After experiencing rape and getting out of a physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive relationship, Kim Koehler feared she would never enjoy sex again.
In her mind, sex was equated with anxiety—both the fear of being emotionally hurt and the fear of letting someone down if she wasn’t able to climax fast enough. There was also physical pain.
But rather than renounce sex or let her abuser win, Koehler decided to take action—and help a lot of other people along the way.
Koehler was first offered physical therapy to deal with her trauma, an experience she recounts as “awkward as hell,” and certainly not the right thing to help her regain sexual confidence. As she suffered in silence, she realized that sexual trauma is one of the least-talked-about ailments out there.
While she was dealing with this trauma, she was also working in the cannabis industry, a realm she had largely left unexplored before the green boom, since she isn’t a smoker. But as she started to experiment a little with CBD, a non-psychoactive element in cannabis, she realized it could be the answer to healing her trauma and pain.
“The first time I tried a very high-CBD, low-THC tincture, I tried it before sex, and it was the first time I was able to start having orgasms again,” she explained.
“That was so incredible to me; I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it was to finally be able to experience that again, because I basically thought I was broken. I didn’t think I would orgasm again.”
After realizing what she had stumbled onto, Koehler tried numerous combinations of CBD and other ingredients for her homemade salves and lubes. Eventually, she stumbled upon the right blend, and decided to create her own product that could potentially help others with trauma. She started her company, called Privy Peach, in the hopes that, although her lubes and other products are fun behind closed doors and smell and taste great, they could first and foremost help to heal.
“A lot of people just don’t talk about this,” Koehler said. “First of all, they don’t talk about cannabis or sex, let alone combining cannabis and sex. I feel like so many people just accept that this is their fate; they are always going to deal with pain; they aren’t going to be able to have orgasms. There are people who fake it their entire lives, so I’m trying to take that stigma away.”
Koehler’s lubes have several different purposes.
As the name suggests, they provide lubrication to make sex more pleasurable. But, the CBD and other active ingredients also help to both soothe any pain or inflammation, while also increasing blood flow to the genitals. So, while the CBD does help with dulling pain, it certainly doesn’t dull or numb positive sensations. Instead, those are increased.
Privy Peach’s CBD-infused Intimate Oil is the first product Koehler focused on, and initially the lube she developed to help with her own sexual pain. Even though it afforded a lot of people relief and got rave reviews from those who tried it out in the bedroom, she realized not everyone is having vaginal sex. Anal lube was a huge, unexplored market, and Koehler wanted to reach the queer community and anyone who likes anal sex. She also realized that it could be helpful for victims of trauma or those who experience more pain than usual during anal intercourse.
“The product is still all-natural, and I haven’t seen any other cannabis-infused lubes that are specifically formulated for anal,” she explained. “And a lot of anal lubes out there have a lot of artificial ingredients in them.”
The Love Drug Beyond the Club
Some trauma is so deep it can’t be healed by a positive sexual experience. In fact, it may be so ingrained that not even love, therapy, medication, or support can completely heal old wounds. When that is the case, many times people try and cope by using drugs, which usually turns into addiction and unhealthy habits. But, when used in a controlled environment and under the correct circumstances, some psychoactive substances can actually provide relief.
MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) studies the effects of MDMA, known on the street as Ecstasy or Molly, on trauma. And this isn’t some backroom, illicit study.
Not only is the research completely legal, the FDA just granted a breakthrough designation to MAPS so the association can continue to look into how the substance helps with PTSD.
“The main focus of our work right now is researching MDMA, specifically assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD,” explained Brad Burge, director of strategic communication for MAPS.
“We’ve also done a lot of other research, and we want to do a lot more. We’ve done cannabis, and we want to do LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, ibogaine. We want to look at this for mental health, but we aren’t just taking these people and giving them drugs and hoping they get better. It’s always using the drug in combination with psychotherapy.”
Patients who want to participate in the study come to MAPS because they have tried multiple methods to work through their trauma and still need more help. They start by seeing a psychotherapist while sober and once they build up a good relationship, they are dosed with MDMA and spend the day receiving therapy in a safe and clinical setting. They are either kept overnight at the hospital for observation or released late in the evening if they feel ready to go home.
So far, the studies have seen really positive results. Sixty percent of people who receive treatment report that they no longer have PTSD two weeks after the study, and that number jumps up to 63 percent a year later.
The study also found that those with trauma related to serving in the armed forces or fire and police departments isn’t any different to treat than trauma from rape or emotional violence. In other words, all cases of PTSD, and trauma triggers, are equally valid.
So, how does this impact the LGBTQ communtity?
Queer people are likely to have PTSD or have experienced trauma, often due to discrimination or from intimate partner violence. Harvard reports that queer youth are more likely to suffer from PTSD because of trauma during youth or formative teenage years.
MAPS is aware of this data, and wants to specifically work with the queer community. It also wants to make the trials as intersectional—and accessible—as possible.
“There is a cultural stigma on identifying as LGBTQ just as much or moreso than there is on psychedelics,” said Burge. “We want this treatment to be accessible to as many people as possible. It’s so psychotherapy-heavy that it could be expensive, so we are working on getting it covered by insurance as soon as it is approved, and we want to enroll a diverse population. Clinical trials really suffer from being really uniform; they tend to be heterosexual, white.”
Alternative treatments for trauma like cannabis and MDMA certainly aren’t for everyone, but having more tools to deal with PTSD, sexual trauma, and other kinds of pain is hugely helpful.
As the stigma is slowly removed from substances that can help as well as hurt, the healing can begin for folks seeking help in unusual places.