Science of Sex: Marijuana and Sexual Activity

November 30th, 2017

Welcome to the sixth installment in a new feature on Of Sex and Love: Science of Sex. In this feature, I plan to discuss the science of sexuality in an easy-to-digest format that’s accessible to the casual reader. I will also follow up with some extended reading material for people who want to know more about the subject of each post.

I try to update Science of Sex every second Saturday of the month, so check back soon.  This month’s incredibly late Science of Sex post is a departure from previous posts, but it’s one that I hope you will enjoy.

science of sex marijuana

A few studies have compared how substances affect sex drive, performance, and satisfaction. The two most commonly researched substances are alcohol and marijuana, with studies on the latter becoming more common as marijuana continues to be legalized. These studies piqued my interest!

Thus far, studies on cannabis use and sex point to some similarities to alcohol: people generally feel more relaxed and attractive when they mix either substance with sex.

Many people report being more aroused when drunk or stoned, but there’s a surprising difference between men: 50% of women reported being more aroused after smoking pot compared to 39% of men. The reasons may not bee entirely due to a chemical difference, however. Researchers suggested that women were more likely to need a reason to allow themselves to have sex, and marijuana changes the “path” to sex with which women are more concerned than men.

Cannabis use can decrease a man’s plasma testosterone (women see an opposite effect, which might account for the greater increase in desire) with greater effects on more heavy smokers. This is especially true on days after intense use. Thus, marijuana can both increase and decrease desire in men. Sperm counts also drop in these men to below 30 million per ml, which could be an obstacle for people who are trying to conceive.

Regardless of those differences, both men and women who smoke pot are likely to have more sex than those who don’t — about 20% more sex. No conclusions have been drawn, but the combination of increased arousal and decreased inhibition probably helps.

Smoking more marijuana doesn’t necessarily lead to even more desire, however. One joint seems to be the sweet spot. Doubling that still increases desire but only by half as much.

Discover how the dual-control model of sexual desire affects arousal, too.

Interestingly enough, both alcohol and marijuana affect how people choose sexual partners, but someone is more likely to sleep with a friend when stoned and a stranger while drunk. Regrets are increased after drunken sex more than stoned sex, too. Marijuana does lead to increased risky behaviors, such as not using condoms with established partners.

Most people are familiar with the phenomenon known as “whiskey dick,” which occurs when a man who has imbibed alcohol cannot become erect. Some men experience difficulty with erection while high, but not nearly as many.

The influence of marijuana on orgasm is varied:

  • Some people experience more orgasms
  • Some have more intense orgasms
  • Some have fewer orgasms or difficulty orgasming

The mind that marijuana puts someone in can prove too much of a distraction and may come with paranoia or other negative side effects that do not bode well for sex.

The type of sex that people have after smoking tends to be softer and gentler while people who drink have more aggressive sex. The sex is also likely to be slower, and many men report lasting longer after smoking, likely due to the endocannabinoid system.

At least one study finds an increased likelihood of sex during menstruation when marijuana is involved. Mixing cannabis and pregnancy may have unwanted effects. Research suggests that marijuana both reduces conception and successful pregnancies.

Pot might be a moon for desire more often than not, but there are definitely times when you should abstain, and users should beware the increased potential for risky behaviors.

Further Reading

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Science of Sex: Dual Control Model

August 13th, 2017

Welcome to the fifth installment in a new feature on Of Sex and Love: Science of Sex. In this feature, I plan to discuss the science of sexuality in an easy-to-digest format that’s accessible to the casual reader. I will also follow up with some extended reading material for people who want to know more about the subject of each post.

Enjoy!

dual control model of sexual desire

I’ve been interested in the dual control model since I first read about it in Emily Nagoski’s book Come As You Are, which I highly recommend but apparently never got around to reviewing. The dual control model was first proposed by Bancroft and Janssen in the early 2000s. This theory is relatively new, but it’s become accepted because it explains desire for many people.

The dual control model explains why desire is more complicated than we’ve been led to believe. It’s not just about what turns us on (our Sexual Excitation System (SES)). Turn offs (Sexual Inhibition System (SIS)) are also as important, and things that arouse you and detract from your desire happen at the same time. Whether you want to have sex is the result of this equation.

SESes (accelerators) can include being attracted to someone, sexy books, music or movies, someone who smells good and, in a few people, stress. SISes that put the kibosh on your arousal might be needing to shower or brush teeth (or needing the same from your partner), having kids or roommates home in the house, dissatisfaction with a relationship, being self-conscious about your body, or any kind of stress. Mood can be a brake, and women are more sensitive to mood when it comes to desire.

The original surveys were given to men and focused on issues with erectile dysfunction. Bancroft and Janssen divided inhibitors into type types for men: SIS1 refers to performance anxiety while SIS2 is inhibition due to possible consequences of sex. Since then, a survey with modified questions has been given to women.  Results indicated that feelings about relationships are especially important to a woman’s desire.

