It’s long been thought that a little of what you fancy makes sex more enjoyable.
Everyone knows alcohol acts as an aphrodisiac, increasing our desire for sex and making it better. Having a few drinks loosens inhibitions, makes us more adventurous and orgasms more intense, right?
Stick to one or two drinks only and you might well experience all the positive effects alcohol can have on your sex life.
Tip over that and it rapidly works in reverse.
Is sex REALLY better when you’re drunk? Or does sober sex secretly trump being tipsy?
I spoke to three people with very different perspectives on sex and drinking. Here’s what they told me.
(*Their names are changed for anonymity.)
Tracey Cox has revealed the big impact alcohol has on intimacy with a partner – and whether it really does make sex better (stock image)
I love drunk sex even if it makes me sad sometimes
*Lisa is 36, single and works for an advertising agency
‘I don’t think I’ve ever had sex sober. Not sure I ever want to! I’m ambitious and focusing on my career at this stage in my life, so relationships take second place. This means I have lots of short flings that are fuelled more by sex than love and drinking is all part of the foreplay for me.
Tracey (pictured) spoke to three people with very different perspectives on sex and drinking
I like going out to dinner first and flirting and feeling more and more relaxed and turned on as the night progresses and the drinks flow. The more compliments a guy gives me – especially telling me how sexy I am – the more likely I am to have sex with him. I like sex – I’ve always had a higher sex drive than any other woman I know. It’s a joke in our friendship group. I also drink more than most people I know. That’s also a source of amusement to my friends. I don’t get the impression any of them are worried about me, though I confess I do worry about myself sometimes.
I often can’t remember how I got home from a big night out and I often don’t remember what I’ve said. My best friend is also a big drinker and we both reach for the phone the minute we wake up to piece together what we’ve done or said and if there’s anyone we need to apologise to. Most of the time though, I’ve just flirted with someone I wouldn’t normally have.
I like drunk sex. Drinking puts me in a good mood and the sex is playful. I’m adventurous when I’m tipsy. People think I’m an extrovert but a lot of it is an act – sometimes I feel shy when I have sex for the first time with someone new. Drinking gives me confidence. Being a little bit drunk also gives you an excuse to let loose. If I suggest something that’s a little out there and the man I’m with seems judgemental, all I have to say is ‘God, I must be p****d! Sorry!’ and I’m excused.
I do struggle to orgasm if I’ve had too much to drink. I only ever orgasm through oral sex, which means the guy must be sober enough to do it properly. If I don’t orgasm in the first ten minutes, it’s not going to happen.
One downside for me with drinking and sex is that it can make me feel vulnerable. I work a lot and I work from home and I get lonely. I’m aware I am having relationships with men I have no intention of forming a real relationship with. I just want to have someone to cuddle and have sex with on the weekends.
I can get quite melancholy after the sex is over. Sex sobers me up a bit, and I often find myself rudely jolted back from the pleasant haze to reality, realising there’s someone in my bed who I know is only there because I am lonely. That’s depressing.
I’ve had three serious relationships in my life. In all of them, my boyfriends commented on how much I drank. I quickly learnt to form relationships with men who have the same attitude to alcohol as I have. When I’m ready to settle down, maybe I’ll cut back. In the meantime, the pros of drunk sex outweigh the negatives.’
Sober sex is so good, it stopped me drinking
*Elena is 34 and has been married four years
‘When I met my now husband and he told me he was a teetotaller, it put me off. I didn’t want someone watching me and judging me on what I drank (I was a regular drinker, if not a heavy one). Most of all, I worried sex would be awful.
I’d had sex sober on occasion: in the morning or a quickie in the afternoon. But I found it hard to get in the mood without having a few drinks first.
My previous boyfriend and I would always time sex for when we were 3-4 drinks in. More than that meant erection problems for him and orgasm problems for me. But that was our happy spot. We broke up but I didn’t want to give tipsy sex up – I enjoyed it.
My husband is one of the very few people in the world who genuinely doesn’t enjoy alcohol. He tried it but hated the taste and didn’t see any point in forcing himself to like it. I met him when he was 28 as a very happy non-drinker.
I knew within the first hour of our date that he was a teetotaller. My heart sank. I felt uncomfortable. He insisted on me ordering wine, so I did, but I felt self-conscious. But he doesn’t mind if others drink, so quickly put me at ease. Because he didn’t judge me, I decided he was worth another date.
WHAT EFFECT DOES DRINKING HAVE ON SEX?
Shakespeare was right when he said alcohol ‘provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance’. Moderation is key.
Men and women process alcohol differently. Women have less body water than men, even if they weigh the same. With less water to dilute alcohol, women feel the effects more.
One or two drinks can boost arousal. Lots of people say they feel confident and sexier after a few drinks. Alcohol does increase socialisation and lower inhibitions. It also increases testosterone in females, the male sex hormone linked to desire.
Beer goggles are real. Alcohol does make people appear more attractive. You are more likely to fancy someone you wouldn’t if you were sober.
It can stop him getting an erection. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. It also decreases blood flow to the penis, meaning the chambers inside can’t fill with blood to create an erection. Drinking increases angiotensin, a hormone linked to erectile dysfunction and prolonged, heavy drinking can turn temporary impotence into a permanent condition. Drinking can also affect fertility.
