people think of me. Obviously I want to be liked but if they end up hating me then I don't give a fuck! The only thing that really discourages me is when people use my name or anything that is affiliated with me as some kind of justification for violence.

Unpop: You've had that problem?

Ian: When I was Minor Threat I wrote the song, Straight Edge, which coined that phrase. That is something that people have used as a rationale for an intense amount of ugliness on occasion. For a lot of extremist people who are angry at the world, this is their way to vent it.


Apologies on vagueness of some sources. Remember, we're dealing with punk rock kids' websites here; not often big on accreditation.

As a lifestyle, straightedge is a pretty cool option. Living your life without running the risk of enslaving your brain to chemicals seems like a pretty reasonable thing to do if you ask me. You could even go so far and fashion a part of your personal philosophy after the straightedge ideal: Live your life so that the only chemical highs you have are the ones your body is capable of generating itself.

The brain is naturally wired for chemical highs. It generates dopamine, endorphins, noradrenalin, adrenalin and a whole range of interesting drugs to help us in our lives. Adrenalin lets us run really fast or crack some pesky attacking predator's skull in rage, endorphins can sedate us (and make sure that sex feels great -- all part of evolution's sinister plot to make sure we keep the species going), adenosine makes sure you go to sleep when you need to.

A very large part of the human experience is shaped by the fact that unconscious parts of our brains are in control of a whole slew of interesting glands that can produce chemicals that affect our minds in various ways. Ever been with a member of your preferred sex and felt the chemistry was just right? That's not just an expression. If you don't believe the brain can get itself high, talk to any bungee jumper or skydiver. Or try for yourself, go out and run as far as you can and savour the feeling when you get home, soaked in sweat and endorphins pumping through your system. The reason chemical highs are popular is because they are a clever hack on an existing and very effective system that has been in place for millions of years. They're at best a kludge, though, so they upset the balance of that system in the process. That's one of the things a straightedge person seeks to avoid, so that she can remain in control of her thoughts and actions (I count the unconscious brain systems that produce the chemical rewards and warnings humans depend on as part of a person -- they are, after all, parts of the body).

The lifestyle straightedge lifestyle potentially kicks ass, but the movement associated with it is a laughable mess in the clutches of adolescent punker-than-thou freaks who have turned it from a personal lifestyle choice to something that mostly appears like a surreal puritan religion dragged out of some particularly horrid monastery from the Middle Ages.

Originally, back when Minor Threat singer Ian McKaye coined the term, the idea of straightedge was pretty simple: Don't drink, don't smoke, don't do drugs, don't have promiscuous sex (I'm not sure how the latter fits into the no-external-chemicals idea -- mr. McKaye explained that he considered sex without emotional attachment as another addictive sedative to keep people stupid), but the idea seems to have mutated into an abomination that mostly resembles something George Orwell and Aldous Huxley could have written up for a collaborative piece of dystopian fiction while on a particularly vivid acid frenzy.

One thing is the disturbing reports of straightedge-related violence (typically punks beating up people who light up a joint or get loudly drunk), which is a pretty stupid way to make a lifestyle statement if you ask me (apart from being an ethically problematic action, to say the least). What particularly pisses me off in even the less violently militant straightedge camp is how these people seem to add more and more "thou shalt nots", most likely in some misguided attempt to be harder core than hardcore itself, so straight edge that their edge in fact bends backwards. My incredibly credible sources (including numerous conversations with straightedge folks, a random cruise around Google's pickings and a brief perusal of alt.punk.straight-edge) reveal the following interesting additions to the original, simple message of abstinence from chemical highs and promiscuous sex (a pretty silly term, by the way, what is promiscuous to you may be perfectly normal to me):

  • A straightedge person must also be vegan. Meat is full of toxic chemicals, you can't be straightedge without also being vegan.
  • A straightedge person must listen to hardcore punk. You can't be straightedge if your musical tastes aren't compatible with the movement. Some expand this to say that straightedgers must only listen to hardcore.
  • A straightedge person must not be homosexual.
  • A straightedge person must not associate with the opposite sex at all (!). Doing so may lead to the brain producing dangerous mind-altering drugs.
  • Only women can be truly straightedge. Men's bodies are full of testosterone, which is just another drug.
  • A straightedge person must not have sex at all, including masturbation. Sex creates endorphins, and endorphin is a drug.
  • In fact, a straightedge person should strive to keep all excitement out of his life. Excitement generates adrenalin, and adrenalin == drugs == bad.
  • A straightedge person must not use prescription drugs. They're just like other drugs. If your life depends on a prescription drug, too bad. Nyah-nyah!
  • A straightedge person must abstain from caffeine. I guess this has some merit, considering that caffeine is an addictive chemical that does in fact mess with the brain. It is, however, a later addition to the idea.

Judas priest. This looks like something taken out of the fscking Bible, if it had been written or edited by some gibbering madman on crack. I wonder how long before someone decides that straightedge people must only eat mineral salts and take a vow of poverty, or stand on top of a pillar for 40 years. It has become a label, another trend du jour, and these freaks will do anything to prove that they're "worthy" of it. To show they're harder than core, so they can fit in, and be part of the clique where everyone always has to prove he's just that little bit more X-TREME(tm) than the rest. Most of them "break the edge" because they fill it with so many restrictions that even an organically grown vegetable or a Buddhist monk would be hard-pressed to live by them.

For me, living a mostly "non-toxic" lifestyle has nothing to do with a parade of thou-shalt-not's or about sacrifice, it's about freedom. I don't have to wake up and go on a mission of trying to figure out what I did in yesterday's mad drunken adventures, and who I annoyed in the process. I don't have to take frequent breaks from the things I like, to get a breath of fresh nicotine. Also I find that as a coder, my mind works better if I keep it free of chemicals. It's a fucking choice, not some steaming pile of pseudo-religion to be shovelled down the throats of other people while you beat them up for lighting up, or to be preached to anyone who pretends to listen.

END-OF-RANT

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