Sexual victimization, alcohol intoxication, sexual-emotional responding, and sexual risk in heavy episodic drinking women

Arch Sex Behav. 2014 May;43(4):645-58. doi: 10.1007/s10508-013-0143-8. Epub 2013 Jul 12.


This study used an experimental paradigm to investigate the roles of sexual victimization history and alcohol intoxication in young women's sexual-emotional responding and sexual risk taking. A nonclinical community sample of 436 young women, with both an instance of heavy episodic drinking and some HIV/STI risk exposure in the past year, completed childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and adolescent/adult sexual assault (ASA) measures. A majority of them reported CSA and/or ASA, including rape and attempted rape. After random assignment to a high alcohol dose (.10 %) or control condition, participants read and projected themselves into an eroticized scenario of a sexual encounter involving a new partner. As the story protagonist, each participant rated her positive mood and her sexual arousal, sensation, and desire, and then indicated her likelihood of engaging in unprotected sex. Structural equation modeling analyses revealed that ASA and alcohol were directly associated with heightened risk taking, and alcohol's effects were partially mediated by positive mood and sexual desire. ASA was associated with attenuated sexual-emotional responding and resulted in diminished risk taking via this suppression. These are the first findings indicating that, compared to non-victimized counterparts, sexually victimized women respond differently in alcohol-involved sexual encounters in terms of sexual-emotional responding and risk-taking intentions. Implications include assessing victimization history and drinking among women seeking treatment for either concern, particularly women at risk for HIV, and alerting them to ways their histories and behavior may combine to exacerbate their sexual risks.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections
  • Humans
  • Libido* / drug effects
  • Rape / psychology
  • Risk
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sexual Behavior / drug effects
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Unsafe Sex / psychology
  • Young Adult


  • Ethanol