Welcome to the Princeton University
Women's Center

"Princeton University is home to strong women." -Caroline Miller '01


Mission Statement

About the Center

About the

Facts about
Women at Princeton

Topics of Interest

Useful Links

External Resources

Women and Alcohol

Some Facts:

Women become more intoxicated than men when drinking the same amount of alcohol. We have less water in our bodies than men, so alcohol is less diluted and has a stronger impact.
(National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information)

60% of college women who developed a sexually transmitted disease (such as genital herpes or AIDS) were under the influence of alcohol at the time they had intercourse.
(National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information)

10% of Princeton students report being taken advantage of sexually while they were under the influence of alcohol.
(1998 Core Alcohol and Drug Survey/Princeton University Health Services)

National information from college campuses estimates that up to 90% of sexual assaults involve use of alcohol either by the perpetrator or victim or both. 
(Duke University Healthy Devil website)

38% of Princeton undergraduate women report that they are binge drinkers (consumed at least 4 drinks at one sitting in the past two weeks). This represents a 5% increase since 1993.
(1998 Core Alcohol and Drug Survey/Princeton University Health Services)
By contrast, 25% of Duke undergraduate women report binge drinking.
(Duke University Healthy Devil website)

You are more likely to become a binge drinker if you: think parties are important, use other substances such as cigarettes, binged in high school, are white, are not very religious, are an athlete (see section below)
(Wechsler, Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study, 1996)

68% of Princeton undergraduates who binge drink regret their actions while intoxicated. 54% missed class as a result of being drunk or hungover. 81% vomited.
(1998 Core Alcohol and Drug Survey/Princeton University Health Services)

While 52% of white Princeton undergraduates report binge drinking, only 32% of students of color report binge drinking.
(1998 Core Alcohol and Drug Survey/Princeton University Health Services)

Women are more likely than men to experience alcohol-related problems - such as unwanted sexual advances, depression, abusive relationships - and are at higher risk than men for suffering secondhand effects of another's binge drinking (from cleaning up another person's vomit to being verbally or physically abused by a drunk person).
(Wechsler, Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study, 1996)

Lesbian women may use alcohol to cope with internalized homophobia and the stigma, alienation, and discrimination of being queer/gay/homosexual. Higher proportions of gay and lesbian people use alcohol and experience problems from alcohol use than the general population. Lesbians consume more alcohol than heterosexual women and are more likely to continue to use it as they age.
(McKirnan and Peterson, Alcohol and Drug Use Among Homosexual Men and Women, 1989)

25% of women with eating disorders also abuse alcohol or drugs.
(Harvard University Eating Disorders Center estimate)

61% of adult Asian American women abstain from alcohol; 52% of black women; 40% of Latina women; and 35% of white women.
(National Institutes of Health, Women of Color Health Data Book, 1996)

Rates of heavy drinking (defined as consuming five or more drinks at a time) are highest among Latina female high school students (36%) and white students (32%). 13% of black female high school students report heavy drinking.
(National Institutes of Health, Women of Color Health Data Book, 1996)

As many as 40% of adult American Indian women meet the criteria for alcohol dependency. Statistics vary widely from tribe to tribe.
(LaDue & O'Hara, Documentation of critical issues related to FAS prevention, 1992)

Is alcohol a problem for you?

The Office of Research on Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health offers this yardstick: "Alcohol consumption becomes a factor in women's health if it is frequent and heavy enough to impair judgement, or if it places women at risk of accidents and abuse by others." Use the questionnaire at the end of this document to further examine your drinking habits.

