The other study, which focused on more than 2,500 species of mammals, said males form pairs with females to protect their mates. That situation arose, the study published in the journal Science said, because females lived spread apart from one another, making the risk of leaving a vulnerable female too great.
For researchers tackling the monogamy question, here was the fundamental puzzle: Males, by sticking with one partner, seemed to lose out on the chance to father lots of children; gestation periods, after all, can be long in female mammals. That explains why most mammalian species don’t follow the one-partner rule. But for the roughly 5 percent that do, what caused monogamy to evolve?
Both groups of researchers studied the DNA sequences of animals alive today and traced the evolutionary tree to answer the question. They tracked how species were related and when species branched off.
One long-standing hypothesis — that having a father on hand to help raise and protect the child swayed mammals toward monogamy — was debunked by both groups. A two-parent system is a consequence, not a cause, of staying faithful, they concluded.
“First, you become monogamous, and then you are stuck, so you might as well help raise the child,” said Eduardo Fernandez-Duque, a University of Pennsylvania anthropologist who was not involved in the studies. He called the wealth of new data “very exciting.”
The Science paper said females started living far from one another as they competed for a better diet.
“Females changed their diet to foods of higher quality that were clumped and defended that food more aggressively,” University of Cambridge zoologist Dieter Lukas said. This led to large, exclusive territories, each containing one female, rather than territories that overlapped.
The males had no choice but to follow that distribution. A male mammal could not successfully defend more than one female because of risk of injury or predation, and then he would lose the paternity he had just gained, Lukas said.
However, the researchers found no association between monogamy and infanticide, which the PNAS paper cited as the primary reason monogamy evolved.
That paper looked at 230 species of primates, about a quarter of which are monogamous; the analysis included people, classifying them as monogamous and polygynous, a mating system involving one male with two or more females.
“Infanticide is a real problem, particularly for social species,” said University College London anthropologist Christopher Opie, senior author of the PNAS paper.
Living in an advanced social system requires a large brain to deal with the complexities of relationships, Opie said. The downside of a big brain is slower infant development and longer lactation periods to foster brain growth — meaning more opportunities for a rival male to kill the child and impregnate the female.
This gives males an evolutionary advantage for sticking with the child, to ward off intruding males.
Even though the primary incentive for mammals becoming monogamous differed, “quite a number” of the Science and PNAS papers’ conclusions are “similar,” said Tim Clutton-Brock, senior author of the Science paper and a University of Cambridge zoologist. He called it a “chance phenomenon” that both groups were investigating such a similar topic.
Fernandez-Duque said that how species were classified in each study could possibly explain the differences in the results. The Cambridge report focused more on the social behavior of animals by separating species into three groups: solitary, socially monogamous and group-living.
However, the other group used mating system as its classification, tagging each type of primate as monogamous, polygynous or “promiscuous, meaning multiple males and multiple females,” Opie said.
He said he finds an issue with the Cambridge classification because of its focus on social, rather than mating, habits.
“You can’t have a breeding system that is solitary,” he said. “You can’t do that on your own.”
Also, the Science paper included evolutionary trees from a variety of mammals, including wolves, jackals, beavers, meerkats and primates.
Masturbation is such an under-appreciated form of sexual activity. It has been blamed in urban legends for everything from hairy palms to lack of productivity, and has a reputation of being reserved for those who can’t find anyone else to have sex with them. But that’s just not true. Most people masturbate. It feels good. It carries no risk of pregnancy or disease. It can take as much or as little time as you have. And it’s relaxing. So why have media outlets warned readers that they might be doing it too much or the wrong way?
Recently, in a December 15 article titled “We’ve Got Bad News for People Who Love Masturbating,” Maxim’s Ali Drucker tells readers: “If you or someone you love frequently enjoys doing the five-finger shuffle, there’s a study that suggests they might face negative effects over time.” The article actually points to three pieces of “research” that seem to suggest masturbation isn’t as good as other forms of sexual behavior, that one can become addicted to it, and that the “grip of death” can make men incapable of experiencing pleasure any other way.
