At Royal Queen Seeds, we are constantly on the lookout for the best information and knowledge about cannabis. In our interviews, we talk to figures from all over the cannabis industry. Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with Ashley.

Hello, my name is Ashley Manta. I'm an award winning pleasure & intimacy coach and facilitator. I am also the host of Elevated Intimacy podcast and the creator of CannaSexual®. My mission is to help people have joyful, empowered sex lives!

(Listen to it in Spotify and Apple Podcast)

How did you became a cannabis and CBD writer?

So, the writing about cannabis really came quite late in my career. As it happens. I actually started out as a sex educator about 13 years ago, 14 years ago. God, 14 years ago now.

We're just gonna pretend that didn't happen. Yeah, 14 years ago, I started doing sex education. And I did that exclusively until around 2014 or 2015. And then I started using cannabis medicinally when I moved to California from Pennsylvania, and I found it to be really useful. And I was kind of generally looking around the landscape of other sexuality professionals, educators, coaches, writers, and I didn't see anyone speaking about sex and cannabis. And I thought that that was something that could be really beneficial to the population that I serve.

And so I went to my first cannabis conference, the Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo in Los Angeles in the fall of 2015. I met an editor from a website called Leafly, which is one of the premier cannabis outlets, and he offered me a bi-weekly column for Leafly. And that was the beginning of my cannabis writing career; since then, I've published over 200 articles on sex and cannabis, plus I've written my book “The CBD Solution: Sex”.

When did you realize cannabis and sex had such a close and beneficial relationship?

It really took me until I moved to California to have medical cannabis access, and to actually be able to have products that were bought legally, not through, you know, a dealer or someone who knew someone, and I had always had pain with penetration because of sexual trauma. And so, using a cannabis topical was actually the first time I was able to have penetrative sex without pain.

And that was the thing that really started to clue me in to like, wow, cannabis and sex makes a whole lot of sense. I also found it to be really helpful. I have post-traumatic stress disorder, and it was really great for helping me manage my symptoms around anxiety, loss of appetite, feeling panicky; it just kind of helped me get back to baseline.

Do you think cannabis motivates the user to seek for pleasure?

I think that cannabis helps address the things that get in the way of pleasure and connection and intimacy. Broadly, I think that cannabis is certainly an enhancer. It can't manufacture desire or arousal out of nothing, but I think it helps. And I think for the things that do tend to get in the way, like pain or feeling stuck in your head or feeling disconnected from your body, cannabis can be really helpful at addressing those things to make it easier to access pleasure.

Do you think cannabis motivates the user to seek for pleasure?

Is cannabis aphrodisiac?

I think to go as far as to call cannabis an aphrodisiac would be reductive. I would call cannabis an enhancer and something that can make sex better, but it cannot create desire out of the ether. And I think all aphrodisiacs are the same way; when you actually look at how desire and arousal work, like scientifically, they don't hold up quite as well as pop culture would lead us to believe. You know, eating oysters is not going to suddenly make you a total horn-ball.

Does CBD and THC enhance the sexual stimulation in our endocannabinoid system the same?

They interact with the endocannabinoid system differently.

THC binds directly to the receptors, and especially delta-9-THC can cause that intoxicating effect that people generally associate with cannabis, whereas CBD does not bind directly to the receptors.

My friend and colleague Chelsea Cebara likes to call CBD a slutty cannabinoid because it has weak action at a number of different receptors. Yeah, so it does help. It's great for inflammation. In really high doses, it can be useful for anxiety, but like thousands of milligrams—kind of high doses. But I think they work best together. As with any cannabinoid, the whole plant is meant to work together. If you start isolating components, you're going to see a reduction in the efficacy of any one individual component.

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Does cannabis in sex affect woman and men the same way?

I do think it has something to do with hormones; it interacts differently with estrogen and testosterone. Estrogen modulates THC’s efficacy in some ways. So, like, for people who are still menstruating and have higher levels of estrogen, THC is more impactful than on someone who is, say, postmenopausal, when their estrogen levels tank.

