Drinking Alcohol, Sex and Violence

What is the role of alcohol in sexual behavior, aggression, and unwanted sex? Does alcohol disinhibit? Is intoxication ever a valid excuse for rape or violence?

Sexual arousal, aggression, domestic and other violence, and rape are often attributed to the influence of alcohol and intoxication.

Surprisingly, what people THINK my be more important than what they DRINK.

Research has shown that men tend to become physically more sexually aroused when they think they have been drinking alcohol, even when they haven't. Women report feeling more sexually aroused when they falsely believe the beverages they have been consuming contain alcohol, although a measure of their physological arousal shows that they are physically becoming less aroused.

Men become more aggressive in laboratory studies in which they are drinking only tonic water but believe that it contains alcohol. They also become relatively less aggressive when they think they are drinking only tonic water, but are actually drinking tonic containing alcohol.

Thus, much sexual behavior as well as aggression associated with alcohol may be more a result of our beliefs than of the alcohol we consume.

Studies have failed to find that alcohol causes sexual behavior or aggression. In some societies alcohol has the effect of making people less aggressive and violent.

Nor does alcohol disinhibit our brains, in spite of common belief. Our society believes that alcohol acts to disinhibit us, and we often act disinhibited when intoxicated. But in those societies that do not believe that intoxication disinhibits, people do not act disinhibited when intoxicated. In short, if people think that intoxication disinhibits, then they tend to act as if it did. If people don't think it disinhibits, then they don't act as if disinhibited.

It is our culture and our beliefs that connect alcohol, sex and violence. Many experts suggest that people use this belief to justify their behaviors and avoid personal responsibility. The more people who accept the abuse of alcohol as an excuse for otherwise unacceptable behavior, the easier it is for people to use that an excuse. But intoxication is never an excuse for unacceptable behavior.


The crime of rape occurs whenever a person forces another to do something sexual against that person's will. It's that simple. Remember that:

Being under the influence of alcohol is never an excuse. If the victim is too drunk to say no, it's still rape. If the perpetrator is too drunk to know what he or she is doing, it's still rape.


A large proportion of all rapes are date (or acquaintance) rapes. Reduce your chances of being a victim:



Intoxication is never an excuse for otherwise unacceptable behavior.

References and Readings

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