John Gillen - Author | Last Updated: 21st February 2022
Alcohol And Sex
For most people, the relationship between alcohol and sexual behaviour is a complicated one. On the one hand, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol does wonders for anxiety and inhibition, making it easier for the shyest among us to approach sex without fear. On the other hand, drinking too much can lead to bad decisions, can cause both male and female impotence, and leaves us vulnerable to unsafe behaviours and STDs.
This article will outline some of the ways in which alcohol consumption affects your sex life.
Lots of people wrongly believe that alcohol increases the libido and makes people want to have sex more but, scientifically, this is untrue. Alcohol doesn’t do anything to your brain chemistry to make you want to have sex, but it is proven to remove anxiety. This makes sexual behaviour feel easier and more comfortable when you are under the influence of alcohol.
For those who feel inhibited with their current partner, or who feel awkward with new partners, alcohol helps to relax them and make them feel more secure in initiating sexual contact and enjoying the experience. It also helps to push away body worries, lessens anxiety-related impotence and can help both partners relax into orgasm.
Whilst one or two glasses of wine can give the effects listed above, heavy drinking can mean the lowering of inhibitions to the point of impaired judgement. For those who do not have a steady partner, drinking heavily is often the easiest way for them to approach casual sex.
However, being drunk can lead to the ‘beer goggles’ effect, where we choose to be with a partner who we soberly wouldn’t be interested in. You are also far more likely to engage in unsafe sex when you are drunk, as your ability to judge risks is impaired. Alcohol is a common factor in unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
When it comes to the issue of consent, there is a blurred line when people have been drinking, and it may be more difficult to give or prove consent.
Many people believe that sex is improved by having a few drinks beforehand, but a 2015 study found that there was almost never any benefit to drinking alcohol before a sexual experience, for the majority of participants.
Increases feelings of attraction
As mentioned above, studies have repeatedly shown that people generally rate others as more attractive when they are inebriated than they would when sober. Attraction is the result of a range of variables, which don’t just relate to what people look like, but also take into consideration the level of connection we have with that person.
Alcohol causes the brain to release ‘bonding’ chemicals such as dopamine, creating a false sense of connection which fades as the effects of alcohol does. We talk more about how alcohol affects the mind in this post.
Poor sexual performance and impotence
Physically, alcohol has been proven to damage sexual performance in both men and women. For men, alcohol can cause erectile dysfunction in the short term, meaning that they may struggle with maintaining an erection.
In the long term, the damage is more significant, potentially leading to the complete loss of sexual arousal and erectile function, reduction in the size of the penis and testes, reduced sperm production and a loss of body hair.
For women, in the short term, alcohol can dehydrate the vagina making penetration uncomfortable. In the long term, alcoholism can cause similar shrinking of sexual organs (including the breasts) and problems with ovulation and menstruation.
Makes us feel the need to be physically close with someone
People often use alcohol as a social lubricant because small amounts of alcohol make us feel closer to and more bonded with others. Alcohol stimulates the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain concerned with social behaviour and personality expression, meaning that drinking can help to make us feel talkative and open.
For couples going through difficulties, you may find that alcohol makes it easier for you to relate to each other and have difficult conversations. However, alcohol in larger amounts, or when used too frequently, can actually have the exact opposite result, instead distancing you from your partner, friends and family.
Sober sex after rehab
Returning to your sex life after alcohol detoxification can be one of the more scary parts of recovery. Alongside social situations, sex is something that many people use alcohol to make less intimidating, and so a lot of addicts find that they have very rarely if ever, had sex sober before. At Cassiobury Court, we offer a range of therapies and counselling to help you through every single part of your recovery. We can help you to understand negative feelings you might have about sex and in what way this ties in with your drinking, and then work through it so that you can get to a comfortable sexual place in the future. We will be able to help you:
- Talk about your feelings. At Cassiobury Court, you will be able to discuss your feelings and worries with a therapist, with your partner and family and as part of a group. Through this, you should be able to recognise the negative sexual thoughts and feelings that made alcohol such an important crutch for you.
- Find the right way to enter a sexual relationship again. Taking your time is critical when going back into a sexual relationship. Maybe you won’t feel comfortable having full sex right away or even being engaged in sexual behaviour. You should think about getting comfortable about being vulnerable and physical with another person in a nonsexual way before you can consider having sex again. Complementary therapies at Cassiobury Court, such as yoga, will help you to get more comfortable with your body.
- Reframe the way you think about sex and drinking. We will help you to break the bonds that connect these two things together in your mind so that you don’t feel that you need to have been drinking to approach a sexual relationship. Therapy will teach you how to do this with everything from sex to social situations to dealing with stress and anxiety.