Very few subjects spark as much controversy as sex and drugs. Especially taboo is the idea utilizing either in ways that are viewed as socially non-conventional. The connection between sexuality and psychedelics is very prevalent throughout both ancient and modern history, both having been used to foster connections and boost spiritual experiences. So, at what point did they both become so heavily regulated and harshly stigmatized, and how can sex and psychedelics be harnessed to improve mental health and overall wellness and quality of life?
If something feels good and makes you happy, it’s probably illegal or socially vilified, right? That’s usually the case, and in our disconnected world, that seems especially true of anything that is naturally-derived and generally safe for your health – like cannabis, psychedelics, and sex, for example. Although the latter isn’t actually ‘illegal’ like pot and mushrooms, many aspects of sex and relationships are subjected to constant stigma and judgement, to the point that people are kind-of policing and regulating themselves on these matters, as to not fall out of the realm of what’s considered traditional.
But what’s traditional is not always right for everyone, and people are starting to explore the idea that there is more to life than what we have always been taught. This seeking of truth and cosmic awakening is the backbone of the psychedelic movement, but lesser discussed is the role that sexual energy plays in opening the mind and connecting to the divine. Sex and psychedelics have been used together to reach new spiritual (and orgasmic) heights for centuries, from the free-love sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s to all the way back to the ancient shamanic sex rituals of Nazca. Both have also been overtly condemned over the years, but have we as a society, just been looking at things the wrong way this whole time?
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A Little About Psychedelics & Sex
Psychedelic drugs are a subset of hallucinogens. They contain psychoactive compounds that are capable of altering a person’s mood, perception, and cognition; sometimes permanently and often for the better. The active compounds are usually found in nature, like psilocybin from mushrooms or mescaline from peyote, but they can also be manmade, like LSD.
Psychedelics are known for causing ‘trips’, which is what the high is referred to. When a person is tripping, they may have altered perceptions of the world around them. This can include everything from auditory and visual hallucinations, to heightened sense of touch, and even greater feelings of connection, understanding, and introspection.
The trips that people most commonly associate with these types of the drugs are the ones in which a state of hallucinogenic delirium is reached, but that is not always the case. Many times, tripping is more of an experience than an actual “trip”, and something can be learned and achieved psychologically with every small dose. Trips don’t always have to be those completely mind-bending, no-idea-what-planet-you’re-on kind of trips; they can be mild and simply make you feel relaxed, happy, and open in new and exciting ways.
The word itself, ‘psychedelics’, was first used in 1957 to recognize substances that were said to open the mind, however, the more accurate term for them is ‘entheogens’. This term was adopted, not necessarily for the sake of being scientific, but rather to allow the sector to operate without the stigma attached to the word ‘psychedelics’ from past smear campaigns and restrictive policies. The term entheogen is Greek in origin, and it translates to ‘building the God within’.
Different psychedelics produce different trips. For example, with DMT you can expect a short high lasting less than 1 hour, whereas LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline trips can last up to ten hours. Some hallucinogens are more potent than others, like acid versus mushrooms. The active compounds are different in each drug so there is a lot of variation to the effects that can be felt.
Some people experience bad trips in which negative, and sometimes scary, hallucinations may occur. Additional side effects can include rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea, disorientation, and fatigue. While some people may just tolerate psychedelics poorly, in most cases, the majority of these symptoms can be controlled through proper dosing. This is why most modern-day, therapeutic users of psychedelics typically consume the drugs in micro-doses.
From a sociological perspective, psychedelics still pull in very mixed reactions. On one hand, they’re federally prohibited and there’s less support for legalization as opposed to cannabis reform efforts; on the other hand, there is a growing body of research suggesting that psychedelics can be good for treating numerous different mental health conditions and a handful of regions around the world are loosening restrictions on these compounds. According to a survey conducted by USA RX, 39 percent of American adults believe in the legalization of certain psychedelics for any use and a further 37 percent would support legalization specifically for medical use (76 percent total in support).
