One night last year, Karyn Wagner, founder of Paradigm Medical Marijuana, smoked a joint before having sex with her partner -- a fairly unremarkable move in terms of foreplay, but this time the results were something special. "After I smoked this one," she remembers, "I said, You know, honey, that was perfect. Save it for next time." Her partner dutifully labeled the bag "Sexpot." And inspiration struck.
Sexxpot, derived from a low-THC strain called Mr. Nice, has been grown, packaged, and branded (with an extra x) by Wagner's company as an "aphrodisiac weed" -- the first to specifically target women.
Aphrodisiac weed is hardly a new concept: See the Cut's previous exploration of weed as "natural Viagra." Marijuana "enhances the enjoyment of sex," as Carl Sagan explained in one essay. "On the one hand it gives an exquisite sensitivity, but on the other hand it postpones orgasm: in part by distracting me with the profusion of images passing before my eyes. The actual duration of orgasm seems to lengthen greatly, but this may be the usual experience of time expansion which comes with cannabis smoking." Long before Sexxpot, people were seeking out specific strains for the purposes of arousal (here are 11, provided by weed-review site Leafly).
Berkeley-based cannabis consultant and nurse practioner Eloise Theisen regularly treats both men and women -- but especially women in their 50s and 60s -- who want to use weed to help with sexual issues or enhancement. "It's still taboo for women, though; men ask more," explains Theisen, who is also on the board of the American Cannabis Nurses Association. Aside from the THC-laced lubricant Floria, Theisen struggles to find products geared specifically toward women and their libidos, and she says she sees promise in Sexxpot. She's heard from several patients and women within cannabis organizations like Women Grow (and from the participants of Bay Area "pot Tupperware" parties) that the strain is a "game changer."
Sexxpot, Wagner explains, has lower than usual levels of THC: about 14 percent, while smokers tend to prefer 18 to 20 percent for a high. She says that's a benefit, because the product will put you in a "sensual" headspace and affect the body's sensations without getting the smoker too high to actually do the deed.
"Women just need less THC in general," Theisen says. "And high levels of THC can promote anti-estrogen activity, though science is still very limited... My guess is that Sexxpot, with the lower THC, regulates the body's endocannabinoid system (the group of brain receptors that are involved with processes like pain, sensation, mood, and mediating effects of cannabis) and helps bring back the balance of hormones, but without sacrificing the therapeutic properties."
Stephen D'Angelo, cannabis activist and co-founder of Harborside Health Center (the "largest pot shop on the planet"), is somewhat skeptical about Sexxpot's science. He explains that there are hundreds of different terpenes -- an organic compound that contributes to both the variety of smells and psychoactive properties in different types of weed -- and we haven't yet isolated the effects of each one. But whatever Sexxpot's scientific rigor, he says its marketing is astute: His experience at Harborside confirms that both men and women seek weed to specifically enhance arousal. (He points to Floria's popularity as an example of a product targeting women successfully.) "Cannabis is good for everybody's sex life," D'Angelo says.
So Sexxpot isn't the only strain out there that can improve your sex life. And it seems not to be as effective for men, who reportedly tend to prefer higher levels of THC in general: Wagner herself says that her male employees have had lackluster experiences with Sexxpot when smoking it themselves (though they had no complaints about its effect on their female partners). But a consistently available strain of women-friendly weed is an appealing addition to the male-centric market of cannabis products, and while the science of weed sex is generally limited, Sexxpot's fans are enthusiastic.
Wagner describes one frequent buyer who said the strain helped her overcome her mental blocks around sex: "She reported that it relaxed her enough that she wasn't thinking about that anymore. She wasn't hyperaware or hyper-anything." Wagner paused before recounting more of the women's rave review. "Actually, she gave me maybe too much detail."