Nagoski’s book is geared toward women, and the dual control model is especially helpful for women who can’t figure out why they don’t want sex more — or even if that means something is wrong with them (hint: there’s not). The dual control model specifically explains why pressing down the gas pedal isn’t enough for many people to want more sex. They must let up on the brakes (inhibitors/turn offs).

I found this explanation especially intriguing because it affects everyone. Dr. Nagoski does discuss this in Come As You Are, mentioning that men tend to have more sensitive accelerators and less sensitive breaks than women. The things that want to make them have sex are many and powerful while the things that make them hesitate are fewer and weaker.

I was eager to apply the dual control model to myself. As best as I can tell, I have more sensitive accelerators than many women but more sensitive brakes than most men. I think many people will benefit from analyzing their desire though the filter of the dual control model.

Interestingly, bisexual women tend to have higher levels of desire than straight women according to the dual control model. I’d like to see how different demographics stack up to straight men and women.

Further Reading

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Science of Sex: Conditioning

March 11th, 2017

Welcome to the first post in a new feature on Of Sex and Love: Science of Sex. In this feature, I plan to discuss the science of sexuality in an easy-to-digest format that’s accessible to the casual reader. I will also follow up with some extended reading material for people who want to know more about the subject of each post.

I hope you enjoy. 

Science of Sex -- Conditioning

We all learned about Pavlov, his dogs and classical conditioning in school. By associating a neutral stimulus (the ringing of a bell) with a desired reward (food), Pavlov was eventually able to condition dogs to salivate at only the sound of the bell, even when there was no food in sight.

Much like food conditioning, sexual conditioning exists. However, many people first stumble across their capacity for conditioning quite by accident. Whether you masturbate to hardcore porn during your formative years and become unable to get off any other way or you realize that you’re physically turned on at the sight of a bright red lipstick that your partner wears specifically for sex, you’ve been conditioned.

Human’s aren’t the only animals capable of sexual conditioning. In fact, humans may be less prone to this type of conditioning than other animals. People who higher sex drives who more easily respond to sexual stimuli are the most likely candidates to become sexually conditioned, whether by accident or design. Most studies focus on men, who may be more likely to become sexually conditioned; however, women can experience it, too.

Upon discovering sexual conditioning, some people like to experiment it. BDSM practitioners sometimes employ sexual condition as it’s especially helpful to force someone to orgasm on command. You can certainly play around with sexual conditioning without being kinky, however.

Attempting to sexually condition someone without their knowledge may cross fall into consensual gray area. And classical conditioning has been used for nefarious purposes: specifically to change a person’s sexual orientation. The process, known as conversion therapy, attempts to change a person’s orientation with stimuli such as electricity or nausea drugs. No reputable studies show that this type of conditioning is successful, and one proponent of conversation therapy who wrote a controversial paper about it has since changed his stance and offered an apology to the gay community.

Finally, PTSD because of past trauma can lead to conditioned behavior in otherwise neutral environments because of fear conditioning. This is one reason why it can be difficult for survivors of assault to engage intimate behavior after the assault.

Fortunately, negative conditioning and fear conditioning may be reversed through a process known as counter-conditioning.

Although classic conditioning used for sexual purposes is possible and can be fun, we must address the ethical implications as well as the limitations of sexual conditioning.

Further reading on conditioning and sexuality:

Did you enjoy the first installing of Science of Sex? Do you have further questions or suggestions for next month’s subject? Leave me a comment!

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Heartbreak is Hell on the Sex Drive

December 2nd, 2014

Whenever one of my sexual relationships ends, I go through an awkward stage of adjustment. When I am sexually active with one person, I tend to include them in my fantasies when when I’m by myself. My masturbation sessions focus around that one person, a real live person. I recall things we’ve done or conversation we’ve had, and I think about the things we have yet to do.Obviously, this became the case with the bartender.

Now that we’re no longer having sex, I’ve rarely masturbated. I don’t want to fantasize about him because it will segue into those heartbroken thoughts, and I’m not sure what do to. I’m not good with vague erotic thoughts. I need something more specific to consider. Without that something — or someone — specific, I become too focused on the mechanics, which is a terrible way to orgasm.

I get off most easily when I distracted myself from what a hand or toy is doing and focus on what’s going on in my head. It’s when I’m really swept up that I seem to have the best orgasms, and this is complete with all sorts of sounds and movements that are well beyond my control or controlled in such a way to add to the moment.

I’m working on getting over this, however. In multiple ways. As time passes, I’ll be less upset and heartbroken. In the meantime, I shouldn’t have to suffer without release, should I? To this end, I’ve been focusing on ideas outside of myself: erotica anthologies, plenty of visits to Tumblr, random flirting with strangers and the occasional visit to sites like SpicyWebcams.

