If you’re a woman who has ever been at a bar, party, or event where alcohol is flowing freely, you’ve probably had some experience with men getting pushy to some degree with their sexual advances. While drinking certainly does not turn all men into sexual predators, it has a variety of effects on the brain that can lead to people making poor decisions, not picking up social cues, finding themselves more irresistible than they really are, and being overconfident.
A study published in Aggressive Behavior, a peer-reviewed multidisciplinary journal, explored the effects of alcohol on the sexual aggression of 62 men in their 20s. The men were randomly assigned to have no alcohol or to drink alcohol (with a target blood alcohol level of .08 percent, which is the legal limit for driving under the influence) and then encouraged to talk to a simulated woman. They were told to act as though they were on a date, and they were given a list of both sexual and nonsexual behavior options. The “woman” was programmed to agree to some sexual activities but not others, and to become more emphatic in her refusals the more the men persisted. The intoxicated men were more likely to be persistent, even after repeated refusals.
Men who have been drinking are more likely to miss indicators that a woman is not interested, or to focus on what they view as positive signs while ignoring negative ones. For example, a woman might smile or laugh politely without showing any actual signs of sexual attraction, but the intoxicated man takes those to mean that she shares his interest. At the same time, any subtle signs that she’s uncomfortable – changing the subject away from sexual matters, making excuses to disengage from the conversation – are likely to go ignored or not be noticed in the first place.
Alcohol also impairs decision-making skills and risk-benefit analyses in everyone, not just men. It can block neurotransmitters in the brain from sending and receiving signals, interfering with the ability to weigh pros and cons and lowering inhibitions. Drinking can also increase the release of dopamine in the brain, which is the chemical responsible for pleasurable or “reward” feelings. This means everything will feel good and nothing will sound like a bad idea.
There aren’t many studies done in regard to women and sexual aggressiveness while intoxicated, but those that do exist tend to show that women are less likely to act upon their intoxicated whims. For one thing, women are usually more concerned than men about the possible dangers of casual sex. For another, society tends to judge women more harshly than men both for being intoxicated and for being openly sexual.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.