I Can’t Love You If I Am Sober

There’s nothing like reading a bit of revealing social discourse that shows us who we are, as well as who we are not. I especially love it when the talking and the finger pointing are directed towards other people and not me.

For most of my fellow Australians, and probably for most other people around the world, dating and drinking go hand in hand. Pubs and clubs set the scene for hook-ups. First dates invariably occur at a bar where we can use a glass or a bottle as a prop to give us courage and take the edge off understandable nervousness.

But according to at least one sex therapist, what might begin as a form of social lubrication can quickly spiral into sexual dysfunction. And I am not talking about an inability to perform. Which leads me to reveal a remarkable and in some ways shocking social observation. There has been a significant rise in the number of couples who have never experienced sober sex. No, I am not kidding.

As one Sex Therapist disclosed it wasn’t in any way unusual for her to meet couples that only ever have sex after they drink alcohol or take drugs. It doesn’t seem to matter if they are having sex for the first time or they’ve been together for years. It might develop into a committed relationship but they only ever have sex after some form of substance abuse.

Sex therapists say they’ve seen this problem escalate over the past two years. The question, of course, is why? Why is this happening? Is it because drink and drugs are too easy to obtain and too easy to use?

One theory suggests that people get anxious because doing this sober means relating to your partner in an open and honest way. What’s wrong with that? I hear you ask. The answer is nothing wrong and everything right. But it causes a great deal of difficulty for some people. And when they try to change their lifestyle and not use drugs or alcohol they can’t maintain the passion or sustain an intimate relationship. An Australian survey of young adults found that 92 percent of them who admitted to having casual sex in the past six months were not sober at the time. Similar results came from a survey of American University students who consumed, on average, five alcoholic drinks before their most recent sexual encounter.

Speaking to the survey participants provides an intriguing insight into their attitudes. One young woman said it was only after she gave up drinking that she realized what an impact alcohol had on her sex life. Alcohol helped her to bypass that part of her brain that normally tells her to go slowly or be more cautious. It helped her to be bolder in approaching and coming on to someone she was sexually interested in. But now that she’s sober, she is in control of what she’s doing and able to make judgment calls about the person and the sex. Quite frankly I find it a little frightening.

Behavioural scientists say alcohol dulls the alarm signal that warns a person they are about to make a mistake. Which might explain why people wake up next to a person they would never look twice at if they had been sober the night before.

One young man is currently writing a book about the time he spent living in a house full of fellow chronic methamphetamine users. His book will, among other things, document the effect of the drug on people’s sex lives. He says meth has a reputation for getting people into sexual situations they otherwise would not want to be in. The man talks of sleeping with people who he genuinely found disgusting but that fact only seemed to add to the excitement at the time.

Now at this point you might be thinking am I talking exclusively about young people? The young party goers. The answer is No. I am not. A lot of 30, 40 and 50 somethings, need a couple of wines at dinner to get in the mood.

I am happy to say that none of this applies to me and I am so glad that it doesn’t. I feel sorry for the people who’ve never actually learned to open up to someone else in a way that’s real as opposed to substance induced. If only they knew, it beats chemicals hands down.

Be Very Ashamed

There are times when I feel ashamed to be an Australian. Today is one of those days.

A health report was released. It’s a survey of the community attitudes of 17 and half thousand people. Some of the answers that were given I personally find grossly offensive. Here’s an example. A large proportion of people in the survey were prepared to justify the actions of rapists and men who inflict domestic violence on women and then shift all of the blame to the victim.

One in five people surveyed say they believe a woman who is raped while affected by drugs or alcohol is partly responsible for what occurred. One in five people believe this. Can you believe it?

Forty percent of people surveyed say quite often women who report they’ve been raped led the man on and later had regrets about it.

Get this. Sixteen percent of the people surveyed say women who say no to an unwelcome advance really mean yes. Apparently women don’t have a mind of their own. I don’t think so.

If you think this is an aberration or just catching people on a bad day, consider this. The last time a survey like this was done was in 2013. At that time the number of people who thought that rape was the result of men not being able to control their need for sex was four. That number has now risen to 10.

When it comes to domestic violence, attitudes don’t get any better. Sixty percent of Australians surveyed say the main cause of domestic violence is men not being able to control their anger.

Prepare to be shocked. Almost a quarter say they believe domestic violence can be excused if the attacker can’t control their anger or regrets it. This is just unacceptable and wrong.

One senior policeman responding to the survey said it was disappointing that people still felt the need to justify violence. What he means is there should be no circumstances where violence against women is understandable or acceptable.

Clearly in this country we need to have some hard conversations and some banging of heads. Attitudes need to change and misogynistic behaviour condemned.

All of this is deeply worrying but there is one other revelation from this survey that I find the most troubling. Young people, particularly young men are more likely to have violent attitudes to women that will either justify, excuse, trivialise or shift the blame for their actions. It makes me wonder what life lessons they are getting at home and at school. Whatever they are being taught clearly doesn’t include the concept of respect.

The head of the health group, which commissioned the survey, spoke wisely when she said any culture that excuses rape and violence is one that allows it to happen. Violence is by choice not by instinct and it is never excusable. Amen to that.