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Alcohol and Health

Alcohol and Your Sex Drive: What Are the Effects?

August 8, 2023
9 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
August 8, 2023
9 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
August 8, 2023
9 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
August 8, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
August 8, 2023
9 min read

Have you ever used alcohol to lower your inhibitions and feel more confident with a sexual partner? Maybe you struggle with anxiety and use alcohol in the hope that it will help calm your nerves and allow you to have better sex. Or maybe you find alcohol helps you relax, socialize, and loosen up — including in the bedroom. 

While it’s not uncommon for people to mix alcohol with sex, drinking can have a significant effect on our sex drive. In this post, we’ll explore how alcohol affects both female and male sex drive. Let’s dive in!

Does Alcohol Affect Your Sex Drive?

First things first: let’s answer one of the most common questions: does alcohol affect your sex drive? Yes, it absolutely does! It can affect both men and women alike. 

Perhaps you’ve heard people talk about a “loss of libido” from alcohol and are wondering what exactly this means. Libido is just a fancy word for sexual drive or desire. So if you’ve ever heard someone ask, “does alcohol affect libido?” they’re really just asking about sex drive. 

Now, let’s get a bit more specific. 

Alcohol’s Effect on Female Sex Drive

Alcohol can have various effects on female arousal, desire, responsiveness, and sexual behavior. Research suggests that small amounts of alcohol — one to two drinks — is associated with feeling more attractive and finding others more attractive, too

Females also tend to report feeling more desire for sex after consuming alcohol. This may be because alcohol increases levels of testosterone, a male sex hormone that plays a role in sexual desire. 

However, studies suggest that even though alcohol may increase female arousal, consuming too much can have a negative physiological effect and decreases genital response. The more we drink, the weaker the genital response becomes.

This is because alcohol can have a numbing effect on the genitals. Interestingly, one study noted that sex lasted longer after drinking alcohol, but this was likely due to decreased sensation. Many females also report taking longer to climax and having less intense orgasms after drinking. In some cases, alcohol can make it difficult to even orgasm at all. 

Furthermore, whenever we get aroused, our body prepares for intercourse by increasing blood flow to genitals, causing them to swell and self-lubricate. Drinking too much alcohol can prevent these physiological responses from occurring and interfere with vaginal wetness, causing friction, discomfort, or pain when engaging in sexual activity. 

Diagram about the relationship between alcohol and libido

Alcohol’s Effect on Male Sex Drive

Males experience similar effects when drinking alcohol. As with females, small amounts of alcohol can increase feelings of sexual desire and arousal in men. But also similar to females, males tend to experience less sensation in the genitals after drinking alcohol. 

Alcohol can also affect our ability to get and maintain an erection. More specifically, alcohol decreases blood flow to the penis, increases angiotensin — a hormone linked to erectile dysfunction — and depresses our central nervous system, all of which makes it difficult to get an erection.

Furthermore, consuming large amounts of alcohol can make it difficult to orgasm and may cause delayed ejaculation — generally defined as taking longer than 30 minutes to orgasm. For some, excessive drinking might prevent us from ejaculating at all.

In general, the more we drink, the more severe these effects become. Over time, heavy alcohol consumption can turn a temporary condition into longer term impotence. In fact, research confirms that men who misuse alcohol are more likely to experience issues such as erectile dysfunction, unsatisfying orgasm, premature ejaculation, and loss of libido. 

Does Alcohol Increase Risky Sexual Behavior?

Alcohol lowers our inhibitions, so it’s not surprising that it’s been linked to greater sexual risk-taking in males and females. However, risky sexual behavior appears to be more common in men, particularly when drinking in excess. 

For instance, one study suggests that males are more likely to engage in unprotected sex when they have been drinking alcohol. This can lead to the transmission of STIs, as well as unwanted pregnancies. 

Interestingly, more males than females reported being “less picky” when it came to choosing who to have sex with when drinking. This might have something to do with the “beer goggle” effect, or the notion that drinking makes other people more attractive. 

In fact, research has actually proven this to be a real thing: in one study, participants who had consumed alcohol rated images of people more highly for attractiveness than a placebo group. Even male fruit flies seem to get less picky about their potential mates after being given alcohol! 

The Bottom Line

Alcohol’s effect on libido — or sex drive — is very real. While having an alcoholic drink or two might help increase our sexual desire and arousal, drinking too much alcohol can negatively impact our sex life, causing reduced sensitivity, difficulty or inability to climax, or less intense orgasms. Drinking in excess also increases our chance of engaging in risky sexual behavior.

If alcohol has interfered in your sex life, consider trying Reframe. We’ve helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption and become healthier in every aspect of their life.

Reclaim Your Sex Life With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

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And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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