Ashley Manta has been teaching sex and cannabis workshops—an introduction to THC-infused carnality that she’s dubbed “CannaSexual”—since 2014. Her clientele runs the gamut from long-term couples trying to spark-up snuffed intimacy, to singles looking to expand their sexual horizons.
Many of them arrive at her L.A.-based workshops as cannabis novices, but they leave with big giddy smiles on their faces. “I gave one of my clients a bottle of Foria Pleasure”— a cannabis-based lubricant—“and she tried it for the first time,” Manta says. “She was like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve never had pleasure or orgasms like that in my entire life. It was next level. It was a religious experience.”
Manta’s workshops are far from weed-fueled sex orgies. They’re more like a safe space to talk about expectations and learn more about a substance still shrouded in a lot of mystery (not unlike sex itself).
Manta first dabbled in cannabis for personal reasons. As a survivor of sexual violence, she experienced pain during penetration. Her doctors just shrugged when she asked about treatment. “Nothing changed until I moved to California and discovered cannabis,” she says. “Suddenly sex was pleasurable again. It was a watershed moment for me. I was like, ‘Why is nobody talking about this?’”
They are now. Move over chocolate, oysters, and wine. Cannabis has become the aphrodisiac du jour. A major 2017 study by Stanford University and the CDC, which surveyed 28,176 women and 22,943 men nationwide, found that cannabis is helping people have better sex—more sex. A whopping 20% of people are spending more time between the sheets thanks to recreational weed.
That doesn’t mean one hit on a joint will turn you into a sex machine. “Even if you and I are holding the exact same flower that we got from the same dispensary on the same day from the same grower, we could have two completely different sexual experiences,” says Manta.
To aid in your exploration of sex and cannabis, let us arm you with the knowledge you’ll need to make the smartest choices, avoid the rookie mistakes, and have the most fun.
Is It All In Your Head or, You Know … Down There?
This question has perplexed cannabis-and-sex enthusiasts for years. Does ingesting weed before naked sexy times make everything better because it’s manipulating our senses—lowering our inhibitions and casting out anxiety—or because something physiological has been chemically altered? In other words, is it our brains or our naughty bits?
1. What It Does To Your Brain
The common assumption is that cannabis affects our brains in much the same way that alcohol does, by eliminating inhibitions and basically giving us permission to get crazy.
That’s not the case, says Jordan Tishler, M.D., a Harvard-trained physician who runs the cannabis clinic Opens a New Window in Boston. “It’s not like alcohol, which allows people to make choices they later regret,” he says. What it does do is decrease anxiety, “which can be a major obstacle to libido.”
But what cannabis does to our head can be even more complicated than just giving you permission to finally let your freak flag fly. Dr. Becky Lynn, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Saint Louis University, claims that cannabis can also “slow down the perception of time and increase how you perceive your senses.” Once you find an approach that works for you—a pre-romp booster with CBD, a THC and CBD mix, or more THC—you’re not just going to want to do more, you’ll also appreciate more of it.
2. What It Does to Your Body
The founders of Lioness realized they had a unique opportunity with the release of the company’s “smart” vibrator, a toy that records biofeedback from female orgasms. Precision sensors let you literally see your arousal, including very specific details of the muscle contractions that occur during your orgasms. (If you’re interested in such things, you can purchase your very own “smart” vibrator for just $229.)
Liz Klinger, is the co-founder and CEO of Lioness, a pioneering women’s sexual health company based in Oakland, California. She tested her vaginal contractions after trying 2.5mg of a Breez Original Mint (a THC/CBD hybrid), and in her words, her orgasms were “off the chart.”
“My usual orgasmic pattern is pelvic floor muscle contractions that start fast and then kind of slow down,” she says. “But with the edible, it was just an intense orgasm that didn’t have that tapering off period.”
Anna Lee, a co-founder and VP of engineering for Lioness, measured her orgasmic measurements after sampling cannabis lube, and the results were just as promising.
Under normal circumstances, she says, her orgasms typically last no longer than 10 to 20 seconds. But with weed lube, she experienced orgasms that lasted anywhere from three minutes to five minutes and 28 seconds, or 16 times longer than her non-cannabis sexual experiences (see chart).
And her research didn’t end there. She’s still experimenting with finding the perfect balance with CBD and THC ratios. “I’ve found that CBD relaxes my body while THC amplifies body sensations,” Lee says. In your own bedroom lab, Lee suggests taking the time so “play around with the CBD:THC ratio to find one that works for you.”