Psychedelics & Sex – Sex and Social Stigma
We are sexual beings. As much as we like to repress that, it’s a fact. Nearly universally, what is considered sexually “normative” behavior has been limited to heterosexual relationships between traditional couples. Typically, the system was designed to privilege those who encompass these roles and disadvantage those who fall out of line – for example, those engaging in homosexuality, prostitution, sex outside of marriage and/or with multiple partners, open relationships, and so on. (Herek, 2016, p. 397). Frontiers | The Experience of Sexual Stigma and the Increased Risk of Attempted Suicide in Young Brazilian People from Low Socioeconomic Group | Psychology (frontiersin.org)
Women are especially prone to experiencing sexual stigma, and most aspects of society seem intent on teaching us to be ashamed of or objectify ourselves, rather than rejoice in our sexuality. Naomi Katz author of Beautiful: Being an Empowered Young Woman and the founder of Beautiful Project, a movement dedicated to building self-confidence among adolescent girls and young women, puts it very well.
“The stigma surrounding female sexuality is pervasive and affects girls and women of all ages. Even in our most intimate relationships, we often don’t know how to express ourselves. We often find ourselves reacting to being sexualized, rather than expressing our own desires.”
Stigmatization of sexual pervasiveness exists in nearly every facet of society, and normally it’s looked at poorly rather than embraced as it should be. Although these acts have no negative bearing on society as a whole, derogatory terms are often used to describe people who engage in non-traditional sexual experiences.
If all this sounds strangely familiar, that’s because it is the same type of stigmatization and prejudice that drug users experience. Of course, there are some instances and certain types of drugs that are more problematic to society, like meth and heroin for some very obvious examples, but even naturally-occurring and mildly-intoxicating drugs like cannabis have been looked down on for decades.
Psychedelics & Sex – Shifting Tides, Shattering Shame
Some might say that we’re currently on the cusp of a revolution, and rightfully so. Although we still have some strides to make, public opinion on both sex and drug use has progressed dramatically over the last few years. For the most part, we no longer have to hide in the closet with our pot and fetishes, and people are freer to experiment with natural compounds, love who they want to love, and enjoy life on their own terms.
I personally have a phrase that I got from an old friend: “If you like it, I love it”, and that seems to be the general attitude these days, so long as safety and some level of personal responsibility is taken into consideration.
Statistically, support for cannabis and psychedelic drug reform, as well as embracing of more sexually-open concepts, are both gaining traction. For example, an overwhelming 91 percent of American adults believe cannabis should be legal in the US – 60 percent say legal across the board while an additional 31 percent believe it should only be legal for medical reasons. Given these numbers, it’s seriously a travesty that weed is still prohibited, but that’s beside the point today. Again, psychedelics are seeing a rise in popularity as well, with approximately 39 percent of respondents stating that certain psychedelics should be permitted for any use, while another 37 percent believe medical psychedelics should be approved. To reiterate, that’s 91 percent for cannabis, and 76 percent for psychedelics – yet both are STILL illegal.
Swinging the pendulum back to sex stats, a large-scale survey found that 1 in 5 Americans have been involved in at least one consensual, open relationship in the past and around 9% of American adults engage in some sort of open relationship regularly. Over the last decade we have also seen a sharp rise in the number of adults who identify as LGBTQ – not necessarily because more people are becoming LGBTQ, but because a growing number of people are feeling increasingly comfortable with expressing their true sexuality. It’s a beautiful thing.
Sexual Energy, Psychedelics, and Mental Health
Although it’s not frequently discussed, sex is considered one of the most desired and coveted experiences in modern-day culture. The reasons go far beyond just, “because it feels good”. It’s because many humans seek a deeper and more meaningful connection with the divine; and sex, when done correctly, is a transcending, transformational experience like no other.
Sex is a core function of life on earth, but even more so, it plays a major role in both physical and mental health. In my own experience, creative, spiritual, and sexual energy all go hand in hand. If you’re in a powerful creative or spiritual flow, there is likely a sexual aspect to it as well. As the saying goes, “If you are expressed creatively, you are going to be expressed sexually. If you are in the flow of expressive sex, then you know that God must have a hand in it. And creativity is about spiritual communion.”
And the same applies to psychedelics. Initial high aside, psychedelic use can be an incredibly mind-opening experience. “People often come out of a psychedelic experience and say it was one of those most remarkable things they’ve ever experienced—that the experience led to creative insights and improvements in self-identity and mood,” says Matthew Johnson, a researcher at the Center for Psychedelics and Consciousness Research. “When people consistently say things like that, you start to ask yourself what the heck is going on—you want to understand why.”
