Do women need to get drunk to have sex?

Another depressing study on alcohol and the ladies

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published September 24, 2009 4:25PM (EDT)

It’s enough to make you cry in your beer: A new study out of the U.K. says that women are having most of their sex under the influence of alcohol -- and that they prefer it that way.

Feminine hygiene brand Femfresh surveyed 3,000 women aged 18-50 and found that its average respondent had been with eight sexual partners, had been drunk with five of them, and couldn’t even remember the names of two. Seventy-five percent said that they prefer having sex with their partners after drinking, and one woman in 20 said she’d never done it sober.

Aside from the deliciousness of tequila and the temporary magical effects of beer goggles, what could make so many women rely on a few belts to psych themselves up for one of life’s most sublime pastimes? Unsurprisingly, the easily reached-for scapegoat here is poor body image. Writing in the Independent today on “Why Women Need a Drink Before Sex,” columnist Liz Hoggard said, “Don't moralise about hedonistic behaviour if you continue to make us feel body hatred!” And Femfresh’s own Kathryn Lakeland said, “These results are a clear indication that British women today are severely lacking in confidence.”

That’s grim as hell. If the study is any indication of what’s really going in the minds of women across a broad spectrum of ages, it suggests a massive lack of personal accountability and pride, as well as a disturbing willingness to engage in behavior that comes with a heaping helping of risk of rape, assault, pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. But, hey, enjoy those happy hour two-for-one cosmos!

As with all surveys, however, it helps to consider the source. One could argue that the small sampling of British women who buy “delicately fragranced deodorant” for their “intimate area” might also need a shot of Goldschlager before knocking boots. And perhaps a representative for a company that insists its “individually wrapped wipes” are “a handbag essential for freshness on demand” might want to get out of her own glass house before analyzing anybody else’s erotic lifestyle choices.

It’s also worth noting that the more dolce vita-minded Italians recently put their own spin on the whole potent cocktail of women, alcohol and sex. A forthcoming report from the University of Florence  for the Journal of Sexual Medicine  found Tuscan ladies who enjoy two glasses of wine a day report greater sexual satisfaction than their teetotaling counterparts on an index of factors including arousal, orgasm and pain.

Lots of women drink. Lots of women have sex. Does it automatically follow that women need to drink to have sex? And is imbibing before bed the mark of a self-loather “looking for a boost in self-esteem when it comes to bedroom antics,” as Lakeland says, or simply an uninhibited sensualist? Depends on the lady, of course, and maybe how close she lives to the Mediterranean. 

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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