Alcohol has a disinhibiting effect that may help lead to sexual intimacy. However, abusive drinking can lead straight to disaster, in terms of both the relationship and the sex.
What’s more, when taken in more than moderate amounts, alcohol can generate a series of problems—in particular, it can make the intoxicated person more vulnerable to various types of sexual violence.
That, in essence, is the conclusion of Éduc’alcool’s report on alcohol and sex.
The publication examines the relationship between alcohol and sex, focusing on the well-known and lesser-known effects. It reviews the impact of alcohol on sexual function and risky sexual behaviour, and also tackles the delicate subject of the connection between alcohol and sexual violence.
Alcohol is certainly neither the primary nor the sole factor in sexual assault, but it is often present during unwanted sex or sexual violence. And while small amounts of alcohol may promote sexual intimacy in a variety of ways, not a single study has shown that drinking heavily can be in any way beneficial. It is clear that abusive drinking and sex are a terrible combination.
The positive effects of moderation
Taken in moderate amounts, alcohol can have a positive aphrodisiac and disinhibiting effect on men and women. Alcohol has a positive physiological impact on erectile function in men, and among women, moderate drinking is positively associated with all aspects of sexual function. However, the research shows clearly that excessive drinking has a negative impact on sexual function for both men and women.
Abusive drinking leads to risky behaviour
Although the research has not demonstrated this absolutely, drinking appears to be an aggravating factor in certain risky sexual behaviours, particularly unprotected sex. In fact, condom use is less certain when people have sex under the influence of alcohol. This is explained by the disinhibiting effects of alcohol. However, some studies posit that the more people drink, the more they are likely to have sex, although it will not necessarily be unprotected sex, unless they are people who are not generally in the habit of using a condom. The risk is higher for unreliable condom users.
Alcohol and sexual violence
The report shows definitively that excessive drinking is a factor in the incidence and severity of domestic violence.
Firstly, excessive drinking tends to cause a sort of “blindness,” reducing a person’s ability to recognize danger signs and situations with the potential for sexual assault.
A second, more direct impact is when a person’s ability to say no or resist is impaired by their level of intoxication. Occasionally, but fairly rarely, a predator will deliberately get a victim drunk in order to have sex. Far more common, especially among student populations, are cases of “absence of consent” rape, where the woman has consumed alcohol voluntarily but is too drunk to be able to consent to sex.
Finally, victims of sexual violence may end up drinking more after the incident than before. “Self-medication” is the term used to describe the phenomenon in which a person, usually a woman, drinks excessively to dull her pain.
So, while alcohol may not be a necessary or sufficient cause of sexual violence, it is a significant contributing factor for both the assailant and the victim. Thus, when it comes to love and sex, we find, once again, that moderation is always in good taste.