Sex and psychedelics boost dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, respectively. Release of these hormones are said to help relieve depression and anxiety and improve your overall state of mental wellbeing. Low levels of serotonin can lead to numerous different psychological health disorders as well as lack of sleep, which is believed to be the root cause in dozens of both immediate and long-term health conditions. Low levels of dopamine can cause depression as well, and interestingly, is also a precursor to Parkinson’s disease.
A Brief History: Sex and Psychedelics
It’s undeniably difficult to say exactly what went on with intimate human experiences thousands of years ago. However, ancient texts and artwork serve as evidence that even back then, sex and psychedelics were much more than just for procreating and getting intoxicating. Both were culturally significant, and sometimes, a means to a spiritual end.
Nazca Shamanic Sex Rituals
Little is known about the specifics of these rituals, but ancient art, pottery, and petroglyphs depict the use of psychedelics and sex during shamanic rituals was very commonplace. Overall, the use of psychedelic drugs in ancient Peruvian society has been well documented and much of their ancient texts and drawings are very sexualized in nature.
Psychedelics have long been intertwined with the ancient practice of tantra. In Sanskrit, the word tantra means woven together. The practice of tantra is basically a form meditation or yoga that harnesses sexual energy as a way to “weave” together the physical with the spiritual.
According to philosophers like Aleister Crowley and Robert Anton Wilson — “the psychopharmacological techniques for activating higher states of sexual consciousness remain unknown by most people, and they are often kept secret from early initiates of Tantra. Techniques for enhancing sexual rituals with sacred plants are rarely mentioned in popular books on Tantra or in Tantra workshops.”
1960s Summer of Love
Broadly, the summer of love refers to the summer of 1967 when up to 100,000 people – mostly between the ages of 15 and 30 – gathered in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco to revel in new music, hallucinogenic drugs, anti-war protests, and “free-love”. Although the movement dominated the West Coast, it managed to spread across the entire nation.
Those participating, “Hippies”, were drawn together by their shared views on various different social issues such as collective suspicions of government deception, the rejecting of consumerist values, and a general opposition to the Vietnam War. A large number of hippies were focused on activism and political issues, while others were more interested in art and/or spiritual and meditative practices, many of which included the use of sex and psychedelics.
Opened Mind, Heightened Libido
We’ve covered all the different parallels between sexuality and psychedelics, now let’s talk a little bit more about combining the two. Very few human experiences are as transformative as having sex and consuming psychedelic compounds. When used safely and correctly, both can propel you to otherworldly magnitudes of physical and emotional healing; and yes, electrifying, earth-shattering orgasms as an added bonus.
So, what entheogenic drugs actually work in the bedroom? Although many have been used throughout history, I’d say the best modern-day psychedelics to pair with sex would be cannabis, mushrooms, and MDMA. Exact methods and physiological function of these drugs varies, but they all have an impact on the two main components of a sexual experience: sense of touch and feelings of connectivity.
We can naturally expect that studies in this field are dismal, but here are a few quotes from the small tokens of research that we do have. “Desire and satisfaction were moderately to profoundly increased by MDMA in more than 90% of subjects. Orgasm was delayed but perceived as more intense,” (European Psychiatry: 2001 Mar,16(2):127-30).
“Marijuana use is independently associated with increased sexual frequency and does not appear to impair sexual function… Daily users actually reported having 20% more sex than their counterparts who have never used cannabis before,” (Journal of Sexual Medicine: Volume 14, Issue 11, P1342-1347).
Now when it comes to dosing, this can get include a bit of trial and error sometimes. Obviously, you don’t want to be tripping balls if you expect to have a decent sexual experience. Some people choose to micro-dose which could certainly help lower inhibitions without making you feel completely inebriated. Others might choose to get a good body high, maybe a couple grams to one-eighth of shrooms for example, depending on your size and tolerance. It really is all contingent upon the individual user and desired experience, so giving highly-specific dosing advice is close to impossible.
Final Thoughts on Sex and Psychedelics
In the so-eloquent words of Marlene Dobkin de Rios, Ph.D., who was a medical anthropologist, associate clinical professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the University of California, Irvine, and professor emerita of anthropology at California State University, Fullerton:
“Sexuality anywhere is a polyvalent function, whose primary and supreme valency is the cosmological function. To translate a psychic situation into sexual terms is by no means to belittle it. for except in the modern world, sexuality has everywhere and always been a hierophany and the sexual act an integral action. Therefore, a means to knowledge…”