News flash: Binge drinking isn't sexy

A study finds that college men want their dates to consume less alcohol.

Published March 10, 2009 2:34PM (EDT)

A new study, conducted by Loyola Marymount University, has found that 71 percent of (presumably heterosexual) college women overestimate the amount of alcohol their boyfriends and dates would like them to consume. About a quarter assumed men would like them to knock back five or more cocktails on a given night. But, as it turns out, the average guy would rather see his lady friend drink approximately half as much as the women estimated. According to the study's lead author, Joseph LaBrie, "The message to college girls is: Hey, your perceptions about what you think men want in a date, a friend or a sexual hookup are not very accurate." Uh, thanks, Professor LaBrie. Your revelation has changed the way I think about men, women and alcohol forever.

Pardon my sarcasm, but didn't we learn, just a few months ago, that women's binge drinking could be blamed on the excesses of feminism? And now we're supposed to believe that ladies are overdoing it at the bar because they're trying to impress their dates with unseemly levels of intoxication? Well, which is it? Are we drinking because we're liberated or because we're oppressed?

As LaBrie tells it, women drink "in pursuit of intimate relationships and positive attention from their male peers." And here I thought my occasional night at the bar was about relaxing with friends or breaking the tension of a rough day at work when, in reality, I've just been drinking to please my boyfriend. Shows what I know! But, to be fair, maybe LaBrie isn't talking about me. As he kindly allows, "While not all women may be drinking simply to get a guy's attention, this study may help explain why more women are drinking at dangerous levels." See? Not all of us drink to look sexy ... but the ones who don't are exceptions that prove the rule.

Of course, the study manages to get in a swipe at pop culture, too. Here's a sentence I never thought I'd see in an academic article: "When it comes to drinking college men are not looking for the girl gone wild." Aha. So that's what this is about. LaBrie is just looking out for all those poor coeds who have been brainwashed by soft porn and the antics of Britney, Lindsay and Amy Winehouse.

All sarcasm aside, LaBrie's study includes a few fairly offensive assumptions. For one thing, it presumes that women act the way they think men would want them to. I feel compelled to point out that just because a lady believes her date would like her to binge drink doesn't mean she's actually going to do it.

And here's a thought: Most college students drink. There is, in fact, a great deal of pressure on campus -- for both sexes -- to get wasted. So when you ask a college girl how much she thinks her date would like her to drink, she may overestimate. I'm willing to bet, though, that if you also asked her how much she thinks her female friends would want her to imbibe on a girls' night out, you'd get a similarly inflated number. In fact, if you reversed the genders and posed the question to college men, it's likely that they, too, would overestimate. Perhaps the social pressure to drink isn't entirely -- or even predominantly -- sexual. 


By Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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