It’ll take time, of course. Sometimes auto-drive kicks in and I find myself thinking about the bartender or even moaning his name. When I realize this, I am momentarily confused. Do I go with it because it feels good or catch myself and stop, which will usually take me out of the moment?

I was discussing this with Juliettia because it’s something of an identity crisis, for me to not be sexual in any way. It’s bad enough that I can’t have sex with the person I love, but it’s worse that it’s affecting my desire to masturbate. I feel as though I’ve lost part of who I am, and that only adds to the sea of emotions in which I’m struggling to stay afloat. It’s good to have a place where I can express that, too. Obviously sex is one of the more important aspects of my life and relationships.

Things are looking up, however, thanks in part to two items I have to review: the Ora 2 and The Big Book of Submission! After nearly two weeks without an orgasm, I quickly caught up with some multiple-orgasm sessions.

I’m not entirely sure if other people have experienced this, and I know I don’t always feel this way. But when I am losing someone I want, I also lose part of myself.

3 Comments


Sex With My Love

August 20th, 2009

My husband is home and, of course, that mean sex. Unfortunately, it’s not as much sex as either of us would like but, on the other hand, I’m really glad I still want lots of sex after having it. Before he was deployed, I just thought too much about sex without actually doing it. I would think about the effort and the messes and I would actually ignore my body’s physical response to his touch because of the nagging thoughts. It was a miserable mindset and while I haven’t relished the fact that we have been apart for most of this year, I’m glad of the motivation it has provided.

When I think about sex, talk about sex, or blog about sex I tend to do it in a rather objective way. There’s definitely emotional disconnect even if I’m talking about my sex life. It’s not entirely unusual for me to get lost listening to my inner voice talk about the mechanics of sex and totally not be into it and.. that frequently leads me to think that I don’t really like sex and then I don’t want to have it but it’s not true. My inner voice really just needs to STFU sometimes and, right now, it’s pretty much drowned out by the rest of my body’s sexual needs. I touched on this on the EdenFantasys forums and, sadly, I don’t have much of a “cure” for this, at least not something that can be used on a frequent basis.

Anyway, this all sort of leads me to think that sex is very separate from emotion for me and that’s just not true. And I’m glad it’s not true. Maybe it can be and I’d be lying if I said a large part of my sex life doesn’t revolve simply around attraction and physicality but that’s not all of it. And maybe it’s not even the important part of it and maybe I’m just too wrapped up in my head to realize but, obviously, it’s nearly impossible to not have super emotional sex after your husband returns from deployment.

It’s good to feel that connected even if it feels awkward to cry during sex. It’s good to hold eachother that tight. It’s good to feel when you spend so much time not feeling. Sometimes I have such a hard time reconciling my thoughts with my feelings and all the feelings come pouring out so strongly that I just can’t think. Can’t. Despite the fact that so much of me thrives on control, I really do appreciate those moments and desire more of them when it comes to my relationship and sex.

In spite of the situation that has led to it, I’m grateful to be reminded that I like sex, I want it and having it is an emotionally charged experience. It’s shocking how easily that can be forgotten.

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The Gears are Grinding

September 18th, 2008

I’m writing articles and reviews in the back of my mind. In the mean time, I thought I’d share with you a cycle I notice that I’m in. It seems that the less I have sex, the less I think about it and the less I want to have it. The also seems to be true; the more I have sex, the more I want it and the more I think about it.

It’s sort of a curious trend but  not without it’s logic. The less time I spend having sex, the less time I think about having sex and the further away from the idea of sex I grow. The less time I think about sex, the more I spend thinking about other things and the more I concentrate on other subjects, the more subjects arise to keep my attention. As my mind distances itself from the subject, my body does, too which is a fair assessment when you consider that female arousal and sexuality is mostly mentally based.

On the other hand, the more time I spend having sex, the closer my mind is to the issue and it will be more easily aroused to continue having sex. The effect my mind has on my body is obvious. I’m aroused more easily and quicker to accept sex. When sex takes up a larger part of my mind, other subjects are forced out and I think of it even more.

The one thing I find interesting is that these trends don’t necessarily have a correlation with masturbation quantities although quality might be something different. If I am not having sex, I might be more likely to masturbate but if I’m not thinking about sex at all, I may be less likely to engage in self stimulation. The same lack of trend is apparent when I am having sex. An increase in sex may mean an increase in general arousal and thus more masturbation or it may mean that I’m being satisfied more and thus masturbate less.

I think the difference here is in purpose of masturbation. Generally, it’s just done to get off; it’s a mechanical motion rather than a passionate or emotional one. While self gratifying, it isn’t necessarily satisfying and I usually see it more as work than play time. Of course, this changes when I have more time and space and can make it more of an experience, I will go above and beyond the call of duty but this is not all the time.

It’s interesting to see how these trends and even the lack of trends about masturbation are so heavily connected to my mind. Of course, considering how deeply rooted in mentality female sexuality and orgasm is (which is another topic for another time), I shouldn’t be surprised.

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