Well, RH Reality Check has good news—these conclusions are largely based on junk science and misunderstandings.
The first study Drucker cites, originally published in Biological Psychology,is called, “The post-orgasmic prolactin increase following intercourse is greater than following masturbation and suggests greater satiety.” Prolactin is a hormone that is released by the pituitary gland. Its main function is to stimulate milk production when a woman is lactating, but it also plays a role in the sexual response cycle. According to the study, which was first published about ten years ago, prolactin is released after orgasm as a way to counteract the dopamine released during arousal. Some scientists believe that the more satisfying the experience is, the more prolactin levels will go up afterward.
For this study, Stuart Brody and his colleagues compared data showing prolactin levels after penile-vaginal sex to those after masturbation and found that levels after intercourse were 400 percent higher than after masturbation. They interpreted this to mean that intercourse is more physiologically satisfying than masturbation.
On the surface, this conclusion isn’t surprising. Many people don’t view masturbation as the same as a shared experience with a partner. It doesn’t tend toproduce the same physical or psychological feelings. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun and satisfying way to spend a few minutes (or hours, if you’re ambitious or bored).
When I read the study, I did not interpret it to say that intercourse was better than masturbation, just that our biological reactions to different sexual behaviors were different. I had never read anything by Professor Brody before and reached out to him, assuming that people were overstating his results and that he did not mean to discourage masturbation. I thought, what sex researcher would ever want to discourage masturbation?
However, he replied, “Instead of any fresh quotes, I attach my review paper on the evidence regarding health differences between different sexual behaviors.” He sent me a different article, a literature review in which he says in no uncertain terms that penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) is the best kind of sex and that “sexual medicine, sex education, sex therapy, and sex research should disseminate details of the health benefits of specifically PVI.”
As a sex educator, I can’t imagine telling anyone that penile-vaginal sex is inherently better. For one thing, not everyone is in a couple, and not all couples have a penis and a vagina between them. And even for cisgender heterosexual couples, PVI is only one of countless potentially pleasurable behaviors. Moreover, many women find it less satisfying and less likely to end in orgasm than behaviors that incorporate clitoral stimulation.
But Brody not only thinks it’s the best form of sex—he thinks we sometimes do it wrong. He writes that “PVI might have been modified from its pure form, such as condom use or clitoral masturbation during PVI.”He also explains that Czech women who were vaginally orgasmic were more likely than their peers who didn’t have orgasms through PVI to have been taught during childhood that the vagina is “an important zone for inducing female orgasm,” concluding that “sex education should begin to be honest” about sexual behaviors.
I thought we’d moved on from the idea that we should all be having heterosexual, penile-vaginal sex in its “pure form” (missionary position?) and that women who couldn’t orgasm this way were both bad at sex and shit out of luck.
Colleagues in the field told me that many of them ignore Brody’s studies because he makes wild inferences based on soft science and, as implied by his research, is wedded to the idea that for sex to have the most benefits it needs to include PVI.
Nicole Prause, a researcher who has written critiques of Brody’s work, told me via email that, “His work almost exclusively uses data from other researchers, not his own, meaning the design is never really appropriate for the claim he is actually trying to make.” She went on to say that Brody’s studies on orgasm are often based on self-report, which is notoriously unreliable. Although the study Maxim cites was based on blood tests, “He has never once verified the presence of orgasm using a simple physiological measure designed for that purpose: anal EMG. Many women are thought not to be able to reliably distinguish their orgasm, so his purely self-report research is strongly suspect. If this is his area of focus, he should be studying it better than everyone else,” she concluded.
