Alcohol and sex

Alcohol and sex

Alcohol consumption has a number of effects on sexual intercourse and sexual behavior.[1] The effects of alcohol are a balance between its suppressive effects on sexual physiology, which will decrease sexual activity, and its suppression of psychological inhibitions, which will increase the desire for sex.[2]

Alcohol is a depressant. After consumption, alcohol causes the body’s systems to slow down. Often, feelings of drunkenness are associated with elation and happiness but other feelings of anger or depression can arise. Balance, judgment, and coordination are also negatively affected. One of the most significant side effects of alcohol is reduced inhibition. Reduced inhibitions can lead to an increase in sexual behavior.[2]


Alcohol and sex in men

Men's sexual behaviors can be affected dramatically by alcohol. Both chronic and acute alcohol consumption have been shown in most [3][4][5] (but not all[6]) studies to inhibit testosterone production in the testes. This is believed to be caused by the metabolism of alcohol reducing the NAD+/NADH ratio both in the liver and the testes; since the synthesis of testosterone requires NAD+, this tends to reduce testosterone production.[7][8]

As testosterone is critical for libido and physical arousal, alcohol tends to have deleterious effects on male sexual performance. Studies have been conducted that indicate increasing levels of alcohol intoxication produce a significant degradation in male masturbatory effectiveness. This degradation was measured by measuring blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and ejaculation latency.[9] Alcohol intoxication can decrease sexual arousal, decrease pleasureability and intensity of orgasm, and increase difficulty in attaining orgasm.[9]

Alcohol and sex in women

In many women, alcohol increases sexual arousal and desire, although it does lower the physiological signs of arousal.[10] Women have a different response to alcohol intoxication. Studies have shown that acute alcohol consumption tends to cause increased levels of testosterone and estradiol.[11][12] Since testosterone controls in part the strength of libido on women, this tends to cause an increase in interest in sex. Also, because women have a higher percentage of body fat and less water in their bodies, alcohol can have a quicker, more severe impact. Women’s bodies take longer to process the alcohol which often takes one-third longer to eliminate the substance.[2]

Sexual behavior in women under the influence of alcohol is also different from men. Studies have shown that increased BAC is associated with longer orgasmic latencies and decreased intensity of orgasm.[10] Some women report a greater sexual arousal with increased alcohol consumption as well as increased sensations of pleasure during orgasm. Because ejaculatory response is visual and can more easily be measured in males, orgasmic response must be measured more intimately. In studies of the female orgasm under the influence of alcohol, orgasmic latencies were measured using a vaginal photoplethysmograph which essentially measures vaginal blood volume.[10]

Psychologically, alcohol has also played a role on sexual behavior. It has been reported that women who were intoxicated believed they were more sexually aroused than before consumption of alcohol.[10] This psychological effect contrasts with the physiological effects measured, but refers back to the loss of inhibitions because of alcohol. Oftentimes alcohol can influence the capacity for a woman to feel more relaxed and in turn, be more able to be sexual. Alcohol may be considered by some women to be a sexual “disinhibitor”.[10]

Sexual risk-taking

Alcohol intoxication is associated with an increased risk that people will become involved in risky sexual behaviours, such as unprotected sex.[9] It is unclear whether the two are linked or the personality types of people who often drink large amounts of alcohol are more tolerant of risk-taking.

Alcohol is linked to a large proportion of unwanted outcomes associated with sex such as date rape, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.[13]

Beer goggles

"Beer goggles" is a slang term for the phenomenon in which consumption of alcohol lowers sexual inhibitions to the point that very little or no discretion is used when approaching or choosing sexual partners. The term is often humorously applied when an individual is observed making, or later regretting, advances towards a partner who would be deemed unattractive or inappropriate when sober. The "beer goggles" are considered to have distorted the "wearer's" vision, making unattractive people appear beautiful, or at least passably attractive.

