Plying Women With Alcohol Does Not Lead to Sex, UB Study Says

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: July 13, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo psychologists have thrown cold water on the popular male notion that the fastest way to seduce a woman is to ply her with alcohol.

In fact, says M. Lynne Cooper, UB associate professor of psychology, a young couple is substantially more likely to have sex on the first date if the male drinks or uses drugs and the female does not.

In a study of 1,693 adolescents ages 13-19 who were questioned about their most recent first date, only 8 percent reported having intercourse when neither partner drank or used drugs, compared to 19 percent when both partners used substances. But when only the male used substances, 24 percent reported having intercourse, opposed to 6 percent when only the female used substances.

Moreover, the study found that among those who had intercourse, alcohol or drug use was related to riskier sexual behavior. Nearly 61 percent of non-substance-using couples used a condom, compared with about 38 percent of substance-using couples. Similarly, 75 percent of couples not using substances used some form of effective contraception, versus 56 percent of couples who used substances. And 46 percent of individuals who did not use substances described their partner as "casual," compared to 61 percent of those who did use substances.

Cooper and co-author Holly K. Orcutt, a UB doctoral student in psychology, suggest that alcohol or drug use may "disinhibit" males' initiation of sexual encounters through its "permission-giving properties." Drinking may excuse what would otherwise be considered inappropriate behavior, and allow an individual to engage in the behavior with relative impunity.

However, this may not hold true for women, the researchers note, because concerns about pregnancy, social stigmatization and victimization give women greater inhibitions to overcome than men.

Alcohol also may act as a "social lubricant" for males, increasing their willingness to disclose things about themselves while decreasing their social anxiety, and eliciting a more positive response from the female, who may be more likely to consent to the male's advances.

The researchers reported the results of the study at a recent American Psychological Association conference on women's health. The research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.