So, if someone does not have an estrogen-dominant body, like, you know, the average cisgender man, yeah, they may need a tiny bit more cannabis to feel the effects. But, in terms of like sex, specifically, I don't think it makes that much of a difference—other than it's very easy to go too far for all genders. And so you really want to take the less is more approach—and that some people with penises will notice that if they go too far, they may have erectile challenges.

What are the benefits and risks to using cannabinoid therapy for sexual wellbeing?

So, there are no risks. Broadly, there are risks in terms of using it in unintentional ways. And what I mean by that is, if you over-consume, that is a risk, not because it will harm your body, but you may not feel very well. I know the first time I over-consumed cannabis concentrates, I actually threw up—that was not a pleasant experience. I've had times where I've over-consumed and felt very paranoid and anxious and my heart was racing, and I was certainly not in a sexy headspace.

Yeah, so there's the over-consumption issue. There's also consent, which I think is really important, especially when combining sex and cannabis. You want to have a conversation with whoever you're going to be engaging with prior to consuming any cannabis product, period, whether it's intoxicating or not, because I think it's really important that everyone be on the same page about any plants or other substances that may be present during the play time, because it's just important that everyone feels comfortable and is aware.

I've had partners who were in law enforcement or the military who could not be around substances that were federally regulated; like, cannabis is federally illegal still, unfortunately, in the United States, so, of course, even if I'm only using it, you know, on my genitals, if they go down on me, they've now consumed that. And so that's going to be a problem for them.

So it's always really important to have a conversation so everyone's on the same page, and that you are able to communicate very clearly “This is what it might look like if I over-consume. And this is how I'd like you to take care of me”. In that case, of course, if someone has over-consumed, the first things you should do are immediately stop having sex with them and get them some water and give them a blanket or whatever they need. But having those conversations up front I think is really crucial to avoiding potential risks to combining sex and cannabis.

Now, on the benefit side. Oh, gosh, the benefits are a mile long, and it really depends on how you consume cannabis: whether it's a topical, whether it's inhaled via smoking or vaping, or whether it's an edible. I can tell you, just over the weekend, I went horseback riding and really strained my groin muscles—like yeah, pretty intensely. And so my amazing partner gave me this really lovely massage with a cannabis topical, on Monday night, on our date night prior to us having sex. Because, otherwise, I would not have been able to have sex. Yeah, absolutely, there was no chance.

So that made such a profound difference. And that one instance, like, I would not have been able to have sex if it hadn't been for this cannabis topical—I didn't have to be high. It was a really lovely connective experience to have him like massaging me, checking in with me, seeing how I was feeling. And I felt very grateful to him that not only did he relieve my pain, but he did it in service to our pleasure.

So that's, you know, one way that cannabis can be useful. I've also found it to be really helpful with my anxiety when used very intentionally and in moderation. If I do like a nice or ratioed strain—so equal parts CBD to THC, a 1:1 or even like a 2:1 or a 5:1, with higher CBD than THC—I find that very calming for my anxiety; but if I go too far with THC, it can actually bring on a panic attack. So it's that balance of, like, really knowing your body, trying things out, and doing it in moderation.

I've also found it to be really helpful with orgasmic potential, whereas normally my clitoris gets a little bit grumpy after like an orgasm or two. It's kind of like okay, you're done now? Yeah. When I use a cannabis topical, all of a sudden my clit’s like just laying back with its arms crossed, like, alright, this is cool.

What are the benefits and risks to using cannabinoid therapy for sexual wellbeing?

How can we find the best cannabis consumption method for our sexual needs?

It’s all about trial and error, that is exactly what it is. It would be so convenient, right? If we could just say, "Use this thing for this long in this amount, and this is what's going to happen"—but unfortunately, we cannot. And so what ends up happening is, it's really on the consumer to go to a dispensary or to somehow obtain these products.

Try a little bit of whatever it is; if you're smoking, just take a puff—just one inhale, fill your lungs, exhale, and then stop. Wait 10 or 15 minutes. And then this is the crucial part. Masturbate. Yeah, I know, especially, you know, in the UK, there's a little bit of like, squeamishness about masturbation, but I urge you to lean into that and overcome it for the sake of science.

