Why Australians rarely have sex while sober

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 21 September 2014 | 20.01

A recent survey of young adults found 92 per cent of people who had had casual sex in the past six months had used alcohol or drugs Source: Getty Images

FOR most Australians, dating and drinking go hand-in-hand. Pubs and clubs set the scene for hook-ups, and first dates tend to be at bars where we turn to a glass — or bottle — of wine to take the edge off our nerves.

But what starts out as social lubricant can lead to sexual dysfunction. Sex therapist Jacqueline Hellyer told news.com.au that she's seen a rise in the number of couples who have never had sober sex.

"It's not unusual for me to meet couples who only ever have sex in substance-induced states," she said. "When they meet, they're on alcohol or drugs, and when they first have sex they're drinking or doing drugs. It develops into a relationship but they are still only having sex when they go out and drink or get on drugs."

Desiree Spierings, sex therapist from Sexual Health Australia, said it's been an increasing problem in the past two years.

"We're seeing an increase in couples who have only had sex with each other while using drugs or alcohol and cannot get aroused without it," she said.

While drinking on dates is hardly a new trend, Spierings said these days many people find it difficult to move from casual substance-induced sex to a relationship.

"They get anxious because it would mean relating to their partner while not using drugs on a day-to-day basis," she said. "We see them in therapy when they try to change their lifestyle and not use drugs any longer and they find it hard to keep the passion going and maintain an active sex life."

But substance-induced sex is not just limited to young partygoers, Hellyer said she also hears from housewives who need a couple of wines at dinner to get in the mood.

"People use it for relaxation and a bit of an inhibitor as well," she said.

Couples who begin a relationship drinking alcohol to become aroused are likely to continue that pattern in their relationship. Source: Getty Images

An Australian survey of young adults found 92 per cent of people who had had casual sex in the past six months had used alcohol or drugs, and a survey of American university students found a third had consumed about five drinks before their most recent sexual encounter.

Rachel Kramer-Bussel, editor of Best Sex Writing 2013, told news.com.au that it took quitting alcohol four years ago for her to realise what a major impact drinking had had on her sex life.

"It would help bypass the part of my brain telling me to go more slowly or be more cautious," said Kramer-Bussel, 38.

"I definitely used alcohol to be bolder in approaching and coming on to people. With sober sex I'm more conscious of what I'm doing. I can judge if I'm not really into a person or a sex act, and I can speak up for myself better."

Last month, news.com.au reported on a US study that showed alcohol dulls the "alarm signal" that normally warns you you're making a mistake, which explains why people like Ben Delaney*, 31, have spent many a Sunday morning waking next to somebody he never would have looked twice at sober.

"I'd be out on the ciders with the boys and had all the confidence to crack onto a chick and ask her home," he admitted.

"But when I'd wake up next to someone who wasn't exactly my type, it was pretty awkward and embarrassing."

A new fitness focus has seen Delaney take some time off the booze, which he said has been an eye-opener.

"I'm probably more choosy with women, but at the same time you're lacking that sense of security you have when you're drunk," he said.

Luke Williams, who is writing a book about his time living in a house with chronic methamphetamine users, said the drug's affect on people's sex lives and fantasies is powerful and often disturbing.

"With sober sex I'm more conscious of what I'm doing," admitted one man. Source: ThinkStock

"Meth has a reputation for getting people in sexual situations they otherwise wouldn't want to be in," he said. "I have slept with people who I genuinely find disgusting when I have been off my face — indeed, the fact they are so disgusting just seems to add to the excitement at the time."

Williams, whose book will be published by Scribe early next year, said that sex hasn't been the same since recovering from meth addiction.

"I have kind of lost interest in sex because it doesn't seem quite as exciting," he said.

Associate Professor Lucy Burns, a senior researcher at the University of NSW's National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), said starting a relationship with substance-fuelled sex can spark a dangerous cycle.

"If they begin a relationship in that context, to get themselves back into that mindset, they might have to put themselves back in that [drug-fuelled] situation," she said.

That's something Renee Barnes*, 31, recognised after spending two years feeling pressure to do drugs before sex in order to match her ex's inebriated state.

"I would become way more kinky and less self-conscious — we'd do things that I never would have dreamt of when I was sober in the morning," she said.

Eventually it became obvious that their connection was purely about sex — and therefore drugs — and Barnes ended it.

"We didn't hang out with each other's families — all we had was a passionate physical relationship," she said.

Hellyer believes porn is part of the problem because it sets high expectations and some people reach for alcohol or drugs to replicate the intensity.

"In porn movies, women are always ready for it and they do all these wild and crazy things, and people think that's normal," Hellyer said. "They can get this view of sex being this full-on, hot and heavy thing, and they have to take something to get into that state."

But Hellyer said alcohol and drugs are really a Band-Aid solution. "The substances shortcut the mechanisms whereby we relax and open up to our partner sexually," she said.

"They've never learnt what they actually need to get to that heightened sense of arousal. I teach people how to open up to each other in a way that's real, as opposed to substance-induced."

*Names have been changed

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