Does cannabis improve your love life? We explore the pros and cons…
First things first: I am biased. I love smoking weed before sex. I have my most intense orgasms when I’m high. I’m way more engaged with the entire experience and there’s a way deeper sense of pleasure because of it. For me, it seems like a no-brainer that weed and sex make excellent bedfellows. Weed makes everything better — it makes food taste better, it makes music sound better and naturally it makes sex better, too. Surely if chocolate is considered an aphrodisiac, so should weed. Alas, I’ve found this is not to be the case.
There’s no scientific evidence that proves cannabis is an aphrodisiac (same goes for chocolate, actually) despite it being used with and for sex for thousands of years. Some studies say it increases libido and others that say it suppresses libido. Some say it causes erectile dysfunction and others say it cures it. I decided to gather my own data. I asked around. My friends, all in all, had positive things to say, a resounding thumbs up. One said it makes him a “sex pest”. Another friend said she didn’t orgasm at all until she had sex stoned.
The most nuanced answer was probably my friend who said sometimes he gets caught in his high thoughts but his girlfriend really gets off and ultimately that makes it a positive influence in his sex life. I did hear, through the grapevine, about how a friend of a friend had sex with a stranger who wanted him to hit it from behind while she hit her bong. None of this really helped with the bias problem anyway. I wanted answers. Does weed actually make sex better? I turned to the good ol’ worldwide web. I read articles and scientific papers, I combed through Reddit, I watched YouTube videos and even had a look at some weed porn (which, yes, is a thing).
Let’s turn to the history books. The bond between sex and cannabis goes way, way back. Almost every ancient civilisation, in one way or another, connected the two. In the 2,000 years before Christ, civilisations of Ancient Mesopotamia often used cannabis, mostly as an incense for spiritual reasons. The Aryan fire worshippers introduced cannabis and eroticism to Mesopotamia through a drink called haoma. It contained cannabis and ephedra, a naturally-occurring amphetamine. In fact, there are plaques depicting women bent over an altar drinking through a straw, men entering them from behind.
In Ancient Egypt, there is evidence women used a mixture of weed and honey that they inserted vaginally to help with childbirth and menstrual cramps. There are written records connecting the dots between weed and an increased sex drive as well as the positive effects of hemp seeds on male fertility. Some people in Ancient Rome worshipped the Greek god of the erect penis, Priapus. There were rituals in which men received dildos coated in a special concoction of snake venom, alcohol, ivy and cannabis. The aim being a spiritual erection in honour of Priapus that ended in intense highs and orgasm. However, there’s also evidence that the Romans prescribed cannabis as a sex suppressant.
Probably the most notable ancient civilisations using cannabis and sex in tandem is those that practiced Tantra as early as 700 AD. With influence in both Hinduism and Buddhism, the Tantrics believed having sex while high was a spiritual experience that created oneness between the parties involved and more importantly with the universe at large. They served it in a milky drink called bhang which is still widely served throughout India today. In Ayurveda, the ancient medicine of Hinduism, they will prescribe cannabis, sometimes even the traditional bhang drink, for a wide range of sexual issues like low libido or premature ejaculation.
Throughout the Inquisition, in Medieval Europe, cannabis, used for an assortment of ailments including low libido, was banned in the name of Christianity. Allegedly, there were still satanic gatherings where witches came together and did the dirty high on cannabis and other available herbs like opium, hemlock and belladonna. Essentially, weed-fuelled orgies. Some researchers actually believe that women would apply this ointment intravaginally with a phallic household item — a broomstick — and that perhaps this is the origin of the whole witch flying high on a broomstick thing.
Despite humans treating weed as an aphrodisiac for time immemorial, today’s science is woefully inconclusive. There’s really no scientific research that proves cannabis has any direct influence on sexual experience. That doesn’t mean the connection doesn’t exist. Firstly, within the science of sex and sexuality, there are a lot of question marks. Pleasure is physiologically complicated, in and of itself, and becomes even more so when you bring in emotional, social and cultural factors. And with cannabis across the board, there just isn’t enough research — period. We have harsh drug classifications to thank for that. It creates an administrative barrier that makes conducting research difficult, sometimes even impossible. There aren’t rigorous double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled experiments to test cannabis against sexual functioning. Mostly, there are self-reported surveys which are definitely interesting but ultimately pretty unreliable.
There’s one statistic that gets quoted a lot. According to a Stanford University study, regular cannabis users have 20 percent more sex than non-cannabis users. The survey also concluded that it’s not just more sex, it’s better sex, too. They used the annual survey from the Centre of Disease Control in the U.S. and looked at a sample size of about 50,000 people. The results aren’t necessarily cause and effect, though. Some have poked holes at this study, attributing the 20 percent to the individual rather than the cannabis, arguing that those who regularly smoke weed may just be more open and experimental all around.
