THE HOT BOX: Stoned Sex is Smokin’ Hot—But Requires an Eye on Consent

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Welcome to THE HOT BOX, the Emerald‘s monthly column where TEDx talker, Ariel Sobel, gets heated about sex, cannabis—and basically anything else that would make your grandma spit up her Ensure Nutrition shake at the table! The winner of the Bluecat Screenplay Competition, Sobel is a grassroots activist against sexual and gender-based violence whose work been highlighted in KTLA, CBS, Yahoo, Univision, and Los Angeles Times.

As of 2019, there are a seemingly countless amount of THC-infused sex products on the market, including cannabis-infused lubes, suppositories—and even pipes that double as dildos. 

The discussion about stoned sex is out in the open. Given the strides of the #MeToo Movement,  so is the one around consent. It’s time the two merged together, just like a smoke and a screw. 

The truth is stoned sex requires a few extra steps to protect yourself and your partner from sexual assault.

  Given the impairing side effects of cannabis, sexual violence experts have debated if one can even give consent while using cannabis. Being under the influence of a substance is frequently linked to sexual violence. According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about half of sexual assault cases involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the victim—or both.

But an edible certainly isn’t a bottle of Jack Daniels. The side effects of someone under the influence of alcohol and cannabis are vastly different; a dude who will throw a punch while drunk will fall asleep while watching 90 Day Fiancé while stoned.

However, according to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington, other than liquor, cannabis is the most common substance reported when drugs are present in sexual assault. Often, survivors recount having consumed both at the time of their assault.

The dilemma lies not so much on whether cannabis or alcohol can make a potential partner into a predator—spoiler alert, it can’t—but they both can make you unable to communicate effectively. In many cases of sexual assault, the determining factor wasn’t if a victim said “no;” It’s if the victim was able to utter the word. 

Like alcohol, cannabis influences your cognitive and motor skills. While your favorite strain has the power to expand or quiet anxious minds, it also can make it harder to communicate what’s going on in them. That’s particularly important to consider when you’re about to have sex.

Sexual assault comes in two forms: forcible and incapacitated. The first is when a predator forces themselves on their victims after they are denied consent. The second is when someone is too inebriated to give or reject consent in the first place. 

Cannabis impairs reaction time, memory and the ability to switch between tasks—making it harder to fight off a forcible attacker.

But that doesn’t mean that those exciting, new THC-infused sex toys are entirely off the table…or the special box you keep under your bed. Cannabis and sexual pleasure can actually go quite well together as it can help ease pain, and increase your ability to be in the moment. It’s also worth noting that survivors of sexual assault often use cannabis to treat their PTSD, and many women are turning to infused products to ease pain and discomfort “down there.” 

Being stoned can make sex easier, but it also requires caution and finesse. After all, studies find that cannabis can enhance orgasms, and make you hornier. If you’re signing up to be impaired throughout intercourse, then you need to monitor you and your partner’s ability to communicate constantly. 

If at any moment one of you is unable to express yourselves during sex, it’s time to stop. 

It doesn’t matter if you both mutually decided that you wanted to do this and slabbed that cool new THC lube onto each other’s junk. Consent can be taken away at any moment. 

Many assaults start out with consensual acts, but then one partner draws a line and the other crosses it. If you or your partner are so stoned that you’re unable to articulate where those lines are located, it’s a recipe for trauma that no amount of edibles can fix. 

How can you avoid this? 

  • When mixing THC and BDSM, take a dose of weed you already know you can handle: If you’re trying cannabis for the first time, sex probably isn’t the first activity to try out. Instead, I highly recommend watching Planet Earth. (Warning: you may sob over the baby elephant who lost his mom.)

Look at the strength of the THC suppository or lube you are taking and see if it compares to other doses of cannabis you have used. Before going down on your partner, it’s also wise to check whether any THC infused topicals being used are edible/consumable. Often they are not edible and may cause a bad or ultra-potent reaction.

  • Opt to smoke or use topicals before sex, rather than edibles: With a THC-infused brownie, you can’t really measure how much you consume or if it’s within your tolerance. The high will also be delayed, which sets you up for becoming significantly more impaired while you’re in the middle of intercourse than when you started, which your partner might not realize.
  • Make sure your weed is just weed: Sexual assaults involving cannabis can often have nothing to do with cannabis itself—it’s about other drugs that are laced in it. Just like date rape drugs are often mixed with alcohol, a predator could use cannabis as cover. Clandestinely drugging sexual partners with hard drugs is a common tactic of predators, particularly against LGBTQ victims who have fought hard to bring down powerful abusers like Ed Buck.

    You might not want to pay for your own weed (who does?) but you can buy portable drug test kits that ensure your strain doesn’t have any unwanted MDMA, cocaine, ketamine, or whatever else is sure to compromise you during sex. They’re pretty quick, and are becoming more and more popular at music festivals. Honestly, doing it will make you unleash your inner Bill Nye.

Before you decide to get stoned and nasty, have a candid conversation with your partner about how cannabis affects you. Establish that you both will check-in to see if each of you are present and able to express yourselves. Make it clear that stopping might be necessary. Just like all other kinds of kinks, with stoned sex, practice makes perfect.

It may be awkward—but if you can’t manage to talk about sex with someone, should you really be having it with them?

Emerald contributor since November 2019

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