Sometimes, researchers find themselves standing outside the bar, asking the drunkards who stumble out how far they’d sexually go with another attractive person… for science.
At least, that’s where Breanne Helmers and the team behind her study published in The Journal of Social Psychology found themselves, as they searched for evidence of sexual decision-making under the influence of alcohol from the late-night bar scene.
It’s no surprise that the more people drink, the more attractive they find any human who has their favorite genitalia attached. What is surprising, however, is when Helmers found that the more straight men and women drink, the more attractive they find the same sex, and the more they’re into the idea of same-sex experimentation.
To collect the data, “we stood in a square in the center of this college town where we’d catch everyone leaving the bars and house parties. We had tablets and bowls full of candy to entice people to talk to us,” Helmers says, “and once we gave them a sobriety test to make sure they weren’t too intoxicated to consent (and make sure they wouldn’t drop the tablet), everyone was more than willing to help.”
Eighty-three participants reported how many drinks they’d had, watched a 40-second video of an attractive man or woman, and then answered a short survey about their sexual willingness with the person in the video. How attractive was this person? Would you kiss this person? Go home with this person? Stay the night with this person? Have sex with this person?
Men were down to get dirty with the woman, drunk or sober. And although they were encouraged to anonymously answer the questions on their survey, some men couldn’t help but make a couple sexual comments about the woman in the video. Their relentless horniness didn’t end there, though.
The more the men drank, the more sexually interested they would become in the male target, too. Men who were dead sober reported zero attraction to another dude, but after 10 or more drinks, they expressed almost as much interest in the man as they did in the woman.
“I anticipated that would happen with the men,” Helmers admits. “The alcohol makes them less inhibited, and allows them to entertain ideas they wouldn’t while they’re sober. They’d say things like, ‘yes he is attractive,’ or ‘yes maybe I would kiss him.’”
Unlike the men, the straight women started off without any sexual appetite. “That was my most surprising finding of all,” Helmers says, “that the women weren’t more interested in sex.”
This changed with an increasing number of cocktails, though. The more the ladies drank, the more sexual interest they expressed in both men and other women. For both sexes, these were curiously bi-curious outcomes.
To explain participants’ initial reluctance to reveal their desires, Helmers suspects the sexual attitudes in the neighborhood where the surveys were administered: a small, midwestern town, and likely a relatively conservative area.
To explain participants’ ultimate confessions of those desires is much, much easier: alcohol is a helluva drug.
“I think alcohol gives people the opportunity to focus more on in-the-moment feelings, and disassociate societal pressures or pressures from friends or family,” Helmers says. “When all those outside factors get pushed out, you can focus more on asking yourself, ‘does this person meet your needs, regardless of their gender?’”