Women's sexual arousal: effects of high alcohol dosages and self-control instructions

Horm Behav. 2011 May;59(5):730-8. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2011.03.006. Epub 2011 Mar 23.


The basic relationship between alcohol and women's sexual arousal - especially genital arousal - received little research attention for nearly 30 years (e.g. Wilson and Lawson, 1978) until very recently (e.g. George et al., 2009). To investigate hypotheses based on earlier findings and Alcohol Myopia Theory (AMT), two experiments evaluated the effects of high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) and arousal instructional demands on indices of vaginal responding and self-reported sexual arousal. In Experiment 1, self-control instructions to maximize (versus suppress) arousal increased peak and average Vaginal Pulse Amplitude (VPA) change. Self-control also interacted with a target BAC of .08% (versus .00%) to influence latency to peak arousal onset: Intoxicated women instructed to maximize showed a shorter latency to peak arousal than did intoxicated women instructed to suppress; however, sober women showed an undifferentiated pattern. Also, in Experiment 1, the target BAC of .08% had no effect on VPA or subjective arousal measures. In Experiment 2, a target BAC of .10% (versus .00%) attenuated peak change and average change in VPA, but this dosage had no effects on latency to peak achieved arousal, or on subjective arousal. Instructions to maximize arousal (versus no instruction) had no effect on any arousal measures. Overall, among young moderate drinking women, alcohol had attenuating effects but only at the higher dosage. Maximize versus suppress instructions about arousal had predicted effects on arousal and interactive effects on latency, but only at the lower dosage. The findings highlight the importance of dosage and contextual factors in alcohol's impact on the variability of women's sexual responding.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / blood
  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Arousal / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Erotica / psychology
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Libido / drug effects*
  • Sexuality / drug effects*
  • Vagina / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Ethanol