"The skin becomes an object of affection," Evan*, a man in his 30s, said.
"I felt like one with my partner," Sharon said.
"I definitely felt heightened sensations," Athena told Elephant Journal.
No, it isn't a new innovative sex toy or a newly released porn all three were watching — they're talking about having sex while high. As smoking weed becomes an ever-present and accepted force in our culture, we're hearing more and more about how weed and sex can work in tandem. And we're getting smarter about how we can leverage it.
It's not just the toke-happy couples singing the praises of the green. Now, experts, doctors and entrepreneurs are actively innovating to harness the power of weed to improve our sex lives, as the opportunity to reimagine sex lives has never climbed higher.
The science of high play: We haven't always really understood how marijuana interacts with our sex lives (although history shows ancient peoples in India engaged in tantric cannabis use). But the science is picking up as weed becomes increasingly commonplace. The game-changing research came in the 1980s, when researchers Ronald Weller and James Halikas released landmark studies with a notable finding: More than two-thirds of their participants reported increased sexual pleasure and satisfaction from using weed. About half of study participants also said they felt an increased desire for a familiar partner.
They concluded that marijuana had an aphrodisiac-like effect, because it loosens inhibitions, enhances sensate focus, slows the perception of time and creates a relaxed state. How does it work? "Cannabis contains chemical compounds called cannabinoids, the most active and famous being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)," according to osteopathic physician Dustin Sulak, speaking with Fusion. We have cannabinoid receptors all over our bodies, including the glands that control reproduction and our sex hormones.
Knowing how those cannabinoid receptors work means experts and entrepreneurs alike can actively harness weed to improve our sex lives. Among these weed trailblazers, so to speak? Sex therapists.
Just what the doctor prescribed: Sex researchers don't all agree on marijuana's benefits, and some cite drawbacks. But sexologist Nick Karras regularly recommends marijuana as a treatment for couples experiencing sexual dysfunction, and he's begun researching the impact of weed on sex with his assistant Kami Lennox.
"Being a sexologist and an intimacy coach, I am asking myself how do I get couples to reconnect," Karras told Mic. "Most of the books will tell you to drink a little alcohol... But what I've noticed with pot is that it does all the things like giving you sensate focus and heightened touch, but it's also doing something to your brain. It's allowing you to slow down. It's playing with time, it's oxygenating your body."
"MJ makes observable changes in my body — my clit is larger than most when unaroused and becomes engorged, perhaps doubling in size. I can usually feel a slight buzz in my head first, then a tingling in my nipples and breasts, maybe down to my toes, and finally in my genitals," said a female patient, according to testimonials that Karras shared with permission.
It can also aid in a couple's actual interactions. "The conversational and tactile ease that mutual use of marijuana brings out most often relaxes the couple, making the woman more receptive and as a result the man more encouraged," an older research subject said, according to a testimonial Karras shared.
That lack of self-consciousness is key to engaging meaningfully in sex. "For me, it's not about blood flow or hardness or anything. It's really a heightened awareness and arousal, more about mental state than physical touch," Evan said.
A whole new world of products: Our growing knowledge of weed's effect on sex is also coming into play with for products. The world of marijuana-enhanced sex toys and personal products is still young, but Mathew Gerson, the founder of Foria, the first-ever personal lubricant made from liquid coconut oil that contains THC and other cannabinoids, thought that the ancient plant could have a key role in the modern bedroom, especially for women.
When used as a lube, Foria is absorbed by the membrane of the vagina to provide a topical (not psychoactive) high for feelings of tingling, sensitivity and warmth. "I tried this product with a large dose of skepticism at first, but oh my god, I haven't had orgasms this intense for decades," Joan Price, a Foria customer, reported in a testimonal, shared with Mic.
Foria has even received testimonies from several women with vaginismus and endometriosis, plus one woman recovering from breast cancer, whose sex lives have turned around after incorporating Foria, according to Brittany Confer, director of marketing. After selling more than 10,000 units online in the California market, and expanding to Colorado in January, the entrepreneurs aim to expand to Oregon, Washington, Arizona and beyond.
"We're working on an anal lube," Confer told Mic, hoping to provide a product for the gay community. "Foria as it exists now, vaginally, does not give you a psychoactive high. The anal lube will. Out of the three holes — your mouth, vagina and anus — you actually absorb the most from the backdoor."
Finding the best strains for sex: Another sexual innovation? Nailing down which are the best strains for sex. Because strain is such an important component of marijuana usage during sex, Leafly — a kind of Yelp of weed — provides guides to which strains are the most arousing and energizing.
As for Karras, the therapist, he recommends certain strains to couples, including Asian Fantasy or Lavender Trainwreck, which give the smoker a sense of euphoria without that "couch lock."
"We're working on a line of vape pen cartridges called Surrender, for couples to make love," Karras said. "A strain that really works well for sex."
Pervading the latest in weed and sex innovations — from vaginal lubricants to the Tinder-like High There app — is how weed can aid many couples through the common pitfalls we all experience in bed: the awkwardness, the stilted conversation, the feelings of anxiety.
"We want to remind the world that pleasure is an important part of health," Confer said. "If you run every day and eat healthy, but you're not experiencing any pleasure, you're missing a component. That will affect your everyday life." Luckily, weed is here to bring that pleasure back to all those willing to take a puff.
* Name has been changed to allow subject to speak freely on private matters.