If there’s one thing America craves more than legal cannabis, it’s better sex. More than 60 percent of Americans think the plant should be legalized, while 70 percent say they want “a dramatic boost in excitement” when it comes to their sex lives, according to a recent survey. These two desires are now fusing together, with cannabis playing a more prominent role in the sex lives of many Americans. However, some are questioning if this is a good idea.
On the surface, sex and cannabis are (depending on your point of view) either perfect or terrible for enhancing satisfaction in the bedroom. “Performance anxiety” is often attributed to stress at work, and cannabis has a legendary ability to help one relax. However, it also has a reputation for making one lethargic or disinterested, neither of which is particularly useful when having sex.
However, sometimes people just want something different, and cannabis is certainly that. It’s not simply a matter of rolling an old-fashioned joint — today, cannabis-infused massage oils, intimate lubes, and other pleasure-enhancers are surprisingly common.
But if more people are using them, does that mean more Americans are in danger of unsatisfying sex lives? Here, the anecdotal evidence is a resounding “no.” At the same time, the science isn’t quite as clear.
As mentioned before, some of the reasons why people believe cannabis can help improve your sex life are obvious. But sex experts who promote its use cite more than just physical benefits.
For example, cannabis has a long-standing history within the tantra community, which believed it could unlock the transcendent pleasures of the soul. Tantric gurus have incorporated cannabis into their practice since the dawn of the tradition: as described in one 11th-century text, it was thought to help one reach “mahanirvana,” which can be roughly translated as “the greatest liberation imaginable.”
In more recent years, researchers have used the lens of Western science to investigate the link between cannabis use and sexual health. Their findings have been contradictory: while some indicate that frequent use of cannabis can lead to erectile dysfunction, others have found no such link. To further complicate matters, a growing number of studies suggest that it could actually enhance erections by stimulating certain receptors in the tissue of the penis.
If this all sounds rather male-centric, that’s because it is, since the majority of modern studies have been conducted from a male perspective. Lately, though, this is beginning to change as more researchers investigate the sexual experiences of women.
One such researcher is Dr. Becky Lynn, Director of the Center for Sexual Health at St. Louis University. Surveying over 300 women, Dr. Lynn found that women who reported using cannabis before sex claimed to experience more satisfying orgasms than those who didn’t. However, the study comes with significant caveats: 300 is a small sample size, and the majority of participants were white and heterosexual. So while these results are certainly interesting, they also show how challenging it is to make blanket statements about cannabis and sex.
In the words of Dr. Jordan Tishler, whose work focuses on both of those things , “A lot of the understanding that needs to go into a discussion around cannabis and sexuality has less to do with cannabis and more to do with sexuality.” For most people (especially women), libido depends on context — it’s not simply a button that can be pressed on demand.
This isn’t to say that cannabis can’t be a boon in the bedroom. Many people have found it to be an invigorating addition to their sex lives, and even if it’s just a placebo effect, there’s little reason to complain. At the same time, it’s no substitute for feeling wanted, respected, and safe.