Alcohol and sex

Alcohol affects both your feelings and your judgement. Many people feel more relaxed after a few beers, that a few drinks help get the conversation started and will make both oneself and those around you more attractive. But alcohol and sex are a bad combination.

INTEREST IN SEX INCREASES

The teenage years are when our interest in sex increases and the majority of young people have their first sexual experiences. Many adults believe that young people are intoxicated when they have sex for the first time, but that isn’t the case: the majority of young people have not drunk alcohol when they make their sexual debut. 

If you're trying to get off with someone but get turned down, you can always blame it on being drunk.

Hanna, aged 16, Gothenburg

IT CAN DAMAGE SELF-ESTEEM

Love and sex can be both wonderful and tricky. Many believe that alcohol makes them more relaxed and bold in the heat of the moment. And if it gets embarrassing, there’s always something to blame it on. But it’s hard both to feel the intimacy of the moment and to respect both your own boundaries and those of your partner when you have alcohol in your body.

If your first sexual experiences with another person happen when you’re drunk, there’s a real risk that, over time, it will feel natural to be drunk during sex. And that, in turn, can mean that you avoid intimacy and sex if you haven’t been drinking. Show your teenager that you’re happy to talk to them about sex and that you’re aware that sex can be both wonderful and difficult. And remind them, too, that ”no” always means ”no”.  

UNPROTECTED SEX

Alcohol impairs your judgement. Around one in every five upper secondary school students say that they didn’t use protection when they had sex under the influence. Girls often take a greater share of the responsibility, not just before and during sex, but afterwards, too, e.g. when it comes to getting tested for sexually transmitted infections. Talk to your teenager about the importance of always using protection during sex.

A lot of people cheat when they’re drunk. It’s like you don’t think, you just do.

Julius, aged 15, Örebro

SEX YOU REGRET

One in every ten girls and boys in the second year of upper secondary school state that alcohol has resulted in having sex that they later regretted. And it’s by no means unknown for young people to be subjected to sexual harassment and assault when they’re drunk, either.

As an adult, it’s important to talk to your child about the importance of only having sex when you, yourself, really want it, that it’s never OK to nag someone into having sex, and that there are no excuses whatsoever for sexually harassing or assaulting someone. Show your teenager that you’re there for them and encourage them to speak up if something doesn’t feel right.

The fact that a conversation about this can feel difficult and uncomfortable must never stand in the way of the support you can give your child. 

"Sometimes, the guys hassle you and say you’re boring if you don’t want to do something, which makes you feel stupid and scared that he’ll spread rumours about you".

Sabina, aged 16, Gothenburg

YOUNG PEOPLE WATCH PORN

Pornography has become an easily accessible and major part of many teenagers’ lives. The porn young people watch nowadays is often one-sided and emotionally disengaged. The content that young people encounter is crude, aggressive, and degrading.

The negative effects on young people of watching porn are numerous, ranging from performance anxiety and an impact on body image to physical harm. Young people who watch a lot of porn also drink more alcohol than young people who don’t.

It’s important that you, as an adult, talk to your child about how the porn that they’re seeing porn does not reflect the reality of intimacy and sexual relationships. Try to nuance the picture that porn paints and highlight the risks. You’ll find tips on suggested reading and support at the back of this book.  

More to read about the same topic

Useful contacts and more info

It can sometimes be good to talk to someone who knows a bit more about teenagers and alcohol, or about anything else, for that matter.

If you want to do more

There’s a lot you can do to support and be there for teenagers. Maybe you can take part in night-time patrols, or make it easier for them to say “no”, or help promote a smarter approach to alcohol in some other way.

Other important topics to read about

When parents are not around

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