The social lubricant isn’t necessarily helpful in bed.
Anyone who’s been single while finding themselves in a warmly lit bar, surrounded by good-looking people, with a drink in hand and a stellar playlist filling the space knows that alcohol can play a pretty powerful role in attracting a partner. Whether you’re trying out the timeless human mating call, “Can I buy you a drink?” or enjoying a glass of wine at home with your longterm partner, liquor is a social lubricant that helps many of us bring things to the bedroom.
A drink can help loosen you up and give you the confidence to be a bit more, whether you’re flirting with a hot stranger at the bar or getting romantic with your significant other—but once you get to the bedroom, things might turn out a different way.
It can make you more daring
First, the good things: Alcohol can make you feel more attractive, as one 2018 study found—and make you perceive others as being more attractive, too. It can also decrease sexual inhibitions—as another 2018 study found that alcohol made people more likely to have “kinkier” sex (science quite literally says so).
Increased risk for STDs and STIs
But, of course, this can trend in a negative direction, too: Heavy drinking patterns were associated with increased STIs, according to a 2015 study. Consider this a reminder to use protection, even when you’re feeling buzzed.
It can make sex more uncomfortable
As you emotionally “loosen up,” your body can work against you in the bedroom. Alcohol can lead to sexual dysfunction for both those with penises and vaginas. Because alcohol dehydrates the body, it makes it harder for the vagina to lubricate—a problem that can make sex more uncomfortable, but this is pretty easily solved with a good lube.
Harder time getting aroused
For those with penises, alcohol is a factor that can increase the likelihood of erectile dysfunction or impotence—which, when you’re mentally in the mood, can be a serious buzzkill. Longterm heavy alcohol consumption can also make these issues worse over time.
It can make it harder to orgasm
Because alcohol is a depressant, it slows down your nervous system—which is why a drink makes you feel more relaxed. It’s also why alcohol can make it take longer to orgasm, or make you unable to orgasm at all, according to sex therapist Madeleine M. Castellanos, MD—this goes for both those with vaginas and penises. For some, heavy drinking can also cause premature ejaculation, as one 2007 study found. Either way: You’re not setting yourself up for a good time.
While there are plenty of risks to consider when it comes to alcohol and sex, it’s important to remember that moderation is key—if a drink going to make you more relaxed in bed, or just help you have fun connecting with your partner, they likely won’t cause adverse side effects. Just don’t forget to drink water, too.