It delays ejaculation. This might sound like a good thing if you’re trying to last longer, but if it takes you longer than 30 minutes to each orgasm and ejaculate with sexual stimulation, that joy quickly morphs into frustration.
It can prevent or delay orgasm for women. Lots of women find it difficult to reach orgasm when drunk or find orgasms less intense. This is, again, because alcohol affects blood flow, lubrication and sensitivity. Because drinking too much also makes us dehydrated, sex can feel uncomfortable or painful.
You’re more likely to end up having a one-night stand when drunk than sober. So, more likely to end up with an STI, HIV or pregnant.
Alcohol makes us more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour. Because it impairs our judgement, plenty of people wake up the morning after the night before and deeply regret what they’ve done. You’re more likely to cheat and/or sleep with someone who is out of bounds (your boss, your best friend’s partner).
The chance of sexual assault is higher. If you’re incoherent and feel confused, you’re more of a target.
Issues over consent are more likely. Clear consent is necessary before any type of sexual contact. Having sex with someone who is too drunk to give consent is sexual assault or rape.
My friends’ reactions to me dating a non-drinker were interesting. The bigger the drinker, the more alarmed they were. ‘How are you ever going to have fun? What’s sex going to be like?’. The more people ganged up on him, the more determined I was to see what it was like dating a non-drinker.
To my surprise, I liked it. It made me drink less which meant we did more. We’d have lunch and then go for a long walk, rather than settle in and drink more. Our dates didn’t revolve around alcohol, so we were more inventive. I would have the odd glass of wine with him but never more than that. I felt healthier and had more energy. My brain felt fully awake and sharp.
Still, I put off having sex for as long as I could. We’d been dating a whole month – seeing each other a few times a week – before I invited him to stay over. I was so nervous. Drinking does give you Dutch courage! The first time felt awkward. I was too self-conscious. I couldn’t lose myself in the moment and I scrutinised everything I did. When you’re tipsy, you don’t self-analyse as much. He was nervous as well, feeding off my energy. He had an orgasm, I didn’t.
Luckily, we both have a sense of humour and were able to joke about how bad it was. We laughed and cuddled and I talked about how weird sober sex felt. Thing is, I didn’t have to be sober. He said if it made sex better for me, he was totally happy for me to have a few drinks first. But that would mean we were on two different levels, and I didn’t want that.
I’d fallen for him at that stage and it felt different than any relationship I’d had. The next time we had sex, he’d stayed over and we did it in bed, under the covers and in the dark, just before we fell asleep. That felt more natural.
Little by little, we got more comfortable with each other. And that’s when I discovered how mind-blowing sober sex can be. First up, everything works. He’s never had any erection issues and I’ve never had any problem reaching orgasm. Every touch feels so intense. When you have sex sober, the touch of fingers or a tongue feels like it’s been turned up 200 per cent.
It’s much easier to tell someone what you like when your brain is alert and you can communicate properly. There’s lots of eye contact during our sex. I don’t escape into a fantasy; I look at him when I climax and that is unbelievably hot.
We’ve been together four years and married for one year. I couldn’t be happy – or more sober. I will have the odd drink on occasion – a glass of champagne at a wedding – but I’ve stopped drinking the rest of the time. I can’t see the point now.’
My wife has stopped drinking and our sex life is over
*Jeremy is 54 and has been married for 27 years.
‘If you told me my wife and I would become one of those couples who hardly ever have sex, I’d have laughed in your face. We were still having wild sex way after our friends had given up on it. We both liked a drink and some of my best memories of the two of us are coming home from a boozy session at the pub and spending the next hour in bed having sex.
That’s all gone out the window since my wife decided to give up drinking. It started when she turned 50. Her birthday is early Jan and she and a mate decided to do dry January. All of us drink too much, so I got that she figured it was time to start cutting back.
The first thing to suffer was sex. My wife needed to keep busy to stop her missing drinking, so she’d be cleaning out cupboards late at night instead of watching telly. Or wanting to go on long walks and cook something healthy when before we’d go to the pub for a roast. It wasn’t enjoyable but it was a challenge, so I helped her to achieve her goal. She lost some weight (which I suspected was the point of it for her) and that was that.
Except it wasn’t. She became a health nut, joined a gym with her friend and started doing yoga at home and listening to meditation videos. She thrived on it and said she never felt better – but our relationship suffered. She’s not fun anymore. We were always the last to leave and now she wants to be the first. She’d have a glass or two but has now stopped drinking completely.
She tried to get me to cut down on drinking but I felt miserable enough. Sex became less and less frequent and when we did have it, it felt like she was doing it just to please me. I’ve never felt like that before. We’ve talked about it and she agrees that her sex drive has disappeared but she puts it down to being menopausal.
It might be something to do with that – she is moodier and gets very hot – but, to me, it’s obvious that her desire for sex disappeared the minute she decided to become a non-drinker.
I feel like I’ve lost my partner in crime. We used to have such fun together and now we don’t. If I have a few and make a move on her, I feel her tense up and I know it’s not welcome.
I don’t bother her for sex anymore. I just DIY with some porn when she’s not around. But I miss our sex so much and feel desperately depressed at the thought that things might stay this way forever.’
Listen to Tracey’s new podcast, SexTok with Tracey and Kelsey here. You’ll find her products, books and blogs at traceycox.com