Alcohol & Sex: What Could Go Wrong?
Ever had one too many drinks and struggled to get an erection? If so, it’s because alcohol impacts the body in many ways, some of which are not so conducive to sex. Medically, this is erectile dysfunction (ED) caused by alcohol consumption.
But with a little common sense, you can enjoy drinks and still have sex.
Why it happens
Whiskey, beer, wine and hard liquor—any alcohol—can cause this condition. As a disinhibitor, booze makes us feel relaxed and calm, and often a little horny.
However, alcohol can suppress your arousal because it impairs your ability to think clearly. It’s also a central nervous system depressant, which means it messes with your brain’s ability to send signals. That’s why you might be less coordinated or sharp.
Simply put, your brain struggles to send messages to the penis to let it know it’s time to wake up. And even if you manage to get erect, you may find it difficult to remain so, or to orgasm.
Alcohol can also cause reduced lubrication and difficulty climaxing in women for much the same reasons.
Risks of heavy drinking
Unequivocally, excessive consumption of alcohol is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as four or more drinks for women and five or more for men. Drinking alcohol at these levels puts you at risk for any number of consequences. Short-term risks include alcohol poisoning, risky sexual behavior and injury. Long-term issues are much more serious, including high blood pressure, heart and liver disease, learning/memory problems, mental health/social problems, and alcohol use disorders or dependence.
Since we’re discussing “whiskey dick” and not alcoholism, I won’t go into details about potential abuse. But if you know you’re struggling with a drinking problem, or you’re just unsure whether you are in control of your drinking, please seek help. Talk to your doctor, friends, family or partner. Help is just a call away.
Impact on sex life
As a one-off event, not being able to get an erection on cue can be awkward and cause an uncomfortable moment. Your partner’s takeaway might be that you’re not enjoying yourself or there is something wrong with them. You may worry the encounter will hurt your chances at another date or put strain on a long-term relationship, particularly if this is a regular occurrence.
If it is happening routinely, even when you’re not drinking, that’s a signal you should talk to your doctor.
What to do if it happens
Alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction is common and biologically normal. If it happens to you, stay calm. Don’t feel like you have to come up with an explanation.
Alcohol simply does not produce great sex. And don’t take it from me. In Shakespeare’s play, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (Act 2, Scene 3), one of the characters says to Lord Macduff, in describing alcoholic overindulgence, “It provokes the desire but takes away the performance.”
Be honest with your partner and admit you’ve had too much to drink. Hopefully, you can make plans to try again at another, more sober time. If you’re able to get it up but can’t seal the deal, again, tell your partner you can’t orgasm because of the alcohol, not because they’re not turning you on. You can still make out and have a nice evening anyway.
Unfortunately, if this happens, you’re unlikely to bounce back quickly after a couple of cups of coffee. Relax or, better still, drink lots of water and get a good night’s sleep.
There’s no magic formula to determine how many drinks you can consume and still manage a strong sexual performance. The effects depend on how much water you’ve had, what kind of alcohol you were drinking, your overall tolerance to alcohol, your body composition, any medications you might be taking and how old you are.
You might think you’re able to gauge your general threshold of alcohol intake, but that can change depending on all kinds of factors—including the fact that the more alcoholic drinks you consume, the less able you are to make any good decisions.
A basic rule to follow is to drink less alcohol on dates or before potential sexual encounters.
And if your use of alcohol is more for liquid courage to help you deal with an anxious situation, here’s something you need to know: Most people feel anxious and uncomfortable in social settings. If someone has made a choice to spend time with you, it’s likely they are interested. Stop being so anxious.
Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of thinking alcohol makes you a better person. Try being your sober self, confident that your penis is going to work just fine.