Image Map

Bed, Bitch & Beyond: Red Hot Love

 

From the reader mailbag: Can you please talk about sex while you're on your period? Should I be offended if my boyfriend would rather not? Shouldn't he be willing to accept my body no matter which phase of the moon it is? 

Well, this is one we've all dealt with many, many times, right?*

The question of to fuck or not to fuck while menstruating is an ancient one; there's a whole section of the Old Testament devoted to the issues of "uncleanliness" caused by menstruation, and the Babylonian Talmud includes an absolutely exhaustive discussion of menstruation called the Tractate Niddah, including rules about the use of testing rags to ensure that there's absolutely no trace of menstrual blood in the vagina. The ancient sages--all male, of course, and all extremely squeamish--even voice concerns that the woman might be in such a hurry to get laid once her period is over that she won't check properly:

Rab Judah, citing Samuel ruled: A testing rag used before marital intercourse does not reduce [the doubtful period of retrospective uncleanness] as an examination. What is the reason?

Rab Kattina replied: Because the woman is in a hurry to do her marital duty.

--But what matters it even if she is in a hurry to do her marital duty?

--Since she is in a hurry to do it, she does not insert the testing-rag into the the depressions and folds.

OMG! That horny girl forgot the depressions and the folds! There might be a stray drop of nasty, nasty blood to soil the immaculate peen! [eyeroll]

Menstrual blood has definitely been stigmatized by many cultures, but our modern Western society seems to have made a lot of progress in that department. Hell, these days, there's even a menstrual activist movement, with art featuring women wearing their menstrual blood as lipstick. I don't know about you ladies, but while I don't have any shame or squeamishness about any of my bodily excretions, I don't care to smear them on my face (or see them smeared on yours, thanks very much).

When it comes to sex, though, I think responses to menstrual blood vary widely. I personally have no problem getting busy during my period--throw down a towel to preserve the sheets, and I'm good to go. I was lucky that my first serious boyfriend was completely unfazed by my period, so I didn't get any negative messages about it early on. I've had a few guys say "No thanks, I'll wait," and I just took it in stride. Everyone should be able to say no to sex if there's something about it that makes them uncomfortable, including mensturation. While that was occasionally (sexually) frustrating, it wasn't a big deal. And plenty of men didn't mind at all, especially since I use condoms pretty much 100% of the time, so it's not like he's actually coming into contact with the blood anyway.

Where I did have problems was on the very rare occasion I got an "Eww, gross!" response. Those men received the Feminist Lecture Series about how my vagina does not exist solely for their pleasure--it's part of my reproductive system, and if they couldn't handle that, they could get the fuck out.

If you or your significant other don't particularly like period sex and want to give your vagina a week off, you shouldn't feel like you're somehow being negative about your body. To each her own. Just don't let anyone tell you there's anything wrong with what's going on down there, or that it makes you gross or less feminine or less attractive.

A funny side note about periods: I recently read an interview with Stephenie Meyers, author of the Twilight series, who said that--to her irritation--one of the questions she gets asked the most by readers is about menstruation. Specifically, if the all the tension of the novels have to do with the way Edward is so aroused by and attracted to the smell of Bella's blood, what happens when she menstruates? This made me laugh out loud. The author might not like to contemplate that, but it's a totally legit question, IMO. How can Edward stand it? Fresh, flowing blood! How can he stand it? A girlfriend of mine said, "If she used a diva cup, she could share--problem solved." Brilliant! The Diva Cup's a shot glass for your vampire boyfriend! (For more about my own adventures learning to use the Diva Cup, go here). I think at the very least, we know that Edward Cullen wouldn't be one of those boyfriends who's turned off by period sex...

* I realize I'm approaching this from a totally hetero viewpoint, because that's the only experience I've had. So women who love women, please free free to discuss/compare/share your own experiences about period sex in the comments.

Bitch Media publishes the award-winning quarterly magazine, Bitch:Feminist Response to Pop Culture. Pitch in to support feminist media: Subscribe today

Subscribe to Bitch


Comments

33 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Yeah for Diva Cup!

Side note: today I got my Diva Cup after reading the post on Harpyness a while back! I am extremely happy. :) That is all I have to say...

Diva Cup FTW! Enjoy it!

Diva Cup FTW!

Enjoy it! Well, maybe not enjoy, but you know what I mean. It took me a while to get around to trying it, but I am now very happy to spread the gospel of menstrual cups. They are way better and cheaper and less messy than pads or tampons.

 Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

divas, etc.

A couple of the most important things I've learned about my body:
1. How to use a Diva cup
2. How to give myself an orgasm

Life changing. Both should be taught/discussed in sex ed. and to daughters everywhere.

Shot glass!

I love the idea of a fanfic piece detailing Edward and Bella's period sex discussions. Someone write it, please! I too am laughing out loud at the premise. Hilarious!

On another note, I am totally one of those people who doesn't particularly love period sex, mostly because I usually have cramps and just feel generally a little gross in the ladyparts. Sometimes that makes me feel like a bad feminist. It shouldn't, however, because it doesn't mean I think periods are gross, and nobody I'm with should either (well, nobody who is with anybody at all should).

