‘I’ve been drinking, I’ve been drinking/I get filthy when that liquor get into me’, sang Beyonce in 2013, no doubt echoing the sentiment of many of us. Lots of us can relate to feeling steamy when we’re, um, steaming, but what exactly do we need to know about the relationship between sex and alcohol?
We’re answering just that. As July ushers in the summer holidays, BBQs, beach trips, festivals, graduation ceremonies, and wedding season, it also brings with it many opportunities for a sesh. Peak summer vibes signal peak summer drinking for many people, but drinking alcohol increases risks to our health in numerous ways – vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) being just one.
Take the opportunity this summer to get the lowdown before your sundowners on staying safe this long hot summer.
Alcohol Increases Your Desire to Have Sex (Sort Of)
Many of us report that booze stokes our urge for sex – so why is it that alcohol has us feeling hot and bothered? The answer is complicated because we may not be quite as horny after a few drinks as we often think we are.
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For many, alcohol reduces our inhibitions and causes us to temporarily feel more confident, the ‘perfect cocktail’ for feeling sexier. What’s more, people with vaginas have been shown to have an increased testosterone level after drinking alcohol, often causing them to feel an increase in sexual desire.
Alcohol and Sex: The Perfect Pairing?
But here’s where things get tricky: while it may feel like the urge for sex is there, drinking is, in fact, known to seriously decrease our sexual arousal, enjoyment and performance in bed. Drinking alcohol makes it difficult to achieve and maintain a penile erection, and people’s orgasms are generally less intense, delayed, or prevented entirely.
But sexual disappointment is only half of the story.
Alcohol and Sexually Transmitted Infections: The Risks
The truth is, not only do people have worse sex when they have been drinking, but they’re also much more likely to have unprotected sex. This is because alcohol impairs our judgement, meaning we can be more likely to engage in risky or impulsive sexual behaviour that we wouldn’t if sober.
Condoms (both external and internal) are the only form of contraception that can protect us from STIs. But when we’ve been drinking, our brain’s ability to analyse risks and outcomes of situations becomes seriously impaired. meaning we’re more likely to take part in condomless sex (sex without a condom), which puts us at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (also known as sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs).
Even when we do opt to use a condom, drinking alcohol increases the risk of condom breakage, thanks to our impaired coordination.
If you have experienced either condomless sex or condom breakage, it’s important that you check for STIs as soon as possible. It may also be appropriate to seek emergency contraception or to take a pregnancy test. Trust Yoxly to have your back with an at-home STI testing kit that can be with you in less than 24 hours.
What’s more, alcohol threatens to weaken our immune system. This makes it easier for us to contract any disease, including STIs. Our bodies are also unable to fight disease as effectively when we misuse alcohol.
Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: Consent, Alcohol and Sex
That’s not to say that STIs are all we need to consider with regard to alcohol and sex. Having sex with someone without their consent at any time is against the law. To give consent, a person must have the capacity to take part by choice. This means that after drinking alcohol, a person can be too drunk to give consent.
Enthusiastic, free and capable consent should always be sought in sexual encounters. You can learn more about sexual consent from Rape Crisis.
Bearing the above in mind, you might decide to limit or eliminate alcohol entirely from your dating life or hook-ups. After all, sober dates mean optimal judgement, better sex, less likelihood of condom mishaps and reduced likelihood of experiencing rape or non-consensual sex. Daunted by the prospect of sober dating? Don’t be. You’ll find tips to get you started here.
Tips on Alcohol This Summer and Beyond: Aim For Sizzling Over Sozzled
So, how do we keep the fun in summer and avoid bringing anything undesirable home with us?
First, it is advised that adults do not exceed drinking more than 14 units of alcohol per week. You can find out how much alcohol that is and how much your intake stacks with this Alcohol Unit Calculator.
In a perfect world, none of us would exceed our recommended weekly limit of units, but we know sometimes this simply is not the case. What’s important is to stay safe:
- Alternate your alcoholic drinks with water. Yes, it’s the oldest trick in the book, but alternating your drinks will slow down your alcohol intake, and keep you hydrated (this is especially important in hot spells!)
- Try to drink around people you trust and feel safe around. When we drink alcohol, we can risk our personal safety. While we can never eliminate this risk entirely, drinking in the company of individuals, we trust may help somewhat
- Eat a substantial meal before drinking. Try to include plenty of carbohydrates, protein and fat
- Carry condoms throughout your Summer of Love and beyond – it’s just good practice
- Feeling ‘condom confident’ may make you more inclined to use them – get familiar with how to use condoms, plus get to know which are right for you - we have a whole blog article discussing different types of condoms
- If you do have condomless sex, a condom breaks, or you have any other reason to suspect an STI, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional or order an at-home STI testing kit. Remember, this is important even if you have no symptoms
- Remember – STIs can have serious negative effects on your own health and well-being and potentially the health and well-being of others. Make sure you’re aware of how to reduce your risk of getting STIs all year round, not just during summertime
Worried about your alcohol intake? The NHS has more information on seeking help or treatment options.
By knowing the risks around alcohol and sex, we can keep summer safe, sex and fun. After all, everyone deserves a summer that is happy and healthy, and dare we say it – hot.