Philosopher's Thoughts

"The Pharaoh's Banquet"
Vienna Genesis
6th century A.D.

Aristotle noted that women in his day (admittedly several centuries before such matters were the topic of convivium conversation in the Roman World) tended to drink their wine in a single gulp without drawing breath. In this way the wine would not linger in them, but rather be pushed through the body by force of the draught (see Plutarch, Table TalkIII.iii). This is an interesting thought, since we acknowledge today that sipping through a straw, as is fashionable with certain cocktail mixes, does speed intoxication because the air drawn in with the alcohol hastens its movement into the bloodstream and thereafter into the brain.

The convivium guest who brought up Aristotle's views on women's susceptibility to alcohol also suggested that the female body, because of a constant drawing down of fluids for menstruation, was provided with many channels. The wine could flow preferentially into these channels and so be rapidly eliminated (Plutarch, Table Talk III.iii). Such a notion runs contrary to the medical reality that women find themselves more affected by alcohol while ovulating or when they are premenstrual. At such times it takes the alcohol longer to be metabolized, so its concentration in the blood is higher and more prolonged.