My partner and I have given up drinking. We feel great, and we look better too. I don’t miss the alcohol one bit. What I do miss, however, is tipsy sex. How can we reintroduce some of the wildness we once had?
Your liver thanks you. About 90% of people who drink more than 60g of alcohol a day (two large glasses of wine) develop a fatty liver, research by Robert O’Shea, published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, showed in 2010. However, you now feel as though you’ve lost the spontaneity of tipsy sex.
I have good news. If you stick with it you will probably find that not drinking will eventually improve your sex life. Alcohol is the most widely used sexual lubricant in the world. Its effect on the central nervous system produces feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and extraversion, and it also increases how responsive people are to sexual cues. This is partly to do with the disinhibitory effects of alcohol, and partly to do with romance, celebration, sex, and alcohol being so strongly connected in our culture.
Despite being such a widely held belief, however, alcohol does not improve sexual experience or increase sexual arousal. Quite the opposite in fact. A study by two anthropologists found that expectations about the effects of alcohol on arousal had a measurable impact on sexual response.
Their experiments generally involved four groups of participants in a double-blind placebo experimental model: Group 1 expected alcohol and were given alcohol; group 2 expected alcohol, but received no alcohol; group 3 expected no alcohol and received no alcohol; and group 4 expected no alcohol, but were given alcohol. After the drinking condition, participants viewed sexual imagery and levels of arousal were monitored. The results of the studies showed that, in men, drinking alcohol made it harder to get an erection and increased the time it took to ejaculate. In women, alcohol consumption delayed arousal and increased the time it took for them to have an orgasm. These effects increased according to the amount of alcohol consumed.
So far, so straightforward. However, the studies get more interesting when you look at the results of those who expected alcohol, but did not receive any. When the men in this group were tested, they had stronger erections and higher levels of arousal than participants who did not expect to drink alcohol and did not drink any. These results demonstrate that the expectation that alcohol heightens arousal is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You attribute the sex you used to have to the alcohol you consumed, but that association is not real. You had it because you felt relaxed, happy, and aroused. You can be all those things without being drunk. When you are accustomed to taking the edge off with a tipple, sober sex can feel a little high definition, which can take some getting used to. Give it time.
There are also other, healthier ways to chill out before you get it on. Moderate aerobic exercise for about 30 minutes will give you a ‘runner’s high’ and tends to increase your sexual appetite too. Meditation will help you to relax and if you sit opposite each other, cross-legged (maybe even naked), it will probably increase levels of arousal too.
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