Q&A: I Only Get Sexually Turned On When I’ve Been Drinking

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QUESTION: I can only get sexually turned on if I have been drinking. Otherwise I feel too nervous to enjoy sex and turn down my boyfriend's advances. What can I do?

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Three-Shots-Alcohol

Photo: korafotomorgana (flickr.com)

If you’re not yet ready to have sex completely sober, why not take a few steps back?

Let’s Talk About Sex

What a great question! Many people have been raised without much experience talking about sex. They may never have seen any examples of what a pleasurable, loving or exciting sexual experience looks like, which can make it considerably difficult to know how to go about having sex or connecting in an intimate or comfortable way.

Other times people feel uncomfortable about sex for other reasons, such as having had upsetting or traumatic events – such as molestation, assault or rape – happen to them.

I would encourage you to spend some time thinking, or talking with your boyfriend, about why it is that you think you can also have sex after you’ve been drinking alcohol. You mentioned feeling nervous about sex, but what do you feel nervous about?

Exploring on Your Own

You might spend some time exploring your body on your own, too. The books Because It Feels Good and Becoming Orgasmic both include exercises that women can do on their own that involve getting to know their own body, self-pleasuring and exploring both genital and non-genital parts of the body. These can be important experiences to try as you take steps toward becoming more comfortable with your body, with sexual touch and with opening yourself to pleasure.

Not Under the Influence

If you’re not yet ready to have sex completely sober, why not take a few steps back?

Consider talking with your boyfriend about taking things more slowly so that you can experience a more pleasurable, comfortable connection that doesn’t make you feel nervous. If he’s like most people, he will want you to enjoy the types of touching and sexual intimacy that you’re engaged in. You might ask him to be patient with you as you work toward these goals of comfort and pleasure.

More Information

If you have had past experiences of molestation or abuse, consider reading The Courage to Heal or meeting with a therapist to help you work through those issues. You can find a therapist through the American Psychological Association or the Society for Sex Therapy and Research.

Finally, if you would like more information about sexuality, or to view videos of couples having sex so that you feel more prepared for the types of positions, conversations or sounds and sights that sex might entail, consider watching the Sinclair Institute’s Better Sex video series which highlights real couples having sex, talking about sex and about their relationships. Some couples find it helpful to watch these types of videos together and to talk about them, so that they can learn more about each other and develop greater comfort together.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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