On Men, Coffee, and Sex

Written by Amanda Arnold for Playboy.com

Before I left my childhood home in flyover country for the coastal land of latte liberals, I frequently envisioned myself going on first dates at cafes and guzzling sludgy cups of French press coffee in bed with casual flings, like the French New Wave muse I aspired to be at 20 years old. There’s no denying that coffee has a sensual connotation: It’s hot and bitter, an alluring combination in any drink or person. The stimulant also reportedly pumps blood to your sex organs, which in turn might send a sexually tense couple running to the nearest bedroom, or so it goes. In my experience, though, the only place an espresso shot has ever propelled me toward was the bathroom.

I’ve never quite understood the coffee-sex relationship, which has become the subject of aphrodisiac “studies,” clickbait about bedroom prowess and commercials that seem to suggest that drinking Folgers might compel you to fuck your sibling. Instead, I’ve always been more convinced of a negative correlation between the brew and libido—an association that dates back centuries, but one that curiously did not endure. It’s not that an Americano squelches my sex drive, but that I’ve never experienced coffee do anything positive for my already-high libido.

“Coffee was so far from being associated with licentious sexuality that it was considered by many to be an anti-aphrodisiac of such potency that it could render men impotent and women barren,” Brian Cowan writes in The Social Life of Coffee, which traces this relationship back to the drink’s first mentions in early English texts. In the mid-1600s, a man by the name of Edward Pococke translated an Arabic medical text that observed coffee had the power to “aswageth lust.” What is perhaps the most famous early text on coffee is one that came 1674, a time when London coffeehouses were a favored hangout of political men and writers. Though the source—and therefore, credibility—has never been determined, The Women’s Petition Against Coffee was published that year, arguing that drinking coffee was rendering husbands impotent.

But somewhere along the line, coffee’s connection to sexual prowess became much less bleak, perhaps in part because of its categorization as an aphrodisiac. Aside from the expected argument that as a stimulant, coffee revs up your metabolism and flushes blood toward whatever is between your legs, “experts” of all backgrounds have deemed coffee to be some magic virility drink, breaking the only lesson I remember from my AP statistics class: Correlation does not imply causation.

If coffee must be tied to getting laid, then it’s sex with someone whose foul morning breath, ticklish spots and heavily-worn sleep shirts you know well.

“A loss of sexual interest is one of the first manifestations of depression, a problem that can be prevented by daily coffee intake,” writes pharmaceutical scientist Roseane Santos in An Unashamed Defense of Coffee. “The consumption of at least one cup of coffee per day has been significantly associated with a higher prevalence of sexual activity in women and with a higher potency rate in men.”

In mid-2015, a study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston claiming that coffee helps erectile dysfunction became the subject of countless articles, all with the same messaging that an espresso jolt might make your dick stronger. “What Your Morning Coffee Has to Do With Erections,” ran one such article.Perhaps my sex bias is showing, as I don’t have a dick, but I can’t say I’m convinced. It is only after years of unpleasant coffee dates and morning-after cups of sludge that I’ve landed on my coffee-sex take, which I cannot describe without rolling my eyes at myself. If coffee must be tied to getting laid, then it’s sex with someone whose foul morning breath, ticklish spots and heavily-worn sleep shirts you know well—and at this point, maybe resent.

I don’t want to drink coffee with someone who still makes me nervous, whose presence can turn pleasant caffeine jitters into anxious shakes. Or, what I want to do more often than not, is simply drink my coffee alone, perhaps with my book or even my cat—anything that doesn’t want to see me naked.While most people whom I asked to weigh in on the coffee-sex association shared similar sentiments with me, I’m certain there are people who prefer coffee dates to dinner dates, and perhaps are less sensitive to coffee’s effects on the nerves. And though my connotation may be more negative, I can’t deny that I’d be impressed were a person to bring me a good cup of coffee in bed. That is, as long as it’s not poorly brewed.

There are easy ways to not fuck up a French Press: Grind whole-bean coffee, make sure it’s evenly ground and coarse, and don’t steep it for too long or too short. And if you’re trying to win someone’s affection, pour them a cup first. From my experience, there’ll always be a little bit of that mucky sediment at the bottom of a French press. If you really care about the other person, you’ll be willing to be the one to drink the sludge.

Written by Amanda Arnold for Playboy.com

Illustration by Kyle Fewell

Published on April 11, 2018