Drinking Alcohol and Sexual Performance of Men: Is Drinking Helpful or Harmful? 

I. Alcohol and Erections.

William Shakespeare suggested a relationship between alcohol and sexual performance. Of drinking alcohol, he said “it provokes the desire but takes away the performance.” (Henry IV part I: act 3, scene 1.) But Shakespeare is unclear. That is, he doesn’t specify the level of drinking that “takes away the performance.”

Researchers report that heavy drinking leading to a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can reduce the strength of erections. This isn’t surprising. That’s because intoxication effects our brains, nerves, and circulatory system.

The evidence about lower levels of alcohol and sexual performance are mixed. However, over half the studies report negative effects of high BAC on the strength or the size of erections. Unfortunately, the jury is still out on the matter. But a reasonable take home (or take to the party) message would be to limit your alcohol consumption.

Having a low or moderate BAC also prevents a hangover. Discover more about the upside and downside of various alcohol levels. Just visit How Alcohol Effects Us: The Biphasic Curve Shows the Pleasure vs Pain Relationship of BAC.

Also it’s important to understand the importance of beliefs and expectations. What happens if people falsely believe they’ve been consuming alcohol? Learn at Alcohol and Sex: Relationships Between Drinking and Sex.

II. Moderate Drinkers Benefit Sexually

Australian researchers examined alcohol and sexual performance among male light and moderate drinkers. To do so, they analyzed data from 1,580 participants in the Western Australia Men’s Health Study. The men ranged in age from 20 to 80.

alcohol and sexualThe study had earlier reported that erectile dysfunction (ED) was widespread. The same is true in the U.S. The study found major risk factors to be cardiovascular disease and smoking. Both of these cause blood circulation problems

This analysis examined the impact of moderate drinking on ED. Moderate consumption was drinking up to about four drinks per day up to five days per week.

The researchers found that moderate drinkers were almost 30% less likely to suffer report impotence problems. This was regardless of their age. In addition, moderate drinkers who didn’t smoke were almost 50% less likely to have ED problems than smokers.

alcohol and sexualModerate drinkers tend to have better cardiovascular health than non-drinkers. This appears to aid the function of vascular organs. Of course, that includes the penis. So the the connection between the moderate drinking of alcohol and sexual performance is apparent. Indeed, ED is also predictive of cardiovascular death.

III. Summary

There is hard evidence that a high BAC can inhibit achieving or maintaining a strong erection. Thus, it would appear wise to limit drinking several hours before sexual activity.

alcohol and sexualOn the other hand, moderate drinkers tend to suffer ED much less often. They enjoy better cardiovascular health than non-drinkers. And this better cardiovascular health improves erections.

IV. Resources

Balon, R. Sexual Dysfunction: The Brain-Body Connection. NY: Karger, 2008.

Ellsworth, P. and Stanley, B. 100 Questions & Answers about Erectile Dysfunction. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2008.

Fried, R. Erectile Dysfunction as a Cardiovascular Impairment. San Diego: Academic, 2014.

Grant, P. Erectile Dysfunction. Causes & Risk Factors. Hauppauge, NY: Nova, 2012.

Jackson, G. Sex, the Heart and Erectile Dysfunction. Routledge, 2004.

Kloner, R. Heart Disease and Erectile Dysfunction. Totowa, NJ: Humana, 2004.

Milsten, R. Male Sexual Function. Myth, Fantasy & Reality. NY: Avon,1999.

O’Leary, M. Erectile Dysfunction. Boston: Harvard Health, 2016.

Steidle, C. and Casperson, J. Sex and the Heart. Erectile Dysfunction’s Link to Cardiovascular Disease. Chicago: Addicus, 2009.

Viigimaa, M., et al. Erectile Dysfunction in Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease. Springer, 2015.

Xenakis, A. Sexual Dysfunction. Myths, Facts, and Solutions. Andover, MA : Xenejenex,1991. (Video)

Source: Chew, K-K, et al.  Alcohol consumption and male erectile dysfunction. J Sex Med, 2009, 6(5), 1386–1394.