Safety in a glass?

Study shows some Canadian drunks have safer sex.

Published April 11, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

There's truth in the old saying that everyone in the bar looks a little more attractive at last call. But according to a recent study done in Calgary, Alberta, when two drunk people hook up and begin following their natural hormonal urges -- whether in the privacy of one's home or the back seat of the Toyota Camry -- this same shit-faced couple may in fact take more precautions against unsafe sex than if they were sober.

This rather startling conclusion comes from studies conducted by Queens University psychology professor Tara MacDonald and three other researchers, who observed the sexual habits of 800 people in five city bars. The team's findings, while rather intrusive, were that drunks were actually more aware of the need for safe sex. Further, those who were blitzed were more prone to being influenced by their environment.

"Most people think that alcohol causes people to be risky and impulsive, more outgoing, more aggressive and less inhibited, but that depends on the situation," MacDonald told the Calgary Herald last week.

"If the situation emphasized risk, then intoxicated people reported more risky intentions than sober people, whereas if the situation emphasized caution, intoxicated people reported less risky intentions than sober people."

One of the studies concentrated on bar patrons whose hands had been stamped with various messages, from "AIDS Kills" to "Safe Sex," or a happy face. The guinea pigs were given a Breathalyzer test, then asked to read a scenario about a sexual encounter, and fill out a questionnaire about their intent for that situation.

"We found that a drunk person with a smiley face was more likely than sober people to have intentions to have unsafe sex, whereas intoxicated persons with AIDS Kills stamps were half as likely as sober people to report intentions to engage in sex without a condom," MacDonald said.

By Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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