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Can Cannabis Affect Your Sexual Experiences?

June 15 2022 | Written by Rhea Kumar (She/Her)

It was in 1971 that astronomer Carl Sagan declared in his essay, Mr. X, that cannabis “enhances the enjoyment of sex”, and “gives an exquisite sensitivity.” Sagan, a long time marijuana user whose essay was published in the flower power era of American experimentation may have been onto something.

Fast forward to present day, can we really confirm whether cannabis helps or hurts one’s sexual experience? Let’s talk about two things first:

Unlike Canada, in the United States, cannabis is still illegal for recreational use at the federal level, therein lies some obvious barriers that prevent researchers from conducting wholesome research on cannabis, let alone cannabis and its effect on sex. The application process for cannabis research is lengthy, and oftentimes places steep limitations on experimentation privileges.

Secondly, sex and libido are, I hate to say: complicated. Dr. Jordan Tishler, M.D and cannabis expert says that most of the understanding that goes into the discussion around cannabis and sexuality has more to do with sexuality than cannabis. Sexual enjoyment is a multi-layered concept that is dependent on social, biological and psychological factors.

But fear not, despite these two factors, some self-reported data can help us better understand the effects of cannabis on sex but bear in mind, we’re barely scratching the surface of what can be determined. Also bear in mind the drawbacks of relying on self-reported data which can include inaccuracies and there’s very little researchers can do to corroborate, however, if you ask me, this is better than nothing.

In a study published in 1984 in the Journal of Sex and Research, a panel of all white college-age participants (62 percent male, 38 percent female) were interviewed about their experiences with cannabis and their sexual experiences. 58 percent of the males reported that it increased the quality of their orgasms, only 52 percent of females reported this. Both male and female participants in approximately equal numbers stated that cannabis enhanced their desire for their partner, sexual pleasure and satisfaction.

Perhaps, the most comprehensive study to date, though not without its limitations, was conducted by Dr. Becky Lynn, M.D., director of the Center of Sexual Health and associate professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Saint Louis University. Dr. Lynn felt like previous studies didn’t focus on the woman’s experience enough, and lacked the basis of understanding whether marijuana was improving sex lives.

The study had 373 respondents, and major findings included: people who reported ever using cannabis prior to sex were more likely to report having satisfying orgasms than those who did not use cannabis before sex. Those who used cannabis frequently, though not necessarily before sex, were also more likely to report having satisfying orgasms than people who reported infrequent cannabis use.

So, what could be the reason for this? Cannabis is a vasodilator, meaning it opens blood vessels and increases blood flow. It directly affects the receptors in the skin and nerve pathways that are involved in perceiving pain. It can also affect functions related to memory, fear and anxiety. These factors could account to why some people experience better sex when using cannabis, but these are just theories.

But on the flip side, if you use too much cannabis, you may be negatively affecting your sexual experiences. In a 2010 study of almost 9,000 Australian adults, those who used cannabis daily were more likely to report reaching an orgasm too slowly, or not at all compared to those who never used it, and in some cases they experienced premature ejaculation. Once again- this is purely a self-reported study, leaving us to shrug our shoulders yet again and say, it’s complicated.

If you find yourself curious to test the waters on your own, here’s what to keep in mind. Cannabis is a psychoactive drug, and its effect on individuals will vary. Dr. Tishler recommends experimenting with cannabis on your own first before experimenting with a partner. If you’re approached by a partner to have sex with cannabis, make sure that you’re comfortable with this, as affirmative consent is always necessary before engaging in any type of sexual activity.