Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/24/2023
How does alcohol affect a man sexually? We’re here to break it down for you.
Having an alcoholic drink is a fairly common and typical activity for lots of people, whether they’re celebrating, socializing or relaxing. Many may even associate drinking alcohol with their sex lives — after all, you may have heard the terms “beer googles,” “wining and dining” or the not-as-fun-sounding “whiskey dick.”
And although stories that suggest alcoholic beverages can improve sexual activity are popular, what’s the evidence behind them?
Does alcohol affect sex drive and have an aphrodisiac effect? How does alcohol impact erections? Does alcohol make sex better? How does alcohol affect a man sexually?
We’ll answer all these questions and more as we explore the connection between sex and alcohol.
Having a drink or two might make you feel more confident and put you in the mood for sexual activity. But there can also be some unpleasant side effects of alcohol consumption — especially excessive drinking or alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder.
Men who engage in heavy drinking, for example, often experience sexual dysfunction, like erectile dysfunction (ED), premature ejaculation and other sexual health issues.
How else does alcohol affect a man sexually? Keep reading to learn more about the link between alcohol and sex and the range of effects of alcohol on sexual behaviors.
People wine and dine for a reason: the hope of boosting their sex drive. Your sex drive (or desire for sexual activity) can vary depending on many factors, from stress to mental health issues to physical health conditions. But does alcohol affect sex drive?
While drinking alcohol is associated with lowered inhibitions and an enhanced mood — both of which could lead to sex — it may not be as effective as you think.
Alcohol binds to receptors in the brain, increasing the chemical dopamine and making you feel carefree. But while you feel good after a few drinks, alcohol doesn’t necessarily act as an aphrodisiac.
One study found that excessive alcohol consumption made people more likely to experience a lack of sex drive.
The social setting may play a bigger role in the influence of alcohol on your mood, according to some studies. So the relationship between alcohol and sex drive is more of a placebo effect. It might actually be your candlelit dinner that’s boosting your desire for sex more than wine.
Another question on your mind — does alcohol affect erections?
You may have heard of or even experienced “whiskey dick,” temporary alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction that happens after you’ve had a few drinks.
Alcohol affects everyone differently, of course. So some people may experience alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction after a few drinks, while others might experience ED after a night of heavy drinking.
Erections usually begin with either mental or physical stimulation, which triggers a multi-step internal process involving your nervous system and cardiovascular system.
As you feel sexually stimulated, neurotransmitters released by nerves inside the penis cause the blood vessels to relax and widen, increasing blood flow to the erectile tissue inside your penis.
Alcohol can disrupt erectile function in a few different ways, though. It slows down your central nervous system, making it more difficult to get and maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.
Alcohol also acts as a diuretic. This means it causes you to pee more often, which leads to dehydration while reducing your total blood volume.
Since erections are all about healthy blood flow, this can make it even harder to get and maintain an erection for sexual function.
Finally, dehydration causes the body to release angiotensin, a hormone that increases blood pressure. Angiotensin also causes blood vessels to narrow, restricting blood flow and possibly making erections more difficult to achieve.
Large amounts of alcohol can increase your chances of experiencing temporary erectile dysfunction.
Possibly one of the more popular myths about alcohol is that it can make sex better. Why does alcohol make you sexually active? And does alcohol really make sex feel better?
The term “beer goggles” isn’t just anecdotal — alcohol may make you find people more attractive. A 2014 study found that those who consumed alcohol rated images of people more highly for attractiveness than a placebo group.
You may also feel like sex lasts longer after you’ve had a few drinks. But this is most likely due to the desensitizing effect of alcohol — a small study found that men experienced less sensation in their genitals after drinking alcohol, meaning it may take longer to reach orgasm.
So while an alcoholic drink or two might make you feel sexier, consuming too much alcohol could lead to desensitized sex that feels better only in the moment. And it may not actually be better than sober or less-drunk sex.
Drinking alcohol can affect men sexually in other ways:
Alcohol consumption has often been found to cause unsatisfying orgasms and loss of libido in men, among other sexual dysfunctions.
Sexual dysfunction — like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation — is more common for those who drink more, as one small study of 84 males with alcohol dependence syndrome found.
About 10 percent of men with an alcohol use disorder were found to experience delayed ejaculation in a study of 100 subjects with alcohol dependence.
Alcohol can also reduce levels of testosterone, a primary sex hormone responsible for reproduction and male sex characteristics.
While alcohol may have a reputation as something that leads to sex, excessive drinking can seriously impact your sexual performance and even cause you to experience sexual dysfunction.
How does alcohol affect a man sexually? Excessive alcohol consumption — either occasionally having too many drinks or alcohol dependence syndrome — can cause erectile dysfunction, decreased sex drive, delayed or premature ejaculation and reduced testosterone levels.
A drink or two might make you feel more confident and sexier (depending on your own alcohol tolerance, of course). But overdoing it on the booze can cause more problems in bed.
And while you might feel bolder and more likely to take risks sexually after drinking, it’s absolutely necessary to make sure your partner is on the same page. Another risk of drinking too much is not being able to give necessary consent. This goes without saying, but always make sure all parties involved can give clear, enthusiastic consent.
If you’re struggling with erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation — either with or without alcohol — talk to a healthcare professional about possible treatments.
Erectile dysfunction treatments are typically oral medications like sildenafil (generic Viagra®), therapy or a combination of both. Meanwhile, premature ejaculation is treated with antidepressants, topical sprays or creams, behavioral therapy or a combination.
Depending on your symptoms and other health conditions, your healthcare provider can help come up with a treatment plan that’s best for you.