As someone who menstruates and has sex, eventually (25% of the time, give or take) the two will cross paths. Period sex is a decidedly controversial act and one that exists at the intersection of historical and societal stigmas, personal preferences, misconceptions and emotions. I’d like to explore period sex: the good, the bad and the bloody.
Menstruation has a long and global history of stigma and taboo evoked in a range of religious and cultural beliefs and practices. Beyond any actively taught beliefs, a general perception of menstruation as secretive, dirty and unsanitary persists. Last year, Florida even considered a ban on teaching some students about menstruation. Periods are still very much an uncomfortable and debated subject, as is sex itself (I’m not even going to get into Florida’s sex education policies). And even if you’re open about your period, you may only talk about it in negative ways, a phenomenon one study refers to as “menstrual moaning.” This isn’t to say you need to love your period. I try to feel neutral about it, and in fact, I have grown to find comfort in my body’s healthy monthly cycles.
Even if your period itself is manageable, period sex can be an uncomfortable topic even among sex-positive and sexually open people. Some people just avoid it altogether. I like to think of myself as a period sex aficionado, heavily inspired by my deep love for Rachel Bloom and her Period Sex anthem. Personally, I’m a big fan of the extra lubrication, increased arousal and decrease in potential pregnancy. Beyond that, I don’t want to give up sex for a quarter of my life! Beyond the well-documented benefits of period sex, I have a radical proposition to make: Period sex is just sex. It doesn’t need its own category or lists of convincing benefits to make it acceptable.
To partners of potentially menstruating people: Periods are natural and normal. Accordingly, act naturally and normally around menstruating people. You don’t need to tiptoe around someone or draw back just because they’re on their period. On the other hand, I’ve heard some pretty horrifying stories about people being overly enthusiastic about periods: one tale involved a guy whipping the tampon out of his partner, twirling it around and throwing it across the room, where it left a permanent stain.
Though I enjoy period sex, I still find myself questioning how and when to broach the topic. I don’t want a partner to reach down and find an unexpected surprise. I also want to give a warning before someone gets a mouthful of blood — nothing wrong with that (and props to you if you give period head!), but I get it if not. Similarly, pulling a tampon out feels decidedly unsexy. But, there are lots of steps we take to feel ready to have sex, so tampon removal becomes part of the agenda. Lay a towel down, or make sure you have some good stain remover, and you’re all set.
I’ve come to see period sex as a useful barometer for my compatibility with a partner. We all carry our own biases and have been shaped by the ugly stigmas of our world. Being open to the natural rhythms of our bodies can only improve the sex we’re having — and that’s what really matters.
Whorat is a student at Cornell University. Her fortnightly column Cowgirl Chronicles is a discussion and exploration of sexual norms and cultural quirks with a dash of feminist theory.
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