Sex and alcohol are so often mentioned in the same breath that you might even think of alcohol as an aphrodisiac, but a new study on the effects of drinking beer says otherwise. The research, which was presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference in Vienna and published in the journal Psychopharmacology, indicates that while alcohol lowers our inhibitions (and helps us recognize happy faces more quickly), it has no effect on sexual arousal.
Looks like another round of drinks can’t replace foreplay after all.
To explore what alcohol does to how we socialize, researchers at the University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, recruited 30 men and 30 women between 18 and 50 years old and gave half of them a glass of alcoholic beer (serving sizes were adjusted for body weight and sex) and the other half a glass of non-alcoholic beer. The participants then took a face recognition test, empathy test, and sexual arousal test. Later, the two groups switched and repeated the process, with those who had drunk alcoholic beer drinking non-alcoholic beer before their tests and those who had drunk non-alcoholic beer drinking alcoholic beer beforehand.
After drinking alcoholic beer, participants recognized happy faces more quickly and had greater desire to be with others “in a happy social situation,” effects that were greater in women than men and greater in people who had previously shown social inhibition. In other words, drinking will likely have a greater impact on how you act if you’re shy to begin with. Alcohol also made it easier for people, especially women, to view sexual material, but it didn’t increase arousal, suggesting that the tie between alcohol and sex is mostly thanks to those lowered inhibitions. And while confidence is wonderful thing, lowered inhibitions can be dangerous if they also lead to sexual behavior you wouldn’t normally think is smart, such as unprotected sex.
Pairing alcohol and sex can be problematic in other ways, too. As Professor Wim van den Brink, former chairman of the ECNP Scientific Programme Committee, pointed out at the conference, “Alcohol-related emotions and cognitions as studied are not always consistent with actual behaviors” — code for “While drinking may get you in the mood for sex, it might not help in the sexual performance department.”
Something to keep in mind before your next glass of beer.