Is your favorite drink blocking your ability to have an orgasm?
A cocktail or glass of wine can help us to relax and even feel a little sexier. But does it actually result in better sex?
What does alcohol really do to our sex life?
Let’s first look at what happens to the sex parts of our body when alcohol comes into the picture:
1. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Alcohol acts by inhibiting parts of the central nervous system important for sexual arousal and orgasm — respiration, circulation and sensitivity of nerve endings.
2. Alcohol dehydrates the body. Sexual arousal needs a certain volume of blood to bring oxygen and greater sensation to the genitals. This process is associated with erection (in men) and lubrication (in women).
With less volume of liquid in the body and with a depressed nervous system, the body struggles with sexual performance. But not everything that alcohol does has a negative effect on sex.
Alcohol = Aphrodisiac?
Alcohol has the reputation of being an aphrodisiac. But is it really? Grandma was right — the answer lies in moderation.
One, maybe two drinks (depending on your weight, gender and other factors) can act as a social lubricant. Studies have shown that alcohol can enable some people to overcome sexual inhibitions or feelings of inadequacy.
But add a few more drinks and that depressant action starts to inhibit our body’s ability to respond sexually:
3. Fewer Erections
Large amounts of alcohol (or long-term) consumption has been associated with problems getting erections. Dehydration with drinking causes less blood volume and a rise in angiotensin, the hormone associated with erectile dysfunction. The inhibition of the central nervous system chimes in to increase this likelihood.
4. Delayed Ejaculation
In 2004, a study found 11% of alcohol users were likely to have problems reaching orgasm. The men had difficulty ejaculating while the women needed much more stimulation to have an orgasm than women who had little or nothing to drink.
5. Vaginal Dryness
While alcohol may lubricate a social interaction, it does nothing to lubricate a woman’s vagina. In fact, the dehydration common when drinking alcohol can contribute to fatigue, headaches and vaginal dryness (which can cause pain).
But is the news all bad?
6. Treatment for PE?
Some researchers recommend alcohol as a treatment to control ejaculatory timing. While alcohol may be a temporary solution, there are more effective and permanent treatments for PE (see PE help).
7. Increased subjective pleasure in women.
While tipsy women have more difficulty reaching orgasm physically, some women report feeling more pleasure subjectively. This can likely be explained by the relaxed social feelings they gain with their first few drinks.
So, is good sex a reason to stop drinking in the New Year?
Studies suggest that 1-2 drinks/day long-term can be beneficial for health and therefore for sex. But if you want to have good sex tonight and for years to come, stop at giddy — where you can benefit from the psychological benefit without surrendering to the physiological shortcomings.
Exchange that extra glass of wine for water to combat the effects of dehydration and focus on your flirting skills instead. Both you and your partner will enjoy each other that much more.
Alcohol disappoints as an aphrodisiac. But are there any aphrodisiacs that do work? Check out my Aphrodisiac Buying Guide for more information.
Petra Zebroff is a relationship therapist based in Vancouver. She writes for HuffPost where this article was first published. She can be reached on Twitter @drzebroff