That might seem like a non sequitur, but scientists are beginning to consider how hook-ups will be affected by an increased habit of toking up. This field of inquiry is still in its infancy, but so far the results appear to be so: Marijuana facilitates sex if you still think it’s kind of scandalous. And when compared to hooking up drunk, it’s likely to be the more positive experience.
In a study recently published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Joseph Palamar, an assistant professor at NYU’s School of Medicine, and his team, surveyed people’s opinions on their comparative sexual experience while high and not high on marijuana. The sample was teensy — just 24 people recruited on Craigslist and aged between 18 and 35 — but it’s eye-opening, and challenges accepted conventions about hooking up.
“I think most of society understands drugs, although many people still don’t realize how much a part of society they really are,” Palamar tells Inverse. “Yet, people don’t frown upon alcohol use, they actually promote it — and that’s one of the most dangerous drugs.”
When it came to a sexual post-mortem, most of the subjects in Palamar’s study concluded that alcohol was more likely than marijuana to lead to atypical partner choice or next day regret. Alcohol consumption was also more frequently associated with more “high-risk” behaviors, like unplanned sex, multiple partners, and a decrease in protective behaviors, like using birth control. Essentially, Palamar writes, “marijuana lowers one’s standards more than being sober, and alcohol lowers one’s standards more than marijuana.”
One area where the use of marijuana differed: in how good each subject felt about themselves. One male user said that when he smokes, he feels sexier, and another said he felt more self-conscious about his own body image. For a female user, being drunk was all right, but after smoking she usually felt “more sexy … and happy.”
Two of the subjects, unprompted by the researchers, brought up that they felt the illegality of marijuana helped facilitate their hook up.
“One guy and one girl said that the fact that marijuana is illegal may have facilitated their sexual interactions,” says Palamar. “Because it’s illegal and has a small odor, it’s not like you can generally get away with smoking out in the open. But if someone is on a date, or there is someone they’re interested in, they can ask them if they want to go back to their place and smoke. It’s this idea that you’re doing something that’s taboo, in a private area.”
Does this mean that when states like California legalize marijuana, there will be a drop in hook ups? Not so much, says Palamar. It really comes back to the idea of how someone personally feels about marijuana, and the idea of getting into a more private space. If marijuana isn’t taboo for you — regardless of legalization — there’s no extra thrill pushing your adrenaline and increasing your attraction. It’s the invitee’s opinion on how enticing the offer is that really matters; what the inviter wants is mostly to get them alone.
“It’s like guys trying to get girls to come to the bathroom at a bar to do cocaine,” says Palamar. “They still think that magically they’re going to get laid in that whole minute.”