Ask An Adult: Why Is It More Difficult To Come When You’ve Been Drinking?
The Debrief: Why is it that after a few vodkas and going at it for the best part of an hour you're more likely to throw up your Chicken Cottage than come?
Orgasms couldn’t be more personal – one woman’s ecstasy is another’s get-off-me-what-are-you-doing – there’s no one-orgasm-fits-all. There might not even be an orgasm. There could be multiple.
Alcohol tolerance is the same; while you’re cartwheeling across the bar after one glass of wine, your mate might knock back five vodkas and still feel compos mentis. The point is, there’s a load of variables when it comes to alcohol and sex, and for a lot of people (myself included) alcohol can be a bit of a cock-blocker when you’re trying to get off.
It’s obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: of course sex isn’t only pleasurable when it ends with an orgasm – there’s way more to it than that – but if you’re desensitised to the point that you’re not sure whether you’re in the middle of foreplay or a brazilian, it’s not ideal. So why is it that after a few vodka and sodas and going at it for the best part of an hour you’re more likely to throw up your Chicken Cottage than come?
For a start, alcohol is a depressant (something that lowers stimulation in parts of the brain), which can explain feelings of ‘numbness’ during sex comes. Just as you can walk around in Baltic temperatures, thanks to your Sauvignon Blanc jacket, down below might have a tough time feeling stuff too.
‘You’re almost anaesthetised because it suppresses various brain functions, which makes it harder to achieve an orgasm, takes longer to get there, and it might require more effort to achieve it,’ explains Dr Bob Patton, pscyhologist at the University of Surrey.
Professor Paul Wallace, chief medical adviser to alcohol education charity Drinkaware, backed this up saying, ‘Alcohol reduces both men’s and women’s sexual sensitivity. In both sexes, sexual response is reduced by regular and prolonged drinking.’
Chances are that you’re dehydrated, too. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you wee more (hence the whole ‘breaking the seal’ thing), leaving you dehydrated and almost certainly with a banging headache the next day. This lack of hydration can lead to vaginal dryness, making sex more uncomfortable. As well as that, it can restrict blood flow and limit sexual performance – like when a guy can’t get it up.
If you suffer from anxiety generally, that could be another contributing factor. ‘Alcohol consumption can mimic the signs of anxiety (sweating, elevated heart rate, etc), so if you’re a bit nervous, you’ll become more so – it kind of compounds the feelings,’ Dr Patton says.
It’s a vicious cycle: if you’re worried about getting anxious and worried about your performance, your body is physically sending you signals that make you think you’re getting anxious, so you eventually become anxious. ‘Psychological issues with having an orgasm are often related to fear and performance. Not for everyone, because not everyone finds it difficult to orgasm,’ says Dr Patton.
The cruel irony is that alcohol often makes you want sex more because it raises women’s levels of testosterone, which increases arousal. So while you might feel ready and raring, your body might let you down. As Dr Patton put it, ‘The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Pretty inconvenient, tbh.
There seems to be a ‘tipping point’ for most people, though. Rebecca, 25, told me ‘One or two glasses and it’s easier. More than that and it’s harder and pretty numb too.’ Sophie, 27, said the same – ‘I feel like one-two glasses helps, any more than that hinders it.’
A 2011 study of 78 women found that a high dose (.10%) of alcohol reduced women’s genital arousal while a moderate dose (.08%) had no effect and Dr Patton, echoes this. ‘Generally speaking, any more than two drinks and performance and desirability start to decrease,’ though he stresses how much this can vary from person to person. For me, three or more vodkas in and a session in the sack probably isn’t going to get me going, like, going going, no matter the gusto.
Struggling to reach orgasm after drinking isn’t a universal thing – it might even help some people. Kate, 23, says, ‘I'm a rather horny drunk, so once I’m slightly past tipsy, I’m gonna wanna bang. I find it a lot easier to get lubricated. Like, a LOT easier.’
As well as that, one study found that ‘women reported significantly greater sexual arousal and orgasmic pleasurability under conditions of moderate and high alcohol intoxication.’
If you do struggle when you’ve had a few, now you know why drunk sex probably isn’t going to get you off in the same way as a sober shag. But that doesn’t mean you can’t damn well try.
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