Laura Rueda: Sex and cannabis... When do you discover that this combination is perfect and that they are good allies?
Ashley Manta: People have been mixing sex and cannabis for much longer than I've been alive so I wouldn't presume to say I discovered it, but it was after I moved to California from Pennsylvania in 2013 that I realized that there was a lot more to sex and cannabis than just lighting up a joint and jumping into bed. I found out about the myriad of products available including oil-based products that are applied topically and are designed specifically for people with a vulva/vagina to increase pleasure and decrease discomfort.
This was the big game changer for me. I'm a sexual assault survivor and I experienced pain with penetration for a long time, until I started using cannabis-infused oil on my genitals. That was the moment when I realized that these were conversations that needed to take place, preferably led by people (like me) who study sexuality professionally--sex educators and coaches--so that we can make sure information being disseminated is accurate, non-shaming, and pleasure-positive.
L.R: Unfortunately, both are still taboo in many societies... Do you think that our lives would be better if we fully enjoyed something as natural to the human being as sex and something that nature gives us like cannabis?
A.M: Many people are inculcated with shame and fear around their bodies, both sexually and with regards to using things like plant medicine to nurture their bodies and enhance their emotional state. I truly believe that if we could release the shame that we're socialized to have, we would be happier, more authentic beings. Shame thrives in silence, so part of my goal is to start conversations to start to bring these topics into the light.
Not everyone needs to have sex--plenty of folks are asexual or intentionally celibate--but they do need to have the freedom to choose what feels best for themselves. Likewise with cannabis. Not everyone needs to use cannabis, but it's important to know that it's an option and be able to choose it without feeling guilty or ashamed because of "what it means" to be a cannabis user.
L.R: 3. Your work is focused on helping couples with their intimacy... How would you describe your project Cannasexual?
A.M: CannaSexual is very much intended as a philosophy--as a paradigm. The core value is mindfullycombining sex and cannabis, so it's about raising awareness and disseminating information so that people can make the best decisions for their bodies and situations. Anyone can smoke a joint and have sex, they don't need me for that. My goal is to teach people how to do it with intention to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.
L.R: I'm very interested in how cannabis is working as an empowering element for women at the moment. We have examples in every country. If I had to name women in the USA I would list the Valley Sisters, Cheryl Shuman and you, Ashley Manta. What do you think about cannabis as an empowering feminist element?
A.M: I think cannabis is an important social justice issue. In the United States, people of color are disproportionately arrested and jailed for cannabis-related offenses, where white folks, because of their privilege, are targeted at a much lower rate. There are a lot of wealthy white folks, especially men, in the cannabis industry getting richer while people of color sit in jail. There are a lot of really incredible women of color who are paving the way to make the industry less white male dominated and it's important, feminist work. Part of empowerment and feminism are challenging existing power structures and creating opportunities for traditionally marginalized folks. Amplifying voices of people of color is the most feminist thing any of us can do. Organizations like Supernova Women and Asian Americans for Cannabis Education, and the Minority Cannabis Business Association are doing important, powerful work and I hope more people learn about them and support them moving forward. (Read more about them here)
L.R: How do you help women to enhance their health through cannabis and sex?
A.M: When women come to me for coaching, there are several common concerns that tend to show up repeatedly--lack of body confidence, feeling anxiety around sex, pain or discomfort in the body, feeling disconnected from their partner, and/or communication breakdowns. Cannabis can help address all of these concerns in different ways. For someone who has anxiety and can't turn off the brain distractions, certain cannabis products can help quiet the mind and enhance sensations in the body--usually products that have a higher CBD to THC ratio.
For someone who has pain with penetration like I did, a topical applied 25 minutes before sexual stimulation begins can increase comfort and pleasure. If someone is stressed and needs help getting turned on, taking a bath with infused bath salts or getting a massage with infused oil can be relaxing and help them move into a more sexual mental space.
I've also talked to a number of cancer survivors who have found cannabis to be helpful in their journey to rediscover pleasure after treatment--to enhance physical sensations and make them feel connected to their bodies again.
L.R: How would you describe stoner sex?
A.M: Sex when using cannabis doesn't have to mean being high. One can use non-psychoactive methods like CBD-only products or topical products. If they are using psychoactive methods of consumption, like smoking, vaping, edibles, tinctures, etc., the ideal feeling (the feeling that the consumer is trying to attain) is often described as relaxation and euphoria.
L.R: Many women are experiencing something very powerful meeting other women, what is known as as sorority. Is cannasexual a space for sorority between women?
I haven't had CannaSexual-specific sorority type meetings yet, but I have presented CannaSexual workshops at retreats for women, like the Ganja Goddess Getaway. (link) I hope to do more retreats in the future, because I think cannabis can be a powerful bonding tool for people of all genders, but especially for those who identify as women. Having spent three days in March with 100 other women, many of whom I was meeting for the first time, and sharing cannabis and talking honestly and unabashedly about sex and sexuality made it feel like a sisterhood. Knitting circles have existed for centuries. Covens and sacred circles of women working with the earth and various energies have existed for much longer. It seems like cannabis and sex are a natural way for a group of women to relate to one another and share their authentic truths.
*Here's a clip from my workshop at the last Ganja Goddess Getaway in March 2018 in Coachella Valley, California.
L.R: Can cannabis work therapeutically on sex? How?
A.M: Cannabis can be quite therapeutic with regards to sex. It can decrease pain, whether the pain is localized to the genitals or if a person has arthritis or another chronic pain condition that can make intimacy challenging. It can also deepen connection.
In our fast paced, smartphone driven world, sometimes we forget to turn of the electronics and just be present with our partners. I've found that smoking a bit helps me connect more deeply with my boyfriend, leading to more eye gazing and tenderness and affection. It helps me slow down, and I've heard similar reports from many of the folks in my workshops. It can also help bring new erogenous zones online, so partners can break out of the often stale sexual routine in which many find themselves trapped.
L.R: What is it to be cannasexual?
A.M: CannaSexual is an approach to combining sex and cannabis that prioritizes mindfulness, consent, and intention-setting. It's not just about getting high and getting laid, it's about consciously choosing the products and strains that are best for your body and situation. It's certainly not intended to be a sexual orientation, although some folks have adopted it as such. I treat CannaSexual as a philosophy.
L.R: Do you think it's important to get out of the cannabis closet?
A.M: I think if it is safe to do so, yes. It helps normalize cannabis and break down "stoner" stereotypes. On the other hand, there is a lot of privilege in being able to be "out" about cannabis use, because of the systemic racism in the United States criminal justice system. It's often not safe for people of color to publicly acknowledge their cannabis use because they're so much more likely to be punished for it. In that case, it is up to people with privilege (especially white folks) to bear the responsibility of raising awareness about cannabis and fighting the injustices in the system, but it is vital to do so without erasing the experiences and hardships of people of color.