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GETTING DRUNK AND HOOKING UP: AN EXPLORATORY STUDY OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ALCOHOL INTOXICATION AND CASUAL COUPLING IN A UNIVERSITY SAMPLE

Thomas M. Vander Ven, J. Beck
Published 2009 · Psychology

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Alcohol use and abuse on American college campuses has raised significant concerns among university officials, scholars, and social critics. One of the principal concerns is that heavy drinking is associated with risky sexual behavior and sexual victimization among college samples. The current study seeks to enhance our understanding regarding the relationship between alcohol intoxication and sex by investigating the ways in which college students use alcohol as a tool to facilitate, explain, and justify sexual encounters and casual coupling (e.g., kissing, “making out,” petting, touching). Guided by theoretical perspectives designed to explain the role of rhetoric in explaining and justifying deviant behavior, we analyze 469 qualitative “drinking stories” and 32 interviews collected at three university sites. Our findings suggest that college drinkers view alcohol as a disinhibiting force that elevates the potential for sexuality and that alcohol intoxication is also used as a resource to justify casual coupling events, before and after they occur. Finally, our respondents describe the informal strategies they have developed to negotiate the potential for risky sexual encounters in an environment where disinhibited actors draw from widely available cultural scripts to excuse and justify untoward behavior.
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