Dear Jane,
This is the second post in a series on sexual wellness.
From Smoking Bad Weed to Making Great Lube
This month we interviewed Chelsea Cebara. Cebara is a sex-positive cannabis advocate who, after designing the first water-based cannabis sex aid topical, is now helping brands make and market high-quality cannabis sex products. She wanted us to note that while she has a lot of experience in the cannabis and sexual wellness space, she is not a medical professional. Anything she mentions here is from her personal experience or things other people have told her.
After graduating college in 2009, right into the Great Recession, Cebara started working in a cannabis dispensary owned by a friend. During that time Cebara suffered from endometriosis so bad that one day she found herself in a fetal position on a friend’s floor. That friend suggested she take a couple of bong rips to see if it would help.
“At this point, I didn’t even think I liked weed that much because I’m from Florida where the weed is garbage… not only was the pain gone in ten minutes…but I wasn’t even high. And I had this kind of epiphany moment where I was like I need to know what’s going on here…and I started making my own cannabis topicals.”
Definition Time, courtesy of Cebara
There’s a big difference between traditional lube and a cannabis sex aid. Traditional lube is meant to be put on and interacted with right away and they rarely have Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in them. Topical cannabis sex aids, however, do have THC, which increases blood circulation to whatever area it touches.
Taking full effect about 10 or 15 minutes after application, cannabis topicals can increase sexual pleasure and can help relax tight pelvic muscles. This is a huge help for people with vaginosis or other vaginal tension syndromes. But “topical cannabis-based sex aid” doesn’t really roll off the tongue. So most people loop both products under the umbrella of cannabis lube.
Working in the dispensary allowed Cebara to get a medical certification which, along with creating her own cannabis lubes, was the perfect preparation for the opportunity she received through longtime friend, Mistress Matisse. Matisse called her to say that she had found a company that was working on a water-based cannabis lube which would be a revolutionary accomplishment for the cannabis industry.
Up until that point, all of the cannabis-based lubes were oil-based which made them incompatible with safer sex barriers. Many lubes also had a strong cannabis taste which could be off-putting during oral sex. Long story short, they used a “water emulsion technology from the company and that’s how Velvet Swing was born…for three years we have been preaching the good word of water-based alternative cannabis lubricants”.
Defining Sexual Wellness and Trauma
We asked Cebara the same questions we started all of these interviews with: to define sexual wellness and trauma.
Sexual Wellness: Sexual wellness is “an ability or belief that you deserve pleasure or fulfillment on your own terms…and the meaningful capacity to advocate for that.”
But, Cebara also recognizes how definitions can change depending on what perspective you’re looking at them from. For example, from a medical perspective, professionals often focus on “the absence of a disease state.” If you aren’t sexually unwell, you’re declared sexually well. From a capitalist lens, that definition is more about “maintenance and kind of enhancement of your sexual experience.” When more traditional sex educators speak about sexual wellness, it’s often in the context of “safer sex practices, consent conversations…[and] having compassionate, understanding medical care.”
Cebara wants to move beyond this type of definition. These basic medical and consent conversations are “kind of a given in my definition. What I want to see happen is a push further into a more proactive concept of sexual wellness. It’s not just that nothing’s wrong, it’s also that everything is really good.”
Trauma/Sexual Trauma: The most boiled-down version of Cebara’s definition is “something that sticks with you.”
While that might sound simple, she explains that “the subjective experience of trauma is very different than how people might perceive something to be traumatic or not traumatic. And there’s a lot of, especially in the sexual sphere, trauma that happens…because of the context of the situation, not the specific act that occurred.” No matter what definition a person chooses to use, it isn’t “relevant to healing the person that’s been traumatized. I think the relevant factor is that person’s own individual experience of trauma.”
A Gateway To Consent
For Cebara, it’s been frustrating to see the #MeToo movement take off in so many other industries, but have very little said about it in the cannabis space.
“There’s this big conversation that was sparked around Me Too about what consent means in the context of being intoxicated by alcohol. And that conversation is not happening in parallel in the cannabis community. I think that a lot of that comes from the fact that cannabis is such a mild intoxicant compared to alcohol…I see cannabis as a great, if you will, gateway to more intentional sexuality which is something a lot of people outside the sex-positive community could really use…There’s this weird idea that it’s all romantic and you’re just swept away…[that’s] not only a garbage idea for consent violation [and] risk of sexual assault but it’s also just a bad idea for sex. You’re gonna have bad sex if you don’t wanna talk about the sex you wanna have.”
Cebara believes that “cannabis-based treatments for sexual health and wellness are a complete revolution.” There are two ways to use cannabis to achieve sexual wellness: “the intoxicating route and there’s the non-intoxicating route.” Similar to Cebara’s experience with endometriosis, she has heard a slew of stories from other vagina owners who have said “‘I haven’t had an orgasm in twenty years and I was able to with your product.’” Cebara says that “no matter which avenue you choose….you’re getting different supportive… effects that are helpful for sex for relaxation, reduction of anxiety, reduced self-consciousness…Everything that makes listening to a record while you’re high, awesome.”
Cannabis Consumerism
We asked Cebara what she thinks of large brands entering the cannabis lube business. She said these name brands are able to bring “cannabis to a wider audience…which is hugely important right now.” Having their media dollars behind cannabis products is helping to break down stigma which will benefit the entire industry.
However, “larger brands are seeing cannabis as an opportunity to cash in on a trend and they’re not honoring the ingredients. They don’t really care-it’s kind of high capitalism, right? They don’t really care about the quality of the product in the way that they should.” This is leading to the production of less and less effective products which makes people think “‘oh it’s just another fad. It’s just snake oil.’ And it’s not, it’s just really important that you have a well-formulated, cleanly formulated product.”
Cebara created Velvet Swing “with the background of someone who had been in sexual health for a long time and been in cannabis for a long time. There are a lot of things that I wouldn’t have known if I had just set out and said ‘oh I’m going to make a lube and market it.’”
So how can big brands avoid common pitfalls? Hire Chelsea Cebara. Shameless? Maybe. But it’s 2021 and time to get over the idea that self-promotion is somehow something to be ashamed of. Cebara has a decade worth of experience and is ready to share her hard-earned knowledge.
While she packages “it up as ‘hey I can save you money, I can tell you the things you need to watch out for so you don’t have to reformulate a bunch of times’…what’s really behind that is I want people to have a better experience and I want people to have their lives changed and improved by the use of cannabis for sexual health and wellness.” When you go into it with a people and product-first mindset, money follows.
If you want to see what Cebara is up to, you can go to her website (linked below) or follow her on Twitter; her DMs are open for questions. You can also try out Velvet Swing products for yourself by purchasing them here.
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