But Brody’s research on prolactin isn’t the only questionable science that Maxim relies on for its cautionary tale on masturbation. The article goes on to discuss the role of oxytocin and dopamine and points out that there’s less oxytocin released during masturbation. This is probably true—oxytocin is known as a bonding hormone and is triggered by contact with other people, so it’s not surprising that it’s not released when you’re orgasming alone. The Maxim article, however, argues that if thebrain is flooded with dopamine (a neurochemical) during masturbation without the “warm, complacent, satisfied feeling from oxytocin,” you can build up a dopamine tolerance, or even an addiction, and get into “a vicious cycle of more masturbation.”
David Ley, PhD, a clinical psychologist and sexuality expert, explained in an email that many people describe dopamine as the “brain’s cocaine,” but this is an overly simplistic way of looking at it. It doesn’t mean we’re at risk of desensitizing our brain or getting addicted to jerking off. Ley wrote:
It appears that there are many people whose brains demonstrate lower sensitivity to dopamine and other such neurochemicals. These people tend to be “high sensation-seekers” who are jumping out of airplanes, doing extreme sports, or even engaging in lots of sex or lots of kinky sex. These behaviors aren’t caused by a development of tolerance or desensitizing, but in fact, the other way around—these behavior patterns are a symptom of the way these peoples’ brains work, and were made.
OK, dopamine isn’t cocaine and neither is masturbation: We’re not going to get addicted if we do it “too” much.
But, wait, Maxim throws one more warning at us—beware the “death grip.”
Though the article describes this as “the idea that whacking off too much will damage your dick,” the term, which was coined by sex advice columnist Dan Savage, is more about getting too accustomed to one kind of stimulation and being unable to reach orgasm without it. There is some truth to this—if you always get off using the same method, you can train your body to react to that kind of stimulation and it can be harder (though rarely impossible) to react to others. There are two solutions, neither of which involve giving up on masturbation: Retrain your body by taking some time off from that one behavior and trying some others, either by yourself or with a partner, or incorporate that behavior into whatever else you’re doing to orgasm (like clitoral masturbation during intercourse).
In fairness, the Maxim article ends by acknowledging that masturbation can have benefits, but I still think it did its readers a disservice by reviewing any of this pseudoscience in the first place. As Ley said in his email, “This article, targeted towards men (because we masturbate more), is still clearly pushing an assumption that there is a ‘right kind of sex/orgasm’ and that masturbation is just a cheap (and potentially dangerous) substitute …That’s a very sexist, heteronormative, and outdated belief based on a view of sex as procreative only.”
So for a different take on it all: Sure, there might be more prolactin and oxytocin produced during intercourse than masturbation, but that does not mean that masturbation isn’t enjoyable or worthwhile. You won’t become addicted to it, but you might want to mix up how you get to orgasm or just incorporate your preferred stroke into all other sexual activity.
What you shouldn’t do is view the Maxim article—or any of the research it cites—as reasons not to stick your hands down your own pants.
Asking your partner to tie you to the bedpost, telling them to slap you hard in the throes of lovemaking, dressing like a woman if you are a man, admitting a fetish for feet: Just a few years ago, any of these acts could be used against you in family court.
This was the case until 2010, when the American Psychiatric Association announced that it would be changing the diagnostic codes for BDSM, fetishism, and transvestic fetishism (a variant of cross-dressing) in the next edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published in 2013. The new definitions marked a distinction between behavior—for example, playing rough—and actual pathology. Consenting adults were no longer deemed mentally ill for choosing sexual behavior outside the mainstream.
The change was the result of a massive effort from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an advocacy group founded in 1997 “to advance the rights of and advocate for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing, and Polyamory Communities.” At the time, these types of sexual behavior, by virtue of their inclusion in the DSM, were considered markers of mental illness—and, as a result, were heavily stigmatized, often with legal repercussions. In family court, an interest in BDSM was used as justification to remove people’s children from their custody.
