Cannabis For Greater Intimacy: Kiana Reeves' Perspective
We’re excited to announce that we’ve just released our latest science-forward journal.
The Intimacy Journal, created in partnership with experts Kiana Reeves (Chief Education Officer at FORIA) and Sophie Saint Thomas (author and journalist on a wide variety of topics related to cannabis and sex), is designed to help you better understand what works and what doesn’t when you incorporate cannabis into your intimate life.
Kiana was kind enough to share her thoughts on several important topics related to cannabis and intimacy.
Q: How can someone overcome a sense of shame about their genitals?
A: Oh, that’s such a good question. Let’s start here: Shame about our genitals is kind of insidious. When we’re born whoever is taking care of us responds to our genitals in certain ways—for example the way they respond to changing our diaper, or how they respond when we’re touching our own body, some parents might say “Don’t touch that” or “That’s dirty”—and so the implicit shame can start at a really young age. Even if somebody doesn’t necessarily understand why they have a certain relationship with their genitals, our young and pre-verbal experiences can really shape the way we relate to our bodies. In the US especially we don’t have great sex ed. For example, in our sex ed we don’t specify that genitals come in a range of shapes and sizes; most people think that you either have a vulva or a penis and they’re supposed to look this way or that way, that a labia is supposed to look a certain way, that a penis is supposed to be a certain size, that you’re supposed to have your pubic hair a certain way for it to be enjoyable for your partner: we clearly get a lot of explicit messaging around how genitals should look. And on top of that it’s not just how they should look, but also how they should respond. So a lot of people, in particular people with vulvas, feel like if I can’t have a G-spot orgasm or if I can’t reach orgasm at all then something’s wrong with me. And then for people with penises, it can sound like, “I don’t have a big enough penis.” There’s so much wrapped up in how we relate to our ability to sexually perform, especially for a partner, in the way that we relate to our genitals.
I think the first place to start when it comes to shame around the genitals is by understanding that the vast majority of people also experience the same thing. And this is especially so if you’re someone who has seen a lot of porn, as that’s also going to influence the way you think your genitals should look and function. The key with shame is being able to identify it. And shame doesn’t only look like shame. It doesn’t always feel like, “Oh, I’m ashamed” or “Oh, I’m embarrassed.” Sometimes it looks like you being grossed out. Sometimes it looks like you comparing yourself to a norm, which is something that does not actually exist. The main thing to understand is that shame is insidious; it sneaks around. To get over that shame, try sitting with a mirror and feel yourself and just be with what arises and really be attuned to those subconscious voices that say things like “Eww” or “It’d be nice to be this way” or “I wish I was different this way.” That’s actually shame showing up. It might take months, it might take years, it might take a few days, but journaling is an excellent way to tackle shame and start the process of identification, like, “Oh, that’s the voice of shame in me.” If someone has a self-pleasure practice, that’s a really amazing way to navigate through shame in relationship with your genitals. Look for pleasure in your body and see what arises emotionally. And, as one of my teachers always says, “Keep that emotion company.” It’s not like you allow it to take over. It’s not like you allow that specific voice to be the thing that you believe. But you identify it and then you keep it company. Realize that’s a hard thought to be with. Still, be with it until it starts to feel a little less intense. That might take multiple sessions, but as soon as you identify it you can pin it down and it’s now harder to skirt around. And that’s where I would start, with masturbation, getting familiar with your body and recognizing those voices.
Q: What are a few of the benefits to stepping out of your typical routine when self-pleasuring?
A: Self-pleasure is this interesting thing that we usually (although not always) have pre-verbal or early childhood experiences with. A lot of people learn to self-pleasure as fast as possible. That can start to create subconscious patterning, so that when we’re adults we’re in the same kind of state, trying to reach climax as fast as possible, which usually leads to less breath, more tension in the body, and more goal-oriented self-pleasuring. The real benefit of expanding your self-pleasure practice to not be goal-oriented, and to explore things like movement, breath, position changing, location changing, or working with a partner by either watching them self-pleasure or having them witness you, is that all of those things expand on your capacity for pleasure. Let’s say you normally masturbate for fifteen minutes, and if you’re a person with a vulva, maybe you’re using a vibrator. Rather than following your typical routine, you set an intention of self-pleasure touch for a half hour instead of goal-oriented touch. So you’re not moving towards climax, you’re actually moving towards what feels good in the moment. What this approach does is it increases not just your range and capacity for pleasure, but it will also expand your understanding of how your body feels when it’s highly aroused. Especially for a person with a vulva, a lot of the time we don’t experience what our body feels like at a heightened state of arousal because we’re taught that penetration is sex. It’s often over in around twenty minutes, and a lot of people take forty minutes or more to even reach a state of heightened arousal where penetration will feel really amazing. But to go back to the original question: expanding on your capacity for pleasure, your range of understanding what your body looks like when it’s aroused, and your sound, vocalization, and movements all expand your permission to explore those things during partnered experiences. Most likely, these practices will also impact the quality of your ability to reach climax and the quality of your experience in general.
