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Alcohol’s Effect on Intimacy & Sex

Girl embarrassed after binge drinkingContrary to a popular myth that drinking alcohol makes people feel more intimate or ‘horny’, it actually doesn’t. The fact is alcohol is a nervous system depressant that gradually ‘dumbs down’ the brain and deadens all our senses, leaving us less likely to fully enjoy sexual intimacy. Though for some, drinking alcohol (especially binge drinking), may result in the likelihood of having sex, purely because the ability to make sound, rational decisions becomes one of the first brain functions to become impaired when drinking alcohol. The more this ‘reasoning’ part of the brain becomes dysfunctional, the more our other ‘animal instinct’ primal part of the brain takes over (and it’s not big on sound thinking or consequences). It’s more about just satisfying needs… don’t think, just do!

Alcohol just acts to remove the mental barriers that we have in place that prevent us from doing things we would (when sober) normally consider morally questionable, personally risky, or likely to cause us social embarrassment. Often high standards that we have set ourselves, or been raised to hold dear (the ones that reside in the part of the brain responsible for logic and cognitive control), become over-ridden by the primal urges of “I want it, so I’ll have it” and “if it feels good, do it”.

Guy embarrassed after binge drinkingThis might all seem like harmless fun when you find yourself up singing karaoke, albeit way off-key. However, much more serious and life-changing decisions also get made when alcohol abuse stealthily switches off our ‘morality and sensibility’ guardian system. When my book ‘Alcohemy’ was being edited, I was told I had to edit out several hundred pages from the original manuscript to shorten it into a more ‘reader friendly’ length. Some of the material selected to be removed was concerning how alcohol abuse effected relationships, especially if the relationship was already struggling in some way. I was told by my editor that I had gone into too much detail in that area considering the objective of my book. I begged to differ, because after all, having a healthy and loving relationship is one of the big reasons most people desire to cease an alcohol dependence and regular alcohol abuse.

One of the alcohol facts that wasn’t removed, reported that in the USA alone (with a population of over 310 million), up to 50-70% of relationships experience infidelity with approx. 30-50% of these involving alcohol use. It is also reported that 99% hide their infidelity and will deny it when questioned. Some alcohol facts that were removed during editing are: Wikipedia (the online encyclopaedia) states ‘Studies suggest around 30–40% of unmarried relationships and 18–20% of marriages are marked by at least one incident of sexual infidelity. Men are more likely than women to have a sexual affair, regardless of whether or not they are in a married or unmarried relationship.’ On the website it states ‘It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage’. Recent studies reveal that 45-55% of married women and 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their relationship (Atwood & Schwartz, 2002 – Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy).

Couple caught having sex after drinking alcoholEveryone reads stories in magazines, or sees in movies people having too much alcohol at a work Christmas party, or a function and end up having a sexual encounter they desperately regret. However, we all think it would never happen to us. Well I’m telling you, if your personal relationship is already strained, and if you pour enough alcohol down your throat that your rational judgement is completely shot, and your very primal urges to ‘feel good’ and ‘feel desired’ are just about the only circuits functioning in your brain; it can and doeshappen. I believe there are literally many millions of people around the world that this type of alcohol-induced sexual transgression has happened to (including some of you reading this). These aren’t intrinsically immoral or bad people. They are generally everyday people like you and me who, due to an alignment of circumstances like; existing relationship problems, excessive alcohol consumption and opportunity, made an alcohol-affected, foolish and regrettable decision.

During my deeper research I read studies and reports that revealed the deeper primal urges like, acquiring food, water, shelter, safety, and yes… sex, were more intrinsic and powerful than our ‘intellectual’ desires to be morally appropriate, liked or fair. It is only our conditioned values and human reasoning that governs the behaviours which we are prepared to do, in order to obtain those basic urges, and prevents us from acting more ‘animalistic’. For most (when sober), it would take a particularly serious event for them to over-ride their moral values and to act in a way that is contrary to them. Others are more easily swayed to sacrifice their values to get what they want.

Regardless of what category you are in, the decision can and does get short-circuited, if you disable your brain’s capacity to reason and think rationally by drinking alcohol or taking other mind-altering substances. As stated above, once this ‘reasoning function’ is switched off, you are operating at a lower primal level of thinking (or more appropriately put, ‘not thinking’).

This doesn’t make the decision of having ‘inappropriate’ sex with someone ‘right’ or even ‘OK’, though it is a reason of why it does commonly happen. The majority of people that consume alcohol are mature and smart enough to understand, that a side effect of drinking alcohol is that it does affect our ability to ‘think straight’. If we drink alcohol knowing this, then we have to take full responsibilities for our actions (and their consequences) whilst intoxicated, even if those actions were irrational. It is a known hazard of drinking alcohol and by choosing to drink it you must accept that risk and responsibility.

Intimate couple after quitting alcoholThe second part of alcohol’s effect on intimacy involves two people connecting on an intimate level (and let’s remember that being intimate with someone doesn’t necessarily involve having sex). Loving intimacy is usually best when bothpeople involved are in the same frame of mind and are ‘in the moment’ and in-tune with each other. Drawing on research and personal experience over my lifetime, it is not likely this level of mutual intimacy will be obtained if one of the pair is intoxicated. Even if both are intoxicated, it is more likely they are operating at a primal lust level, than a thoughtful and caring level of intimacy. Not that there is anything wrong with mutually lustful sex… it’s just not the same as the awareness and consideration that goes into deliberate intimate moments.

Intimate couple after quitting alcoholIf you or your partner are regularly intoxicated from binge drinking, it is highly likely the number of mutually intimate occasions will be low and more than likely so will any occasions of mutually satisfying sex. My advice is that unless you are occasionally using alcohol to assist in lowering inhibitions for some raunchy, down-n-dirty, primal sex, drinking alcohol has no benefits to your relationship’s intimacy or sex life. Of course, those of you that are using my Alcohemy program to live alcohol-free, forget alcohol and try the old fashioned, tried and true way of mutually satisfying intimacy and sex… lovingly talk to each other with open minds about what turns you on, then experiment :) . That is best done without drinking alcohol.

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