Is Alcohol Wreaking Havoc on Your Sexual Performance?

Published February 12th, 2021 by Erik Rivera
Fact Checked by
Camille Freking
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Gerardo Sison
Updated Date: Mar 13th, 2021

Effects on Men | Erectile Dysfunction | Derail Ejaculation | Effects on Women | Safe Sex While Drinking

The use of alcohol has been linked to sexual problems and sexual function for as long as the beverage has been around. The relaxed, less inhibited version of ourselves that appears after a couple of drinks may feel more attractive to others, experience increased sexual desire, and may find others more attractive, but how much does alcohol consumption actually impact your sex life and sex drive? Studies have shown that the amount of alcohol you consume can have a serious impact on your sexual performance, particularly when consumed in excess. Is alcohol wreaking havoc on your sexual performance? We’ll explore the ways the substance can impact you. 

Effects on Men

The anecdotal stories of alcohol use affecting the sexual response of men abound, but what is the prevalence of this experience? It turns out that it’s more common than most people realize. One study found  that 72 percent of men with a diagnosis of alcohol dependence, or those considered to be alcoholic men, experienced sexual dysfunction, with the most common issues being premature ejaculation, low sexual desire, and erectile dysfunction. Alcohol affects men with four differing side effects: it makes getting and keeping an erection more difficult, can derail ejaculation, may increase arousal, and increases the likelihood of taking sexual risks. Each of these effects are detailed below.

May Cause Erectile Dysfunction

One of the most well known risk factors of alcohol on male sexual performance is causing difficulty getting and keeping an erection that is hard enough for sex. Alcohol consumption doesn’t only impact your erectile function on the day it’s consumed, however. Drinking excessively on a regular basis and long-term alcohol abuse can cause permanent damage to the penis and contribute to chronic erectile dysfunction. Alcohol impacts erections by:

  • Reducing blood flow to the penis
  • Increasing the amount of angiotensin, a hormone linked to erectile dysfunction, in the body
  • Depressing the central nervous system. 

Having a few drinks isn’t likely to impact the ability of most men to get and keep an erection, but drinking to excess on any given day or night will have noticeable negative effects on your sexual performance and mental health.

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May Derail Ejaculation

Just like excessive alcohol intake can prevent you from getting and keeping an erection that is hard enough for sex, alcohol can also increase the amount of time it takes to ejaculate or prevent you from ejaculating at all. Drinking excessively is known to cause a condition called delayed ejaculation, which is said to occur when it takes longer than 30 minutes to reach orgasm while being sexually stimulated. Drinking too much may prevent some men from being able to ejaculate at all. You’re not likely to experience delayed ejaculation after a couple of drinks, but it is more likely to occur when drinking too much. 

May Increase Arousal

Have you ever noticed that everyone looks just a little bit more attractive when you’ve had a couple of drinks? You’re not alone. Having one or two drinks may increase sexual desire and arousal in men and have the person standing next to you looking just a little bit cuter than they were an hour ago. However, drinking excessively can cause your arousal to plummet along with your erection, so drinking more than two drinks, depending on your weight, may have the opposite of the intended effect.

May Increase Willingness to Take Sexual Risks

The lowered inhibitions that alcohol tends to cause may increase your likelihood of taking sexual risks and trying new things. Studies on the subject show that alcohol intoxication increased study participants’ sense of being sexually aroused, which contributed to a greater willingness to engage in unprotected sex or try new sexual experiences. While trying new things may be a good thing in some cases, it can also be potentially dangerous if patients are too inebriated to think clearly about the consequences of their sexual behavior. Men are more likely to experience increased risk taking when consuming alcohol than women. 

Effects on Women

Women experience the effects of alcohol slightly differently than men do, which influences the way that alcohol impacts their sexual performance. Women may notice the following effects on their sexual performance when consuming alcohol: increased sexual desire, changes to sexual arousal, difficulty achieving orgasm, and difficulty with vaginal self-lubrication.