“We were seeing the DSM used as a weapon,” says Race Bannon, an NCSF Board Member and the creator of Kink-Aware Professionals, a roster of safe and non-judgmental healthcare professionals for the BDSM and kink community. (The list is now maintained by the NCSF.) “Fifty Shades [of Grey] had not come along,” says Bannon, an early activist in the campaign to change the DSM. “[Kink] was still this dark and secret thing people did.”
Since its first edition was published in 1952, the DSM has often posed a problem for anyone whose sexual preferences fell outside the mainstream. Homosexuality, for example, was considered a mental illness—a “sociopathic personality disturbance”—until the APA changed the language in 1973. More broadly, the DSM section on paraphilias (a blanket term for any kind of unusual sexual interest), then termed “sexual deviations,” attempted to codify all sexual preferences considered harmful to the self or others—a line that, as one can imagine, is tricky in the BDSM community.
The effort to de-classify kink as a psychiatric disorder began in 1980s Los Angeles with Bannon and his then-partner, Guy Baldwin, a therapist who worked mostly with the gay and alternative sexualities communities. Bannon, a self-described “community organizer, activist, writer, and advocate” moved to Los Angeles in 1980 and soon became close with Baldwin through their mutual involvement as open participants in and advocates for the kink community. “I’m fairly confident that I was the first licensed mental-health practitioner anywhere who was out about being a practicing sadomasochist,” Baldwin says.
The pair was spurred to action after the 1987 edition of the DSM-III-R, which introduced the concept of paraphilias, changed the classifications for BDSM and kink from “sexual deviation” to actual disorders defined by two diagnostic criteria. To be considered a mental illness, the first qualification was: ‘‘Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.’’ The second: ‘‘The person has acted on these urges, or is markedly distressed by them.’’
“1987 was a bad shift,” Wright recalls. “Anyone who was [voluntarily] humiliated, beaten, bound, or any other alternate sexual expression was considered mentally ill.”
With the new language, Baldwin says, he quickly realized that laws regarding alternative sexual behavior would continue to be problematic “as long as the psychiatric community defines these behaviors as pathological.”
“I knew there were therapists around the world diagnosing practicing consensual sadomasochists with mental illness,” he says.
At the time that the new DSM was published, Baldwin and Bannon were planning to attend the 1987 march on Washington, D.C., in support of gay rights; after the new criteria came out, they decided to host a panel discussion for mental-health professionals in the State Department auditorium, where they announced the launch of what would come to be known as “The DSM Revision Project.”
“We asked how many people in the room were mental-health professionals,” Baldwin says, and “two-thirds of the people in the room raised their hands. And we said, ‘The way this needs to happen is, licensed mental-health practitioners need to write the DSM committee that reviews the language of the DSM concerned with paraphilias.’”
Around 40 or 50 people left the session with the information needed to write the letters. “We did not know exactly what would result,” Bannon recalls. “We did not think we would see dramatic changes suddenly.”
They didn’t—but the changes they did see were positive. The next edition of the DSM, published in 1994, added that to be considered part of a mental illness, “fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors” must “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”
“This was a definite improvement from the DSM-III-R,” says Wright, who later took over leadership of the DSM Revision Project from Bannon and Baldwin.
“These criteria gave [health professionals] wiggle room to say, ‘They have issues, but it is not about their kink. For the vast majority, it is just the way they have sex,’” Bannon explains. “Rather than saying, ‘Because you are into this method of sexuality, you are sick,’ [they could say], ‘Pathologically, if this impacts your life negatively, then you have a problem.’”
But the new language in the 1994 DSM also allowed for wiggle room of a different kind: The threshold of “significant distress” was often loosely interpreted, with the social stigma of kink, rather than kink itself, causing the negative impact on people’s lives. Workplace discrimination and violence were on the rise, according to a 2008 NCSF survey, and people were still being declared unfit parents as a result of their sexual preferences: Eighty of the 100 people who turned to the NCSF for legal assistance in custody battles from 1997-2010 lost their cases.