Q: How effective are cannabis-based lubricants?
A: Let’s start with a caveat: no product works for everybody. I don’t think anything that we can offer people is a singular solution because sexuality is so dynamic and complex—it’s a response to ourselves, to another person, to many inputs—but what I do think is really amazing about cannabis-based arousal oil, whether that’s one with THC or one with CBD or one that’s a combination, is how it works on a physical level. I love the way that it works with the body’s erectile tissue network, particularly for people with vulvas, since the mucosal lining of the vulva and the vagina are so absorbent. What we know about cannabinoids like THC and CBD is that they increase blood flow, provide pain relief, and soften muscle tension. All of those things prime the body for heightened arousal, increased pleasure, and increased sensitivity, so within the right set of circumstances that could potentially impact someone’s quality of orgasm, the amount of orgasms they are able to have, the type of orgasms they are able to have, and really their entire enjoyment level while having a sexual experience, either solo or with a partner.
Q: Can cannabis-based lubes be used for both anal and vaginal sex?
A: Absolutely. You can use them both vaginally and rectally. And I wouldn’t even say just arousal oils. We have a product that’s a suppository. We’re getting such magnificent feedback around this suppository, in particular for anal sex, because it delivers a concentrated dose internally. It’s hard to get a concentrated amount of a THC or a CBD-based arousal oil rectally because of the way that the anal sphincters work. So you can absolutely use that suppository as a kind of lube and to soften and work with the sphincters. In fact, I just got feedback yesterday and today from two different people, totally randomly, that they’re having anal orgasms for the first time in their lives from using these suppositories. The relaxation of the pelvic floor that’s possible, that relaxation of tension so that there is more blood flow and also so much more capacity for pleasure, it’s huge.
Q: What factors should people pay attention to when looking to purchase cannabis-based intimacy products?
A: Because your genitals are so absorbent, the first thing you’ll want to check are the ingredients. If you see any ingredients that you don’t know, I would hesitate to put that product on my body. At FORIA, we have an “If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t put it on your genitals” mantra because these types of products are going to go directly into your bloodstream. And with that, I would suggest that after you examine the ingredients to look at how this cannabis was grown, because if it’s a cannabinoid-based oil then it’s a concentration of the cannabis or hemp plant, and when you concentrate something you’re going to concentrate the pesticides, the solvents, and any mycotoxins that are potentially in that plant, so you really need to be aware that those will also go into your bloodstream. Are these companies partnered with sustainably grown cannabis farms? Are they doing testing at multiple levels during the production runs of their products? And then after you vet the ingredients and you vet the cannabis or the cannabinoids itself (and the extraction methods), I would then look at concentration because you might be getting a huge bottle of something and it might not have a high concentration of THC or CBD or other active products. For example, our Awaken product doesn’t have a high concentration of CBD, but it has a super high concentration of kava, which is one of its main ingredients. So make sure that the potency is something that you check out as well. And then a lot of these arousal oils and cannabis-based lubes are water-based. If it’s a water-based product, then a lot of the time they have to do some tweaking with the formula because cannabinoids are fat-soluble molecules, and to make it water-soluble it has to go through certain processes. If it’s an oil-based product, I would always suggest looking to see if these oils are organic or not. Oils can carry a lot of toxins in them, and if you plan on putting an organic oil on your genitals it’s super important to know that you’re not getting a bunch of toxic chemicals or pesticides or anything like that.
Q: What are some effective ways to communicate your sexual boundaries to current and potential partners?
