Trigger warning: Discussions of sexual violence and trauma. Practice self care.
I have to tell you all something. It something that I haven't talked about publicly. But I think it's something relevant, and I'm only now really starting to see it in its totality. I need you all to understand why me talking about sex and cannabis is kind of a huge deal for me.
Last March, I did the scariest thing I've ever done and I wrote a blog naming the person who raped me when I was 13. The aftermath was more intense than I could have anticipated, and it's not an exaggeration to say that it changed the course of my life.
In some ways, I think it really helped me integrate that assault narrative, do much of the remaining (but arguably hardest) parts of my healing, and feel less alone for the first time in fifteen years. And yet. There's a component that I didn't get into much detail on at the time, that I think bears attention now. My rapist was using cannabis when he raped me.
I'll let that sink in for a minute.
Yes. I am the person who promotes combining sex and cannabis for a living. I have written more about sex and cannabis than anyone in the United States, and possibly the world. And I stand by that. I believe that MINDFULLY combining sex and cannabis when there is consent and positive intentions (and both participants are adults) can be hugely intimate and pleasurable. But I didn't always believe that.
I didn't use cannabis for the first time until I was 23. I was terrified of it after my rape. The smell was a trigger. I remember telling my best friend that I felt like I had a "contact high" after he was blowing it my face that day. I look back now and while that may be true to some extent (we know that cannabis impacts adolescent brains differently), I can now look back through a trauma-informed lens and see my first conscious experience of dissociation. I remember feeling hazy, out of my body, and like I couldn't make my mouth work. I assumed it was the cannabis causing it, and that belief stayed with me for many years. I didn't understand dissociation. (Dissociation in this sense is the "freeze" response to trauma--feeling detached from one's body as though watching the trauma happen from the outside). Dissociation is my default trauma response, I later learned in therapy. It's always hovering right below the surface, ready to freeze me as soon as it seems like my "no" might be ignored.
So now I realize that my formative impressions of cannabis were incorrect. It wasn't the cannabis that caused the attack, it was his blatant disinterest in obtaining my consent. The response that I associated with cannabis for so long was actually a totally normal response to trauma. (Freeze is actually the most common response).
I got into the world of sex education through sexual violence prevention. After telling my survivor story for the first time, I discovered the power of reclaiming one's personal narrative. The sexual violence prevention stance on substances was clear--sober sex or no sex at all. I followed that guideline for a long time, vociferously decrying mixing substances with sex. (For the record, I am still strongly against mixing alcohol intoxication with sex). Somewhere in my mid-twenties, I tried having sex while high for the first time and was surprised to find that I enjoyed it. But I felt guilty! I felt like I was doing something wrong. I felt like a hypocrite. It's only very recently (in the last few years) that I came to understand that there was nuance to be had when discussing sex and cannabis, specifically for adults. There's micro dosing. There's non-psychoactive methods. And there's the healing that comes from reclaiming something that was taken away from me.
I didn't recognize it it at the time, but I now understand why I had such a powerfully negative reaction the first time I did a dab (January 2014). I was with a group of guys I had just met and I felt completely out of control. I couldn't focus, I couldn't make words work, I could barely take a sip of water without spilling it on myself. I remember thinking, "I don't know these guys and no one knows where I am and I am going to get raped and murdered and never see anyone I love again." (It bears noting that none of those guys laid a hand on me, they took really good care of me, and acted as decently and kindly as I could have ever hoped.) Pretty extreme reaction though right? Not when you consider the imprint from when I was 13. The "way too high" feeling from the dab set off my association with being out of control during an assault. Because I conflated being high with dissociation for so long, being that high felt like a dissociative reaction to a traumatic situation. It's the shadow side to my cannabis consumption that has taken me a long time to overcome.
Every time I have sex when using cannabis, it is a courageous act. It is an act of defiance. An act of reclamation. A demonstration of me taking back my power and rewriting my narrative that said that mixing cannabis with sex means getting raped. It feels good to go back and untangle that very understandable, but no longer useful confabulation.
Thanks for witnessing.