Is sex better without alcohol?

Desire, seduction, consent, social anxiety, what role does alcohol play in our relationship to sexuality?




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It’s been five months since I’ve had an alcoholic drink, except maybe a few sips from my friends’ drinks. addiction, nor for a temporary detox to reset the counters. The reason is more down to earth: I’m expecting a baby. I, who dreamed of myself as a teenager as Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City , am far from the sex journalist who runs the streets of New York in heels and who writes her articles hungover on Sundays, between two passionate love stories. The few times I dipped my lips in a glass of wine in public with my baby bumpApparently, I felt like I was doing something as outrageous as if I had started masturbating in front of everyone. This is what first inspired me with the subject of “sex and alcohol”, analyzing it through the prism of gender. These are two areas in which women have no interest in being too deviant, on pain of losing respectability. If you drink (or fuck) too much, you’re awkward. If you don’t drink (or fuck) at all, you’re boring. Except during pregnancy, during which a woman with a drink in her hand seems to represent the pinnacle of obscenity.ADVERTISING

When sex and alcohol are inseparable

It pains me to write it, but my entry into sexuality and the beginning of my sexual construction are inseparable from alcohol. From a perspective of seduction and overcoming my social anxiety, I believe that I have always had a few drinks before first kisses and first sexual relations, during first meetings or first dates .. It gave me courage and the impression of being irresistible. I think that many of us have experienced this, without being aware of it at the time. It’s as if alcohol is part of the dominant normative sexual script. We go to parties, we want to please, we consume alcohol whose disinhibiting and anxiolytic effects give the feeling of fluidifying interactions with others. We end up in a bed with someone we were sure we wanted at the time and the next day, we just want to go home and curl up under their duvet. Later, while in long-term relationships, I discovered alcohol-free sex and dissociated my pursuit of pleasure from drunkenness. But it’s only now that I realize how alcohol sometimes played into altering my consent,

In his book Addicts. Understanding new addictions and freeing oneself from them (Arkhê editions), the psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of addictions Jean-Victor Blanc writes that having sexual intercourse under the effect of a psychotropic drug is not necessarily pathological, especially when it’s occasional. But for some people, the psychoactive product becomes an indispensable conditionto the sexual act. “An estimated 2-5% of the general population would take a product ‘most of the time’ or ‘all the time’ before sex,” he writes. This need can have several functions, such as that of numbing traumatic reminiscences linked to violence experienced, or that of combating performance anxiety. For example, by seeking to silence the fear of failure and the little voices that whisper to us that we are not desirable enough or that we are going to be a bad shot.ADVERTISING

Charlotte, 32, has been sober for a year and a half. She is writing a book about her alcoholism and she devotes a chapter to sexuality. She attends a group of Alcoholics Anonymous LGBT, where she realized that almost all of the participants had experienced sexual violence and that alcohol could have served as an anesthetic in the face of trauma. Charlotte is a lesbian, but before dating women she was in a relationship with cisgender men. “I built my sexuality on the violence of alcohol,” she explains to me. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but I almost only slept with men while I was drunk. At the beginning, it was to disinhibit me, because I didn’t assume my body. Afterwards, it was to avoid asking me too many questions. I did it to do like everyone else. Alcohol was used to make sex that I didn’t really want acceptable. » 

When she discovers sexuality with women, she sometimes makes love on an empty stomach, but at the time, she still considers that the “craziest” moments are those drunk. “Alcohol made me feel much more liberated. Without alcohol, I might not have tried certain practices with my girlfriend, like toys or the strap-on,” she says. Later, when she becomes aware of her alcoholism and decides not to drink anymore, she is afraid of not knowing what to do with sex. As if she had to relearn every gesture of eroticismwithout the effect of the product. His complexes come back to him like a boomerang. For months, she is also abstinent in her sexuality. She returns to it by masturbation, then resumes sex with her partner. “At first, I was like a hedgehog,” she recalls. “I was shaking, as if for the first time. But the end of the story is that it’s still twelve thousand times better. She makes love less than before, but there is now more room for tenderness and caresses in her private life. “It’s so cool to tell myself that I do things in full consciousness, because I really want to, and not because they are dictated by the drinking me. »ADVERTISING

