Alcohol's link with sexuality is long-standing and prominent. While research continues to document robust associations between drinking and sexual behavior, attention now centers primarily on evaluating mechanisms and attendant theoretical frameworks to advance our understanding of how alcohol exerts a causal impact. We describe four domains with reliable evidence of alcohol effects: sexualized social perceptions, sexual arousal, sexual risk taking, and sexual assault. We consider three contextual frames: distal factors associated with encountering opportunities for alcohol-involved sex, proximal factors associated with alcohol's acute effects, and distal–proximal interactions. We then examine the empirical support for mechanisms embedded within four theoretical frameworks: alcohol disinhibition, alcohol expectancy, alcohol myopia, and emotion regulation. Support for disinhibition mechanisms is evident with sexual arousal only. Expectancy and myopia mechanisms enjoy support across domains and make up bases for integrative expectancy–myopia causal explanations. Emotion regulation mechanisms evidence preliminary support in risk taking and sexual assault. Implications and future directions are considered.

Expected final online publication date for the , Volume 20 is May 2024. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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