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Counseling Services

Sex Under The Influence

person with a bottle of alcohol




"When I went to the party I didn't plan on sleeping with anyone. When I woke up with him this morning, I wished I hadn't. I guess I must have had more than a couple of beers."

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"Great smile, really likable...When she showed an interest in me, I was thrilled. It was a fun night and I guess everything felt right because I went home with her. Then, in the morning, her attitude was really different. I felt angry at both of us."

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Some Facts to consider:

  • 50% or more of all rapes are alcohol related.
  • 67% of women were intoxicated when an unplanned pregnancy occurred.
  • 72% of all offenders in assault cases had been using alcohol.


For lots of students, sex is part of the college experience. For better or worse, decisions about sex (whether or not to do it, with whom, and when) are thought about and talked about a lot.

Sex As It Should Be

You might find yourself in a variety of sexual situations during college -- some positive and some negative. You might fall in love and have the perfect, safe, satisfying, sober sexual relationship we all wish for. All of us - men and women - want it to be great, meaningful, intense, and all those other adjectives that make fantasies fantastic.

Sex "as it should be," resulting in positive feelings, and free of doubt, regret, physical or emotional damage, is the only kind worth having. Your chances of achieving sex you can feel right about are heightened if you avoid letting alcohol (or other drugs) be your guide. Until you find the right person and the right time, don't let alcohol talk you into accepting anything less.

Each person's sexual history is going to be different. Crowded parties, candlelight dinners, and top bunks are some of the many different experiences people have. Some partners you might have known for years, some for hours. But when it comes to sex under the influence, the potential risks put everyone on common ground. Doesn't it seem like alcohol makes things easier? After drinking, it becomes easier to dance, easier to introduce yourself to people you don't know, to talk, and to laugh. Inhibitions break down and magically everyone seems more available with a buzz on. The reason it becomes easier is that alcohol helps you to forget about the things that usually make you nervous. Alcohol frees you up by making everything seem OK, and it helps you get your nerve up.

We all know that, ideally, the best way to avoid these problems is to have a relationship with a person where all of these questions and fears have been dealt with through honest talk and mutual interest. But the idea of sex comes up in less than comfortable situations as well. It comes up when you meet someone at the party, at the bar, or wherever. And sometimes alcohol seems like a good shortcut to getting things going because it provides a false sense of comfort.

The problem with the use of alcohol - especially too much alcohol - as a substitute for real comfort is that you put yourself at risk physically and emotionally. When you drink to make things easier, things usually get more difficult. Maybe not at that moment, but often afterward.

Risqué? Risky?

With alcohol in your system, the power to make smart decisions plummets. Your brain is sleeping, but your hormones are jumping! When you drink, you begin thinking in the short-term. The truth is that even encounters which seem "casual" can have long-term considerations. You probably don't give these a lot of thought on the way to bed, unfortunately, but things like self-esteem, reputation, and emotional stability will become very important when all is said and done. And alcohol can also bring on a state of loss of self-awareness, including awareness of your beliefs, attitudes, and self-standards.

Sometimes the worst decisions are made because you feel pressure from friends to be sexually active. Or you may pressure yourself by saying that you should be having sex - with anyone - because that's what you think everyone else is doing. That's often when you make the mistake of turning to alcohol. You get worked up, get drunk, and find yourself being sexual with someone you normally wouldn't. It sounds simple, but there's a mess to worry about later. So you're back where you started from . . . unsatisfied.

Body Language

Don't make assumptions about this. With too much alcohol in your system you might find yourself reading into a person's actions and misunderstanding the body language.
When it comes to sex, guess work can get you into all kinds of trouble.

First . . . . . you can never assume that just because a person has expressed an interest that you have the green light to take it as far as you want to.

Second . . . . . remember that drinking impairs judgment. If a person has been drinking, his or her judgment and communication skills will not be at their highest either. Don't let your interpretations of body language take the place of true understanding of a person's intentions and limits.


If you're too drunk to understand a person trying to say "No" . . .

If you're too drunk to listen and respect a person trying to say "No" . . . or

If you have sex with a person who is incapable of giving consent . . .

it is rape!

Even if you think you would never in a thousand years force sex on a person, you might lose control if you have been drinking.

It has happened before, and thousands have suffered the consequences. In these situations, drinking does not excuse the crime or make things easier for you or the person in question. Although alcohol may help you rationalize sexually aggressive behaviors,

rape is rape, drunk or sober.

The most valuable weapon against unwanted sexual situations is a clear line of communication. You have to make your limits known and the earlier the better - to eliminate the guessing game.

