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Dr HANX Dispatch: Does Drinking Affect Your Sex Drive?

Dr HANX Dispatch: Does Drinking Affect Your Sex Drive?

Sex. Alcohol. Two of the most enduring human interests since time began - but are they really a match made in heaven? Dr Sarah Welsh, NHS Gynaecology Doctor and HANX Co-Founder, is at your service. Ahead of Valentine’s Day, night of a thousand cuddly toys, cupid’s arrows and frustrated right swiping, she’ll dive into one of your most-asked questions about dating: does alcohol affect arousal? Read on for an expert insight into balancing booze and bedroom fun...

 

Why does alcohol lower inhibitions?

Ever felt nervous before meeting up with an app match or having sex for the first time with someone new? You might have reached for an alcoholic drink as you’ve heard it’ll help you feel less wound up. More than once we’ve administered pre-first-Bumble-meetup G&Ts in a dingy pub to counteract a Team HANXer’s anxiety. Yes, dutch courage, otherwise known as liquid courage, means having a swift one to make you feel more confident. The positive societal associations around drinking alcohol – increased confidence, lowered inhibition, engagingly witty banter – have become a motivator for getting your drink on pre-date. It’s a really common behaviour, but many people don’t necessarily understand why it’s a go-to for boosting our sociability.


Alcohol has an impact on our prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain associated with decision-making and social behaviours), putting it more under the control of mid-brain dopamine neurons. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in controlling reward and pleasure in our brains. When we drink, the ethanol in alcohol actually increases the release of dopamine – making us feel good, and want more of the source of that feeling. Dopamine is colloquially known as the ‘feel good’ hormone, because it’s associated with pleasurable sensations. One pint down, and you might find that the angst about whether you’re catfishing someone starts to disappear and your best jokes make an appearance. Et voila, your self-restraint is being tempered by alcohol-induced dopamine release.

 

Does alcohol make you better in bed?

So, if alcohol can make us a funnier, more relaxed version of ourselves at the start of the night, you might be thinking that that will translate to the bedroom/sofa/living room floor, too. Alcohol is biphasic, so there may be a sweet spot where your blood alcohol level hits a certain point and you’re feeling ultra-stimulated and turned on. However, that sexy high is likely to be followed by a dip as your blood alcohol level drops and you experience a subsequent depressant effect. This hasn’t stopped the perpetuation of the popular myth that getting your drink on is an aphrodisiac to be reckoned with. If you’re planning a spicy Valentine’s night with Tom/Kela/Rae from Tinder, factor in the impact of heavy drinking on your shag-a-thon. Overdoing it can have a real impact on our sex drive and overall performance – and I’m not just talking about “brewers droop”.

 

Does drinking alcohol stop you from ejaculating?

One commonly asked question (albeit with a blush) is: “does drinking beer make it harder to orgasm?” The taboos around talking openly about sexual performance mean that far more of us experience issues with sex after drinking alcohol than you’d think.

We’ll start with women and people with vaginas, as the dominate conversation around the impact of alcohol tends to focus around the male experience. You might find that you’re not getting as wet as usual, as alcohol causes reduced vaginal lubrication. There’s even evidence that you might find it harder to have an orgasm – or when you do, it’s less intense than you might usually experience.

People with penises may find it harder to ejaculate, or conversely, may experience erectile dysfunction AKA coming very swiftly. Let’s touch on brewers droop, too. This refers to the temporary inability to get or maintain an erection, caused when alcohol slows and prevents the release of sex hormones, which affect blood flow to the penis.

Beyond impacting our pleasure, excessive alcohol consumption opens the door to greater risk. Alongside impacting our ability to fully consent to sexual activity, it also increases the chance that we’ll engage in risky sexual behaviour. Make sure to carry condoms (if applicable) and have an open conversation with your partner about contraception before you have a few too many.  

How can I have better sex?

  • The eternal question! When it comes to alcohol and sex, moderation is everything. For many of us, having a drink before we head on date night/hookup with a new beau or old flame is part of the fun of the experience. Whilst it is important to consider the impact of alcohol on your sexual performance, you don’t need to give up the booze for good before getting it on.

  • Try making the switch to alcohol-free options either for the night, or after one or two ‘hard’ drinks. Far from the old days of a B*cks Blue and that’s your lot, there are so many soft options that are equally enjoyable as the ‘real’ thing. If you’re a beer drinker, give Days a go. They created their zero percent beers to have all the refreshing, delicious aspects of a beer, minus the side effects and donate 2% of sales to organisations that empower fresh thinking towards mental health. Big news: they’re championing better sex this Valentine’s Day – or your money back
  • Consider why you’re drinking to excess before sex. Sometimes it’s a habit that creeps up on us, a learned behaviour to associate sex with drinking or a response to greater feelings of self-consciousness or anxiety around sex. Consider talking to someone qualified about this in a non-judgemental setting where you feel safe and comfortable. 
  • The sober sex movement gained pace massively during COVID, with a Bumble study showing 34% of users are more likely to go on a sober date than they were pre-pandemic. It’s all about emphasising focus on increased feelings of intimacy, mindful connection, sensuality and respecting boundaries. Ruby Warrington’s book Sober Curious is a great place to start if you’re re-evaluating your relationship with alcohol and its impact on your relationships.

 

Do you find alcohol has an impact on your sex life? Join in the conversation over on our free, anonymous forum, HANX Life.

Slide into our DMs @hanxofficial

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