Alcohol and human sexuality: review and integration

Psychol Bull. 1989 May;105(3):374-86. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.105.3.374.


Summarizes physiological findings and reviews the psychological experimental literature investigating the relationship between alcohol and human sexuality. Specifically, the authors attempt to reconcile the apparent contradictions found in the effects of alcohol on male and female sexual responding. The review concludes (a) that alcohol disinhibits psychological sexual arousal and suppresses physiological responding, the former effect being stronger at lower doses of alcohol and the latter effect at higher doses; (b) that although suppression is strictly pharmacological in nature, disinhibition appears to be both pharmacological (the result of cognitive impairment) and psychological (the result of socially learned expectancies); and (c) that expectancies and cognitive impairment can disinhibit separately or jointly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Sexual Behavior / drug effects*


  • Ethanol