Tenfold sensations

His friend from Alcoholics Anonymous, Romeo, is a 37-year-old gay porn actor. He too was very afraid to resume sex after putting down his drink. He also experienced a period of sexual abstinence. “I told myself that by resuming sexuality, it’s as if I was going to be deflowered again,” he says. “I’m more of a female dog ass. Being cuddly, gentleness, I didn’t know how to do. When he sleeps with a partner again, he explains his fears to her. And everything is going well. “The connection is better, all the sensations are increased tenfold,” he observes. With hindsight, he realizes that alcohol made him more risk-taking by having sex without protection, and that his consumption posed problems of consent(we can also recall here that the consumption of alcohol by the victim or the aggressor constitutes an aggravating circumstance in the event of sexual violence). “I had black holes, even though I didn’t take drugs. It was clearly the alcohol. Sometimes I ran into guys on Grindr who told me we slept together and I couldn’t remember. “Today, he appreciates his sexuality much more, just like his work on the set of porn films, where he feels more in possession of his means. “I fuck even more than before, the sex is much better and that’s one of the reasons why I will never touch a drop of alcohol again,” he concludes.

The author Camille Emmanuelle has also written on sexuality and sobriety . She herself has been sober for two years. Without making anti-alcohol proselytism, she realized that associating booze and gaudriole is not much subversive. “When you have drunk sex, you look less at the other. It rushes things. For example, you don’t spend long minutes staring at your partner’s buttocks! she remarks, before adding: “When you drink, you are no longer together. It’s as if a third person were invited into the duet. You are turned on by the chemistry of the product, but in the act, you may realize that your body is not that turned on. While rediscovering one’s self without alcohol, with the trial and error that encounter entails, it’s a great experience. »ADVERTISING

Dylan, a 37-year-old journalist, has never really tolerated alcohol. He hasn’t been drinking since he was 18. “Alcohol sends me to a parallel world. My girlfriend tried to get me drunk in Turkey when we were on vacation in Cappadocia and I stood naked in the tub with no water, delirious on my own. She never had her fiery night in her troglodyte suite! That didn’t stop him from testing other drugs with her. “For me, we don’t have to deprive ourselves of substances on principle. It’s more pleasant to make love without it, but it can help to talk about sexuality, to introduce your fantasies into the conversation, to allow yourself things that you would not have allowed yourself, ”he suggests. However, he thinks that alcoholism is often an integral part of a traditional penetrating sexual scenario, based on the non-verbal and the absence of explicit formulation of his desires. A terrain not conducive to sexual creativity.

Alcohol, an ally of the patriarchy

This is also the opinion of Paupi, 29 years old. “I have the impression that several constructions are superimposed, like alcoholization and penetration for example,” he says. They have been going to “sex-positive” parties and have been questioning their alcohol consumption for several years. They have the impression of living a richer sexuality by being sober. “I have a quality of presence to myself and to the other, with the impression of really being in my body and feeling what is happening, without being carried away in the kind of blur what can alcoholism lead to? Going out clubbing, drinking and ending the night with someone, having a zero relationship that follows heteronormative scripts, that doesn’t interest me anymore. »

Alcohol, patriarchy and white supremacy are more intimately linked than we think. American podcaster Laura Cathcart Robbins , author of the book Stash. My Life in Hiding to be published in early 2023 (in English),recounts how the drink allowed her to fulfill a socially imposed role of ‘good mother’ and ‘good wife’ for years, roles in which she felt she had to try twice as hard as a woman black. “I drank to be the person they expected me to be, which is to say a woman who doesn’t get angry and who doesn’t give her opinion too much. In sexuality, I drank so as not to be the one who is above and who expresses what she wants. Sexuality after coming out of addiction was not easy. “At the beginning, with my new companion, it was laborious, with a lot of ‘sorry’ and ‘are you ok’. I was afraid of the communication and the work that this sexuality implied. But the intimacy and connection I found there was a fabulous discovery. »

I have the impression that sobriety helps to deconstruct what should be an “acceptable”, expected sexuality. I too remember times when alcohol placed me in a desire to perform a heteronormative sexuality in which I took on the role of the docile girl. Like a sort of social ritual that one would have to perform to feel validated, desirable, “normal”. I sometimes took pleasure from it, but it was not always very conclusive, because I struggled to achieve enjoyment under the anesthetic effect of drunkenness. Today, I no longer have this kind of experience and I find myself liberated from it.