Let’s face it, for many of us, gay or straight, single or coupled, having sex after a few (or a lot) of drinks is just a part of life.
But with marijuana becoming increasingly accepted and legalised across the US, chances are we’re going to see more and more people facing an important choice when it comes to sex: should I get drunk or high for this?
Don’t worry, fam. Science is here for you.
In a new study, researchers from New York University investigated people's responses to both drunk and high sex, and have come up with some pretty interesting insights about which gives you the most benefits, while also putting you at the lowest risk of some of the dangerous - and awkward - pitfalls.
"Since the landscape is changing, and marijuana continues to increase in popularity, research is needed to continue to examine if and how marijuana use may influence risk for unsafe sexual behaviour," the team writes in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
The team recruited 24 New York-based heterosexual volunteers - 50/50 male and female, aged 18 and 35 - to talk candidly about their sex lives in a series of in-depth interviews. Each volunteer had experienced sex under the influence of both marijuana and alcohol (separately), so could speak to the effects.
Before we get to those, let’s be clear that this is an extremely small and not in any way diverse sample, but the researchers’ intent was less about coming up with a definitive answer that represents all walks of life, and more about setting a baseline upon which much larger studies can build in the future.
So the results are pretty haphazard, and should be taken with a huge grain of salt, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with them.
1. There are beer goggles, but not weed goggles
While the participants admitted that both alcohol and marijuana affected their choice of sexual partner, they overwhelmingly reported that alcohol was more likely to negatively affect who they ended up sleeping with.
"Seeing partners 'in the daylight' for the first time and waking up next to a 'different person' was a common complaint of both males and females," the researchers report, adding that it commonly "lowered participants’ standards".
When it came to marijuana, "Generally most participants did not report lowering their standards on marijuana (compared to alcohol), some did explain that they found their partners more attractive while high."
Oh, and reverse beer goggles definitely apply:
"When I’m drinking… I feel like I’m the prettiest person in the world, like no one has anything on me. I’m just so confident." (Female, 26)
2. Regret was commonly reported after drunk, but not high, sex
Both male and female participants said regret resulted from drunk sex - or "hooking up with drunk chicks", as one called it - because of the lowering of sexual standards, and a higher risk of partaking in risky sexual interactions, such as 'withdrawing' instead of using a condom.
"Both males and females commonly reported that regret, shame, and embarrassment were associated with alcohol use, but this was rarely reported for marijuana," the researchers found.
They suggest that because alcohol is more socially accepted, and more often done in public, it’s more likely that you’ll have drunk sex with someone you don’t know than when you’re having high sex. This could be behind some of that crushing regret.
3. Drunk sex can make you physically ill, but stoned sex can mess with your head
Nausea, dizziness, feeling sick, vomiting, and blacking out were commonly reported drunk sex pitfalls. "One male reported accidentally falling asleep during intercourse," say the researchers.
While some participants reported adverse physical effects during high sex, the team says one participant summed up the findings pretty well when he said: "I feel like weed affects your motivation, and alcohol just affects your ability."
4. Sex feels better when you’re high
The researchers report that, generally, the participants described their bodies as being more sensitive on marijuana, but numb or desensitised on alcohol.
As Christopher Ingraham reports for The Washington Post, "The study found that both men and women reported longer and more intense orgasms on marijuana, with one woman reporting hers were 'magnified at least by five times'."
Drunk sex tended to last longer - but sometimes that just meant it hurt more for the female participants - while high sex sometimes felt longer than it was because "the feeling of time can slow down on marijuana".
5. Drunk sex leads to riskier behaviours
"[T]he majority of participants felt that alcohol was riskier, sexually, than marijuana. Participants noted that sometimes 'anything goes' (sexually) when they drink and are not worried about potential consequences while in the moment," the researchers found.
Risky behaviours included not caring about condoms, not noticing if condoms came off, putting themselves in situations they weren’t physically able to extricate themselves from, and blacking out.
"[N]umerous participants felt that they were still able to make good decisions on marijuana and maintain self-control, more so than when intoxicated with alcohol," the study found, adding that one participant thought that the paranoia from weed stopped him from engaging in risky behaviours he might try on alcohol.
So there you have it. And let’s reiterate that this is a very small study based on self-reporting, so please don’t alter your life choices specifically in response to anything you’ve read here.
But what we can take from this study is some pretty interesting insights from a few individuals, which will hopefully prompt larger, more rigorous, and more diverse investigations on the topic.
Because, let’s face it, a lot of us are having drunk or stoned sex, and we should be talking about those experiences more and learning from them, both to lower our risk of getting into dangerous situations, and also to ensure our best chance of having awesome sex.
The study has been published in Archives of Sexual Behavior.