Booze leads to dangerous, casual sex

AVOID THIS: Getting drunk is asking for trouble.
AVOID THIS: Getting drunk is asking for trouble.

AS THE party season gets under way, many people will be socialising more and possibly enjoying a drink or two. Studies show that people are likely to drink three times more alcohol during the festive season compared to on regular nights out.

Usually, booze and sex is a powerful combination that frequently leaves women with more than they bargained for.

According to Dr Rodney Smith, a gynecologist, people who come to him for issues of unprotected sex are often at their highest in January.

He says most women who visit him had an "accident" during the party season because of contraception failure or unprotected sex. He says there is a massive demand for the so-called morning-after pill.

Smiths says more teenagers become pregnant in December and January than at any other month of the year and sexually transmitted diseases also escalate at this time of the year.

"It is common for people to have sex with someone they just met after drinking alcohol at a party over the festive season. More than one-third of people I see at this time admit that theywouldn't have had sex if they were sober," Smith says.

He says alcohol is a testosterone stimulant and the effect it has on women is based upon the fact that testosterone is not the dominant hormone in the female make-up. Therefore, they are usually unable to control the effect of testosterone as men do on a daily or even hourly, basis.

"Women become more intoxicated than men after drinking the same amount of alcohol, even when differences in body weight are taken into account. This is because women's bodies have proportionately less water.

"Dealing with the bravado that testosterone produces is not a common experience to women and they rarely know how to cope with it. That is why most women become out of control after drinking alcohol. Alcohol may cause women to ignore or miss cues that an assault is likely and they might not realise that their friendly behaviour is perceived as seduction," he says.

Vusi Shabalala, a clinical psychologist, says men feel more powerful, sexual and aggressive after drinking alcohol.

"Expectancies have power of their own, independent of any genuine physiological processes. When people expect a certain outcome, they tend to act in ways that enhance the likelihood that the outcome will occur. For example, if a man feels powerful after drinking alcohol, then he is more likely to assert his viewpoints forcefully and to end up in a verbal or physical argument," Smith says.

He says studies show that men who have been drinking alcohol feel sexually aroused and are more responsive to erotic stimuli and rape scenarios.

He says many studies show that men are more likely than women to interpret a variety of verbal and nonverbal cues as evidence that a woman is interested in sex. He says alcohol may cause men to interpret or reinterpret a woman's behaviour as a sign of her desire to have sex - in a way that fits his initial hypothesis.

He says men frequently feel justified in forcing sex on women who they believe have been leading them on.

How to be safe this festive season:

  • Stock up on contraception

If you use a daily contraception such as the pill, make sure you have enough to last over Christmas, especially if you're going away.

To avoid forgetting your contraception if you go away, put it on your list of things to pack and leave a note for yourself at the front door or set a reminder on your phone

  • Stock up on condoms

Keep some condoms with you. They're the only form of contraception that protects against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms are useful to have in case you have sex with someone new or if your regular method of contraception fails or runs out.

Vomiting can reduce the effectiveness of the pill. If you're sick, use a condom to make sure you're protected against pregnancy.

  • Know where to get emergency contraception

Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy if you have had unprotected sex or your regular contraception has failed. The morning after pill is for use in an emergency. Don't rely on it as a regular method of contraception. It does not work as well as regular methods of contraception at stopping unintended pregnancies.

  • Don't drink on an empty stomach

Eating a meal (preferably with carbohydrates like bread or pasta) before you start drinking will work to slow down the effects of alcohol.

Make soft drinks part of your celebration. If orange juice or cola doesn't cut it, then get some fresh fruit smoothies or ask for a virgin cocktail at the bar.

  • What's the rush? An expensive wine, quality beer or sophisticated spirit is best savoured rather than downed, so sip slowly and alternate alcohol with soft drinks to see celebrations through to the early hours. - additional info www.nhs.uk
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