Smoke, Eat Or Lube
This is how lovers have been ingesting cannabis since roach clips and rolling papers were a thing. Times have changed, and so is how weed gets smoked… or rather, not smoked.
Dr. Tishler steers his patients away from joints and pipes in favor of vaporized whole flower, which he finds generally safer (as long as you avoid oil vape pens).
With so many options out there, why go old school? “Inhalation is rapid,” Tishler says. “And it’ll likely get both partners rolling at similar times.”
That’s a clear advantage. With vaporizing, you can “take a little puff and see how that feels, how it’s going mentally and physically,” says Sara Payan, the director of education at the Apothecarium, a cannabis dispensary in San Francisco.
Edibles are fantastic. But edibles paired with sex is a bit like Russian Roulette with super-paranoid and anxious orgasms.
Manta only recommends edibles for those with “an especially high tolerance, or they’re in it for the long haul. If you’re planning a sex marathon at a hotel where you don’t leave the room for two days, then sure, take some edibles.”
The problem boils down to dosage. What exactly is the right amount? Somewhere between “I don’t feel anything” and “Oh my god, I’ve had too much and I’m going to die!”
If you use edibles, Payan implores you to avoid anything homemade. “I always start with 2.5 to 5 milligrams and see how that feels,” she says. “That’s conservative, but I’d always rather be safe than sorry.”
Mathew Gerson, the founder and co-CEO of Foria, created his first batch of weed lube—a blend of coconut oil and THC—on a whim in his kitchen. He shared it with his female friends and “they all reported amazing results.”
So how does it work? It’s actually not a lubricant. “It’s a topical,” says Payan. “It interacts with the vagina’s mucosal membrane to create microcapillary dilations.” Or in normal-speak, there’s more blood flow to the vagina so she starts to feel super-relaxed. Not sleepy-relaxed, because topicals never enter the bloodstream or reach the brain. So this lube, in theory, just decreases muscle tension and nerve pain for more sensitivity and stronger orgasms.
“Whether you're dealing with chronic sexual pain, endometriosis, or similar conditions, these oils are a blessing from nature,” he says.
Do I Have to Be High?
The short answer: No. But a lot depends on your cannabis delivery.
If you’re using a cannabis-based lube, the only flight you’ll take is a “localized high” (and only if you’re the owner of a vagina). Some women describe it as “my lady garden got totally stoned,” but that’s not exactly it. Your vagina doesn’t get high in the same way that your head does. It’s “my vagina is having all the feelings” rather than “I want to listen to the Allman Brothers and stare at the wall for hours."
In general, any topical application of THC won’t get you stoned. “I took a bath with 300mg of THC and I didn’t get high even a little,” says Manta. “But the result was freaking magic. All of my muscles unclenched at the same time. I felt like jelly, it was great.”
Your partner won’t get stoned either, unless they’re on the giving end of oral sex. When THC enters a mouth, it gets metabolized like an edible. And then yes, you may get very, very stoned, and have a more interactive experience than you would with say, sucking on a vape pen.
You should also avoid using lube anally if getting stoned isn’t your idea of a good time. “If your goal is to enhance female pleasure without a psychoactive high, using lube anally can potentially cause THC to enter your bloodstream,” says Lioness CEO Anna Lee.
Things get a little different when you start vaping or using edibles. Then, yes, it’s entirely probable that you’re going to feel at least a little stoned. But that isn’t the ultimate goal. In fact, sometimes you’ll get better results if you don’t. Manta suggests “microdosing,” or taking such small amounts—2.5 mgs or lower—that you don’t feel any effects in your head at all.
Why? “Marijuana in excess will make it so you can’t move,” says Dr. Lynn. “That doesn’t do much for your sex drive. If you haven’t used it before, you may not know how you’re going to react to it. You could end up paranoid.”
“Slow and low is the way to go,” says Payan. Especially in the beginning. Because the reality is, you don’t know exactly how it’s going to feel, or even if you’re going to like it. Payan has advised thousands of patients, and she’s confident she knows how most people will react. “But every so often, there’s one that completely surprises me,” she says. “I’ve had three people who have tripped out on a 30:1 CBD to THC ratio.”
Velvet Swing by Velvet Swing, $49 The first water-based/water-soluble weed lube that won’t damage your condoms or sex toys. Each spray contains 1.5mg of THC and 0.5mg of CBD, and the word “tingly” comes up repeatedly from satisfied customers. The fact that it was created by a Seattle dominatrix—not boring lab chemists in white coats—makes an even more convincing case that this is the top weed lube on the market.
