If you’ve ever “mindfully and deliberately combined sex and cannabis to deepen intimacy and enhance pleasure,” you might be a “Cannasexual.”
Ashley Manta is an experienced sex educator who has helped people improve their relationships with sex and themselves for nearly a decade. She trademarked the term Cannasexual after moving to weed-friendly California, where she recognized the potential for cannabis to improve the quality of people’s sexual experiences, and soothe anxieties that inhibit intimacy.
“I realized that there were not a lot of sex educators talking about how to combine sex and cannabis,” Manta told HuffPost. “But I thought it could be a really interesting niche, especially from my perspective being a sexual assault survivor and using it to manage pain during penetration and PTSD symptoms, which no one was talking about.”
Manta grew up in a small, conservative Pennsylvania town. She began her career as a sexual violence prevention educator while in college, and later became a certified rape crisis counselor and victim advocate.
“All of that work was really powerful and helpful, and really helped me understand the things that humans struggle with,” she said. “But because it’s just such high burnout work, I decided to pivot to areas more pleasure-focused, like enthusiastic consent, body confidence, and breaking stigma around” sexually-transmitted infections.
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She began offering “CannaSexual” workshops, through her business of the same name, in late 2014. During small group sessions, she empowers both novices and knowledgeable clients to use cannabis to reconnect with their own bodies, as well as their partners’.
California legalized sales of recreational cannabis earlier this year, propelling an emerging industry of increasingly sophisticated and user-friendly products. For Manta and her clients, the world of Cannasexuality has never been more exciting.
Here, Manta chats with HuffPost about becoming a Cannasexual, what topical THC does to a vulva, and how cannabis has helped clients overcome anxieties and trauma associated with sex.
Her comments contain descriptions of physical and psychological therapies attributed to the use of cannabis. As with any medical situation, if you have questions about how a therapy might apply to a particular condition, consult a physician or other practitioner for more information.
What do you do, and what path did you take to get there?
I’m a sexuality educator and sex and relationship coach, and the creator of CannaSexual. “Cannasexual” is a word I made up and then trademarked. It means, anyone who mindfully and deliberately combines sex and cannabis to deepen intimacy and enhance pleasure. And that’s in both solo and partner situations.
I actually started out in sex education as a sexual violence prevention educator back in college and graduate school. I am a sexual assault survivor, and part of my path to healing was understanding trauma and trying to prevent what happened to me from happening to other people. I got certified as a rape crisis counselor. I worked as a victim advocate, I did education in high school and colleges.
Can you break down how various means of cannabis consumption can enhance your sex life in different ways?
For me, cannabis is about addressing things that get in the way of embodiment, pleasure, and connection. Different products do different things. If you have pain with penetration, or just pain generally, topicals can be really helpful ― either on your genitals or anywhere it hurts. Using high-potency products can help with chronic pain. I have clients who find it’s really helpful to use cannabis instead of opiates, because for people with penises, opiates can keep you from ejaculating. And generally, they can disconnect you from your body, while, cannabis, I find, when used intentionally, can really help you connect with your body. That’s the pain and physical symptoms area.
Using cannabis can really help you kind of get out of your head and into your body.
There’s also just anxiety and self-consciousness sometimes. So many people that I work with say that they have the internal monologue of not being enough, in a variety of areas: I’m not pretty enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not fit enough, my equipment isn’t endowed enough or attractive enough. I can’t have orgasms, so I’m broken. All of the different things we tell ourselves about our bodies.
Using cannabis can really help you kind of get out of your head and into your body so that you can be present with your partner, as opposed to doing the spiral of all the things that are wrong with you.
Do mostly novices attend your workshops, or mostly people knowledgeable about the plant and using it? Are people surprised to learn about all the different ways they can incorporate cannabis into their sex life?
I would say it’s mostly novices. I get some industry folks that are fascinated by the sex piece, so they come for that. A lot of people are just really curious about the cannabis industry, which has arguably exploded over the past few years. So they’re like, this isn’t the dirt weed I was smoking in high school. This isn’t just smoking a joint. How do I do this? It’s really cool to be able to blow people’s minds with knowledge.
What are some of the most common questions that you get?
