Research has shown that the sexual effects of alcohol are different for men and women. This is likely the result of both physical and social differences in the way women’s bodies and men’s bodies react to alcohol and respond sexually.

Not surprisingly, the amount of alcohol consumed, and how often a man drinks, has an impact on whether there will be negative sexual effects of alcohol for men. Most of the research in this area has been with men who are, or were, alcoholics. Sexual effects in these studies include:

  • Difficulty getting and maintaining erections
  • Difficulty ejaculating/delayed ejaculation
  • Reduced sexual desire
  • Increased sexual aggression
  • Infertility

As with women and alcohol, men may find that small amounts of alcohol increase sex desire and sociability. But positive quickly turns to negative as the amount of alcohol consumed increases. One of the differences researchers often point out is that most men consider an erection necessary for sex, and consuming high amounts of alcohol usually has a negative effect on erectile function.

How common are sexual effects of alcohol for men?

Because most of the research relies on men recalling past sexual experience and performance, and because research studies differ wildly in their methodology, narrowing down prevalence isn’t easy.

Estimates for men having difficulty with ejaculation range from 5-25% in some studies. Some researchers estimate that as many as 54% of alcoholic men have difficulties getting and maintaining erections, and decreased sexual desire has been found in between 31-58% of men across several studies.

The impact on men who are not alcoholics, and men who are drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol is likely much less than this. And while drinking enough alcohol to become intoxicated may very well result in not being able to get an erection, if the man isn’t a chronic drinker, the erection difficulties should not persist.

Alcohol’s impact on testosterone in men

Researchers debate the impact of alcohol on testosterone in men. Whether they are definitive or not, there are several studies that show a decrease in testosterone both in alcoholic men and in non alcoholic men who drink enough to become intoxicated. Alcoholism can result in hypogonadism. However, with men who drink occasionally, testosterone levels return to normal, and moderate amounts of alcohol are not associated with reduced testosterone.

Can sexual effects of alcohol be reversed?

We don’t know the point at which sexual effects of alcohol such as erectile and orgasm difficulties become irreversible. We also don’t know exactly how long after a man stops drinking that his normal sexual functioning may resume.

One study of over 17,000 alcoholic men found that after several years of no alcohol 50% returned to normal erectile functioning, and the other 50% were either partially or completely unable to get an erection, even when sexual desire returned.

Sexual dysfunction due to alcohol abuse may also be caused by the kinds of diseases made worse by chronic alcohol consumption (for example diabetes and heart disease).


  1. Crenshaw, T.L. & Goldberg, J.P. Sexual Pharmacology: Drugs that Affect Sexual Function. New York: Norton, 1996.
  2. Muthusami, K.R. and Chinnaswamy, P. “Effect of Chronic Alcoholism on Male Fertility Hormones and Semen Quality.” Fertility and Sterility. Volume 84, Issue 4 (2005): 919-924.
  3. Seagraves, R.T. & Balon, R. Sexual Pharmacology: Fast Facts. New York : Norton, 2003.

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