Another interesting study done by NYU was a drunk sex versus high sex comparison. When we think of having sex “under the influence”, it’s usually alcohol we’re thinking of. There is a culture around alcohol and sex — meeting people at bars, going for drinks, one night stands. But, you know, what about beer goggles? And let’s not forget whisky dick. The NYU researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 24 heterosexual adults in an effort to learn more about marijuana use and sexual behaviour. It was a purposely small sample size. They wished to gather qualitative data to inform later more quantitative studies.
It seems to me high sex takes the win. Drunk sex is, all things considered, riskier. Where both alcohol and weed can release inhibitions, alcohol goes one step further by impairing judgement. This is where beer goggles comes in and, more consequential, unprotected sex. “With weed I know who I’m waking up with. With drinking, you don’t know. Once you start drinking, everybody looks good,” explained a female subject in the study.
It found that the most commonly reported buzzwords after drunk sex were regret, shame and embarrassment where this was rarely the case with weed. I quite liked the two cents from a male subject — the breakfast part at least: “I want to cook the person something to eat (after sex) when I’m high. When I’m drunk, it’s like, ‘I’m out of here’ or ‘get away from me.’” This might have something to do with another pattern the study highlighted. Drunk sex is more often associated with strangers whereas high sex was commonly reported between partners of friends who knew each other beforehand. Smoking usually takes place at home, it’s more intimate.
If you weren’t convinced already, the cons of being drunk can be way worse than the cons of being high. Two words: the spins. Subjects reported dizziness, nausea, vomiting and blacking out killing the mood. With marijuana, it’s more in the head, being distracted or tired. There was one subject that reported smoking didn’t make him horny. And sometimes you can trip yourself out as perfectly put by another respondent: “You’re so high… you start thinking sex is weird. What is sex?”
And what about the pros? Where alcohol numbs sensations, weed enhances them. Sometimes drunk sex can last a long time, and not in a good way. High sex can be shorter but more intense. They found both men and women vouched for longer and more intense orgasms high. High sex was more sensual and emotional and ultimately better. As marijuana goes more and more mainstream, it seems the culture around weed and sex has changed and will only continue to do so. Hello, Netflix and chill. With casual sex embracing getting high as the substance of choice, I think there’s opportunity for sex with strangers to become not only better sexually but also safer, more respectful and honest. You can enjoy the sex and the company in a way that’s more chill then drunken blackouts and puking in foreign toilets.
Where it gets confusing is some of the contradictions in findings. Some studies say it makes men last longer and others say that it makes getting an erection more difficult even if it helps with arousal. Then another study concluded that it actually lowers the libido. It’s believed the mixed messaging is due in part to dosage, more specifically that higher dosages can have the opposite effects of lower dosages. It can also be chalked up to the fact that everyone’s different. Everyone’s body responds to weed differently. Everyone approaches sex and sexuality in their own way. They’re both complex processes that make finding a causal relationship a difficult task.
Here’s what we do know. Our bodies make endocannabinoids which are essentially naturally occurring cannabinoids. As compounds in the brain, there are a significant amount of receptors in part of the brain that have to do with sexual function like the amygdala and the hypothalamus. There’s even recent research that suggests that a type of endocannabinoid is released after orgasms. Cannabis is a vasodilator. It opens up blood vessels to increase blood flow. This is why your eyes get bloodshot after you smoke. A similar process happens naturally in the body when we are aroused. Blood flows to our genitals. In this way, cannabis may induce the processes of arousal. The increase in blood flow also heightens our senses, most importantly for sex we become more sensitive to touch. This is because our skin and nerve pathways have cannabinoid receptors as well.
Sensory perception is further affected by the increases in levels of dopamine and serotonin that occur when high on marijuana. That makes sex more pleasurable while also aiding in reducing stress and anxiety. THC decreases cortisol levels overall. It can increase cortisol levels in some people especially infrequent users hence the occasional anxiety and paranoia caused from smoking weed. There’s even been reports of a spike in testosterone levels which is actually believed to cause the promiscuity related to alcohol consumption.
While some of the physiological effects are backed by credible data and analysis, the direct link between cannabis and improved sex is yet to be discovered in the scientific community. In the name of murky cause-and-effect links, I’d like to talk about a well-known scientist who was a (closeted) proponent of cannabis. Carl Sagan, renowned astronomer, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, published over 600 scientific papers, authored, co-authored or edited 20 books. Writer and host of the show Cosmos, he was most known for popularising science, inspiring Bill Nye and Neil Degrasse Tyson to do the same.
