Mixed Drinks and Mixed Messages: Adolescent Girls’ Perspectives on Alcohol and Sexualityedit
Experimentation with alcohol and sexuality is a normative aspect of adolescent development. Yet, both present distinct risks to adolescent females and are especially problematic when they intersect. Although youth are often cautioned about the dangers associated with having sex and using alcohol, popular entertainment media frequently depict the combination of alcohol and sexuality as carefree fun. It is unclear how adolescent females interpret these contradictory messages in their everyday lives. Focus group interviews were used to explore young women’s understandings of the relation between alcohol and heterosexual sexuality. Young women, aged 14–17 years (N = 97; 61% White), and their mothers were recruited through advertisements in local newspapers to participate in separate, simultaneous focus group interviews. Only data from the 15 daughters’ groups are presented here. Qualitative analysis revealed that participants recognized the risks associated with combining alcohol and sex; yet, they also perceived sexual advantages to drinking alcohol. Advantages included facilitating social and sexual interactions and excusing unsanctioned sexual behavior. Alcohol was also seen as increasing the likelihood of sexual regret and coercion through impaired judgment and self-advocacy abilities. Educational and prevention efforts need to consider adolescent developmental and social needs, as well as the influences of the larger cultural context in which youth function.