But it's really, really the most valuable tool in your arsenal to be able to figure out how cannabis works for you sexually. Because it allows you to have complete control over all the variables: where you are, what you're listening to, if there's incense, what kind of music's playing—you don't have to worry about your partner or their pleasure or any other thing. You just get to focus on you, and really be kind of an explorer in your own body to determine “How does this make me feel? Is my skin more sensitive? Is my body feeling more ready for stimulation? Am I more easily orgasmic? Or, on the contrary? Is it more difficult? Am I feeling unfocused or disconnected from my body? Do I just want to go watch Netflix?”. Like that's also good to know.

If we’re starting consuming cannabis or CBD, and we want it for the seek of sex and pleasure, how do you recommend should we start with?

So step one, I think is having a conversation—again, pre-consumption—where you and your partner [communicate], I started calling it like having an “erotic huddle”. Yeah, like, like in football. Yeah. Where you kind of come together, and you're like, “Alright, we're gonna make each other feel good tonight. That's the goal. So here's what we're gonna do”.

And, like, make it fun. First of all, if you're not having fun, what in heaven's name are you doing? Like, make it fun, make it playful, make it curious, and say, “Listen, you don't have to be using the same thing that I am; I want you to use whatever you need to get to a place where you feel sexy and empowered and embodied, and ready for pleasure. I'm going to do the same; let's kind of compare notes about what we're going to be using”.

And then you can also talk about, like, what's on the table: I'd really like to explore, you know, hand sex with you tonight, I'd really like to just make out, I'd really like to, you know, maybe get into anal exploration. And so here are some supplies for that, let's make sure we have plenty of lube and a towel.

It’s really, really helpful to kind of go in with a little bit of a loose game plan. Not to say that you have to have like every moment scheduled. Like, that's not necessary; but to say that, you know, this is what's on the table. And this is what's not on the table. And this is how I want to feel. And these are the products that I think are gonna help me get there. And if you're in the moment and something needs to be different, like being able to speak up and say, “I have a pro tip for you, or would you like to know a cheat code right now? Let me show you how to hack my body. Here's the thing I just figured out”. And then just show them, you know, "If you move your hand here", and you can physically move their hand or you can have them put their hand on top of your hand. And if you do it like this, it feels amazing. And you know, as a partner, receiving that information, I think the only appropriate response is, “Wow, thank you so much for making my life easier”.

If we’re starting consuming cannabis or CBD, and we want it for the seek of sex and pleasure, how do you recommend should we start with?

Which are the main questions your coaching patients ask you?

The funny thing is, most people who come to me for sex and relationship coaching are not coming for sex and cannabis. Yeah, most of them—the vast majority—are coming because of communication struggles, and what's called “desire discrepancy”—where one person is more interested in sexual interactions than the other. And so what I hear most often is, “I want to have sex, you know, four days a week, and my partner wants to have sex once a month. How do we handle this?”.

And, you know, of course, my answer to that is, “Well, it's complicated”. But, at the end of the day, the person who has a lower desire does get to call the shots: like, you can't have sex if you don't want to have sex. I would urge you not to have sex if you don't want to have sex. You know, the higher-desire partner needs to get real comfortable with masturbation. They can also talk about opening up their relationship if they're really not getting their needs met. Yeah, consensually, of course.

"So I really encourage couples to, like, take penetration off the table, find other ways of enjoying themselves." 

But also what I find so much of the time is that the lower-desire partner, it's not just like a default setting, but they are lower desire. Often, they don't want sex because it's not particularly enjoyable for them. So what I start with is, okay, if there's a desire discrepancy in the relationship, let's start with 30 days of no penetration, like off the bat. Yeah, we're gonna take that completely off the table. And you can interact with each other in any other way except penetration because, especially in the heterosexual pairings that I work with, a lot of the times the women are not as interested because “sex”—and I'm using air quotes around that—is mostly him, you know, pumping into her for five minutes until he comes. And then that's it.

And, you know, I love sex. But if that's what sex was, that's not a thing I'd be really looking forward to either. So I really encourage couples to, like, take penetration off the table, find other ways of enjoying themselves. And so maybe it's not that you have low desire, maybe it's that you're really discerning, and you want quality sex, and if the sex was better, you would want it more frequently.

