Chapter 2 - Influences Subchapter: Alcohol & other drugs

Alcohol and the Field Model

Key points

  • You need to be 18 years or older to drink alcohol.
  • Being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs makes it harder to Stop Ask Listen.
  • It’s easier to say yes to decisions you’ll regret.
  • It can be harder to communicate a no.
  • It can lead you to think you can get away with a line move.
  • Alcohol can increase the need for people to step in.


How does alcohol affect the Field Model?

The Field Model diagram blurred out in a drunken haze. An illustrated character stands with stars above them holding a drink in the Maybe Zone.


Because alcohol can change the way you think, feel and behave, it affects the way we navigate every part of the Field Model.


Stop Ask Listen

Because alcohol can help people feel more relaxed and sociable, it can sometimes feel like it is easier for people to connect and bond with others.

But the combination of reduced mental performance and alcohol myopia can make it hard to follow what other people are saying, or even read their body language. In that sense, it can make communication much harder, and makes it harder to ask and listen to what another person really wants.


Two illustrated characters blurry and drunk, asking each other whether to get kebabs.


And while alcohol doesn’t make you do anything, if you are in a group where social norms encourage impulsive behaviour when drunk, then you have a bigger risk of hurting or harming someone else.


Yes No I Don’t Know

Saying yes

If alcohol makes you feel more relaxed and spontaneous, it’s because it’s reducing your ability to think about (and be aware of) future consequences of your actions. So being drunk means you can wind up saying yes to decisions you regret.

In particular, you can wind up saying yes to stupid physical risks that can get you (or others) hurt or even killed.


Saying no

If you’re too drunk to speak or use body language clearly, you might have trouble communicating no when somebody is doing something you don’t want.

And if you’re the one trying to persuade someone and they’re too drunk to say no, and you assume yes and go ahead, then you have violated their rights and may have committed a criminal act.


The Maybe Zone

Nobody thinks better when they’re drunk. So if you’re in the Maybe Zone, alcohol makes it harder to figure out what you really want. Reduced mental capacity – including patience – makes it more likely you will say, “Yeah! Let’s do it!” And then you have to sort out the consequences when you sober up.


Moving the line

Alcohol does not cause line moves, but it is a risk factor.

Alcohol impairs your ability to consider the complex consequences of your actions. Combine that with disrespectful social norms that make you feel entitled to someone else’s attention, property, body or whatever—then you are more likely to move the line on someone.


With specific regard to sex, here are two facts:


Clearly alcohol is not the cause of sexual assault, but it is a common feature. In particular, perpetrators of sexual assault typically use alcohol as a tool to:

  • Increase their own assurance
  • Reduce the ability of the victim to defend themselves
  • Use social norms as a cover for bad behaviour
  • Provide an excuse for their assault
  • Manipulate the victim’s memory and reduce their ability to tell their story confidently.


Stepping in

We tend to drink in groups and more drunk people means more unpredictable behaviour. This can mean that there are more occasions when people need assistance, and more need for people to step in.

At the same time, being drunk can change the way people react when you step in, sometimes making it more difficult or dangerous. And if you’re drunk yourself, it can be harder to step in simply because you might be lacking your normal sense of judgment and physical capacities.


Planning ahead and reducing the risks

Alcohol doesn’t change the decision making field so much as it makes it harder for you to find your way around.

But if you know how alcohol is going to affect you and the people around you, then you can plan ahead to manage the risks and avoid getting into trouble or hurting someone. For instance:

  • Who will you be drinking with?
  • Where will you be?
  • What is everyone’s state of mind?
  • What are our group norms around alcohol?
  • Is there anyone in the group who will want to do anything dangerous or reckless?
  • How will we keep each other safe? (From both ourselves and other people, including strangers?)
  • How will you use Stop Ask Listen, even when drunk?