The life-changing discovery of sober sex

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  • It was love at first sip for Daisy Buchanan, alcohol just made everything so much better and drunk sex was the norm - until one relationship changed everything

    I’ve been married for almost five years – which, admittedly, is not that long – but I’ve learned some facts about myself that have surprised me. Firstly, that when I am spending the evening on the sofa with my beloved, I have a limited tolerance for most box sets but an unquenchable appetite for repeats of QI and Taskmaster. Secondly, I am not especially argumentative, but I am quick to hanger – we very rarely have proper, painful fights about the state of our union, but we can on occasion get a bit snippy when we’re trying to think of something we can have for tea that isn’t chips. Thirdly – only ever want to have sex when I’m sober. I can’t remember when I last had drunk sex, and that isn’t because I got hammered and passed out in the middle. Now that I’m in my thirties, I drink differently, and I think differently. Alcohol plays a very different role in my relationships and my life, and I feel much happier for it.

    Like many people, I discovered alcohol in my teens. It was love at the first throat burning sip. This was the magic potion – the way that everyone else in the world managed to silence their cruel, critical inner voices, and cultivate confidence. Crucially it allowed me to drown out a lifetime of Catholic mass and complicated messages about my body, shame and hell. I was fed up of feeling prudish, timid and unsophisticated. When I drank, I could be wild. (It was fortunate that I grew up in rural Dorset, where opportunities for misbehaviour were pretty limited – you relied on available fields and good weather.)

    When I arrived at university, I was surrounded by people whose attitude was almost identical to mine. We were enthusiastic, inexperienced, profoundly anxious and hoping that the availability of cheap alcohol would allow us to talk to strangers – and maybe sleep with them. This set the tone for my twenties. Alcohol was a near constant presence. Drinking was just what you did. Even when I found myself in long term relationships, our social lives would revolve around parties and pubs – and our sex lives were simply an extension of that. Nearly every Saturday night involved a drunken argument, and drunken make up sex.

    Writer Daisy Buchanan (Photo Credit: Grace Plant)

    When I met the man I would marry, there was no immediate reason for this pattern to change. For our first date, we went out for cocktails, then dinner. And our second. And our third. I think everything started to shift a little after that, when we bumped into each other a few hours after I’d left his flat and went for a sober afternoon ice cream in Soho Square. I realised it had changed dramatically when he met me at my house to go to the pub before a gig, and we went to bed instead. Soon, I was sneaking away from bars on nights out in order to go and see him – when I was used to putting off sex until after the bar closed. I truly loved being with him, and I could appreciate it so much more when I was clear headed. His tenderness and enthusiasm was so great that I forgot to feel self-conscious about my body. During drunk sex, I realised, my skin was slightly numb, Sober, I could feel everything.

    Eventually I worked out that if I could have sex without having several glasses of wine first, I could do anything – from introducing myself to strangers at work events, to sober dancing. The change that transformed my sex life has transformed every area of my life. My memory has improved, my brain seems sharper and I feel much more productive.

    I still drink occasionally in moderation, but I’ve learned to slowly savour one or two glasses of wine when I really want to celebrate, instead of frantically necking four or five glasses because it’s become a habit. Changing the way I drink has transformed my sex life and strengthened my marriage, but it’s also improved my relationship with myself. I have better orgasms, and I can attend a networking event while sticking to sparkling water – but most importantly of all, I’ve found the space to cultivate a kind inner voice which calls me out when I am being cruel to myself. It tells me that I don’t need to feel ashamed of my body, that I’m strong, and that I don’t need to reach for chemicals to drown out my thoughts and fears. It reminds me that my live is fun and thrilling, and that I owe it to myself to show up and pay attention. I never expected to embrace sober sex – but it has allowed be to build a life I love, and don’t want to escape from.

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