A: Consent goes beyond a verbal yes or a no—it goes into you being able to tune into your body in a way that your mind, body, and emotions are all lined up for a yes or a no. Women and femme-identified people are often taught in society to people please, and so verbalizing a no isn’t as easy. That leads us to sometimes say yes even when our bodies are maybe saying no or giving us misconstrued signal. And certainly, if we’re not listening to our bodies, then sometimes we’re not listening to our emotional cues either. Someone can check in: maybe my head says yes, but how does my body feel about this? Does that sound good in this moment to my body? And then it’s important to check in not just on the physical, but on the emotional. Does that also feel good emotionally? That’s a really good indicator of how to navigate your own version of consent.
It can be an interesting thing to navigate what one sexual partner wants if someone else does not want the same thing. Can you find your no and your yes at the same time?—no to this, but maybe yes to this? Be aware that once consent is given it isn’t just something that’s linear that stays there forever. Check in when there’s a new type of touch, activity, or thing that you want to bring into the mix. Ask how does this feel for you? Or say I’d love to do this; does that feel good? Being vocal about that can make it so much easier to navigate. With future partners you can say here are some things I really like. Here are some things that I’d like to not do. Are there things that you’d really like to explore? Are there things for you that are off-limits?
Q: You are FORIA’s Chief Education Officer. What made you want to get involved and become a leader in the cannabis community?
A: It was a total accident, but a happy accident. I was already in the realm of birth work and female sexual health and wellness, working with a few other teachers as a somatic sex educator and doing intravaginal pelvic work; my background was very comprehensive when it came to the experience of female sexual health and wellness. I met Mathew, our cofounder, in a moment when FORIA had just launched our first CBD product and we were finding our voice in the world of CBD. It was a natural fit. I was running a company that was focused on tools for sexual health and wellness for women, and he knew my background. Mathew has brilliant ideas, but he doesn’t the experience of having a vulva; so he doesn’t have that perspective, and so that’s how we came to be partners in the world of FORIA. And then it evolved from there because it wasn’t just our social media and our external voice, it was how we were showing up through product development, through our events, through educating our community. That’s just something that I’m incredibly passionate about.
Q: How do you think The Intimacy Journal can help people have richer sex lives?
A: I don’t think we are ever taught to give ourselves or explore feedback about our own sexual experiences, partnered or otherwise, and so I think the Intimacy Journal itself is an opportunity to dig deeper into what you want to explore. You get to explore the subconscious relationship you have with your body. You get to explore what type of pleasure you’re currently experiencing and where you want to go with it. And it’s something that’s interactive and trackable in a way where you’ll be able to evolve along with it. My favorite thing about the Intimacy Journal is you get to explore the subconscious relationship you have to sex with yourself, which is massive.
Q: Is The Intimacy Journal only effective for people in committed monogamous relationships or can people who are single or in polyamorous relationships obtain benefits from using it as well?
A: A lot of people think that to have a sex life they have to have a partner—that’s a real old-school way of relating to our own sexuality. Your sex life and your sexuality and your experience of pleasure are your own throughout your entire life. Whether or not you have a partner or multiple partners or random partners or a long-term partner, it’s always your responsibility to be in tune with your own body and your own sexuality and sensuality in order to be able to even share that with someone else. And so I think it’s a valuable tool for anyone across the board because we have an evolving relationship with ourselves, one that’s continually evolving across our lifespan. This is especially so if you’re somebody who goes through the processes of menses, the childbearing years, and menopause because those different hormonal facets will really impact the way that you experience your own libido and relationships.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who has never tried using cannabis with sex?
A: I would ask what’s your intention. Investigate what you are wanting to get out of the experience because there are so many different ways you can use cannabis. Are you wanting to ingest it because you’re really in your head and you’re wanting to feel a sense of more ease in your body? Or are you wanting to experiment with cannabis because you’ve heard it could really increase your pleasure? Those types of questions will dictate how you engage with cannabis, what way you use it, whether you ingest it or use it topically. The second thing I would say is maybe try it with yourself first. Or if you’re in a partnership, get permission from your partner, because consent is a really important piece of it. And then go slow, titrate. Don’t go big all at once because sometimes overdoing it will prevent you from having the type of experience you actually wanted. Remember that cannabis is a powerful medicine, especially if you’re consuming it orally. It can have the reverse effect you’re wanting if you take too big of a dose. Start with microdosing if you’re using an oral, tincture, vape, or edible. If you’re using a topical, make sure it’s a high-quality product and that you’re still getting consent from your partner, and then follow the instructions.