Increased Sexual Desire

Like men, many women find that drinking alcohol contributes to increased sexual desire. However, this may not be the case for everyone. Alcohol is known to increase the level of testosterone in women, and the sex hormone plays an important role in sexual desire. It is believed that increased levels of testosterone correspond to the higher reported rates of sexual desire when drinking. However, it’s also possible that there are psychological factors at work. Many people expect to feel more relaxed, confident, and desirable when drinking alcohol, which may correspond to an increased desire to have sex.

Changes to Sexual Arousal

While you may mentally be more in the mood for sex after a few drinks, your body may not be. Studies show that drinking alcohol may make women think they are in the mood for sex, but in actuality, alcohol causes a decline in genital response and physiological arousal. These effects are noticed at higher levels of alcohol consumption, so it’s important to practice moderation if you want to avoid negatively impacting your body’s ability to get aroused,

Difficulty Achieving Orgasm

Drinking too much can cause a condition called alcohol-induced orgasmic dysfunction in women, which is exactly what it sounds like: difficulty achieving orgasm after drinking too much. Alcohol inhibits blood flow to the genitals, which can make orgasm take longer. If you do achieve orgasm, it’s likely to be less intense. Again, moderation is key, as drinking one or two drinks is not likely to impact orgasm, but binge drinking will.

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Difficulty with Vaginal Self-Lubrication

The vagina naturally self-lubricates when aroused as a result of increased blood flow to the genitals. However, alcohol is known to decrease blood flow to the genitals, which can inhibit the body’s ability to self lubricate. Women who consume alcohol in excess may have difficulty with vaginal self-lubrication during intercourse, which can cause pain and friction.

Safe Sex While Drinking

Consuming alcohol can lower a person’s inhibitions, so it’s important to moderate your alcohol consumption in order to stay safe. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that as a person’s blood alcohol content increases, the risks associated with alcohol also increase. In short, the more you drink, the more at risk you are.

Giving and receiving consent is especially important, even when both parties are under the influence of alcohol. Intoxicated people should still be able to make decisions and communicate their consent verbally. If they are unable to do so, they are incapacitated and are too drunk to give consent. Having sexual intercourse with a person who is too incapacitated to verbalize their consent is considered sexual assault.  

In order to stay safe while drinking, try to implement the following best practices around sex:

  • Set a limit for the number of drinks you will have and stick to it
  • Avoid people and situations that make you feel pressured to engage in unwanted sexual activity
  • Pace your drinking and alternate alcoholic drinks with nonalcoholic beverages
  • Keep condoms or another mechanism for safe sex with you at all times, even if you do not plan on engaging in sexual activity
  • Do not pressure others into sexual activity

Remember, the best way to minimize your risk of having an unwanted or unpleasant sexual experience while consuming alcohol is to avoid drinking to excess and limit your alcohol intake to no more than a couple of drinks. Everyone’s tolerance for alcohol is different, so don’t assume that drinking as much as the person next to you is what’s right for you. Alcohol has the ability to wreak havoc on your sexual performance if you drink too much, and it can contribute to long lasting effects and permanent damage when abused over and extended period of time. If you experience any longer lasting effect or medical condition, seek medical advice from your health care provider.

Summary

Alcohol affects the sexual performance of men and women differently, but one thing is certain: regardless of your gender, your best bet is to keep your alcohol consumption moderate. Consuming excess alcohol can lead to undesirable impacts on your sexual performance and other health problems, such as difficulty getting or keeping an erection, delayed ejaculation, excessively risky sexual behaviors, difficulty achieving orgasm, and more.

Sources:
https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-and-sex 
https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/alcohol/physical-health/alcohols-effect-on-the-body/sex-life-and-fertility.html 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917074/ 
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcohol-and-sex 
https://www.healthline.com/health/erectile-dysfunction 
https://www.healthline.com/health/delayed-ejaculation 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3571090/ 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3159513/ 
https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/overdoseFact.pdf 

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