Drinking Alcohol Sex and Violence (What You Didn’t Know)

What is the role of drinking alcohol sex and violence? Does alcohol disinhibit? Is intoxication ever a valid excuse for rape or violence?

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

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


Research shows that men tend to become physically more sexually aroused when they think they have been drinking alcohol. That’s even when they haven’t. Women also report feeling more sexually aroused when they falsely believe they have been drinking alcohol. Yet a measure of their physological arousal shows that they are physically becoming less aroused.

Men become more aggressive in lab studies in which they’re drinking only tonic water but think that it contains alcohol. They also become relatively less aggressive when they think they are drinking only tonic water. However, they’re really drinking tonic containing alcohol.

Beliefs are Important

Thus, much behavior associated with alcohol may be more a result of our beliefs than of the alcohol.

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 accepting alcohol abuse as an excuse, the more will use it as an excuse. But intoxication is never an excuse for unacceptable behavior.


drinking alcohol sex and violenceThe crime of rape occurs whenever a person forces another to do something sexual against that person’s will. It’s that simple. Remember that:

  • A person has the right to say no to sex at anytime for any reason.
  • Rape is never the victim’s fault. No one ever asks, wants, or deserves to be raped.
  • Date or acquaintance rape is all too common.
  • Women can rape women and men can rape men. Remember what rape is. (Contrary to popular belief, more rapes are committed against men than against women each year. For example, think of prisons.)

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.

Preventing Rape

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

  • When going out with someone new, don’t feel you have to go alone. Go on a group date or meet in a public place.
  • Socialize with people who share your values and beliefs.
  • Communicate with your date. Don’t send mixed messages.
  • Be aware and independent on dates. Have options on what you will do, pay your way, provide your own transportation.
  • Take care of yourself. Don’t put yourself in a situation where other people might have to take care of you. They might not be there.
  • Be careful about going into someone else’s home or inviting them into yours. These are the places most acquaintance rape occurs.
  • Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable in a situation, leave it.
  • If things start to get out of hand, leave or protest firmly and loudly.
  • Don’t abuse alcohol and don’t date anyone who does.


Intoxication is never an excuse for otherwise unacceptable behavior.

Resources: Drinking Alcohol Sex and Violence


Abdulali, S. What We Talk about When We Talk about Rape. Oxford: Myriad, 2018.   

Bayard-White, K., et al. 100 women I know: Candid Accounts of Rape and Sexual Assault. London: Break the Habit, 2018.     

Holmstrom, L. The Victim of Rape. London: Taylor & Francis, 2017.    

Rayne, K. Girl: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You. Washington, DC: Magination, 2017. (Juv.)    

Sexual Violence : Evidence Based Policy and Prevention. London: Springer, 2017.        

Smith, M. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Rape and Sexual Violence. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2018.   

Warshaw, R. I Never Called It Rape. NY: Harper, 2018. 

Videos: Drinking Alcohol Sex and Violence

Baumgardner, J., et al. It was Rape. NY: Women Made Movies, 2015.     

Biurski, N. The Rape of Recy Taylor. London: Modern Films, 2018.  

Chapman, C., et al. A Rape in a Small Town: The Florence Holway Story. Princeton, NJ: Films, 2005. 

Ed. Video Net. Rape Prevention. Huntsville, TX: Ed. Video Net. , 2004.