Let’s talk about sex, baby

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Théodore Géricault, "Three Lovers."
Wikimedia Commons

Stanford University survey analysis recently found that people who smoke cannabis regularly have more sex than people who don’t. Twenty percent more to be exact. To get an accurate picture of the drug’s effect on intercourse frequency, assistant professors of urology at Stanford Dr. Michael Eisenberg and Dr. Andrew Sun used data held by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, surveying the lifestyles of more than 50,000 Americans, to analyze cannabis’ association with sexual frequency.

Many in the popular media have been quick to claim the findings as a confirmation of what we’ve known all along — that cannabis is a natural aphrodisiac, heightening senses, curtailing inhibitions and doing what it takes to get you in the mood.

Others disagree and point to contradictory studies that suggest marijuana can act as a depressant and has been found to correlate with increased erectile dysfunction and decreased sperm count in men.

Still others criticize the analysis itself, highlighting the inherent biases in self-reported surveys, reminding that the study is not double-blind and cautioning that correlation is not the same as causation. Needless to say, more research is needed.

Nonetheless, the findings seem to make sense to many out there, like me, who use cannabis, have sex and sometimes do both at the same time. While science takes its time to determine cold-hard truths (like it should), I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t the sort of insight that can be mined from the depths of one’s own personal experience — especially seeing as how having sex and getting high both exist in a privileged relationship with the self.

It’s often said that America, as a generalization, is a prude society. That, especially in comparison to our European counterparts, we have a surprisingly low level of tolerance for lewd behaviors. But I’d argue it’s not that we’re prude, just that we’re hush-hush. I’d bargain most of us swear, watch porn, take drugs and have sex. It’s just that we don’t tend to talk about it much, and when we do, it’s tinged with a bit of shame.

When I was growing up, I was sexually modest, but I talked about sex all the time. In large part, that’s because I was reared by a liberated woman of the ’60s, one who also worked as a women’s health nurse.

It was normal household conversation to talk about bodies and sex. By the time I was a teenager, my brain was lined like my bookshelves with philosophies of eroticism contained in titles like The Joy of Sex and Our Bodies, Ourselves and from authors like Adrienne Rich and Anaïs Nin. Intellectually speaking I was versed in all of it, from anatomy to fetishism, in all its perverse glory. 

Among my teenage friends, my household quickly became known as a safe haven where girls could come with questions, especially when things went wrong — when a tampon got stuck way up inside, when a condom broke or when a sexual encounter just didn’t feel quite right.

The older I got the more grateful I became that I was raised in a home that emphasizes people, specifically women, taking full ownership of their bodies, not just in theory but in practice. Still, I often lament how underground it all had to be and how underground it has remained. But from where I stand today, I do see a cultural loosening. Sex and cannabis both seem to be having a “coming out” moment in popular culture, and that this would happen concurrently does not come as a surprise.

The freeing of cannabis from prohibition is having subtle affects on our society’s culture, sometimes in ways too subtle to recognize and grasp. That’s because the big change is in the little things.

In my experience, cannabis can help with that. It’s not that cannabis makes us have more sex; it’s that it has a way of making us slow down. It opens up swaths of time where before there were only to-do lists. When I am high I find myself looking into the eyes of my lover because somehow that seems like the most important thing to do with my time.

Whether or not cannabis causes people to have more sex or to enjoy it more, we don’t definitively know. But for me, at least, cannabis causes me to think that the erotic parts of my life are just as important as all the rest and that they ought to be just as socially acceptable too.