This month, BBC Three introduced a new documentary series that featured everything you need to sell something in this day and age: sex, cannabinoids, and a supermodel. In Planet Sex with Cara Delevingne, the British model and actor embarks on a journey to “explore gender, sexuality, and our deepest desires”, and ends up making some unexpected discoveries.
In the first of six episodes, Delevingne sets out to uncover the so-called “Orgasm Gap”, and is the subject of some pretty unorthodox experiments along the way. As she enters a University Hospital in Berlin, Germany, she tells the camera that she is about to donate an orgasm to science. The aim of this study is to uncover the chemical changes that take place in our bodies when we orgasm – and the results might surprise you.
Sex: Our bodies’ own cannabis?
Many of us have heard the association between sex and cannabis many times before. Some people feel that getting high before sex makes for heightened pleasure and an all-around better experience. But this association doesn’t end at lighting up a joint and getting down to business. According to recent studies, the connection between cannabis and sex might actually go a lot deeper. This theory was put to the test behind closed doors as Delevingne set out to donate her orgasm.
Before the experiment could get underway, a blood sample was taken from Cara’s arm – this would later be compared to another sample taken post-orgasm. After a few minutes of privacy in a private room, Cara was ready for her second blood sample to be taken and to discover the neurological and biological effects of her orgasm.
The researchers, husband-and-wife team Johannes Fuss and Sarah Biedermann revealed that Cara’s second blood sample contained endocannabinoids – often referred to as the body’s own cannabis. As Dr Fuss explains:
“Endocannabinoids are potent chemicals. They are important to reduce anxiety, to increase euphoria, and to have pleasurable sex. So, endocannabinoids are basically your body’s own version of cannabis.”
Cara’s reaction – like many people’s, we would imagine – was one of shock: “Wow. That’s why I felt dopey!”, she exclaims.
Dr Fuss continues to explain that, much like the boost we receive after exercise – known as the “runner’s high”, the release of endocannabinoids makes you “kind of, high after masturbation.” And this is reportedly true for 80% of us.
Endocannabinoids are produced throughout the body and play a significant role in many important processes, including reward systems or, as Delevingne puts it: “they give us feel-good feelings.” Research carried out by Fuss and Biedermann reveals that, during sex, endocannabinoids increase by up to 44%, spiking at orgasm. As Dr Biedermann announces, that’s probably why sex feels so good.
The science behind the “high”
We have looked into the partnership between sex and cannabis before at Leafie, revealing some surprising connections. So far, we have established that our endocannabinoid system can be activated in a number of ways, from exposure to exterior products, such as cannabis, to sexual stimulation – as demonstrated by Fuss and Bidermann’s work in the field. But this isn’t the only experiment that these researchers have conducted to assess the connection between endocannabinoids and sex.
A 2017 study, co-authored by Fuss and Biedermann, first recognised the association between sex and orgasm and an increase in endocannabinoids – in particular, 2-AG. They, therefore, concluded that “the endocannabinoid 2-AG is involved in the human sexual response cycle and we hypothesize that 2-AG release plays a role in the rewarding consequences of sexual arousal and orgasm.” So, does that mean that boosting cannabinoids in our bodies by consuming cannabis could help us have even better sex? And could the apparent endocannabinoid-boosting effects of sex help us to maintain better endocannabinoid system function?
Since Fuss and Biedermann’s 2017 study, more studies have aimed to assess how phytocannabinoids from cannabis could help to enhance sexual experiences. One study, published in 2019, found that participating women who consumed cannabis were more likely to report increases in sex drive, more satisfying orgasms and a reduction in pain when compared with women who did not consume cannabis. A 2019 survey also revealed that “Many participants in our study found that cannabis helped them relax, heightened their sensitivity to touch, and increased intensity of feelings, thus enhancing their sexual experience”; however, other participants reported that cannabis use “interfered by making them sleepy and less focused or had no effect on their sexual experience.”
The role of cannabis in sexual wellness
Regardless of those potential negative side effects – which some researchers suggest may be the result of consuming too much cannabis – cannabis-based products, such as CBD-infused lube, have now entered the sexual wellness market, with the aim of enhancing sexual experiences. In countries and jurisdictions where recreational cannabis is legal, such as Canada and some states in the US, THC is also being added to sexual wellness products.
While more research is certainly needed to fully understand the role of cannabinoids – both endo- and phyto- in sexual pleasure, current evidence certainly suggests (as Cara Delevingne’s participation in orgasm donation may well have demonstrated) that cannabis and sex can often be a match made in heaven.
You can watch the whole series of Planet Sex with Cara Delevingne on BBC iPlayer, now.