A few years after the 1994 DSM was published, Wright decided it was time to fight for another revision. When she founded the organization in 1997, the NCSF’s goal was a change to the APA’s diagnostic codes that separated the behavior (e.g., “he likes to restrict his breathing during sex”) from the diagnosis (e.g., “his desire to restrict his breath means that he must be mentally ill”). The next DSM, the group argued, should split the paraphilias from the paraphilic disorders, so that simply enjoying consensual BDSM would not be considered indicative of an illness.
Their efforts were largely ignored by the APA until early 2009, when Wright attended a panel discussion at New York City’s Philosophy Center on why people practice BDSM. Among the panelists was psychiatrist Richard Krueger, whose expertise included the diagnosis and treatment of paraphilias and sexual disorders.
During the meeting, Wright says, “I brought up the point that the DSM manual caused harm to BDSM people because it perpetuated the stigma that we were mentally ill. [Krueger] heard me and said that was not what they intended with the DSM.” Krueger, it turned out, was on the APA’s paraphilias committee, and following the meeting opened up an email dialogue between Wright and the other committee members, in which Wright provided documentation about the violence and discrimination kinky people experienced. “I credited that to the DSM,” she says. “Courts used it. Therapists used it. And it was being misinterpreted.”
Over the next year, “I sent him information, he gave it to the group, they asked questions, and I responded. It was very productive,” Wright recalls. “We [the NCSF] felt we were heard, we were listened to—and they took [our arguments] into account when they changed the wording” of the DSM in 2010.
Another major factor in the NCSF’s favor was a paper, co-written by sexual-medicine physician Charles Moser and sexologist Peggy J. Kleinplatz and published in 2006 in the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, titled “DSM IV-TR and the Paraphilias: An Argument for Removal.” According to Wright, the paper, which “summed up opinions of mental-health professionals who thought you shouldn’t include sexual activity in the DSM,” played a significant role in the paraphilia committee’s eventual shift in language.
In February 2010 the proposed change was made public—clarifying, Wright says, that “the mental illness [depends on] how it is expressed, not the behavior itself.” The new guidelines drew a clear difference, in other words, between people expressing a healthy range of human sexuality (for example, a couple that likes to experiment, consensually, with whips, chains, and dungeons) and sadists who wish others genuine harm (for example, tying and whipping someone in a basement without their consent).
The DSM-5 was released in May 2013, its contents marking a victory for the NCSF, Bannon, and Baldwin. The final language states: “A paraphilia is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder, and a paraphilia by itself does not necessarily justify or require clinical intervention.”
“Now we are seeing a sharp drop in people having their children removed from their custody,” Wright explains. Since the change, according to the NCSF, less than 10 percent of people who sought the organization’s help in custody cases have had their children removed, and the number of discrimination cases has dropped from more than 600 in 2002 to 500 in 2010 to around 200 over the last year.
“The APA basically came out and said, ‘These people are mentally healthy,’” Wright says. “‘It’s had a direct impact on society.”
People who take Truvada, the once-a-day pill that prevents HIV, are no more at risk for dangerous side effects than those who take an aspirin a day to prevent heart attacks, according to a new study.
Researchers compared Truvada and aspirin by looking at the drugs’ risk profiles in large, published studies. Although the two drugs come with distinct side effects — Truvada most commonly causes dizziness, vomiting, and weight loss, whereas aspirin is most commonly associated with bleeding problems — the frequency of side effects is roughly equivalent.
But the drugs have very different reputations, among both doctors and the general public. Century-old aspirin, when taken as a preventative tool against heart attacks, is viewed as an everyday medication, no big deal. But Truvada, also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP), is a new pill, intertwined with the loaded issues of HIV and sex habits, and mired in uncertainty.
“Everyone’s got aspirin in their medicine cabinet,” Jeffrey Klausner, professor of medicine and public health at the University of California, Los Angeles, and lead author of the study, told BuzzFeed News. “But as a physician I’ve seen people come into the hospital and die from aspirin overdoses — people can be allergic.”