 No Glove, No Love

  • Having sex without protection is like driving drunk with your eyes closed.
  • Safer sex is the responsibility of both parties. If you are sexually active, carry a condom. Even if it might fall out in front of your mom or dad, carry it.
  • A condom will not always provide 100% protection, but unprotected sex is high-risk sex. And when you are drunk, you are less likely to do all of those things you know you're supposed to do. The "heat of the moment" becomes your worst enemy.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, are real worries. The fastest growing group of individuals infected with HIV are heterosexuals. More than ever, it is important to have discussions about past sexual activity with partners (something which doesn't usually happen in a casual sex situation).

Legal Definition of Rape in Kansas

In 1993 the Kansas Legislature amended the law on rape. K.S.A. 21-3502 as amended reads as follows:

Rape is sexual intercourse with a person who does not consent to the sexual intercourse, under any of the following circumstances:

A. When the victim is overcome by force or fear;

B. When the victim is unconscious or physically powerless; or

C. When the victim is incapable of giving consent because of mental deficiency or disease, or when the victim is incapable of giving consent because of the effect of any alcoholic liquor, narcotic, drug, or any other substance, which condition was known by the offender or was reasonably apparent to the offender.

  Rape is a severity level 2, person felony in Kansas


It's possible to read this pamphlet and think that if you have a drink you are doomed to suffer major consequences. Certainly, that may be true, but our main point is that the issue of alcohol use and decisions about sex can no longer be ignored.

You need to be careful about your choices. Don't leave things to chance. Try not to get yourself into situations where you might be at risk, especially in terms of personal relationships. Realize your motives for drinking, and be cautious about using alcohol when you are frustrated, depressed, hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.

Be willing to evaluate yourself. One of the keys to making sure that you are doing okay is to do an on-going evaluation of your behavior:

  • Are you making good choices?
  • Are you having fun?
  • Are you getting positive results?

 If you find that at times you are at risk, work on changing your behavior. Perhaps talk this over with a good friend or someone you trust.

Sometimes you have to ask for more help. There are times when your intentions and your friends' advice just aren't enough. That's okay -- it just means that perhaps you have established habits that you will need a little extra help trying to break. Go to your campus counseling service. It has the kind of people available to spend time talking about things that are important to you. It might sound a little scary at first, but probably not as scary as some of the risks you might be experiencing. Many people have found a way to make their decisions about alcohol and sex a positive aspect of their college experience. And many make choices about alcohol that don't jeopardize those things they find important: their academics, their health, their friendships, their relationships. Hopefully you will work toward making these same positive decisions.


  • If you choose to drink, set a limit as to how many drinks you will have, and stick to that limit. Part of your decision-making process should take into account when, where, what, and with whom you are drinking.
  • Recognize that everyone has the right to abstain from drinking and respect that right.
  • Having sex is a serious step; take it only when you are ready for the impact and the responsibilities.
  • If you do decide to have sex, have only "safer sex": Use condoms to prevent the exchange of body fluids, and be sure you know how to use condoms correctly and understand their limitations. It's not who you are that gives you a sexually-transmitted disease -- it's what you do. And it does not matter if you are gay or straight. Protect yourself!



Alcohol and Other Drug Education Service, K-State (785) 532-6927

Office of Student Life, Holton Hall, K-State (785) 532-6432

Lafene Health Center, K-State, 1105 Sunset (785) 532-6544;
Health Education and Promotion (785) 532-6595; Women's Clinic (785) 532-6554

Counseling Services, 232 English/Counseling Services Bldg., K-State (785) 532-6927

Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education, 206 Holton Hall, K-State (785) 532-6444


Alcoholics Anonymous; (785) 537-8511

Alcoholics Anonymous Noon Group, Blue Valley Memorial United Methodist Church, 835 Church Ave., Manhattan, KS , (785) 537-9260

Regional Prevention Center, (785) 587-4372

Pawnee Mental Health Services, 2001 Claflin Rd., Manhattan, KS (785) 587-4300

Crisis Center, Inc., Manhattan, KS (785) 539-2785


See our LINKS page for some suggestions.

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Originally prepared in 1994 by Bill Arck, M.S., and Roxanne Ayotte, B.S., Counseling Services. A major contributor of the text in this brochure was BACCHUS of the U.S. Inc.; permission granted 1994. Funding in part provided by the City of Manhattan. Form adapted in 1997 for use on the Internet by Dorinda Lambert, Ph.D. Updated 7/19/04

This HELP YOURSELF is created by Counseling Services copyright Kansas State University