It was discovered after his death in 1996 that earlier in his career he penned an essay advocating for cannabis under his pseudonym Mr. X. In it, he had this to say about cannabis and sex: “Cannabis also enhances the enjoyment of sex — on the one hand it gives an exquisite sensitivity, but on the other hand it postpones orgasm: in part by distracting me with the profusion of image passing before my eyes. The actual duration of orgasm seems to lengthen greatly, but this may be the usual experience of time expansion which comes with cannabis smoking.”
I found out about that essay on Reddit, where I looked to gather my own qualitative data. What I found at first was an ungodly amount of discussion around the sex and weed numbers which you may have guessed are 69 and 420 (i.e. a picture of a microwave with the time 4:20 and 69 seconds left till it’s done). Someone asked, “When will Redditors stop laughing at the sex and weed numbers?” To which someone helpfully replied, “Your mom.”
There was an overwhelmingly positive response from Redditors on the age-old combo of sex and weed. Many highly encouraged it if someone posted a thread asking about it. Every so often, someone would chime in saying that obviously stoners would say that, but it goes way beyond that. There was one story from a female about her experimentation with weed lube. Sex had always hurt for her and this changed everything. It was truly a spiritual experience. In her case, she made a homemade lube consisting of coconut oil and, of course, weed.
In legal cannabis markets like the U.S., there are a wide array of both THC and CBD sex products for those interested in the benefits of having sex high without having to smoke it. And even beyond that, there are also plenty of products that reflect the union of sex and weed. There’s a pipe that’s also a dildo. And even a strain of weed called Sexxpot which is designed specifically to optimise sex. It’s no surprise there’s a market for sex-related weed products and my guess is this will be an ongoing trend as cannabis legalisation continues to spread.
On Youtube, I found a Vice video on Ashley Manta, who is a self-proclaimed Cannasexual. She is a sex educator who runs courses as well as private coaching for people looking to use cannabis to improve their sex lives. There was another video of a friendly presenter going around Amsterdam on 4/20 asking people where they stand on high sex. Some said it makes them sleepy. Others said it was the best. Still, more positive than negative reviews. What was really interesting is a video titled Ask A Pornstar: ‘Does Marijuana Make Sex Better?’. What came as a surprise was the amount of no’s in this video.
Just as with sex products, there is definitely crossover between the cannabis industry and the porn industry. Kristen Penn, a spokesperson for Emerald Triangle Girls, a porn studio focusing on the niche of lesbian weed porn, said in an interview, “I think porn and weed are sister industries. Each carries its own stigma, misinformation from the outside, and taboo, although both are multi-billion-dollar industries.” It’s true. Some porn stars, retired or otherwise, have moved into the weed business merchandising rolling papers, grinders and even strains of weed as is the case with Skin Diamond. There’s a whole genre on PornHub devoted to “Smoking”. While some come from proper studios, many are amateur videos. On set, porn stars don’t actually smoke real weed whereas you assume home-videos do.
Not that this is entirely relevant to my argument but for the sake of scientific discovery, I should quickly mention xblaze.com, which was supposedly the first exclusively porn-cannabis crossover website. The link doesn’t work anymore nor could I find any of their content, unfortunately. From what I gathered, they came out hot in 2018 with lots of publicity stunts. They offered Elon Musk US$150,000 to appear in a non-sex role in one of their videos after he smoked weed on Joe Rogan’s podcast. After Roseanne Barr, long-time cannabis advocate, was in the limelight for a racist tweet, they penned an open letter urging her to get involved with their productions. Anyway, all that’s left of XBlaze as far as I could find is the residue of their marketing efforts.
I’m all for the normalisation of smoking weed and having sex. Not only do I think it’s better, I think it makes for a more emotionally safe environment which in the long run benefits everyone. Sex is great but at the end of the day it’s a really intimate thing, arguably one of the most intimate things we humans can do. Cannabis can help bring people’s focus into the body and out of the mind, increasing pleasure and decreasing stress and anxiety. It allows for an intricate attention to our bodies, feeling out what feels good and what doesn’t. This also helps to slow time down, to savour each and every bit. It’s a deeper way to have sex. It makes foreplay just as satisfying and interesting as sex, itself, making the exchange less of a transaction and more of a mutual exploration.
There’s a reason cannabis has been used for spiritual purposes for as far back as recorded history goes, across virtually every ancient civilisation from the Mayans and Aztecs to Ancient Persia and beyond. As new-age as it sounds, it facilitates a sense of connectedness with those you’re with and the world at large. Even though that can sound a bit heavy, particularly if you don’t have a partner, sex is better — even with a stranger — if there’s a sense of trust and open-mindedness. Sex is all around us. Let’s be more mindful about it by smoking more weed? ■
By SAL PLUMMER