Learning Limits: College Women, Drugs, and Relationships

By Kimberly M. Williams | Go to book overview
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Chapter 4 Drug Use and Finding Boyfriends

The overwhelming majority of the women in my project emphasized their heterosexual, romantic, sometimes sexual relationships. Drugs, mostly alcohol, played complex roles in this culture where finding and keeping a heterosexual romantic relationship was a significant focus. Many of the women used alcohol to facilitate the "hooking up" process. Rarely after the drunken hookup did women feel they had made good choices. Most women felt they made poor romance choices after the drunken hookup, and some were victims of sexual violence or assault in these settings. Fear of male violence was often cited as a reason for controlling one's use of alcohol and drugs in particular settings, particularly, as one women wrote, in the "threatening environment of the fraternity party." Some of these women experienced physical violence at the hands of their boyfriends, usually when their boyfriends had overindulged in the use of a particular drug.

The relationship between drugs and sex is very complicated. Some people use drugs to enhance sexual pleasure, others to reduce inhibitions to become more comfortable with their sexuality, and still others as a replacement for sex. Some individuals become more sexually aggressive when using drugs. Drugs have varied effects on sexual functioning. The themes of romance, sexuality, and sexual violence emerged as significant for many of the women in my project when they described how drugs intersected with their lives. A great deal of literature has also examined the drug-sex connection.


The advent of the oral contraceptive during the 1960s sent powerful messages about chemicals relative to female sexuality ( Ray & Ksir, 1993). One influential message was that women could use chemicals for more control of their sexuality and their choices about reproduction, allowing people to realize that drugs could be used by "healthy people" to alter their state of consciousness. As


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Learning Limits: College Women, Drugs, and Relationships


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