Earlier this week I was at SXSW Interactive, where I spoke about sex education online.  I had a great time attending panels, networking, meeting people, and generally geeking out on social media and technology.  During the off-hours, there were parties with lots of free alcohol that went on late, late, late into the night.

I wonder how many of you now have an idea of where this post is going?

Early on in the conference, I was at a bar with friends.  One lovely man was flirting quite nicely with one particularly lovely woman.  They are friends back home, and here they were away from the daily constraints.  When the man went to get another drink, the woman confided in me that he had been interested in her for sometime, and that she wasn’t very sure about it.  The evening ended and everyone went home alone, more or less drunk.

And how many of you know where this post is going now?

Towards the end of the conference, I was at a great party with lots of that free alcohol and a winding group of friends who faded in and out of the core group and conversation.  The point to be made is that both my two friends from the earlier night were there, and they were both getting increasingly drunk.

Yeah, this is where this post is going.

I have seen my female friend extremely drunk before, and she gets very flirtatious and feels very sexy, she’s just that kind of drunk.  I turned to my male friend and said, “You’re not having sex with _______ tonight.  Just sayin’.”  He was like, “Yeah, whatever, it’s not going to happen anyway, so I don’t know why you’re bringing it up.”  Then my female friend returned and proceeded to throw herself, physically, sexually, psychically, at my male friend.  He seemed surprised, but pleased.  I pulled him aside and repeated myself, but now he understood why I was saying it.  He was torn by the open suggestiveness of my female friend, and my insistence that he had to obtain her interest when she was sober before he could have sex with her drunk.  I think sober he would not have been torn.

My friends did not have sex that night, but it was a relatively near miss that might have caused issues or hurt feelings between good friends.  It might also have been a lovely time.  I don’t know, and I won’t pretend to know.  But what I do know is that afterwards, when she was sober, my female friend thanked me.

Alcohol clouds judgment.  Many bad sexual choices come about when the participants are intoxicated.  The people in my story are in their mid-twenties and thirties.  They have experience drinking.  And yet they still get high holy drunk and do things they wouldn’t do sober.  My younger college students make this kind of mistake often and regret it regularly.

Having drunken sex might be fun, might be easier, might be more likely, than having sober sex.  But it is also more likely to result in an STD or pregnancy because let’s be honest – if someone is drunk enough to override their personal issues and tendencies, they’re far less likely to be able to use contraception correctly and effectively.

I am frustrated by the cavalier attitude of people around sex and alcohol.  So go talk with your friends, your family, your children about how alcohol has the capacity to change how you think about things and how you act.  Talk about ways to drink responsibly – not too much and preferably with a sober friend along to watch your back and do the driving.

Sex is a wonderful, life-supporting activity.  But it’s not all fun and games, it is also dead serious responsibility and emotional nuance.  We cannot ignore these aspects in conversation, education, and action around sex and sexuality.