The love drug: can marijuana improve our sex lives?
n India, practitioners of tantric sex incorporated cannabis into their acrobatics as early as 700AD. In the 1930s, Fusion found, young Russian brides used a mixture of cannabis and lamb fat to reduce the discomfort of losing their virginity.
Today the cannabis industry is willing to attribute almost any positive attribute to the plant. But when it comes to sex, insiders speak with conviction.
The most common sex products to emerge with legalization are cannabis-infused personal lubricants, typically made from cannabis-infused coconut oil. They claim to enhance sensation and arousal, when spritzed on to female genitals, and to make women’s orgasms both stronger and more likely.
Quim Rock, a brand available in California dispensaries, adds tea tree oil, which it says is good for vaginal health. Rachel Washtien, one of the brand’s two female founders, wrote in an email that part of the company’s mission was to “break the taboos associated with sex, cannabis and vaginal health”. Their company name attempts to reclaim a derogatory Old English word for the female anatomy. The company logo, a lizard sunning itself on a rock, is supposed to embody the spirit of self-care.
Quim Rock’s online presence is an assembly of tastefully lewd photos – seeded fruit is a recurring motif – and blurbs from satisfied customers. “It felt like my vagina had no rules!” Emily, 34, raved.
Quim Rock is only available in California, but Washtien said the company saw a 300% jump in monthly sales between the fourth quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018.
The cannalubes are expensive – a 2oz bottle of Quim Rock costs about $50 – and most aren’t condom-safe. And then there’s the all-important question: do they work?
One doesn’t spend three years on the weed beat without getting curious. The one time I bought a cannabis-infused lube, Foria, my, uh, lab partner thought it was an amusing novelty, but it didn’t add much to the (hopefully earth-shattering) experience. On the plus side, she said there weren’t any side-effects, “always a concern for women trying out new things”.
Dr Jordan Tishler is president of the Association of Cannabis Specialists, an organization for doctors with an evidence-based interest in cannabis. (The group has about 300 members.) While many patients initially visit his Boston-area practice for concerns about pain and anxiety, he said, after seeing Tishler they sometimes mention an improvement in their sex lives. He has incorporated sexual health into his practice.
Cannabis oil “down there”, Tishler said, might improve blood flow and sensitivity, “but most sexuality happens above the neck”. As a consumption method, he typically recommends vaporizing, which gives more control over onset than eating.
“We don’t have a lot to offer people who have trouble with sexual function,” Tishler said, arguing that the main medical treatments addressed only erectile dysfunction. “Problems of male sexuality are not limited to erections.”
Cannabis, though, could help couples with uneven sex drives, he said. The existing research, most of which is about women, showed that “we have a substance here which, particularly if used properly, can be very helpful, and there’s not much competition”, he said.
Mixing marijuana and sex didn’t capture white America’s attention until the 1960s. “People said: ‘Yeah man, this is groovy, it really helps me get my mojo on,’” Tishler said. “Some of that advocacy was in the hands of women, which means it probably didn’t get taken seriously.”
Tishler cautioned, though, that correct dosages mattered, especially for men, since overindulgence can lead to poor performance – “stoner boner”.
None of this was in the curriculum 25 years ago at Harvard Medical School, when Tishler was a student there, and little has changed since. Fortunately, you don’t have to go to Harvard to discover the fortuitous connection between pot and sex.
If someone had a healthy sex life, they probably did not need Tishler’s help making the connection, he said. But for people with sexual problems, he said, “there’s a little more to it than ‘Go smoke a doobie’”.