And so I say the higher-desire partner needs to become an expert in how to make sex awesome for their partner, and see what they need to feel sexy, to feel pleasure, to enjoy themselves thoroughly. And that is going to make it more appealing to them to engage with you sexually more frequently.

Can you tell us a DIY recipe of cannabis or CBD we can do at home for a romantic date with our partner?

Absolutely. So there is actually a recipe in my book. And I will share it with you here as well. It is very easy. That's the good news. You can do it one of two ways. You can either take a cannabis or CBD concentrate that is oil-based. So, what you'd be looking for are full-melt concentrates, okay? That's an option because it will melt beautifully into oil and you can use the oil. Or, if you have flour, whether it's hemp CBD flour or cannabis flour, which are the same plant. It's just hemp is a legal designation that means it has less than 0.3% THC. So if you have greater than 0.3%, it's considered cannabis. Yeah.

1. Whatever kind of flower you have, you can grind it up, put it on a cookie sheet, put it into your oven.

2. I bake it at 200°F (93.3 ºC) for 30 minutes, shake it around, bake it for another 30 minutes at 200°F, and that does a process called decarboxylation, which converts the acid forms of THC and CBD into their active forms.

So THCA becomes delta-9-THC, and CBDA becomes regular CBD. And, at that point, you take this flour, and I use about a quarter to an ounce of flour, which is, I believe, seven grams, and I will infuse that into one cup of oil. I like to use coconut oil—you can use olive oil; you can use any plant-based oil.

3. And so the way that you infuse it is you mix your decarboxylated flour with the oil, you put it into a mason jar, and you put it into your slow cooker with, you know, a few inches of water for a few hours—three to four hours is the easiest way to go. And make sure that you have gloves and things so you don't burn yourself, and you can kind of shake the jars every hour too, and that will infuse the flour into the oil.

Can you tell us a DIY recipe of cannabis or CBD we can do at home for a romantic date with our partner?

There are also machines that will do it for you, which will make your life infinitely easier if it's a thing that you're planning to do on a regular basis. Yeah, my favourite is called the Levo oil infuser. And it is fantastic. It's so easy. It has an app that allows you to control the temperature on your phone; it will decarboxylate the flour for you, it will dry the flour for you, it will infuse it for you based on whatever temperature you want to set it at for however many hours. And it has recipes for, like, if you're using this herb with this oil, this is what temperature you use, which I like.

So the Levo oil infuser is just, like, my favourite kitchen gadget, and then you can take this oil and you can apply it to your bits and let it marinate. The key is, when you're applying oil to the vulva, it is not an instant gratification thing. It's not like lube where you just, you know, put it on and then keep going—you actually have to let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes, and that will give it time to absorb into the mucosa, into the nerves and tissue and allow it to get really juicy and yummy. And then you can, you know, have your fun, but that's an option.

And then I also really like to take the oil and put it into suppository moulds because you can use the suppositories vaginally or anally. They're great. Oh my god, they're so good for anal sex, but they're also great for just like lower back pain, and rectal absorption is the most bioavailable way to consume cannabinoids. So it's actually like a really efficient way to medicate. But you can also use them vaginally, and they're fantastic for cramps. Like if you have really challenging menstrual cycles.

Yeah, so good for cramps or just like deep penetration. I know for me, my cervix gets very sensitive during deep penetration; it gets a little angry. And when I use cannabis suppositories, that goes away, so.

Did you find some stereotypes about sex and cannabis along the way?

The one that comes up most often is that I'm bisexual, but the partner that I play with and talk about most frequently is a cisgender guy. So people assume that I'm heterosexual. Okay. Yeah, all the time. Like, they assume that I'm straight, and they assume that I'm monogamous. And neither of those things are true. I am what I call an equal opportunity slut, and I am not monogamous. My partner is married. And you know, it's all consensual, and everybody's cool. But yeah, a lot of times people just assume that like, I'm a straight, monogamous woman. And I'm like, “No, I'm queer, dammit”.

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