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Am J Mens Health. 2008 Mar;2(1):76-86. doi: 10.1177/1557988307313549. Epub 2008 Jan 23.

Later that night: descending alcohol intoxication and men's sexual arousal.

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  • 1University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Although men often have sex when intoxicated, basic questions remain about how alcohol affects erection. It may depend on whether blood alcohol level is ascending or descending and whether the situation calls for maximizing or suppressing erection.


To evaluate whether descending intoxication affects erection when men are instructed to maximize or suppress arousal.


Seventy-eight heterosexual men were randomized to intoxication (descending from .08% vs. no alcohol) and arousal instruction (maximize vs. suppress) conditions. Response to erotica was examined using penile plethysmography.


Compared to similarly instructed sober men, intoxicated men instructed to maximize exhibited less erection yet reported greater effort to maximize. Interestingly, intoxicated men instructed to suppress exhibited more erection than those instructed to maximize. In general, however, observed effects were modest.


Findings suggest there is no simple answer regarding how alcohol affects sexual arousal. Descending intoxication, depending on context, appears to affect erection capacity and control.

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