Love Potion #420 By Yummi Karma, $30 There’s just 5mg of THC and 2mg of CBD in each dropperful, so this tincture is a perfect introduction for beginners. It’ll get you mildly head-buzzed but not enough that you’re going to be hiding under the covers rather than, well, you know… doing something fun.
Knob Polish by Jack, $24 A water-based CBD-infused lube for men with a wince-inducing name. With 100mg of CBD per 6-ounce container, it promises to encourage blood flow and relax pelvic muscles, which is great in theory. But the jury’s still out on whether CBD, much less CBD lube, has any significant effect on erectile function.
Love Chocolates by 1906, $18 to $28 We love these chocolates for two reasons. One, the “rapid delivery” system means you’ll feel the OMG effects of 5mg THC/5mg CBD within 20 minutes, not hours. Two, it has cool sounding ingredients like muira puama (known as the “Viagra of the Amazon”), damiana (an ancient Aztec aphrodisiac), and ashwaganda, an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to boost libido.
Vapegasm, $20 Designed for couples who want to mix vaping and sex in the creepiest way possible. It uses Bluetooth and a phone app to control the vibrations of a connected sex toy by how long you pull on the pen. Yes, the longer you inhale, the more vigorously the vibrator wiggles. We don’t need to explain why this is a bad idea, right? Your partner only reaches climax if you suck on a vape pen till you black out?
Ready to Give it a Try?
Do: Take notes
We don’t mean that figuratively. Start what Manta calls a sex journal. “Write down everything,” she says. “This is what I used, this is how much I used, this is how long it took to kick in, and this is what happened.” Just like wine connoisseurs do with their favorite bottles.
A note like “I tried this strain and ended up raiding the fridge” is useful intel when you’re planning for a big romantic evening. As is “I fell asleep with my vibrator on.” Maybe that’s not the mood you’re looking for in the future. “Whatever you find out, good or bad, it’s good data,” says Manta.
Do: Think about what you want to happen
We mean something more detailed than “I want better sex.” Better in what ways? “What do you need to get in the mood?” asks Sara Payan, the director of education at the Apothecarium, a dispensary in San Francisco. “Are you looking for mental stimulation? Body stimulation? Do you need to quiet your mind to be present?” Or to put it another way, how do you want to feel? “What’s getting in the way of you having the kind of sexual experience you want?” asks Manta. “Is it pain? Is it anxiety? Is it shame?” let yourself laugh Does cannabis give you the giggles? Good. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality found that couples that laugh together tend to be happier in their relationships and have more satisfying sex. “You’re doing it wrong if you’re not laughing at least sometimes,” says Manta. “Because sex is hilarious.”
Do: create a safe space for your first time
You may know what a certain type of cannabis feels like under normal circumstances, but probably not while you’re naked and in hot pursuit of an orgasm. Lioness co-founder Anna Lee suggests flying solo first. “It’s a whole new experience masturbating high versus having sex high,” she says. If you do choose to take the plunge with a partner right away, Payan recommends having a discussion first. Make it clear what’s on your “Yes-No-Maybe” list before you’re in an altered state. “When you’re high, you could make choices that you wouldn’t normally,” she says.
Don't: expect a one-size-fits-all approach
Manta has no answer for people who ask her to name the best cannabis strains for sex. “I can’t just pull something off the shelf and say, ‘Yep, this one,’” she laughs. “Everybody wants a magic pill, but it doesn’t exist.” Or maybe it does. But the magic pill that works for somebody else won’t necessarily work for you. Liz Klinger, of Lioness, is constantly experimenting with different strains to see which has the best effect on her. “Certain strains of sativa have made me orgasm faster,” she says. “But indica doesn’t. You have to keep searching for what makes your toes curl.”
Don't': be overeager
You’re not going to have the same immediate effect with a cannabis lubricant like you would from smoking it. “Think of it like an edible that takes time to kick in,” says Klinger. This isn’t something you can apply and jump into the sack five minutes later. While vaginal and anal tissues are able to absorb lubricants well, it can take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes for you to feel effects.
Don't: use THC/CBD oils with latex condoms
If protecting yourself against STDs and pregnancy is key, you’ll want to avoid oil-based lubricants like petroleum jelly, cold cream, or—you knew this was coming—cannabis or CBD oil. When those lubricants come in contact with latex condoms, it can cause the latex to degrade. The good news: There are plenty of water-based CBD and cannabis lubes. Velvet Swing, created by a Seattle-based dominatrix (so you know it’s good), retails for around $40 and is teased with the tagline “Come Long, Come Hard, Come Again.” Well, if you insist!