ALCOHOLICS: The Person with Sexual Problems

People who are not well-adjusted sexually fall into three categories. Some have little sexual drive; such a man is unlikely to become alcoholic unless he marries a woman who interprets his apparent indifference as a personal slight. In that case he may turn to drink in an attempt to increase his ardour or to escape from his wife’s and his own recriminations.

The second group of alcoholics with sexual problems are those whose sexual drives, though normally directed, cannot be reali2ed because they have a fear of all dealings with the opposite sex. They may blush and feel uncomfortable in the presence of women; they find it difficult to carry on casual conversation and are daunted by the possibility of physical contact, petrified by the idea of intercourse. Some of these men express quite unreal notions about sexual activity. They may confide to the doctor ideas that Sex is objectionable and that intercourse is unclean and leads to disease; or else they may romanticize sexual relations, maintaining that any physical contact sullies their purity. Another common rationalization is that intercourse is physically weakening. All these are unconscious devices hiding more basic fears of being harmed by intercourse or of proving impotent. Impotence is common among alcoholics, some of whom say they overcome it with drink. Certainly it may antedate the onset of drinking. A railwayman found that when he tried to have intercourse at 16 he was unable to have an erection. He became engaged at 24 but would not marry because after months of trying he remained impotent. Twelve years later he was still single, and considered his almost nightly masturbation as a type of sedative.

The third category comprises the sexual deviants. For them either the object of love is not a person of the opposite sex (we refer principally to homosexuals), or a person of the opposite sex is the love object but normal intercouse does not provide the sexual satisfaction. Sadists, fetishists, and voyeurs come under this head. After many interviews an alcoholic said:

Oh, there’s no actual perversion, not to my knowledge. It’s just that I have standards, a sort of sexual ‘ must’. I’m not satisfied unless they are met. They ate necessary for me to have an erection. The main point is the short skirt and high heels. Also a small waist, being generally of slight build and dieting to that end; the use of make-up, eyebrow shaping, jewellery – no woollen underwear or anything like that. There’s some suffering involved as well. The shoe that’s difficult to walk in, too tight. The fact that the person may be cold by not wearing warm underwear. The imposition of dieting, going hungry to lose weight. I won’t have an erection because these things are carried out, but if they’re not there I’m dissatisfied. I say to my wife to wear terylene for underwear, to get a new foundation and diet more. For a time she wore size 5 shoes when she should buy 5 J. Now she has refused everything. She feels she’s made a chattel. She says she’ll come back to me only if there are no fetishes. Sexual deviants take alcohol either in the hope that drinking will help them to achieve satisfactory normal behaviour, or to relieve the shame many feel concerning their perverse practices. Homosexuals are in a special case. It is always possible to go to a pub where drinking is still a male preserve. The homosexual finds the company of drinkers congenial. He is likely to meet other homosexuals among them. The exclusively male company and the disinhibiting factor in alchohol may temporarily bring out homosexual behaviour (not necessarily intercourse) in men who outside these circumstances are normally oriented sexually. Heterosexual men have sometimes awoken following a night’s drinking to find themselves in bed with another man. These are people with a homosexual component to their personalities of which they are unaware. A man may so strenuously repress the homosexual side of himself that he is excessively vehement in denouncing homosexuals. A gentle and kindly alcoholic whose repressed homosexual qualities had long been apparent to his psychiatrist reported, ‘I caught two Greeks having homosexual relations in the Army and I was successful in having them arrested.’ A young divorced boiler-man of a similar type said, ‘I nearly killed a queer one day for trying something -1 wrecked his flat.’ Such a man after a num- ber of psychiatric interviews sometimes confides that when uninhibited through drink he has responded to a homosexual approach. Others may suspect their ambivalent position in spite of their expression of distaste for homosexuals.


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