Flirting and Alcohol: A Complex Combination

Flirting and Alcohol

Alcohol is known as a social lubricant, lowering inhibitions and making people more open, talkative, and animated. For many, a drink or two can boost confidence to approach someone attractive and start flirting.

However, the complexity comes when analyzing whether drunk flirting reveals true romantic intentions and feelings.

Research on Alcohol and Behavior

Numerous scientific studies have looked into alcohol’s effects on behavior and cognition. Research shows that even moderate drinking impairs cognitive functioning and lowers self-awareness. As more alcohol is consumed, there are progressively greater deficits in information processing, perception, coordination, emotions, impulse control, and memory.

A study in the Journal of Sex Research found that participants who believed they had consumed alcohol, whether they truly did or not, felt more attracted to faces of the opposite sex.

However, those who were actually intoxicated showed less discrimination in their attraction, finding faces generally more appealing after drinking alcohol.

This demonstrates how alcohol impacts decision-making abilities in romantic interest. While initial attraction may increase under the influence, the ability to evaluate a potential partner and compatibility becomes significantly impaired.

Alcohol Myopia Theory

The alcohol myopia theory is a prominent framework for understanding the behavioral effects of intoxication, including romantic and sexual advances.

The theory proposes that alcohol narrows attention, causing the drinker to focus on the most immediate, salient cues rather than thinking about peripheral, distant, or future consequences.

An analysis in Current Directions in Psychological Science explains that intoxicated individuals are more likely to interpret friendly or neutral actions from another person as sexual interest, feel increased sexual desire or arousal themselves, and have a harder time recognizing when a potential partner is not interested or uncomfortable.

Flirting after Alcohol

Flirting Motivations and Behaviors

To better comprehend if drunk flirting shows true romantic intentions, one must also examine general flirting motivations when sober. Research has found that people engage in flirting for a variety of reasons:

  • Seeking intimacy and romantic relationships
  • Gathering information to clarify another’s intentions/attraction
  • For fun, thrill, and entertainment – with no intention of escalating
  • Esteem boosting – feeling desirable without further commitment
  • Instrumental goals – trying to get gifts, jobs, discounts, etc.
  • Platonic friendship building and social inclusion

Additionally, there are meaningful individual differences in flirting styles and behaviors. While for some, flirting serves to test potential relationship waters, more aggressive “players” use charm exploitation all for ego gratification through conquests.

Social Context and Cultural Forces

The settings in which drunken flirting occurs also require evaluation. Flirty behavior at bars and parties typically implies less serious romantic interest than earnest attempts for one-on-one connection. Liquid courage picks up partners for fleeting sensual pleasures rather than substantive dating efforts.

Moreover, cultural forces can promote flashy and aggressive barroom mating rituals under the influence. Mass media renders rowdy drunken hook-ups as exciting, dramatic adventures . And traditional masculine codes still expect men to get women intoxicated to lower their defenses for sexual activity.

Can Intoxicated Flirting Reveal True Desires?

Given alcohol’s psychological and physiological effects – plus context variations in flirting motivations – the question remains if intoxicated flirting shows genuine romantic intentions or not.

A key investigation in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships tested this directly with both lab experiments and surveys of over 500 drinkers’ real-world experiences.

Findings concluded that alcohol boosts flirtatious interest and expressions of desire, but these do not necessarily reflect sober romantic intentions or commitments.

couple drinking alcohol

Caveat – Darker Risks and Vulnerabilities

Although most intoxicated flirting likely holds little meaning about true sober feelings, alcohol also riskily lowers protections against sexual assault. Predators routinely exploit victims’ compromised functioning and inability to resist unwanted advances.

Additionally, severe alcohol abuse disorders can generate behavioral extremes like emotional volatility, aggression, loss of control, and memory blackouts – making drunken behaviors under these conditions exceptionally senseless and dangerous.

Healthiest Perspectives Moving Forward

The question around alcohol and flirting intentions contains many complexities and caveats. However, the healthiest mindset moving forward for those navigating dating and relationships is recognizing risks around intoxicated behaviors.

If desires surface after mutual and moderate social drinking, have follow-up conversations when fully sober before escalating intimacy or attachments.

Approach any extreme drunken behaviors as senseless anomalies to be avoided, not trusted indicators of genuine feelings. And most critically – enthusiastically welcomed flirting requires clear enthusiasm from both parties at all times, without excuses, no matter if sober or intoxicated.


  1. Does flirting when drunk reveal your true feelings for someone?

Flirting when drunk often does not reflect genuine romantic intentions. Alcohol lowers inhibitions which can increase flirtatious behavior without sincere interest or commitment behind it. However, drunken flirting can sometimes reveal attraction existing when sober.

  1. Is drunk flirting meaningless?

Not necessarily. Flirting when tipsy shows at least some base-level intrigue. But impaired judgment under the influence frequently overestimates interest. So drunken flirting alone is rarely enough to gauge real chemistry. Sober follow-up conversations are needed.

  1. Can you trust what someone says when they are drunk and flirting?

No, words are not reliable indicators when intoxicated. Alcohol impairs cognition, discernment, and memory. Flattering claims after a few too many drinks could be exaggerated, forgotten, or regretted later when sober.

  1. Does buying someone drinks show you are interested in them?

Buying rounds signals friendliness more often than real attraction. However, in hookup settings specifically, adults sometimes purchase drinks hoping lowered inhibitions increase sexual receptiveness. This problematic tactic should raise ethical red flags, not be trusted as meaningful flirting.

  1. Is it OK to kiss or hookup with someone who has been drinking?

Ethically, initiating any sexual contact requires clear, enthusiastic consent from both fully coherent parties. Heavy intoxication can never excuse progressing physically – no matter what flirting occurred prior while impaired. Instead, have transparent discussions revisiting any expressed drunken intentions once completely sober.

  1. Can alcohol cause you to flirt with people you wouldn’t normally be attracted to?

Absolutely. Research confirms both sexes show less discrimination under the influence, finding more varied partners appealing after drinking. This indiscriminate flirting frequently gets chalked up to “beer goggles” – but attraction based on compromised judgment rarely translates into actual chemistry when sober.