Words by Lauren Yoshiko

Ever since I was young, I imagined there would come a moment in everyone’s life when their unique, individual tastes would fall into place and their true personality revealed.  

More specifically, I had always wondered what my drink would be. Movies and music videos and French literature had filled my head with alluring impressions of alcohol-based identities. From Samantha’s chilled martini glass to femme fatales swishing a Scotch or cool girls who crack a beer and put a record on after work, I’d built this expectation of a moment where I’d discover my drink of choice, and, in a way, define the kind of woman I was. 

Yet when I started my 20s, and that realization finally struck, it wasn’t the perfect cocktail that came to mind. 

It was a joint.

That long-awaited moment comprised of me merely opening my mind to the simple truth: it’s ok for me to like weed. A notion that sounds so trivial now, but at that time, before I understood why cannabis made me feel the way it did, it was a leap of faith against everything society was telling me. Between enjoying weed and enjoying sex—and not knowing much about either— I always felt as though I had two strikes against me; two foreboding clouds of socially constructed guilt hanging over me.

As I’d fallen into more frequent smoking schedules, I noticed how male friends would comment on my habits. Sometimes more derogatorily, others in sheer awe–they seemed to find it odd, even unnatural, that I enjoyed smoking as much as I did. I observed men who smoked regularly seek out women who didn’t when it came to girlfriends. Family members inquired if I was “over weed” yet. As stoned selfies hit my Facebook feed, some childhood friends fell out of touch. While there was an entire canon of stoner films starring male leads for college viewers, female enthusiasts were merely comic relief with a couple of lines. As a daily cannabis user, my grades were great. I had a job on campus. I was the healthiest and happiest I’d felt in my entire life. It redirected my frantic, perfectionist, people-pleasing energy towards what genuinely interested and inspired me, guiding me towards what I truly cared about—not what I thought I should. But the cannabis element somehow negated or overshadowed that, making me a pothead above all. That judgment made me feel less-than, not good enough, or just bad. That judgment also felt familiar.

Just like smoking cannabis, everyone has sex. But women have traditionally had to walk a narrower tightrope of respectability. We ought to enjoy sex—but not too much. There is a societal threshold of sexual pleasure for women, and once someone perceives that you’ve passed it, that red A, that label of “slut” can overshadow the more fundamental parts of your identity. That kind of environment extinguishes any sense of it being ok for women to talk about sexual pleasure, and it’s those kinds of effects that keep so many women from experiencing real pleasure. Because I was self-conscious of my own sexual curiosity (and ignorance), I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t seek advice. And I didn’t experience satisfying pleasure for the first few years of sexual awareness. I was too busy feeling guilty about perceived impurity and the concept of virginity lost to worry about whether I’d experienced a real orgasm.

The lack of adequate, accessible sex education that doesn’t make one feel guilty or ashamed puts many of us in the dark. It took many cringe-worthy Wikipedia spirals, candid conversations with gynecologists, and frank heart-to-hearts with women I trusted for me to realize I had been experiencing the bare minimum of pleasure.

The minute that clicked, it transformed the way I interacted with my body and my sexual partners. The stigma that shrouds both sex and cannabis is twice as thick for women. It makes it twice as hard to learn more about either. Without a proper primer on cannabis science, the harder it is to find what works and experience desired effects. And you won’t know how to navigate the vast array of options safely. Without some degree of sex education, you may never know real pleasure. 

But once you understand more about how this plant works and what it does for you; once you understand what you want and need, it makes that moment—that defining moment when you unapologetically embrace what your body tells you is right—twenty times more empowering.