Sex and Alcohol

 For many college women - straight, bisexual, or lesbian - sexual activity is preceded and/or accompanied by alcohol consumption. We use alcohol to cope with feeling inhibited or unsure about what to do with a partner; to mask anxieties about our bodies and weight; and to allow us to suspend all the mixed messages females get about being sexual. The influence of alcohol may impair a woman's judgement about who she is sleeping with, whether or not she is ready to have sex with a particular partner, just how sexual she wants to be with her partner, and use of birth control and STD preventatives. Alcohol may significantly decrease her ability to communicate clearly. When added to other elements of sexual assault - coercion, verbal pressure, physical aggression, ingestion of other drugs (i.e., "roofies") - the presence of alcohol complicates an already exploitive situation. For many women, a night of unplanned and often unprotected sex results in feelings of regret (as documented in the statistics above) and worry about the social or health-related consequences of the sexual encounter. Caroline Knapp, author of Drinking: A Love Story, is most articulate about these issues. The book traces her struggle with alcohol from her days as an undergraduate at Brown University through the daily hell of her alcohol use and abuse in her early 30's. We have re-printed Ms. Knapp's chapter on "Sex" for you to reflect on her experiences and yours at the end of this document. We highly recommends Drinking: A Love Story for Princeton women students, whether you are a moderate or heavy drinker. Contact Amada Sandoval at womenctr@princeton.edu if you're interested in participating in a reading group with this book as the focus.

Female Athletes and Alcohol

The National Core Survey results revealed that athletes who compete in intercollegiate sports drink more than other college students. Athletes consume an average of 7.34 drinks each week while non-athletes consume 4.13 drinks. Team leaders drink the most, averaging 8.25 drinks per week, and get in to alcohol-related trouble more often than any other students on campus. In addition, the national percentage of college athletes who report binge drinking is 54.4%; the national average of non-athletes who report binge drinking is 36%. Male athletes drink more than female athletes on college campus; female athletes drink more than non-athlete college women.

Daughters of Alcoholic Parents

"If your parents abuse alcohol, you may be predisposed to alcoholism. Many people from alcoholic homes find themselves caught up in some form of addictive behavior - drinking, (overspending), taking pills, smoking, overeating, overworking, gambling. Children of alcohol(ics) always have a very special feeling about drinking - their own and others'. It is most often a push-pull situation full of conflicting attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Either they drink too much or they abstain. In the meantime, the experimenting, ambivalence, and confusion continue.

"You don't have to look hard to discover that extreme reactions to alcohol have their roots in childhood. Many children in alcoholic homes equate a drink with a drunk. Many of these adults feel attraction rather than aversion to (alcohol). After all, for some people, alcohol seems to perform wonders. After even a single drink they are able to take a carefree part in social situations. Alcohol does, in fact tend to loosen the tongue and give people a sense of well-being, easy sociability, even elation, which can seem enviable to the child of an alcoholic.

"Since the response to alcohol is likely to be genetically determined, you as the child of an alcoholic must be particularly wary of the temptations of social ease, of trying to overcome feelings of shyness or embarassment (or anxiety) through alcohol. Once you begin to solve psychological stress by drinking, the stage is set for trouble."

(From Children of Alcoholism: A Survivor's Manual, by Seixas and Youcha)

Risk Factors for Developing Alcoholism:

Families with a history of alcoholism, including parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles, and aunts.
Families with a history of teetotalism (perceiving drinking as evil). (Either extreme may contribute to unhealthy drinking patterns.)
Divorced families/parents or families with significant parental discord or where the father is absent or rejecting.
Being the last child of a large family.
Families with a high incidence of recurrent depression for more than one generation. (Alcoholism is found more frequently in males and depression more frequently in females in alcoholic families.)
Families in which there is heavy smoking (although being a non-smoker does not provide protection against alcoholism). (National Council on Alcoholism)

A daughter's experience within the family may be different depending upon which parent is alcoholic. Some evidence suggests that daughters of alcoholic mothers suffer the most long-term deleterious effects of being in an alcoholic family. But it does not follow that this daughter will necessarily become an alcoholic. A father's alcoholism is more likely to lead to alcoholism in both female and male children. Female alcoholics are more likely to have a family history of alcoholism, and they are more than twice as likely as men alcoholics to have been brought up by two alcoholic parents. (from Sexias & Youcha, referenced above)

There are community and campus groups for adult children of alcoholic parents. For information on those groups, contact Alcoholics Anonymous at (609) 888-3333 or University Health Services at 258-3285.

