Fiona*, who’s in her early 30s, admits that she cannot let herself go in bed unless she’s had a few alcoholic drinks beforehand. Now that she’s in a new relationship, she is eager to be less dependent on alcohol and start having sober sex again.

“My first sexual experience was not what I expected it to be. I was 23 years old and at a friend’s party. I’d had quite a lot to drink and began making out with my date, and the next thing I knew, we were taking our clothes off and getting sexually intimate. It was awkward for sure, because I barely knew the guy and had never gone that far with anyone before, but I remember having a really good time. I’d probably consumed three or four strong cocktails, and by the end of the night I couldn’t wait to have sex. I felt happy, carefree and uninhibited. Up to that point, I didn’t consider myself a drinker. I might have enjoyed a couple of beers or glasses of wine on occasion, so to have downed four cocktails in a matter of hours was a big deal for me.

I didn’t have sex again until a couple of years later. I was in a serious relationship and didn’t feel like I needed to drink before getting intimate with my boyfriend. The sex was always passionate, satisfying and exciting and we were very much in love. Unfortunately, things between us didn’t last; we broke up after three years and I was depressed for a long time.

I partied a lot during this depressive spell. Every Friday and Saturday night I would hit the bars, where I’d drink and dance for hours on end. I frequently met guys when I was drunk and almost always went home with them after a night out. As time went on, I found that I couldn’t open up to a guy or have an interesting conversation with him unless I’d had a few drinks first. The more I drank the bolder and more confident I got. Drinking also made me feel sexier, more desirable and more attractive. I never acted drunk, though. Unlike some of my girlfriends, I could hold my alcohol and never threw up, passed out or behaved badly in public.

I continued to have drunken one-night stands for the next few years. It wasn’t something I was proud of, but the thought of meeting a guy and having sex with him sober gave me anxiety. On weekends, all I wanted to do was let loose and have fun, and alcohol gave me that feeling. I’m a serious woman by nature and I knew that, unless I was tipsy, most men would probably find me boring.    

I enjoyed having sex while drunk because it was almost as if I was a different woman. I was more willing to experiment in bed and had no sexual hang-ups. My orgasms were also of the intense, earth-shattering variety.

Up until this point, I didn’t think I had a problem. I told myself that there was nothing wrong with drinking alcohol when I went clubbing; after all, everyone did it. And then I met John*. We hit it off right away at a company event and ended up dating not long after. Now, four months later, we are in love but have yet to be sexually intimate. Sadly, though, as much as I feel emotionally connected to John and want things between us to work, the thought of having sex sober makes me nervous and uncomfortable. John doesn’t drink alcohol because it goes against his religious beliefs, so I’m not sure what he’d think if I started drinking in front of him. Worse, how would he react if I told him that we couldn’t make love unless I was tipsy? Other questions cross my mind: Will I feel confident in bed if I was sober? Will I be able to orgasm? Will John find me boring? I want to ease myself back into sober sex for the sake of this new and promising relationship, but I don’t know how, or even if I’m ready to right now. 

I should probably get counselling to figure out why I need alcohol to loosen up sexually. I still harbour a lot of emotional pain from the failure of my first relationship, so maybe the drinking helps to numb the hurt. I tell myself that, if I’m emotionally numb then it’s easier for me to be intimate with guys and not expect anything from them after. For the sake of my relationship with John, though, I know I have to get help. In the meantime, I am thankful that we have this time together, to get to know each other better and get close. I hope that, in the months to come, I will be comfortable enough to take our relationship to the next level without the help of booze.”

*Names have been changed

Don’t try this at home

Excessive alcohol consumption isn’t good for your health in the short or long term, but on a night out, even a small amount can impair your judgement and affect your behaviour. Here’s how you might be putting yourself at risk:

  • You may fall victim to date rape: Your date (or the guy you just met) may try to take advantage of the fact that you’ve had too much to drink, and if you’re drunk you may not be able to fight him off or walk away.
  • You risk a sexually transmitted infection or an unwanted pregnancy:
  • You are more likely to engage in unsafe (unprotected) sex than you would when you’re sober. Remember to always carry condoms with you, just in case.