The side effects of each drug are markedly different, Klausner noted, and affect different organs. But after crunching the numbers, he said, “it really looked like I could say Truvada compared favorably, in terms of its safety profile, to aspirin.”
An estimated 52% of American adults aged 45 to 75 are prescribed a daily aspirin to prevent cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases, including heart attacks and cancer.
Truvada, which was approved by the FDA in 2012, has been shown to have roughly 92% efficacy in preventing transmission of HIV. The CDC estimates that about 1.2 million Americans are at high enough risk for contracting HIV that they should be prescribed the drug. But only about 21,000 currently get it.
According to Klausner, who trains doctors around the country on how to treat and prevent HIV, much of this has to do with ambivalence about prescribing otherwise healthy individuals a daily pill.
“A lot of the concerns I hear from providers are about safety,” Klausner said. “There have been continued voices saying, ‘Wouldn’t it just be better if people used condoms, or reduced their number of partners?’ Those are important strategies, but they don’t work for everyone.”
The issue of doctor awareness about PrEP is one of the biggest barriers to its wider use.
The new study “is an interesting thought experiment,” Dawn Smith of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, told BuzzFeed News. But, she added, “I’m not sure it addresses the safety concerns that some clinicians have.”
Smith noted a CDC study showing that in 2015, about one-third of primary care doctors and nurses had never heard of Truvada. Beyond the lack of awareness, she said, doctors don’t want to cause any side effects, no matter how minor, in otherwise healthy patients.
In his analysis, Klausner looked at the “NNH” — or “number needed to harm” — meaning the number of people who take the drug before one person experiences a harmful side effect. The NNH for Truvada in gay men or transgender women was 114 for nausea and 96 for unintentional weight loss. In women, side effects appeared more frequently, with 1 in 56 women experiencing nausea, 1 in 41 vomiting, and 1 in 36 mildly elevated liver enzymes.
Rarer adverse events for Truvada include kidney problems and a small decrease in bone mineral density, but Klausner notes that both of those effects have been shown to be reversible once the medication is discontinued.
In contrast, aspirin had an NNH of 15 for bleeding problems and 20 for easy bruising. Rarer problems included ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems.
Because it’s so much older, aspirin has been tested in many more people with many more years of follow-up, Klausner noted. Because Truvada is a relatively new drug, it will take awhile to accrue the data needed to make its long-term safety bulletproof.
In the meantime, however, Klausner hopes more doctors will educate themselves about the HIV prevention drug. And after that, he said, “we should work to make it the same price as aspirin.”
Sensual cannabis oil magnifies sensitivity and sensation.
People are freaking out over weed lube. Rightly so, I guess, because it’s apparently magical. But while weed lube is lubricating, it isn’t lube, per se. As in, its main use is not to facilitate intercourse.
Lena Davidson, the marketing manager for botanicaSEATTLE—the company behind BOND Sensual Oil—told me that what most people would call weed lube is really more of a massage oil. Like other cannabis topicals and unlike a traditional lube, it takes 20 to 40 minutes to work and is a self-contained experience that can be enhanced by sex. Being oil-based, it is also not latex safe. People call it weed lube, she says, because we’re basically all teenage boys and we can’t talk about weed or sex without snickering.
As much fun as it is to giggle about getting one’s “pussy stoned” (as Vice did), weed lube is serious business. Sensual cannabis oil, as it is more accurately called, has all sorts of awesome ramifications for sexual equity. Davidson pointed out that while there are more than 26 products approved by the FDA to treat sexual dysfunction in men, there is only one approved for women, and it is the subject of much controversy. Sensual cannabis oil is a long way off from FDA approval, but judging from testimonials thus far, it seems to be doing consistently what that one drug does inconsistently: increasing female sexual pleasure. Women who have used BOND reported “ethereal, long-lasting, and out of this world” sexual experiences, and the ability to rapidly “peak… and then do it again quite quickly,” according to testimonials on BOND’s website. Multiple orgasms are apparently common.
