Alcohol consumption by young women may result in unexpected, unintended and unsafe sexual encounters, says a study led by an Indian-origin researcher.
Links between alcohol consumption and risky sexual encounters are not new, said investigators, but this study identifies the disconnect between what young women have in mind when they drink and have sex and what really happens.
"The idea behind our study was to first unveil what women expect to happen, and then uncover what consequences really occur," said lead researcher Geetanjali Chander, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University.
"The results should help challenge unrealistic expectations and develop better interventions that lead to safer experiences," said Chander.
Chander and her colleagues conducted in-depth interviews with 20 African-American women attending a Baltimore clinic that treats sexually transmitted diseases.
All study participants reported binge drinking in the past six months or engaging in intercourse while under the influence of alcohol.
Five major unexpected sexual events happened with substantial frequency as revealed by the participants – sex with new partners; alternative sexual activities, including anal sex and "rough" sex; unprotected sex; blacked-out sex or sex occurring during alcohol-related amnesia; and rape.
In contrast to such descriptions, literature to date has shown that women tend to think alcohol will improve their sex drive, minimise their sexual inhibition or make the sexual experience better.
"Ensuring that women understand this disconnect may help them focus on the consequences more than the positive expectation," said co-researcher Dinah Lewis.
When asked how they might be safer when drinking in public, researchers said a common suggestion from the interview subjects was to watch out for each other.
The study was published online in Women’s Health Issues.