Alcohol & Your Sex Life | Effects & Myths
Some people believe drinking alcohol will improve their sex life. Indeed, a drink or two can boost your sex drive by increasing your testosterone levels and lowering your inhibitions. However, if you drink more than that, you may experience multiple types of sexual dysfunction, including vaginal dryness, erectile dysfunction, and difficulty reaching orgasm.
When seeking better sexual experiences, some people turn to alcohol. Indeed, the drink has long been described as an aphrodisiac that makes you feel relaxed, open, and adventurous. However, alcohol’s actual effects on sex are much more complicated.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Sex Life?
At first, drinking alcohol may increase sexual arousal. That’s because it temporarily raises your testosterone levels. Testosterone is a sex hormone associated with sexual desire. Alcohol can also boost your libido by lowering your inhibitions and making you feel more confident.
However, these positive effects mainly occur in people who have only had a drink or two. Drinking more than that can cause physiological effects that actually impair your sexual function.
Reduced Physiological Arousal
While alcohol might make you feel more aroused mentally, it can decrease physiological arousal.
As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol slows down important bodily functions, including blood circulation. Consequently, excessive drinking can reduce blood flow to the genitals and cause sexual dysfunction.
For example, people who have more than one or two drinks may experience vaginal dryness that makes sex uncomfortable or painful. This effect typically gets worse the more you drink.
Excessive alcohol use can also make it difficult to get or keep an erection. That’s because alcohol not only reduces blood flow to the penis but also boosts angiotensin, a hormone known to cause erectile dysfunction.
Difficulty Reaching Orgasm
By decreasing physiological arousal, alcohol can interfere with your ability to orgasm. Your orgasms might feel less intense, not occur at all, or take longer than usual to achieve.
Heavy drinkers are also more likely to experience delayed ejaculation, though a small amount of them report premature ejaculation instead.
Risky Sexual Behaviors
After a drink or two, you may feel more comfortable and confident during sexual activities. If you drink more than that, though, your confidence could turn into recklessness.
Studies show that people who drink excessively are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, such as unprotected sex or sex with multiple people.
They may also become far less picky when choosing sexual partners. Indeed, alcohol can make you feel attracted to people you would normally avoid, a phenomenon sometimes described as “beer goggles.” This effect probably stems from the fact that alcohol increases socialization and impairs judgment.
No matter the cause, risky sexual behaviors can lead to unwanted pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV.
Myths About Alcohol & Sex
There are many false myths surrounding the relationship between alcohol and sex. Some of the most common myths include:
Alcohol Makes You Better In Bed
Although one or two drinks might boost your sex drive, excessive alcohol consumption can take a toll on your sexual performance. If you only drink on occasion, your sexual dysfunctions will usually resolve once you sober up.
However, regular alcohol abuse often leads to alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction). This disease can cause long-lasting sexual problems, including low sex drive and trouble achieving orgasm.
These issues likely occur because alcohol abuse can cause an abnormal drop in testosterone. They also stem from the drug’s impact on your central nervous system.
If you have alcohol use disorder and stop drinking, it may take some time for your sexual health to recover. According to a 2017 study, 55% of women seeking treatment for alcohol addiction reported low libido, while 52.5% had difficulty reaching orgasm.
Moreover, even if you don’t experience any alcohol-induced sexual dysfunction, drinking can hinder your concentration and communication skills. These effects may prevent you from fully connecting with your sexual partner.
Sexual Assault Can’t Occur Among Drunk People
If sex occurs without the full consent of those involved, it’s assault, whether or not it involves alcohol.
Always ask for consent before starting any sexual activity, and regularly check in with your partner to ensure they remain comfortable. These check-ins are essential because alcohol may impair your partner’s judgment and ability to communicate.
Along with gaining verbal consent, look for nonverbal consent cues such as nodding, active touching, and maintaining eye contact.
Also, make sure your partner is only intoxicated and not incapacitated.
Common signs of intoxication include slurred speech, stumbling, and exaggerated emotions. Common signs of incapacitation include confusion, incoherent speech, inability to walk without assistance, and loss of consciousness.
People who are incapacitated cannot give meaningful consent.
Alcohol Affects All Sexual Partners The Same Way
Some people assume that if they don’t feel too drunk to safely have sex, then their partner must feel the same. However, the way alcohol impacts you depends on personal factors such as:
- your sex
- your age
- your weight
- your overall health
- whether you use any other drugs or medications
In other words, even if you and your partner drink the exact same amount of alcohol, they might feel more intoxicated than you. That’s why it’s crucial to have a clear discussion about how you both feel before you have sex.
If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol abuse, please reach out to Ohio Recovery Center. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer medical detox, mental health counseling, and other evidence-based treatments to help you or your loved one stay sober.
- Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12711931/
- BMC Women’s Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10155345/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
- Oxford University Press https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/49/5/515/120942