Right or wrong, sex and alcohol seem to be intrinsically tied up with one another – for me, and for a lot of other people I know. It is obvious in a way, with the loosening of inhibitions being indiscriminate. I learned to drink before I learned to have sex.
When I lost my virginity, I had had three bottles of wine to myself, and that was not unusual for me. I realise that although that is perhaps a little more extreme than most, I don’t think it’s completely foreign. I always liked to drink partly because of the effect it had on my physicality. I had always felt restrained, awkward, shifty, and I hated people touching me. Alcohol swept me under a warm current, and I no longer noticed I had a body; my body that had become too conspicuous as it had changed and swollen and hurt and hardened through the pained pubescent years. I became soft. Alcohol afforded me relief and I only really came to terms with the fact that this was part of the problem years later.
“If you no longer feel in charge of your body, there can definitely be some liberation in that – but feeling no longer in charge of your body and sex should not pair.”
After I traded in my virginity for three bottles of wine, I was lucky enough that the next person I slept with – a few weeks later – quickly became my boyfriend. I learned sober sex. I learned the value in the intimacy of having sex with someone you really care about, and I learned to feel less self-conscious and to feel genuinely sexy without needing alcohol. However, I lost track a little along the way. I had my first heartbreak, I fell back in love with drinking, and I learned that when I drank, I could also have many one-night stands that thrilled me, and I got scared to do it in any other way. It made me feel powerful when I would receive a text from the person (whoever they were) a couple days later wanting more from me when I barely remembered them at all. I didn’t know what I had done, how it happened, and I didn’t care. I was throwing my body at things seemingly beyond my own consciousness, and I felt like I was doing it well. What I was really enjoying, however, was absolving myself of responsibility. If you no longer feel in charge of your body, there can definitely be some liberation in that – but feeling no longer in charge of your body and sex should not pair.
I definitely don’t think these things would have been made obvious to me as a problem by others as much if I were a man. I don’t know if that’s relevant, but I have spoken to a lot of the women I know about it. Binge-drinking-and-binge-fucking spoke as an act of self-harm when it came from me, but my two best friends were men who did the same and nobody’s eyebrows knitted together in false concern when they had come back after another drunken one night-stand with a beautiful girl. This is not me saying people were diagnosing me with a problem I didn’t have – I had some truly painful experiences because of it – my point is that I don’t know if it is good for anyone.
“What I do know, though, is that sex can be truly beautiful, and part of what makes it that is when you can feel every part of yourself and them; not when you can barely feel anything at all.”
As with everything, I think there is a line between genuine enjoyment and a frenzied hedonism. Drinking can be joyous, sex can be (and is) one of the most importantly pleasurable things in my life. However, in our culture the two are seemingly inextricable, and certainly are not taught in terms of pleasure. We gurgle down our naggins so that we are drunk, we sleep with people because we think it is expected, and the two sentiments seep into one another like poison. It’s probably obvious that I haven’t arrived at an answer yet.What I do know, though, is that sex can be truly beautiful, and part of what makes it that is when you can feel every part of yourself and them; not when you can barely feel anything at all.