Drinking With and Without Fun: Female Students' Accounts of Pre-Drinking and Club-Drinking

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Pre-drinking, also known as pre-partying, pre-gaming, and front- or pre-loading, is the intensive pair or group consumption of alcohol in a private home prior to going out for the night, with the intention of ensuring maximum levels of intoxication. It has emerged as a distinct component of heavy drinking practice among young adults approximately between the ages of 18-25. This paper examines reflective accounts of female students' pre-drinking and club-drinking. It explores the experience of pre-drinking in the context of the overall drinking sequence undertaken throughout the evening in and the night out. It finds that pre-drinking has a specific purpose for young women in managing risk, as well as ensuring a shared level of intoxication in preparation for entry into public drinking spaces. Their accounts illustrate the performative nature of intoxication. Pre-drinking is highly directed, bounded, and ritualised. It was frequently, though not always, recounted as lacking in pleasure for these reasons. It was associated with preparation for entry to a particular kind of superpub or nightclub especially, where the emphasis was on further rapid alcohol consumption. Accounts of continued drinking in the nightclubs were dualistic, emphasising pleasure and disgust, along with risk and vulnerability. Risk was experienced as individualised, and the women had shared responsibility for guarding against risk from unsafe others in the nightclub environment. This coding of risk is supported by public health messages targeted at women drinkers and by the more general societal and drinks industry promoted representation of alcohol consumption as normal and abstinence as deviant, which students were critical of. One attraction of pre-drinking for female students was as a way of protecting and supporting female agency in conditions of generalised, individualised vulnerability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2012


  • Intoxication
  • alcohol
  • Pre-Drinking
  • women


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