There seems to be a very certain representation of sex between two people under the age of 35 in today’s media: drunk. More often than not, we see sex acted out as some kind of uncoordinated dance featuring two tipsy adults flopping their bodies against one another in a mad dash to remove clothing and connect their nether regions. The funny thing is, that’s quite accurate. Most people I know that are in their early 20s and sexually active are not engaging in the kind of hot, steamy intimacy we all remember from Titanic. Oh, no. Instead, we follow a much less visually pleasing standard of practice. Enter two adults on their third date, about eight to ten beers between the two of them, and finally a bed ordered off Casper and bam, you have yourself an evening of unrefined hedonism. So why are we all so accustomed to inebriated pleasures of the flesh? What happened to sober loving?

Sex gets a lot of attention from the public. Since it’s inception until now, it has probably been rebranded more times than Madonna and Brittney combined. Is it a sacred gift to be given only to the one you love? A tool for continuing your genealogical tree? Something fun to do on a Saturday night? Regardless of how you personally view sex, one can agree that many people seem to like to use alcohol as a starter salad to the main course. After all, it is liquid courage. That pretty girl on the other side of the bar doesn’t seem quite so unapproachable after a shot or two, but what happens if she accepts your offer to come back to your place? You’ve both had a couple beers now and you’re feeling ready to go, so you jump right in. You have sex while you’re drunk, making up for what you lack in coordination with sheer vigor, and the next day you wake up with a sharp headache and a hazy recollection of the night’s prior events. This is so normal for so many people, but should it be?

Please don’t think that I say this as some kind of dig in any way to people who engage in inebriated sex; on the contrary, I am very much an advocate of sexual liberation as long as everyone’s wearing a safety helmet. I just wonder sometimes if sex and alcohol have become too closely linked to each other, and whether or not that is ultimately a good thing. Despite your personal or often religious affiliations, I think most of us would probably agree that the idea of beautiful, passionate, intimate sex is something that we want at some point in our life, and I have a hard time seeing where a blackout fits into that equation. While researchers agree that a couple drinks help to set the proverbial mood—increasing not only our attraction to others but also to ourselves—they also caution excess when ingesting pre-coital libations. Most of us can vouch for alcohol’s social assuagement, but too much of a good thing can leave us impaired in more ways than one. More alcohol in the blood correlates to a decreased ability for the brain to sense sexual stimulation. Alcohol has a pretty well established negative effect on male performance in the bedroom—excessive drinking is a common cause of erectile dysfunction. As a depressant, alcohol has a muting effect on the nervous system, including the parts of the body that control circulation, respiration, and nerve ending sensitivity, all of which are necessary for arousal and orgasm. To diagnose the infamous “whiskey dick,” alcohol dilates the blood vessels, which controls the flow of blood to the male extremity. Too much hooch will impair consistent blood flow, meaning that no matter how bad your brain is saying yes, your body just won’t listen. Women are also subject to alcohol’s adverse effects on sexual performance: our bodies can often be dehydrated by too much alcohol consumption, which makes proper vaginal lubrication difficult. This can put you at risk for tearing, which is especially dangerous if protection hasn’t been used.

Let us all not forget one of the most troubling associations that often comes with alcohol and sex: lack of consent. Perhaps it was a good thing that those couple glasses of wine helped you overcome your nerves and approach that guy, but like anything else in this world, there is often a limit that you might cross if you’re too inebriated. Alcohol is infamous as an integral component of many cases of rape and molestation, and this is no accident: it’s estimated that as much as 50% of all sexual assault cases involved alcohol consumption by at least one person. As two people fall further and further down the rabbit hole, clear exchanges of consent begin to slip away. This is dangerous for everyone involved. There is no way to guarantee that the sex you are about to have is consensual if neither person can clearly remember what happened the night before. If you are hot and heavy in the moment but you haven’t established firmly that this is something both of you want to do, most experts suggest waiting until a time when less alcohol has been consumed to get it on. This will prevent everyone from having to endure an uncomfortably bad sexual experience and even more than that, a sexual experience that could irrevocably change your lives forever.

Maybe one of the biggest draws of boozy sexual encounters is the lack of inhibitions. This is especially true for those of us who don’t always see ourselves as sexual beings, which only seems to be harder to do as we’re inundated more and more with images of unrealistic sensual beings day in and day out. There is, however, a solution to this: let us look at sex as what it is, which is to say a natural and beautiful act that any two people can partake in, and not a marketing tool to sell you sports bras. Sex has become warped in modern society because it is constantly being employed as a gimmick to attract numbers. We want to see sex, but we’re only shown sex in a completely unrealistic way. This can skew the minds of many people who are not given a real sexual education, so much so that eventually they feel like they need to have five drinks for anyone to find them attractive. After all, what’s more important than being attractive? It’s that type of thinking that has us in such a pickle, not just involving intoxicated sex but a number of societal issues. Perhaps if we paid more attention and appreciation to ourselves as we are then sex would naturally follow our lead. It would become an enjoyable act, not just a cause of distress or a catalyst to violence.

Sex under the influence of alcohol is present everywhere: it’s in the TV shows we watch and the movies we fawn over, it’s part of 80% of standup routines, and it’s probably something we have all engaged in more than once. But sex doesn’t need alcohol to be great; on the contrary, sex is pretty great without alcohol, because sex on its own can be an intimate and electrifying experience. Don’t allow your thoughts to be clouded by the stories you hear, sex doesn’t need to be boozed up to be comfortable and enjoyable. Pursue a physical relationship with someone you trust and feel attracted to, and more often than not, you’re going to have a good time.



Profile photo of DEVON TREVATHAN