Everyone has secrets. Dirty little ones that they’re not ready to confront or confess. And some of the biggest secrets of all typically fall within two realms: sex and drugs. While society may be loosening up in many ways, the taboo nature of these topics still sweeps them under the rug—out of sight, out of mind, and under discussed.
Antithetical to the aforementioned we find Ashley Manta. Unabashed, unashamed—and most of all authentic—her work as a cannasexual shines a light on the those things you don’t feel comfortable talking about. Sexual trauma, body image, polyamory, and of course cannabis are but a few of the topics at the forefront of the conversation in Manta’s work, where her willingness to translate the taboo provides a powerful lesson to those that can handle the uncensored truth.
This is her interview with PUSH Mag.
- What were your aspirations when you were growing up? Are they different from your current life path?
My childhood aspirations do not remotely resemble the life I have now, but I think that’s because “sex and cannabis educator and facilitator” wasn’t among the leaflets handed out by my guidance counselor on career day! I wanted to be a lawyer and eventually go into politics from the time I was in 7th grade through most of college. I was a political science/pre-law major before switching to philosophy (because allegedly philosophy students got better LSAT scores). It wasn’t until halfway through my master’s program in philosophy that I realized that I didn’t want to be a lawyer or a philosophy professor. I was writing papers about trauma and acquaintance rape that were being accepted to national and international conferences and I started to see that what I really loved to do was educate people and help promote compassion in the world.
- Were there any defining moments in your life where you were pushed to make a transformational change?
When I was 13 years old, I was raped by a schoolmate who was 16. In March of 2015, I made the decision to name him on the internet, through a blog that I posted on my website. From the moment I hit “publish”–everything changed. I had numerous women email me to tell me that they too had been assaulted by that individual, either in high school or some into early adulthood. I received a lot of criticism and claims that I was trying to “ruin his life” with my “baseless accusations.” In reality, I just wanted other survivors, like the ones who emailed me, to know that they weren’t alone and that what happened to them wasn’t their fault. That choice, to name him on my blog, came at a high cost. My PTSD flared in a major way and I had to quit my full time job because I was having daily panic attacks. I was having flashbacks and nightmares and feeling awful in my body. Cannabis helped me get back into my body and start to heal. It also helped me rediscover my sexuality in a healthy and empowered way, which has led to a total transformation in my life between March 2015 and now.
- Is there a story behind how you came up with the term cannasexual?
In July 2014 I met the folks at Foria, a company that produces a THC-infused coconut oil pleasure spray, among other products. I was pleasantly shocked to find that a company was intentionally creating a cannabis product to improve sexual experiences, both by decreasing discomfort and pain and by enhancing pleasure. I realized that there were few (if any) sexuality educators talking about how to mindfully combine sex and cannabis and it seemed like a perfect niche for me. I wanted a way to encapsulate both concepts and CannaSexual was born. I’m a fan of portmanteaus generally, but choosing CannaSexual over “cannasensual” “cannabliss” and “chronic lust” was actually the result of a Facebook poll. CannaSexual was the ultimate winner, and now I have a trademark pending, which is super exciting for me.
- What has stood out to you regarding the experience of females working in the cannabis industry?
This industry is progressive in a lot of ways–I love that organizations like Women Grow and Supernova exist–but we still have a long way to go to be more inclusive and intersectional. I would love to see more thought go into creating consent focused spaces that empower and celebrate bodies rather than exploit them, and more women, trans, and gender nonconforming folks on panels at conferences and giving keynote talks.
- How do you manage the very personal nature of your profession?
There’s a lot of crossover between my personal life and my professional life, due to the nature of my work. Much of my writing is autobiographical, so I make sure the people who get involved with me understand that I often write about my sexual and romantic exploits. I’m always sensitive to both consent and privacy needs, so I make sure to only refer to people the way they choose and only talk about cannabis use (beyond my own) with permission. I try to be as transparent and vulnerable as possible–my goal is to show people that their experiences are normal and to try to be a beacon of permission for people to find joy and empowerment in their own lives.
- What can we expect to see from Ashley Manta in 2017?
I’m writing a sex and cannabis book, so hopefully that’ll be out in 2017! I’ve been collaborating with a lot of great folks who are experts in their respective areas of sexuality or cannabis and I want to offer a well-rounded body of knowledge that will give people practical tips on incorporating cannabis into their sexuality, whether solo or partnered! I’m also just starting a project that will center folks who are battling cancer. Sex during and after cancer is something that not enough people are talking about and I plan to put together a series of calls, webinars, and eventually retreats where people can share knowledge and experience of the ways cannabis has been therapeutic for them along their journeys.