The most common question is, “What’s the best strain for sex?” Which, even though I never answer it, I like that people are asking it. It means that people are trying to have sex with cannabis. But the problem with that question is that it depends. There are multiple variables that would go into that answer, such as: How do you want to feel? How do you feel right now? What are your time constraints?
I can’t give you a strain recommendations because the Blue Dream that you get from your dispensary down the street is going to be different from what you get in LA or the one you get in San Francisco. I really encourage people to look at test results, and look at cannabinoid and terpene profiles. For sex, you don’t need more than 15 percent THC. Otherwise you do risk getting too high.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from aspiring Cannasexuals who’ve attended workshops?
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. People are talking about connecting with their partner in new and exciting ways, and really revitalizing the passion in a relationship. A lot of folks, especially with pain or who struggle with experiencing full body pleasure during sex, have said that cannabis has been a game changer for them. Especially if they’re using it in a really deliberate way ― not just smoking a joint and having sex, but really figuring out what they want, creating a ritual around it, really making it sacred and intentional and awesome.
Do you find that often times you are educating people about cannabis just as much as educating them about sex?
People absolutely come with questions about cannabis as well. People have only recently become aware that there’s more to smoking cannabis than smoking a doobie and getting stoned in somebody’s basement. I get to bring the nuance of cannabis to really choosing what works for you and which methods of consumption, which are really quite sophisticated at this point.
A lot of folks, especially with pain or who struggle with experiencing full body pleasure during sex, have said that cannabis has been a game changer for them.
How did you educate yourself?
I got real nerdy early on. I started working with a company [Phoria] that makes cannabis-infused oils for genitals. I was like, people are putting weed on their what?! I thought, I don’t know a whole lot about this plant. I need to learn more about this … It was a lot of self-study and interviewing and connecting with colleagues in both the sexuality industry and the cannabis industry.
So what does cannabis oil do when applied topically?
A topical absorbs into the tissue and the nerves in the vulva. So you would apply to the clit, the inner labia, the vagina opening. THC, assuming the topical contains THC, is a vasodilator. If you think about someone with a penis who takes Viagra, that’s also a vasodilator. It’s going to bring more blood flow to the area, and it expands blood vessels, so more blood can come in and create erections in penis owners.
What you’re doing with a topical with THC in it is you’re essentially making the tissue become more erect and aroused, so it’s filled with blood and oxygen and thus more susceptible to pleasurable sensations. Also, when there’s more blood flow, muscles are more supple, so that it’s less painful. Decreasing that painful sensation if you have that, and increasing the pleasurable sensations. And it’s local, so it doesn’t get you high.
Do you allow attendees to consume cannabis during the workshops?
I allow it when the venues allow it. I’m in a place where people can vape or smoke, I love being able to create space to have that permission. It’s also nice to supervise, if someone’s like, “I’ve never done this before, where should I start.” I can say, “Well, this here is good for someone who is new, it’s really high CBD and it’s not going to get you too high.” So often someone gets too high and they just push back from the table and they’re like, “I can’t do this, this is terrible, I’m regretting all my life choices.”
Yeah, that’s not sexy.
Right. So I’ll say, “Okay, maybe we can try to find a way to do this that works for you.”
What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
My favorite thing about what I do is that I get to live my purpose every day. I really believe in my heart of hearts that my job is to bring pleasure and joy to the world. I’m having the best sex of my life, I’m interacting with my colleagues in the cannabis and sex industry who are motivated and brilliant and excited about what they’re doing, and I get to be part of both industries. And I get free sex toys and free weed. My life is awesome.
I get free sex toys and free weed. My life is awesome.
It sounds like you have to be fully engaged in both the sex and cannabis industries.
Right, and in a way, be a liaison between the two.
It has worked out better than I could have imagined. This was just kind of a notion one night: This could be something I could do, this could be something fulfilling for me to do. I never thought it would take off the way that it has. I’m thrilled about it.
How have things changed since you founded Cannasexual, and what’s next?
What’s changed is, a lot more people saying the word “Cannasexual.” It’s cool to track the hashtag and see people on Twitter saying, “I’m a Cannasexual,” and “I use cannabis for this all the time.”
That must be so surreal.
So surreal. I grew up in a very small town in a very conservative area of Pennsylvania. To be in California and have people call me an influencer, and to be helping to shape this conversation, is such an incredibly humbling exciting experience.
Answers have been edited for clarity and length.