Although we all want to be living our life to the fullest, what that looks like for you is exceptionally unique and subjective. So too is fostering a fulfilling sex life. Sure, we see messaging everywhere we turn — from your favorite Netflix show to billboards to your Instagram feed — about what ideal sex is supposed to look like. But the fact is, your sexuality and experience of pleasure is yours alone.
“Sex is so subjective,” confirms Shannon Chavez, Psy.D., a psychologist and sex therapist in Los Angeles. “Everyone needs to find their own relationship to what is pleasurable and what is ideal around sex.” Cultivating that relationship goes hand-in-hand with our mental, emotional, and physical balance — a health goal that can be met by utilizing a variety of tools, including CBD.
Here, our guide to enhancing balance to bolster your sexual satisfaction — and how CBD can be a powerful way to elevate your fulfillment.
What Are the Major Roadblocks to Pleasure?
If you’re struggling with desire, arousal, or climax, you’re not alone: The Cleveland Clinic reports that issues with sexual function affect 43 percent of women. According to Chavez, there are several challenges deterring many women from cultivating a healthy, fulfilling sex life.
Negative messages about our bodies and sex
All too often, we as women absorb those societal messages about female pleasure and sexuality without fully realizing it, which can throw a wrench in our ability to cultivate a healthy relationship to sex. Likewise, struggling with negative body image, unrealistic body ideals, and even genital shame will inhibit our pleasure, Chavez notes.
internalized messages are often why we struggle to get “out of our heads” in the midst of what we’d like to be a fulfilling sexual experience
These internalized messages are often why we struggle to get “out of our heads” in the midst of what we’d like to be a fulfilling sexual experience. “Women need more permission than men, and by permission, it’s just simple statements,” Chavez explains. “It’s OK for you to touch yourself, it’s OK to masturbate, it’s healthy to have high or low desire. Normalizing every woman’s experience is part of permission.”
At the same time, stress is a staple of most women’s everyday lifestyle, affecting us mentally and physically, which certainly isn’t doing us any favors in the bedroom. “If you’re stressed out, your body is in a state of constant fight-or-flight mode, and your nervous system is impacted,” Chavez says. “This can affect anxiety levels and cause depression. It’s also going to impact how your hormones are being regulated in the body. Basically, stress can affect every aspect of our being, so we must learn how to manage it.”
It’s also possible you’re stressed out about sex specifically, Chavez acknowledges. “It can feel like there’s a lot of expectations or pressure around performance or goals around sex or to please a partner,” she notes.
How to Reframe Sex as a Form of Self-Care
One of the first steps to addressing these roadblocks is reframing sex as a form of self-care — and starting with self-pleasure. There’s no one-size-fits-all definition of self-pleasure; it is yours and yours alone. Landing on your personal definition means exploring and learning how to pleasure your own body and be with your own body without judgment.
Chavez encourages her clients to go dancing, take a fitness class they love, play a sport, or go out and show off an outfit, jewelry, body art they love — anything that allows them to express themselves in a physical way, through their bodies. “Creativity and sexuality come from the same energy, so I encourage people to look at it through my lens, which may help to have a better relationship with your body and sexuality,” she says.
How CBD Can Enhance Pleasure
In addition to giving yourself permission and enjoying a physical activity that enhances how you feel in your body, you’ll do well to add CBD to your pleasure-enhancing wellness protocol, Chavez says.
As ProjectCBD explains, “The endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in regulating a broad range of physiological processes that affect our everyday experience — our mood, our energy level, our intestinal fortitude, immune activity, blood pressure, bone density, glucose metabolism, how we experience pain, stress, hunger, and more.”
The site also points out that “cannabinoid receptors are located in organs that produce sex hormones, as well as in the reproductive organs themselves. Cannabinoid receptors are also present on the axon terminals of dopaminergic and serotonergic neurons, which play an important role in sexual function and interact with testosterone, estrogen, and oxytocin to modulate sexual response. The ECS influences the ebb and flow of various hormones and neurotransmitters.”
When CBD activates your cannabinoid receptors, it also helps with the reward and motivation system in the brain, easing everyday aches, pains, and excessive stress to ultimately help you relax, according to Chavez.
CBD can help reduce tension that might be blocking pleasurable sensations
“I believe it supports the body with its own natural process of feeling,” she notes. “If you’re having so much stress that you can’t get turned on, CBD can help reduce tension that might be blocking pleasurable sensations, boosting arousal by helping you be more comfortable in your body,” she explains. “If you have pain with sex, it can relax the body to support arousal. It can also be a vasodilator, which means it can help increase blood flow to your genitals. It helps you be more embodied and focused on sensation.”
Being more embodied can pull you out of your head — putting those societal messages, body image concerns, and chronic stress on the backburner — making it easier to be present and engaged during a makeout session, romp between the sheets, or any pleasurable experience in between.
In short, Chavez sees it as a supporter of better sex. And researchers concur. A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that higher concentrations of cannabinoids in women’s systems were significantly associated with sexual arousal.
The Sexual Benefits of CBD, IRL
Not only has Chavez heard examples of how CBD can improve sexual experiences for her own clients, as well as others in the sex therapy field, but she swears by it herself. “I have endometriosis, which causes a lot of pelvic pain and discomfort,” she explains. “You start to avoid sex because then you don’t want to be uncomfortable. CBD has really helped me with some of that. And just makes me feel more connected to my body other than pain.”
The benefit she wasn’t expecting? Enhanced desire.
A verified Equilibria community member and mom had a similar experience. “Having kids has brought so much to my life: joy, fulfillment, love, and purpose but also sleepless nights, stress, exhaustion and the death of my libido.” Ever since taking Equilibria’s Daily Drops, she felt more relaxed, focused, and rested. The benefit she wasn’t expecting? Enhanced desire. “Like, the I gotta have you now leading to explosive pre-kid sex kinda desire,” she shares.
The Bottom Line
While your definition of pleasure and an overall satisfying sex life is ultimately your own, we all deserve to feel comfort in our bodies and with our sexuality. As Chavez recommends, it’s all about exploring and figuring out what’s right for your body — all while knowing sexual wellness is not only achievable but well-deserved.