For many people looking to get some on a night out, a little bit of social lubrication is a necessity. Booze has long been the go-to for the simultaneously horny and socially anxious among us, but weed’s effects on the sexual outcomes of our nights hadn’t been studied — until recently. When a team of researchers — led by New York University population health expert Joseph J. Palamar, Ph.D. — decided to investigate how each intoxicant affected hookup success and failure, they realized that pot was, in some cases, especially potent — but not for the reasons you’d think. They published their study results Thursday in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
“One of the most interesting things was that a couple people mentioned the fact that marijuana is illegal playing a big part in hooking up with others,” Palamar, who is also affiliated with NYU’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research and Rory Meyers College of Nursing, told Inverse. The twist? “We didn’t ask about illegality.”
Palamar suspects that the relatively private circumstances in which people are forced to smoke weed are what lead to hooking up. “If you’re older than 21, you’re able to drink anywhere you want. But when it comes to marijuana, at least in most of the U.S., it has to be in a hidden area where you can’t get arrested,” he says. “If you get someone to come home with you to smoke weed, there’s a way to facilitate getting a sexual connection, for better or for worse.”
Still, despite pot’s hidden sexual potency, booze remains the most influential hookup intoxicant, the researchers report in their study. To compare what effects booze and pot had on sex, the researchers interviewed 24 heterosexual adults, all of whom had recently smoked up before getting it on. The participants, split evenly by gender, were asked questions comparing their sexual experiences involving alcohol and weed: How did each drug affect the type of partner you ended up with? How did these drugs affect specific sexual acts? Did either drug give you “beer goggles”?
The study’s results, which for the most part were consistent between men and women, confirmed what we’d always known: Alcohol made people more aggressive, outgoing, and more self-confident — one woman described feeling like “the diva of the party” — making it easier for them to connect with potential sexual partners. But it also was more likely to lead to “atypical” — that’s scientist-speak for oh, fuck! — partner choices and post-sex regret. Meanwhile, pot smokers were generally more “chill,” often seeing marijuana as an “ice breaker” for meeting others — one that didn’t impair their ability to make good decisions, at least not as much as alcohol.
This quotation from one participant in the study sums up the findings rather nicely:
When you’re drunk, you might be like, ‘‘Damn, he looks mad good.’’ Then you wake up, you’re like, ‘‘What the hell did I do? Why are we naked in my bed?’’ I think if it was weed only I would’ve been, ‘‘Maybe this is a good stopping point.’’
With only 24 people involved, the study is too small to draw any conclusive results, but it does underscore the need for better harm reduction information, especially concerning weed, which is generally not talked about publicly. “Because alcohol is so accepted, in schools, kids are told ‘Don’t drink, but if you do…,’” Palamar trails off. “But people who smoke marijuana generally don’t receive any harm reduction information from school. They just say don’t do it. Then they learn firsthand.”