WebMD BlogsHealthy Sex

8 Ways Alcohol Can Affect Your Sex Life

Laurie J. Watson, LMFT - Blogs
By Laurie J. Watson, LMFTCertified sex therapistJune 5, 2018
From the WebMD Archives

The relationship between alcohol and sex is a tricky one. It can help us open up to healthy sexual activities, but as you can imagine, it can lead us into dangerous situations as well. So, how does alcohol affect our sex lives exactly? Here’s the good and bad of it.

Alcohol lowers our inhibitions. Though it doesn’t actually increase libido, alcohol does lower our inhibitions. It can ease our anxiety and help us move past the issues that have kept us from being sexual. Body image concerns or worries about pleasing a partner or reaching orgasm can be relaxed with a glass of wine. Alcohol may also make erotic talk seem easier. Focusing on performance suffocates a man’s instinct to initiate, and a small amount of alcohol can reduce his fear of a poor outcome and increase his sexual courage. If performance problems are psychogenic, his “going with the moment” and the lack of anxiety will improve his erections or his staying power.

Alcohol can help us focus on the present. Stress is one of the most common reasons for lower sexual frequency. Alcohol’s depressant properties slow down the neurons in our brain temporarily, lowering pressure and tension from our worries. And optimal sex requires us to focus on the sensations in the body letting go of our stressors and endless to-do lists.

Increases feelings of being attracted to our partner. Studies show that people rate others as more attractive after drinking than when judging the same people without consuming alcohol. Attraction is actually a variable quantity that is influenced by how we are getting along, our feelings of connection, our own state of mind as well as what our partner looks like.

Makes us want to be close to someone. The effect of alcohol on our prefrontal cortex, which governs our emotions, can urge us to get close to our partner. It can make us more talkative including becoming more open about our loving feelings. If a partner needs their spouse to open up in order to make is emotionally safe to feel sexual, small amounts of alcohol may increase their relatedness.

Unfortunately, in larger amounts, alcohol can nearly do the exact opposite of what is mentioned above.

Alcohol carries inherent risks as a substance. For some people the risk of alcoholism is very real and any drink might cause them to fall back into an addiction. Certain health conditions and medications have a contraindication for alcohol. And some research has suggested a possible link between regular alcohol consumption with cancer and other diseases.

Impaired judgment. If we are not with a safe partner, alcohol may cause us make altered decisions about having sex with someone inappropriate or make us vulnerable to having unprotected sex.

Poor sexual performance. Too much alcohol often causes poor erectile functioning. For women it can dehydrate their vagina causing penetration to be uncomfortable, even painful.

Separate us from reality and our partner. Being inebriated is sometimes a passive way to not be present with our partner or be able to understand their sexual and emotional needs.

If you do decide to take advantage of the helpful sexual properties of alcohol, keep the risks in mind.

WebMD Blog
© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Blog Topics:
About the Author
Laurie J. Watson, LMFT

Laurie J. Watson, LMFT, is a certified sex therapist and author of Wanting Sex Again – How to Rekindle Desire and Heal a Sexless Marriage. Laurie helps couples “keep it hot” with her weekly podcast FOREPLAY – Radio Sex Therapy, weekend intensives, and telehealth consultations. A compelling and enthusiastic presenter, Laurie is regularly invited to speak at medical schools, conferences and retreats.

More from the Healthy Sex Blog

View all posts on Healthy Sex

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More