A study published in 2003 supported the beer goggles theory; however, it also found that another explanation is that regular drinkers tend to have personality traits that mean they find people more attractive, whether or not they are under the influence of alcohol at the time.[14] A 2009 study showed that while men found adult women (who were wearing makeup) more attractive after consuming alcohol, the alcohol did not interfere with their ability to determine a woman's age.[15]

See also


  1. ^ World Health Organization, Mental Health Evidence and Research Team (2005). Alcohol Use and Sexual Risk Behaviour. World Health Organization. ISBN 9789241562898. 
  2. ^ a b c Crowe, LC; George, WH (1989). "Alcohol and human sexuality: Review and integration". Psychological Bulletin 105 (3): 374–86. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.105.3.374. PMID 2660179. 
  3. ^ Frias, J; Torres, JM; Miranda, MT; Ruiz, E; Ortega, E (2002). "Effects of acute alcohol intoxication on pituitary-gonadal axis hormones, pituitary-adrenal axis hormones, beta-endorphin and prolactin in human adults of both sexes". Alcohol and Alcoholism 37 (2): 169–73. doi:10.1093/alcalc/37.2.169. PMID 11912073. 
  4. ^ Mendelson, JH; Ellingboe, J; Mello, NK; Kuehnle, John (1978). "Effects of Alcohol on Plasma Testosterone and Luteinizing Hormone Levels". Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2 (3): 255. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.1978.tb05808.x. 
  5. ^ Mendelson, JH; Mello, NK; Ellingboe, J (1977). "Effects of acute alcohol intake on pituitary-gonadal hormones in normal human males". Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 202 (3): 676–82. PMID 894528. 
  6. ^ Sarkola, T; Eriksson, CJP (2003). "Testosterone Increases in Men After a Low Dose of Alcohol". Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 27 (4): 682. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2003.tb04405.x. 
  7. ^ Emanuele, MA; Halloran, MM; Uddin, S; Tentler, JJ; Emanuele, NV; Lawrence, AM; Kelly, MR (1993). "The effects of alcohol on the neuroendocrine control of reproduction". In Zakhari, S. Alcohol and the Endocrine System. National Institute of Health Publications. pp. 89–116. NIH Pub 93-3533. 
  8. ^ Ellingboe, J; Varanelli, CC (1979). "Ethanol inhibits testosterone biosynthesis by direct action on Leydig cells". Research Communications in Chemical Pathology and Pharmacology 24 (1): 87–102. PMID 219455. 
  9. ^ a b c Halpernfelsher, B; Millstein, S; Ellen, J (1996). "Relationship of alcohol use and risky sexual behavior: A review and analysis of findings". Journal of Adolescent Health 19 (5): 331–6. doi:10.1016/S1054-139X(96)00024-9. PMID 8934293. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Beckman, LJ; Ackerman, KT (1995). "Women, alcohol, and sexuality". Recent Developments in Alcoholism 12: 267–85. PMID 7624547. 
  11. ^ Sarkola, T; Fukunaga, T; Mäkisalo, H; Peter Eriksson, CJ (2000). "Acute Effect of Alcohol on Androgens in Premenopausal Women". Alcohol and Alcoholism 35 (1): 84–90. doi:10.1093/alcalc/35.1.84. PMID 10684783. 
  12. ^ Ellingboe, J (1987). "Acute effects of ethanol on sex hormones in non-alcoholic men and women". Alcohol and Alcoholism Supplement 1: 109–16. PMID 3122772. 
  13. ^ Hanson, GR; Venturelli, PJ; Fleckenstein, AE (2005). Drugs and Society. Jones and Bartlett Publishers. p. 238. ISBN 9780763737320. 
  14. ^ Jones, BT; Jones, BC; Thomas, AP; Piper, J (2003). "Alcohol consumption increases attractiveness ratings of opposite-sex faces: A possible third route to risky sex". Addiction 98 (8): 1069–75. doi:10.1046/j.1360-0443.2003.00426.x. PMID 12873241. 
  15. ^ Egan, V; Cordan, G (2009). "Barely legal: Is attraction and estimated age of young female faces disrupted by alcohol use, make up, and the sex of the observer?". British Journal of Psychology 100 (2): 415–27. doi:10.1348/000712608X357858. PMID 18851766. 


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