Drinking and sex are, needless to say, close acquaintances from way back. Even when only moderately consumed, alcohol functions as a sort of social lubricant. When heavily consumed, other things can, and often do, happen. But how do expectations figure in the equation? Do people in social settings factor in the role of drinking when determining their sexual expectations for the evening?
A new study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors investigated this question by examining three groups of people: (1) single and not dating, (2) single but dating, and (3) in a committed relationship. In total, just under 2000 participants were involved, all of whom were undergraduate college students (probably no better crowd for a drinking study).
Combining an online assessment of alcohol use with information about relationship status, researchers arrived at these findings:
- People who were actively dating drank significantly more and had higher expectations regarding the sexually enhancing and disinhibiting role of alcohol
- People not currently dating and in relationships drank less and had far lower expectations for alcohol to key up the sex machine
- Actively dating men and women held significantly higher sex-related alcohol expectancies than their non-dating counterparts
And I’d be remiss to omit this finding, perhaps the least surprising of all:
- Men with high sex-related alcohol expectancies drank more regardless of their relationship status
For the women, the study indicates that when actively dating, alcohol is viewed as a means to be less inhibited and, at times, enhance sexual experience.
One unfortunate conclusion the researchers reach is that higher sex-related alcohol expectancies are also directly related to greater risk of sexual assault. It’s not hard to draw up the scenario: male intent on fulfilling sex-related alcohol expectations meets female using alcohol to decrease inhibitions. The door is at least cracked open here for a bad outcome.
On the other hand, plenty more people have perfectly enjoyable outcomes – or at least ones that seemed enjoyable on that particular evening. Odds are, the morning after might be a different story altogether.