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Using Cannabis to Move Away from the ‘Sexual Escalator’ Model

Published on January 3, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020
Using Cannabis to Move Away from the 'Sexual Escalator' Model

Ah, fallacy of the “sexual escalator.” You might call it something different–growing up I remember hearing it called “rounding the bases”–but the idea is the same. It’s the notion that sex has a specific trajectory that usually looks something like this:

You meet a new person. You catch their eye and smile. You feel the butterflies fluttering in your belly and you approach them. Surprise! They’re interested too! You’ve both stepped onto the first step of the sexual escalator.

Over the next few hours/days/weeks/months (it’s different for everyone), you start taking steps toward increasing your sexual contact. Perhaps you begin by holding hands and cuddling, or maybe you jump right into kissing. Then making out. Then making out while lying down with your bodies pressed up against each other. (First base). Sometimes this leads to “dry humping.” Then hands start wandering, caressing bare skin. At some point, pants come off and you look upon each other’s bits for the first time. Perhaps some hand to genital contact occurs here. (Second base). Next comes oral sex. (Third base). Finally, there’s penetrative intercourse. (A home run!)

Sound familiar? Most of us grew up with something similar to this in our heads as the model of the way sex is meant to happen. The timetable doesn’t matter, but it’s definitely a linear progression. I’ve had lots of couples lament that once they started “having sex” (by which they mean genital intercourse), they often skipped making out as an end goal or the sexy sensation of wandering hands. Genital penetration and orgasm becomes the focus, and everything else fades into the background of just a brief stop along the way to the main event.

Here’s the thing, though–it doesn’t have to be that way. No big booming voice from the sky is going to chastise you if you decide that all you want to do with your partner is make out. Lightning will not strike you down because you didn’t have an orgasm. As an adult, you get to make your own rules about what constitutes sex and it doesn’t have to look the same every time. Sexologist Al Vernacchio gave an awesome TED talk about how we should think about sex like ordering a pizza, not like baseball.

Incorporating cannabis into your sexy fun times can help disrupt the monotony of the sexual escalator. Here are a few ideas:

Negotiate before you medicate: Have a check in with your partner before you start consuming and before clothes come off. Share how you’re feeling, both physically and emotionally, and what you might want to co-create together. Based on that, choose a cannabinoid/terpene profile and method of consumption that would be most appropriate for enhancing your experience.

Try smoky kisses: If both partners are cannabis-friendly, start with shotgunning hits while making out. It could be with smoke from a joint or bowl or vapor from a vape pen or vaporizer. Take a nice hit and exhale it slowly into your partner’s mouth, then kiss them deeply. See if they can identify any flavor profiles. Choose a strain that you both enjoy, and tailor it to the kind of mood you’d like to be in.

Use cannabis to unlock new sensations: One of the things I enjoy most about combining cannabis with sexy time is that touch feels exponentially better to me when using cannabis. It makes me feel more present and I notice pleasurable sensations much more readily. When I’m with a partner, I encourage them to go on a pleasure hunt (like treasure hunt, get it?) and find all of the parts of my body that feel good when touched, and then experiment with types of touch on those areas.

Do you respond better to light, gentle touch, or rough touch with deep pressure? Or alternating? Try using ice cubes or warm oil to see how temperature play impacts your experience. Perhaps you just enjoyed a high CBD strain like Harle-Tsu and now you want to see what it feels like when your partner playfully spanks you. Don’t be afraid to try out different types of touch and see how things go from there.

Embrace outside-the-box sexual experiences: Have you found that cannabis makes you more open to new experiences? I certainly have. I’m significantly more empathic and intuitive when using cannabis, and that flows nicely into sexual contexts as well. In the last year and a half I’ve gotten much more open-minded about sex outside of just a physical construct, moving into the realm of energetic sex.

What’s fun about energetic sex is that you can have it while fully clothed, which flies in the face of the “sexual escalator.” It’s largely based in creative visualization. Imagine your sexual energy gathering into a rod that can penetrate your partner. It might come from between your legs, or your heart, or maybe your forehead. Simultaneously, have your partner imagine they are receiving this energy by allowing it to fill them up.

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I rolled my eyes the first few times this was presented to me but I have to tell you, the first time I really let myself try it (with the help of cannabis) I was completely blown away. I couldn’t believe that I could feel so much pleasure with all of my clothes on. For more info, check out my colleague Reid Mihalko’s free 90 minute teleclass on energetic sex.

Once you get off the sexual escalator, you’ll find you have a lot more freedom to customize your sex life so it works for you and your partner(s). What are some other ways cannabis helps you disrupt sexual scripts and have more authentic, pleasurable sexual experiences?

Got a sex, relationships, or intimacy dating question for Ashley Manta? Send it to tips@leafly.com and we may address your request in a future article! (Don’t worry, we’ll keep your queries anonymous.)

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Ashley Manta
Ashley Manta
Ashley is a writer, feminist, and sexuality educator. She is a contributing writer for Leafly.
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