Some Questions for You

Take a few minutes to answer some or all of these questions honestly. Reflect on your own drinking patterns. While there are no right or wrong answers, nor a scale which will indicate whether or not you have a problem, thinking about these questions alone or with friends will help you clarify your own values about alcohol and its effects in your life at Princeton. You may find that you are comfortable with your consumption and that it does not interfere with your academic performance or ability to maintain friendships and relationships. If so, that's great! If not, there are resources listed at the end of the questions; use these offices and programs to further examine your alcohol use.

Your Own Alcohol Use

When in your life did you begin drinking?
What got you started?
How often do you plan to drink to get drunk?
How often do you continue drinking even after you've begun to feel drunk?
What, how much, and how often do you drink in a "normal" week?

How would you describe your drinking compared to that of other female students at Princeton?
What most influences your decision to drink and the amount that you drink?
Have you experienced any of the following as a result of drinking? How often?
passing out
missed classes
unprotected or unwanted sex
fighting (verbal or physical)
damaged property
disciplinary or legal consequences
Do you ever wake up on the morning after heavy drinking and discover that you can't remember parts of the day or evening before?
Do you regret things you've said or done when drunk?
Have you failed to keep promises to yourself about cutting down or changing your drinking habits?
Do you eat very little or irregularly when you're drinking?

Do you sometimes have the "shakes" or "DTs" in the morning? 
Do you ever have a drink the morning after an evening of heavy drinking to steady yourself?
Have you ever stayed drunk for several days at a time?
Has anyone in your family had a problem with alcohol or drugs?
Do you drink to help you sleep?
Do you have an occasional blackout or do you pass out? (A blackout is a loss of memory for a specific amount of time; passing out involves losing consciousness.)

 Going Out/Social Drinking

How often do you participate in drinking games?
Do you get drunk to celebrate?
Are there occasions when you feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available? When?
Is drinking a regular activity for any clubs or organizations or teams to which you belong?
Do you find that you wish to keep drinking after your friends say they've had enough?
Do you get a sense of comfort or confidence from holding on to a beer or glass of wine or liquor at a social gathering?
Do you drink before a date or party in order to feel okay about going?
When someone serves drinks at a social gathering, do you find yourself watching how much others are drinking to see if it's OK for you to have another drink?

Changes in Your Drinking Patterns

Has your drinking increased or decreased since coming to Princeton?
Have you changed your schedule or routine to accommodate drinking or hangovers?
When you are stressed, anxious, depressed, or feeling pressure, do you drink more heavily than usual?
Are you able to "hold" more alcohol than you could when you were first drinking?
Do you sometimes think you drink too much?
Do you sometimes feel as though you need alcohol?
Are you beginning to lie about or hide your drinking?
Are you annoyed when friends or family members talk to you about your drinking?

Sources: Princeton University Counseling Center; National Council on Alcoholism; Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp; Children of Alcoholism: A Survivor's Manual, Seixas & Youcha.

For More Help or Information

Contact a staff member at the Counseling Center for a confidential talk or consultation by calling 258-3285. Ask for a member of the "Alcohol and Other Drug Team".

Contact Princeton Student Alcohol Peer Educators at 258-5036.

Alcoholics Anonymous in the Princeton area offers many different support groups and individual services (609) 888-3333.

Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students 258-3055

Talk with your RA or MAA.

33 Frist Campus Center, Room 243, Princeton, NJ 08544-1100
Phone:  (609) 258-5565, Fax: (609) 258-2142
E-mail: womenctr@princeton.edu

Last edited: 04/24/01 02:52:16 PM