How can alcohol affect your actions?

What decisions will you make for yourself around drinking and sex? What precautions should you take to ensure your health and safety? What are the potential long-term implications of combining alcohol and decisions around sex for you and your partner? This information is intended to help Northeastern students get at some of the facts around the combination of alcohol and sex in order to make informed decisions.

Alcohol does not make sex more enjoyable

Alcohol actually numbs the nerve endings of genitalia. It also decreases vaginal lubrication which can lead to painful sex.

Drinking does not enhance sexual experience

Alcohol can increase one’s expectations for the sexual experience, yet decreases desire, arousal, and satisfaction.

How does alcohol affect decision-making?

Alcohol is a depressant. It slows brain activity and causes impairment to judgment, memory, vision, speech, and gross motor skills. These impairments can depend on how many drinks are consumed on a given occasion, as well as the frequency of consumption. Alcohol and drug use can inhibit clear thinking and decision-making skills, leading to unintended sexual activity or the decision not to use protection.

Making clearly informed choices

In various ways, people behave differently under the influence of alcohol. Whether that means we don’t “act like ourselves” or we compromise our decision-making ability, research has demonstrated that our judgment becomes impaired beginning at 0.06% blood alcohol content (BAC). A higher BAC will result in more cognitive and physical impairment.

Heavier drinking episodes are defined as drinking to intoxication; this typically correlates with five or more standard drinks for people assigned male at birth, and four or more standard drinks for people assigned female at birth.

Unplanned sexual activity

People who frequently engage in heavy drinking episodes are 34% more likely to participate in unplanned sexual activity than those who do not engage in heavy drinking episodes.

Alcohol and sexual assault

Consent is an agreement reached by both partners to engage in a specific activity.

Engaging in sexual activity without consent is an act of sexual violence and is illegal.

Under Massachusetts law, consent cannot be given by an intoxicated person.

For more information and a reference list, please check out our Alcohol and Sex fact sheet.