We already know that ditching alcohol for even a short period of time can do wonders for your health, but there are also some benefits for your sex life.
A recent report in Metro U.K. noted that Dry January — a month in which some people give up booze — can improve your sex life down the road. “Drinking alcohol to excess can make having good sex difficult,” sex and relationships expert Annabelle Knight told the site. “This is because alcohol reduces both men’s and women’s sexual sensitivity.”
Registered dietitian Melissa Murray at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto previously told Global News that alcohol use in excess can be damaging to all parts of our bodies.
“Over time, alcohol can cause damage to the muscle of the heart,” Murray explained, leading to potential complications related to heart failure, high blood pressure and stroke. It can impact how our body digests food and manages weight, and alcohol can even change the look of our skin (it is incredibly dehydrating).
But it also can disrupt your sex life.
Joseph J. Palamar, associate professor at the Department of Population Health at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, told Global News that alcohol is a depressant, and excess alcohol use can also reduce the ability to perform.
“Drinking a lot can lead to increased desire for sex, but you might not be able to perform,” he explained. “Some men simply can’t get it up from the start, others can’t get it up all the way and others get it up and then lose it.”
This is often called “whiskey d**k,” where a penis remains soft or “numb.”
“It can be quite a frustrating situation for you and your partner. If this happens, I think the only thing you can really do is wait it out. Taking a stimulant to reverse the drunkenness could actually make things worse,” said Palamar.
Dr. Paul Turek told Cosmopolitan magazine that if you ever experience a numbing sensation after drinking too much, it’s not something to worry about in the long run.
“The tipping point for alcohol’s various effects on the body occurs at about the same dose intake, and for many, that falls in the range of hangover induction,” he told the magazine.
But he added that there isn’t much science that connects the effects of alcohol to erections.
“It’s not at all clear that when it comes to the effect of alcohol on erections, the older or the weaker,” he continued. “Just like some guys can really feel a beer or two, some men are just more likely to have their penis stop working after a few drinks.”
What about women?
Metro U.K. added that drinking in excess can lead to a dry vagina and make it harder for some women to orgasm. The site added that some studies have shown women were more likely to orgasm when they were sober, and the likelihood of getting aroused decreased the more they drank.
Clinical sexologist Dr. Kat Van Kirk told Cosmopolitan that a woman’s “sexual response” also decreases when they drink in excess.
“Vasocongestion, which is the swelling of the vaginal tissues that make the vagina receptive to penetration, decreases, as does lubrication,” the magazine noted.
A lack of lubrication can lead to painful sex.
And even if your body parts “work,” some research has found that for men and women, drunk sex still isn’t pleasurable. One small report published in Archives of Sexual Behavior found the most commonly reported feeling after drunk sex was regret, authors noted.
A double-edged sword
At the end of the day, sex should be safe and consensual for all parties involved.
Palamar added that this is why drinking alcohol is considered a double-edged sword for those who have sex right after.
“If you want to avoid a frustrating and potentially embarrassing experience, you should slow down on the alcohol before the encounter,” he said. “Don’t have that last shot before leaving the bar. And don’t forget to drink water.”