Soho Sex Column: Should I get on board with sober sex?

Soho Sex Column: Should I get on board with sober sex? | Soho House

This week, resident sexpert Olivia Petter lifts a glass to the rise of the teetotal shag

Friday 2 September 2022     By Olivia Petter    Illustration by Martina Paukova

When I was in my early 20s, there were a few things that scared me more than most. Breaking a limb. Disaster. Getting locked out of my flat after a night out. Tragedy. My housemate realising I’d eaten all her chocolate when I was drunk (again). Please god, no. One of my biggest fears of all, though? Sober sex. 
To some of you, that might sound pathetic. But seriously, the sheer thought of it sent shivers down my spine. It’s not that I had a drinking problem – I promise. It was that the prospect of being intimate with someone was still a fairly new and intimidating endeavour. Lacking both sexual and body confidence, I simply couldn’t go through with it without a bit of Dutch courage. It would help me to relax, get out of my own head, shed my inhibitions – and my clothing.
Truth be told, I was shy and sexually inexperienced. I know I’m not the only person who has felt like this and relied on alcohol to help them feel comfortable sleeping with someone for the first time as a result. To be clear, I’m not talking about being drunk – that’s a slightly different subject when it comes to sex. I’m referring to a few glasses of wine. A cocktail or two.
Back then, sober sex was simply out of the question. Today, my view has changed. As many of you have pointed out, sober sex is on the rise – and not just among people who don’t drink. Dubbed ‘dry dating’, this emerging trend grew exponentially during the pandemic, for obvious reasons. But it seems to have stuck around.
According to a 2022 trends survey by Bumble, 34% of UK users said they are more likely to go on a sober date now than they would have before the Covid-19 lockdowns.  Meanwhile, 62% thought they would ‘form a more genuine connection’ on a date that was free from alcohol. 
Generally speaking, sobriety has been on the rise in recent years, particularly among millennials and Gen Z. And if they’re not cutting it out completely, you can bet they’re cutting down. Naturally, all of this factors into an increase in sober sex. Here’s why I think that’s a good thing.
Firstly, when you’re sober your brain is sharper: you make better decisions that more closely align with how you really think and feel. That means you’re more likely to have sex with people you genuinely like and are interested in. If not romantically, then at least sexually. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely made some poor sexual choices when I’ve had a few drinks. Sobriety sticks an instant fork in that, so to speak.
Then there is the simple fact of pleasure. Having sex sober is a completely different physical experience to having sex after a few drinks. I find that you’re more present in your body; awareness feels heightened; sensations more intense. 
The point is that if you have never had sex sober, dear reader, I’m afraid you’ve been missing out. Hop to it.


I’m unsure of when to tell dates I’m celibate – should I be upfront or wait a while?
Tell them on the first date. Otherwise, you’ll wind up putting it off until this person makes a move – and that will be awkward for both of you. If someone is right for you, your celibacy won’t matter. But no good relationship ever started with dishonesty. The sooner you can be upfront about it, the better.

How do you introduce a bit more excitement into a 10-year marriage?
Try something new in bed. It could be a wild move you read about in an erotic novel, or a couples’ sex toy. If all that sounds like too much, why not just dedicate an evening to having a ‘date night’ together? Put your phones away for a few hours and do something fun, whether it’s in the bedroom or elsewhere. There are plenty of ways to reignite your spark – you just have to make a little effort.


Have a question for our columnist? Please email me at All submissions will remain anonymous. 

Olivia Petter is the relationships writer at The Independent and author of Millennial Love, which is out now in paperback with 4th Estate

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