3 Funny Things about Beer and Sex

The intriguing relationships among beer, attraction, sex, and more...

Posted Sep 26, 2017

1. Beer Goggles are Real

The term “beer goggles” suggests that we find others more attractive when we have been drinking, and the research supports this notion: For example, both men and women who have consumed alcohol rate photographs of faces as more attractive than counterparts who have consumed a “placebo” drink (Chen et al., 2014). Interestingly, in this research project, the ratings of more attractive faces remained similar across conditions, but the ratings of less attractive and moderate individuals improved in the alcohol condition relative to the placebo condition.

These authors suggest that our visual perception may actually be impaired by the alcohol thus leading to more positive perceptions of others whom we would normally find less attractive. Beer goggles also seem to work on ourselves as well: Individuals rate themselves as more attractive after consuming alcohol, or even a placebo drink which they believe to be alcohol (Bègue et al., 2013).

2. We Associate Beer with Sex

Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock
Source: Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Many people believe that drinking alcohol will increase sexual desire and arousal (Friedman et al., 2005), even though it's a belief that may not translate into actual physiological arousal due to alcohol’s sedative properties. However, men who are exposed to beer and other alcohol-related words (e.g. beer, keg, drunk, pitcher, whiskey, etc.), and who believe that alcohol increases their arousal, find women more sexually attractive. These authors suggest that our expectations about alcohol impact our behavior independently of the biological effects of drinking. Other studies show that both men and women believe that drinking alcohol heightens the probability of a sexual encounter and that men admit to using alcohol to try to encourage women to “hook up” (see Vander Ven and Beck, 2009). However, women also report drinking more beer when feeling romantic (Klein and Pittman, 1992).

3. More Expensive Beer Reduces Sexually Transmitted Diseases

In 2016 the CDC reported a new record for the highest level of new sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. Because of the link between increased alcohol pricing and reduced alcohol consumption, as well as the link between increased alcohol consumption and riskier sexual behaviors, researchers have investigated the link between increased alcohol taxes and STD rates over a 14-year period (Chesson et al., 2000). They found that a 20-cent tax increase on a six-pack of beer was associated with roughly 9 percent and 33 percent decreases in gonorrhea and syphilis rates, respectively. Similar effects were found for taxes on other types of alcoholic beverages as well. The authors speculate that increased alcohol consumption increases the incidence of risky sexual behaviors and that these behaviors in turn increase the occurrence of STDs. The authors speculate that increasing alcohol taxes could also reduce other sexually transmitted infections such as HIV.

Portions of this post were taken from The Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships. Copyright 2015 Madeleine A. Fugère. 

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Bègue, L., Bushman, B. J., Zerhouni, O., Subra, B., & Ourabah, M. (2013). ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder’: People who think they are drunk also think they are attractive. British Journal of Psychology, 104(2), 225–234. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.2012.02114.x

Chen, X., Wang, X., Yang, D., & Chen, Y. (2014). The moderating effect of stimulus attractiveness on the effect of alcohol consumption on attractiveness ratings.  Alcohol and Alcoholism, 49, 515-519.

Chesson, H., Harrison, P., & Kassler, W. J. (2000). Sex under the influence: The effect of alcohol policy on sexually transmitted disease rates in the United States. Journal of Law and Economics, 43(1), 215–238.

Friedman, R. S., McCarthy, D. M., Bartholow, B., D., & Hicks, J. A. (2007),  Interactive effects of alcohol outcome expectancies and suboptimal alcohol cues on non-consumptive behavior. Clinical and Experimental Psychopharmacology, 15, 102–114. 

Klein, H., & Pittman, D. J. (1993). The relationship between emotional state and alcohol consumption. International Journal of the Addictions, 28(1), 47-61.

Vander Ven T. & Beck J. (2009). Getting drunk and hooking up: An exploratory study of the relationship between alcohol intoxication and casual coupling in a university sample. Sociological Spectrum, 29, 626–648.