Columns / Discourse / October 2, 2019

Pillowtalk: “Is intoxicated sex safe?”

Dear Pillowtalk,


I know people aren’t supposed to have sex when they’re drunk or high and stuff, since they can’t consent. But it just seems like one of those things that happens anyways. Is there any safe way to do it? Or is it really just a “don’t do it at all” kind of thing?


This is a really great question, and that’s why I saved it for the beginning of the year! It’s a finicky one with a difficult answer, but I’m going to do my best.

Legally, you cannot consent when intoxicated. This gets blurry when you’re both (or all) incapacitated in some way. It’s best to just abstain from sex when you’re going to drink or smoke or anything of the sort.

However, I’m a big disbeliever in abstinence only education. You’re right, it does still happen, and will still continue to happen! You should still be safe about it. So here are some of my tips for intoxicated sex if and when it happens:


  1. Make a plan when you’re sober. If you think you’re going to hook up with someone at a party, text them when you’re sober and make it clear that you want it, that you know you’ll be intoxicated and that communication is expected. Tell a friend where you’re going. Make an emergency plan in case it ends badly. Don’t trust your drunk judgement over your sober judgement.
  2. Talk! Talk! Talk! Communicate clearly as much as you can when you’re intoxicated and check in with the other person frequently. If they don’t respond when you ask them questions, they’re too far gone. Ask for what you want. Ask them what they want.
  3. Stay grounded. Try to make a habit of assessing your safety and comfort while having sex, even when you’re sober.
  4. Use protection. Don’t trust your drunk judgement over your sober judgement.
  5. Debrief once you’re sober again. Ask if it was okay, talk about how it felt, talk about what you were and were not comfortable with. Discuss the situation with a friend and see how they perceive what happened. Make sure all parties are alright, and that all parties remember.


If you try to stick with these tips, odds are you’ll have safer intoxicated sex if you choose to do so. However, it’s always safest to abstain from intoxicated sex. Either way, look out for friends who do choose to have sexual experiences when incapacitated. Make sure they’re safe. Don’t be a bystander.



Elleri Scriver

Tags:  alcohol consent drugs safe sex sexual education

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