Adam and Dounia* from Luton have been combining cannabis and sex for the last three years. “Sometimes I use it to get rid of my anxiety in the bedroom,” explains Dounia. While you might think this involves king skins and a grinder, she’s not talking about getting high. “One of my favourite products is actually non-psychoactive; it’s a spray I use on – and in – my lady parts. I feel a warmth and comfort down there that I wouldn’t without it.”
Adam and Dounia are part of a growing number of ‘cannasexuals’ – people who use carefully designed cannabis-infused products (often ones that have no psychoactive effect) to enhance their sexual experience. “I’m not that confident with my body, I don’t exactly have the picture-perfect figure,” continues Dounia, with a sigh. “But [even used topically] cannabis really helps me let go of these thoughts; my mind and body go to a relaxed place.”
From burning cannabis candles in your boudoir, to spraying your vagina with weed-infused oil, this might seem strange, but for some people it’s as much a part of sexy time as a glass of red and a squirt of lube. And no, this isn’t a trippy ‘new age’ practice.
Now, as cannabis laws in countries – including states in the US – loosen, the amount of people using massage oils, sprays, candles, and cannabis flowers in the name of some serious ‘Netflix and chill’ is on the rise.
The term ‘cannasexual’ was coined by sex counsellor Ashley Manta, from California, who in 2013 opened a sex therapy and education practice based on the powers of this illicit plant. She explains: “I help people hack their sex lives for the better using the miracle plant called cannabis.”
In real terms, this means anything from a one-to-one talking therapy session, to workshops with groups, sometimes with more practical elements. “The workshops focus on various topics – skills, hand jobs, blowjobs, dirty talk, body confidence, and much more.” The use of cannabis is discussed throughout, as to where it would be helpful; in terms of timing, dosage, and methods of consumption.
From experimenting, Ashley knows it’s a particularly pleasurable experience for women. “There are a lot of products designed for the vulva (the external female sex organs) like sprays and creams, because of the way the organs seems to absorb cannabinoids.”
Problematically, no one has really studied how – or even if – the vagina absorbs cannabis, but anecdotal evidence seems to be plentiful. “My favourite product is a cannabis oil spray,” she says. “After letting the infused oil soak into my vulva for about 20 minutes, I feel a warmth or tingling, find greater comfort with penetration, and greater ease and intensity in orgasms.”
The rise of the cannasexual means that some cannabis entrepreneurs in the US have even claimed that they are struggling to keep up with the demand for erotic products like infused lubricant creams.
When Adam and Dounia started using the products in 2015, Adam was already a regular cannabis user, and particularly enjoyed partaking before sex. Although Dounia wasn’t in the same boat, while googling about body confidence she came across interesting forum discussions about combining cannabis and sex. “I followed instructions I found online and made my own low dose cannabis olive oil. Half an hour after eating it I dragged Adam to the bedroom – I wasn’t completely stoned or anything, but I just felt so horny and carefree when it kicked in.”
Nowadays Adam usually vaporises the herb just before going into the bedroom, which means he gets an immediate psychoactive effect. “I find it to be a great aphrodisiac,” he says. “Gives you length and strength, if you know what I mean. Mind you, that depends on how much you take – less is more. But yeah, it really does heighten the sensations and things go on for a while longer too.”
Contrary to the positive effects that Adam claims, though, studies have actually shown that cannabis use can negatively impact sexual performance in men. A study carried out by the International Society for Sexual Medicine in 2011 showed that there was an inhibitory effect on specific receptors inside the erectile tissue in animals.
Another study showed that daily cannabis consumers are twice more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Dr Mark Lawton, a consultant and spokesperson for the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, believes people should be cautious about the use of any drugs around the time of sex.
“Things like cannabis, as with alcohol, can cloud our judgment,” he says. “We know that condom use, for instance, often goes down with people who drink or take recreational drugs around the time of sex. There may be a risk that some of the choices we make under the influence might not be the same as when we are not.”
This is not the only way users could find themselves vulnerable. “There’s a lot of really positive stuff coming out at the moment about consent and how important it is that consent is genuine, valid, and active,” he says. “People just need to be a bit cautious about anything that reduces inhibitions because it might lead to people potentially taking advantage.”
Dr Lawton recognises, however, that there may be a place for cannabis in sexual practice in the future. “I think there is obviously information coming out about some of the components of cannabis that could have medical benefits, so it may be an area of research for the future.”
Says Ashley Manta: “The truth is, we need more scientific studies and data. Right now we have lots of data based on anecdotes. But it’s hard enough to get governments to fund studies related to cannabis and cancer, which probably means cannabis and sex studies are extremely low on their priority list.”
While products such as hemp-infused oils and sprays are legal in the UK, cannasexual culture has also given a marketing opportunity for street dealers, with some branding their cannabis strains as “female friendly” or “as good as Viagra”. One UK dealer advertises a strain as a “low-THC sex enhancer.” He told BBC Three that it’s really popular with his female buyers, and that he has many repeat customers.
For Ashley, it has a more serious side: “I am a sexual assault survivor,” she says. “Using cannabis has helped me manage my complex PTSD and some of the physical symptoms associated with being a survivor of trauma.”
Ashley talks about how she suffered with pain from penetration for a long time until she started using a cannabis oil spray on her vulva. And while she points that it’s not for everyone, she’s still a huge advocate.
“It’s profoundly improved my life,” she says simply.
*The names of some of those featured in this article have been changed