How does it work? Davidson writes: “THC is absorbed through the mucous membranes that are in high concentrations in a woman’s vagina. Once applied and absorbed, THC acts locally on the cannabinoid receptors, much like an edible. Functionally, the THC dilates the capillaries and increases blood flow in the smallest blood vessels in our body—this enhanced microcirculation magnifies sensitivity and sensation.” (She also mentioned that this same capillary reaction is what causes stoney red eyes.) The experience is not like the head high one gets from smoking or eating weed, but rather a localized sensation of pleasure, users report.
It’s also important to note that, at least here in Washington, sensual cannabis oil is safe. Davidson cautioned that not all weed lube is created equal, but BOND and Ethos Extracts‘ Temptress are made in a WSDA-approved kitchen with food-grade organic coconut oil and ultra-pure cannabis extracts. Coconut oil, though unfriendly to latex, is ideal for internal use because of its natural pH-balancing and antimicrobial qualities.
While the potential to help women with issues such as vaginismus (vaginal pain) and low libido is great in its own right, perhaps the most exciting thing about sensual cannabis oil is that it is a decidedly non-heteronormative phenomenon. What I mean by that is it takes the focus off of the penis as the center of sexual pleasure, where it has been for far too long.
My good friend Kat, a big proponent of sensual cannabis oil and the source of much of my education on feminism, put it thusly: “It’s unfortunately common during heteronormative sex that women feel like their partner’s ejaculative experience is the focal point. I’m usually acutely aware of the other person’s level of satisfaction, which takes me away from my own body. With the weed lube, I’m like, ‘Fuck yeah, I’m getting it and it feels fucking amazing.’ I’m actually relaxed and stimulated enough to invest in my own delectation.”
And though much has been made of sensual cannabis oil not working for men, that’s not entirely true. It doesn’t work well for selfish straight men who are only interested in receiving blowjobs and having vaginal intercourse (because the penis does not absorb the cannabis oil in the same way that the vagina does). It does, however, work really well for men (and women) who are into anal play, as the absorption of THC through the back door is rapid. Used anally, sensual cannabis oil does not offer the same direct enhancement of physical sensation as it does to the vagina, but it does get you high as fuck, which enhances sex in its own right. Also, anyone willing to perform a little enthusiastic cunnilingus—as any self-respecting straight dude should be—will get a light edible-style buzz. Basically, anything that has not traditionally been part of the penis-obsessed, heteronormative sexual canon is made better with sensual cannabis oil. If that isn’t sweet sexual justice, I don’t know what is.
Speaking of sexual justice, sensual cannabis oil also works well for older women—another segment of the population whose sexual lives are often not valued in the heteronormative conversation. Women’s bodies produce less lubrication during and after menopause, and older women can also suffer from decreased libido and other sexual difficulties—problems that sensual cannabis oil can help with. Edward Lafferty, Ethos’s CEO, said that women older than 45 and gay men make up the bulk of his business for the Temptress oil. During product testing of BOND, “nearly every woman had a ‘Eureka!’ moment,” said Davidson. And “for women who had felt estranged from their innate sexuality by age or physical conditions, it instigated a wave of natural physiological desire.”
Davidson worries that those who might benefit most from sensual cannabis oil will not do so because of the continued cultural awkwardness around weed, sex, and weedy sex. She pointed out that women are statistically less likely to try cannabis products in general, let alone walk into a weed store and ask a scruffy dude about something as personal as their sexual health. What’s more, sensual cannabis oil is still perceived as a sex-shop novelty—something for young party people to rub on one another after the rave, not something that can help women have more sexually fulfilling lives.
But, as Lafferty put it, “The people who use it need it. It’s important. We can be squeamish, but it works.” So let’s get one thing straight: Weed lube isn’t lube, and it’s also not a novelty. According to many of those who’ve tried it, it’s a godsend.