Have you ever had sober sex with a new partner? How was it? Chances are, you won’t know because you never have. A glass (*ahem* bottle) of vino has become a standard prerequisite to feeling confident and comfortable in the bedroom…but that’s all about to change.
Here, Annie Grace, author of The Alcohol Experiment, opens up about how she overcame a fear of sober sex, alternate ways you can get yourself in the mood and why we need to open up the conversation.
Let’s talk about sex. Yes, I am going there. Why? Because this was a major barrier for me. I was convinced that I needed a few glasses of wine to “get in the mood,” and I was terrified of sober sex. I’ll tell you all about my personal experience, but first let’s have a look at what the science says.
Let’s get safe sex out of the way before we dig into the juicier stuff. The truth is that sex is not much fun if it results in unwanted pregnancy or STDs. Studies show that women are more likely to sleep with someone they don’t feel comfortable with and less likely to use a condom after they’ve been drinking. And men are more likely to misinterpret a woman’s interest, which can lead to all sorts of unwanted situations and consequences.
Drinking reduces testosterone levels in both men and women. We’ve probably all heard of (or been in) situations where a man can’t perform because he drank too much. This is why. In one study done on rats, their testicles decreased by 50 percent when they were fed a steady diet of ethanol. And yes, ethanol is the same thing that is in both your gas tank and that bottle of tequila. A reduction in testosterone for men means some pretty unpleasant side effects, like shrinking testicles, breast enlargement, fatigue, lowered libido, decreased sperm production, and, of course, erectile dysfunction.
In women, low testosterone can be responsible for some pretty unsexy side effects, including hair loss, weight gain, fatigue, disrupted sleep, depression, and anxiety. But that’s not the worst of it. Reduced testosterone in women is also responsible for decreased libido and a condition called anorgasmia, which is the inability to have orgasms! Now that’s no fun!
Reduced testosterone is not the only way that alcohol affects libido. As the amount of alcohol in the body increases, the brain’s ability is impaired and less able to sense sexual stimulation. Further, as a depressant, alcohol affects libido by interfering with the parts of the nervous system that are essential for arousal and orgasm, including circulation, respiration, and the sensitivity of nerve endings.
According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol is a common cause of erectile dysfunction. This is for two reasons. First, dehydration can lead to an increase in the hormone that is associated with erectile dysfunction: angiotensin. Dehydration also causes a decrease in blood volume, which makes it more difficult to both get and maintain an erection. Alcohol also causes circulatory issues, which means that no matter how much a man wants sex, alcohol can make it physically impossible to sustain, or even get, an erection.
The bottom line, no matter whether you are a man or a woman, is that while alcohol may lessen your inhibitions to fall into bed, it will decrease your ability to become and stay aroused. Not to mention your enjoyment. Which leads me to.
Sober Sex Is Truly Better Sex
Yes, I know you might find that hard to believe. I surveyed hundreds of people who have taken part in the Alcohol Experiment, and the truth is . . . sober sex is better sex! Your brain is receiving the full impact and unimpeded information from your senses—and wow. I had no idea sex could feel that good. When I was drinking, I rarely remembered it the next day, and I certainly don’t remember having the level of pure physical enjoyment that sex now brings. And all the science backs this up! You are literally more in touch with your body when you aren’t drinking and more present to the experience. The signals your nerves send are stronger without alcohol—meaning not only are orgasms stronger, but also it is easier to have one (or many)!But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here are some recent posts in the Alcohol Experiment community about sober sex:
“My second day AF I had the best sex of my life. I’ve been sold on being AF from that point on.” —Tracy
“Sober sex is the best! It had been so long since I’d had sex sober that I forgot how much I really enjoyed it.”—Kelly
“Completely agree on sober sex being better. So much easier and quicker to umm . . . you know . . . I’ll just say it, orgasm! LOL. Finally feel like sex doesn’t have to be a chore with the husband, but actually look forward to it now.”—Kim
“Right!? Sober sex is one of my main motivations for staying sober. Things in the bedroom have gotten fun again.”—Lori
And the best part? You get to find all this out for yourself.
How To Get In The Mood
Yet it’s true that alcohol does lower our inhibitions. While this leads to all sorts of unpleasant things—like sleeping with someone you just met, or don’t really like—it can also be difficult to get in the mood if you aren’t used to sex without drinking. Here are a few things you can do to get in the mood.
It may sound obvious, but wait until you get to know someone enough that you trust them enough to want to have sex. This is an- other huge benefit of sober sex; the people we have sex with are actually people we like and want to have sex with!
Sexy massage is an amazing way to calm your nerves and get in the mood. It awakens all the senses, sends relaxing signals throughout the body and brain, and allows you to get into the moment and the mood. Not to get too personal, but I recommend warm oil and candlelight.
Communicate. Again, this may be a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how little we actually communicate during sex. Let your partner know what you want and what you like. Talk through any anxieties you have. Open, honest communication is truly sexy.
Don’t wait to be in the mood. This is one of the biggest barriers to sober sex. Women especially often get in the mood after being touched, after that nice massage, during a couple’s bath. If you wait until you’re in the mood, not only will you create more fear around sober sex, but you will also reinforce your beliefs that alcohol is vital to sex. The truth is that nothing can influence our subconscious mind like our own experiences, and by showing up and giving yourself the experience of sober sex, you can easily (and enjoyably!) prove to yourself that everything I am saying is true.
The great thing is that by doing it a few times your body will re- member what it is made for, and, like everything else, you will decouple the belief that alcohol is necessary for sex. Realizing you don’t need alcohol to have sex can be a major aphrodisiac.
Extract taken from The Alcohol Experiment: 30 Days to Take Control, Cut Down or Give up for Good by Annie Grace (HQ, £9.99)