Women, sex and our claim to sensual canna-bliss…
The year was 2014, the motive was science and the guinea pig, dear reader, was my vagina...
I was a reckless young writer, willing to do just about anything for a story but especially willing if it involved getting off or getting blazed. Under the ridiculous pseudonym Mary J Haze, one hour and 10 orgasms later (that’s right, one-zero), fingers still sticky with the home-made cannabis-laced goo I’d slathered onto my genitals, at first cautiously and then with wild abandon, I sat down at my laptop and tried to bash out some words to describe what the hell had just happened to me…
Sitting down at my laptop now, revisiting those first forays into the intersection between cannabis and sex, it’s clear that while much has remained the same in the six years since then, a lot more has changed.
There are few ‘glow ups’ that can compare to cannabis’ image overhaul over the last few years. It’s not just that after decades of being criminalised, recent massive shifts in the country’s weed laws mean that I don’t need to hide behind an alias anymore, but with an ever-growing number of reliable, high-quality and gynaecologically formulated topicals available, I don’t even need my stoner girlfriend to whip up my 'weed lube' anymore. This isn’t only because we’re now re-evaluating our relationship with cannabis though. Something else has changed; something even more powerful, more intoxicating and more historically suppressed has found the space to blossom too: we’re finally giving female pleasure some overdue attention.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing new or novel about women using cannabis. For centuries, it was a go-to for everything from menstrual cramps and imbalanced hormones to easing the pain of childbirth and, yes, enhancing sexual pleasure.
In her book Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory, activist and author Ellen Komp (aka Nola Evangelista) traces the history of the plant and women’s place alongside it back to the third century BC when both goddesses and plants were revered as healers.
As time progressed and small, polytheistic, matriarchal societies were replaced by bigger, monotheistic, patriarchal societies, men started to dominate the traditionally female-focused realms of religion and medicine. The once venerated goddesses were subverted into sex idols and harlots, shamed for their sexuality, and the female plant healers were persecuted as witches.
This is not even getting into how the policing of cannabis has also historically been a means of targeting bodies of colour. As time went on, prohibition and inhibition were fostered alongside each other, leaving cannabis and female sexuality both profoundly under-explored and misunderstood.
It wasn’t just another of my brilliant blazed ideas to get my pussy high. Foria – one of the modern pioneers exploring how cannabis can enhance female sexual health – was newly launched in 2014 and making global headlines with their THC-infused Foria Pleasure personal lubricant.
‘You want me to put what on my where?’ seemed to be the sensationalist sentiment but more pervasive, more resolute than that, was a distinctly feminist voice asking, ‘Why has female pleasure been side-lined? Why do fewer people with vaginas report satisfactory orgasms compared to those with penises, and why – for the love of all the goddesses we’ve forgotten – is that okay?’
At least the cannabis industry – one of the fastest growing and most female – was doing something about it. Of course, I wanted to try it! I didn’t know how it worked or why it worked but I knew we were on the verge of something big. Guess what?
Now I know more about how and why it works. Here’s what the latest research tells us about cannabis and sexual desire in women: in a study published in the journal Sexual Medicine last year, women who identified as frequent cannabis users were twice as likely to report having satisfying orgasms compared to those who used rarely, or not at all.
Just over a third of the 373 women surveyed reported ever having used cannabis before sex with most saying it increases their sex drive, improves orgasm and decreases pain. And given what we already know about the effects of marijuana on the mind and body, this pretty much checks out.
According to Dr Becky Lynn, the study’s lead author, THC ‘reduces your anxiety, so you might feel more comfortable, and it slows down the perception of time and causes heightened sensations, so whatever touch you’re feeling seems bigger in your mind.’
Smoking a turn-off? Psychoactive compounds not your kink? This is where THC- and CBD-infused topical lubricants and pleasure enhancing oils come in to deliver the ‘Oh, hi!’ without the high. Because cannabis is a vasodilator, it opens blood vessels and increases blood flow – in this case, to your most sensitive bits. It also reduces inflammation and acts on nerve pathways that are involved in perceiving pain, making it a safe and natural way to relieve discomfort during sex.
But this brings up a crucial point: cannabis can enhance sex and intimacy but it’s not a ‘fix’ for underlying issues. If you’re not getting what you need sexually, no amount of smoking, vaping, rubbing in, or lubing up, is going to take the place of communication.
There’s no strain that’s going to tell your partner what gives you butterflies, what makes you squirm and what makes you scream. In fact, even before you get baked before you bone, you need to be setting boundaries and establishing consent. And even if you get everything else right – light the candles, scatter rose petals on the bed, put on your favourite Lana del Rey album, don’t fumble while rolling the joint – results may still vary.
For me, using cannabis before sex or masturbating means a slow, syrupy warmth, a crackle of static and then the gentle electric hum of some newly-unlocked frequency just begging for the right touch to tune it to a hopefully inevitable crescendo. Sometimes.
Sometimes it just means lying in a puddle of my own splayed limbs, about as functional as cooked spaghetti, and allowing the gentle creep of a tide of tingles to wash over my body so that just the press of the mattress under me, just the gentle tickle of a lover’s fingers tracing their way up and down my wrist, is about as much pleasure as I need – or can muster. Sometimes I even drool.
It’s an important reminder that pleasure isn’t always an orgasm, sex isn’t always penetration and, at least for me, cannabis isn’t always going to do anything other than amplify what’s already there.
It’s never easy writing about sex, which – as far as I’m concerned – means that just maybe I’m doing it right. It’s as much about humbling yourself to the vastness of the topic as it is about the just-so of personal nuance that makes sex, well, as exciting as it is – when it comes to the things that turn us on, get us off and make us moan, there is no one-size-fits-all.
When I started writing for Kush Kush, I realised the same applies to speaking with any real authority about cannabis. Assuming that each person will react in the same way and experience the same effects from marijuana is not only to underestimate a powerful substance, it’s to ignore how diverse and complex we are too.
Just as good sex means different things to different people, how we enjoy – and what we enjoy – about cannabis exists on a spectrum no single examination can neatly or decisively package.
Maybe the point is not to make it all make sense but simply for women to have the space to announce ourselves and own our pleasure in whatever form it takes.
We are both coming and arriving.
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