The Sex Therapists Using Pot to Help Patients Find Their 'Full Sexual Potential'
While weed is not a traditional tool in mainstream sex therapy, a handful of California sexologists have begun informally incorporating cannabis into their practices, arguing the drug can help patients relax, feel less inhibited, and achieve orgasm.
Illustration by Lia Kantrowitz
According to thousands of people who swear by stoned sex, marijuana enables more present, embodied, and pleasurable sexual experiences. I've spoken with several people, women especially, who've found that smoking is the only way they can get out of their heads enough to orgasm.
"As someone who can often have a difficult time enjoying sex, discovering high sex in college was huge," says a 26-year-old woman named Rebecca. "It upped my libido and kind of gave me an excuse to be weird."
While weed is not a traditional tool in mainstream sex therapy, both because it's still illegal in most states and because its sexual side effects have not been widely studied, a handful of California sexologists and therapists have begun informally incorporating cannabis into their practices, suggesting their clients try masturbating while high.
Diana Urman, a Bay Area sexologist, recommends weed to clients who are having trouble orgasming or who have never experienced an orgasm, even after decades of sexual activity.
"Now that [weed is] legal in California, my job is easier," Urman says. "Marijuana allows people to be more present in their bodies and more whole. It slows you down."
Urman, who has a PhD in human sexuality, sometimes observes dramatic changes when clients who have experienced difficulty orgasming try masturbating—and eventually having sex with a partner—while stoned.
"My clients can feel a lot of anxiety about not being able to let go or be fully present in their bodies, which creates a disconnect between mind and body," she says. "Weed often improves people's abilities to self-pleasure and, as a result, feel more connected to partners."
The ideal, of course, is to eventually access that connectedness without substances. Seth Prosterman, a certified sex therapist in San Francisco, views weed as a sort of stepping stone.
"While pot can help bring out our most sexy selves, disinhibit us, or relax us during sex, I would highly recommend that people learn to be in the moment and deeply feel and connect with their partners without using enhancing drugs," Prosterman says. "Pot can give us a glimpse of our sexual potential. Working towards our sexual potential, with our partners, is part of developing a higher capacity for intimacy, passion, and deep connection."
While the disinhibiting effects of weed are regularly recognized by sex professionals, marijuana is still not widely recommended as a tool. Sunny Rodgers, a professional sex coach based in Los Angeles, says she's never suggested a client incorporate weed in their sex life, though adds, "I have had people tell me how great sex is when they can be high and ultra-relaxed."
When I ask Rodgers if she knows any professionals who do recommend weed to clients, she responds, "I've asked around and not a single coach or counselor I spoke with has recommended weed." Urman, who regularly recommends weed, finds this to be a systemic problem: "The usefulness of marijuana is not commonly understood among sex therapists."
For people struggling to find joy or pleasure in sex, weed can inject a playfulness that is otherwise hard to access, Urman says. In Gabby Bess's story on the role of weed in relationships, a man says he prefers to be with a partner who smokes and recounts a whimsical weed-fueled sexual experience he had with his girlfriend.
It upped my libido and kind of gave me an excuse to be weird.
"I remember one time she was smoking a joint while I was going down on her, and she said something along the lines of, 'This is how couples should smoke together,'" he says. "I remember blowing smoke on her clitoris while she came. Kinda hot!"
While there aren't many studies exploring the link between marijuana and sexual pleasure, there are a handful in which participants have offered anecdotal evidence. In the 2003 study "Cannabis Effects and Dependency Concerns in Long-Term Frequent Users," 54 percent of the 104 "experienced" marijuana users surveyed said smoking weed had the effect of sexual stimulation. (Ninety-five percent of respondents said it made them feel relaxed, while 86 percent said the drug made them feel comfortable.) Another Canadian study, from 2008, "Understanding the Motivations for Recreational Marijuana Use Among Adult Canadians," nearly half of the 41 adult participants said that marijuana enhanced their sexual experiences, with effects including increased libido, control, and sensitivity. Most recently, a small 2016 study in the Archive of Sexual Behavior comparing sex on weed and sex on booze found that sexual experiences with marijuana resulted in more pleasure (and fewer regrets) than drunk sex.
While Urman has never seen a client's sex life instantly transform after incorporating marijuana, she has observed that weed can be a catalyst on the path to having orgasms, individually or with a partner.
"It's a slow process, especially for someone who hasn't been orgasmic for their whole life. It's not like at some point they were orgasming and then stopped," she says. "But I have found their ability to self-pleasure has dramatically increased while using marijuana."
Rebecca, who had never had difficulties making herself come solo, found that smoking upped her (still pretty low) chances of getting off during sex. But there was always the possibility that weed would make things worse.
"It became kind of a crutch where, for a while, I would have to smoke literally before every time I had sex," she says. "As I got more and more anxious and depressed, it became worse, because if I was in a good place, great, but if I was in a bad place, I would get stuck there. It's very easy to get stuck in your head when high, which is dangerous for sex. You end up just internally freaking out about your relationship or how weird you're being or the fact that your vagina won't get wet. Because [weed] can also give you dry vagina, like dry mouth."
In his practice, Prosterman has found that the weed–sex combo is a bad idea for people who get anxious when they're high—but you probably guessed that.
"Any increase in anxiety will potentially interfere with sexual functioning, so for some people, weed can be an inhibiting factor in sex," he says. As with most sex advice, it's about figuring out what works best for you. "The main thing is to know how weed affects you prior to trying to use it for enhancing a sexual experience."