Sex talk
Speaking of Alcohol

Simon Sheppard,

Ever since some lucky caveman discovered the powers of fermented fruit, people have liked to get tipsy, drunk, or blotto. And sex has tagged right along, like the cherry at the bottom of the glass. As one martini maven points out, "There's nothing like a drink or two to provide social lubrication...and lube of another sort may soon follow."

From a brewski in the mitt of a tattooed bruiser to a sparkling glass of bubbly in a romantic restaurant, potent potables carry carnal connotations. A kiss on the hand might be quite continental, but a can of Bud can get a bud's juices flowing. "There's something about a glass of good red wine," says another drinker, "that's just so sexy somehow." A drink or two raises a guy's mood and lowers his inhibitions; the combination of "I feel so good" and "What the hell, let's do it" can get even reluctant suitors between the sheets.

A sip of something can even be a sex toy. Moet gets swapped from mouth to mouth. Beer gets imbibed before a water-sports scene. "My lover and I were lying around in the woods, drinking ale," recalls an outdoorsman. "I took a swig and started dribbling it over his bare torso, he reciprocated, and soon enough we were naked, wet, and fucking."

Paradoxically, though, drinking can increase desire but impair performance: Even moderate drinking can take some of the "hard" out of "hard-on." Then, too, there are alcohol's well-documented sedative effects. Many of us have had the experience of dragging some hottie home from a bar, only to have him end up passed out on the futon. And snoring is so not sexy. One bar cruiser recalls, "Recently, I took this rather drunk boy back to his place, and though he was willing to do just about anything, he couldn't really get it up. Or stay awake. Eventually I just put him to bed and left."

Imbibing can screw up safety, too, with guys doing things they'd shun if they were sober. It may seem somewhat surprising, then, that moderate drinking can actually be good for your sex life. Studies show that moderate drinkers have a lower rate of impotence than either heavy boozers or men who don't drink at all. That's because, long-range, a drink a day can keep your veins unplugged, and cardiovascular problems are a major cause of wilting willies.

Healthy or not, booze is the currency of the gay bar, which, though perhaps no longer as central an institution as it once was, is still a vital gathering place for many guys. Indeed, the importance of bar culture is no doubt one reason why queer men once had higher rates of alcohol abuse than other folks, though newer studies suggest that alcoholism in young queer men is no higher than in the population at large. "A positive way of looking at that is that, with the decline of homophobia, younger men no longer drink to deal with the pressures of oppression. On the other hand, many young gays now abuse drugs like crystal meth, and maybe in the old days many of them would have gotten drunk instead." And older gay fellows still drink at higher rates, often in response to the difficulties of aging in a culture that puts a premium on youth.

No, alcohol isn't everyone's cup of tea. Prohibitionists don't approve, and alcoholism isn't pretty. But for most of us, an occasional swig of something, be it fine Bordeaux or cheap swill, provides refreshment and lubricates lust.

So drink up. Just don't drive home until you're sober.

Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion

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