Great post! Now I'm off to find a vampire bf to drink from my Diva Cup.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

I'm sure that somewhere out

I'm sure that somewhere out there are gazillions of fanfic stories about Edward and Bella and period blood! It's just too obvious!

As for feeling like a bad feminist...it's so not something to worry about. There's definitely a subset of feminism devoted to the idea that our pussies are beautiful and wonderful and we should all sit around with our hand mirrors held between our legs and admire them, especially when they're doing their beautiful, wonderful menstruation thing, and if we don't, we're somehow letting down Womanity by not sufficiently appreciating our own cis-woman-ness.

But who cares? If you're not feeling it, that's your business. We all have the right to say, "you know, I'm not in the mood" for whatever reason. Personally, I find that orgasm helps with cramping and generally elevates my mood, but it's not like sex (or even a partner) is necessary for that.

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

that's pretty awesome about

that's pretty awesome about twilight, that people ask that of her.

i've always wondered about the pseudoscientific evolutionary arguments for what people are attracted to (big breasts = fertility somehow kind of crap), and thought that if fertility is the real turn on, then menstruation, a real sign of fertility, unlike hips and breasts and youth, should be a real turn on. right?

I have had the opposite

I have had the opposite problem. I had a partner that didn't care about my period and even actually tried to go down on me. Now it was the last few days so it wasn't a heavy flow but I was still sufficiently freaked out.

Afterwards this made me feel even worse; I was ashamed of my own body! But at the same time, I really was disgusted. I wondered what was wrong with me and what was wrong with my partner. I know I should be confident with my body but spreading my legs when I'm still on my period and watching a guy down there (even with a light flow), just really skeeved me out.

Is this bad? I feel so conflicted over it.

It's not bad--don't be hard

It's not bad--don't be hard on yourself.

It's worth stopping to think "hmm...why did that freak me out?" Are you're kinda grossed out by your own blood? You certainly wouldn't be the only woman to feel that way. Or did you expect him to be grossed out and you were unprepared when he did it? You might just ask him straight out, like "Hey, do you really like doing that?" If he says "Yeah, it's a turn-on for me," or "I love eating your pussy no matter what" would you feel less ashamed/freaked-out?

Everyone has different levels of squeamishness. It may be that you're more squeamish and he's less squeamish and you have to find a middle ground you're both comfortable with. Obviously, if you really don't like it, just tell him to stop. There are three other weeks out of the month when he can go down on you to his heart's content.

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

It's easy to tell you the

It's easy to tell you the obvious: not to be ashamed of your body. But it's different when you know you shouldn't and you still do. You feel the way you do about your body for a reason, and it's your body-- you shouldn't feel guilty for being ashamed of it or disgusted by it. I think most of us have felt that way at one point in time, and that's perfectly fine. I don't think it's very healthy, but feeling guilty about your feelings is worse. If you feel like you want to work on it, then you can accept the idea that you have those feelings and ask why you feel that way.
I'm entirely grossed out by semen, which can be a little wierd when you're a hetero woman. The smell makes me want to gag, it's really slimy and not in any way appealing. But I can accept that. I'm not going to make my partner feel guilty about it because that's the way it is, but we both accept that when it touches my skin I want to scour it off sooner than later.

I know it's not wrong

I know having a period is not wrong and isn't supposed to be gross. But I feel absolutely wretched and disgusting with these clots and massive bloodshed every month. I know it's normal, but to me, blood should not flow out of that orifice. It just feels gross. And I sure as hell don't feel sexy at all, feeling bloated and in pain and sweaty. And the fact that my husband is terrified/grossed out by period blood (he won't even touch a packaged, unused pad, or the package they come in in the store) makes me feel even more disgusting. It is the most miserable few days of my life every month. Even if he wasn't terrified of vag blood, I wouldn't want anything in there while shit's coming out. It grosses me out.

no wonder you're unhappy

I think your husband sounds a phobic. He's that "terrified" of a wrapped package of maxi pads? I totally get being squeamish about blood, but he's freaking out over something that's 100% clean and completely harmless. Would he also refuse to go near a package of diapers or toilet paper because they're going to eventually come in contact with someone's shitty bottom?

I wonder how much of your feeling "wretched and disgusting" during your period has to do with the fact that your husband acts like this. You hint that you think there might be a connection. If you were with someone who just shrugged off your period, would you feel differently? Would your life be different if you were with someone who didn't act like your (totally normal) womanly bodily functions were horrifying and disgusting?

I realize I'm only hearing a slice of thes story, but I don't think any woman should ever be made to feel like her body is disgusting or nasty, least of all by her life partner.

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

I have to agree with Becky:

I have to agree with Becky: there is no way his reactions to your period are not affecting you. By being squeamish about anything even associated with your period, he's sending you the message that you're disgusting. My boyfriend is the exact opposite of this: he uses more menstrual pads than I do, because he has a medical over-perspiration condition, and they keep his clothes dry. Maybe you should tell your husband that story to help him realize that pads don't equal The Plague.

As far as sex while on the period goes, I don't usually do it because my cervix is very tender during that time. I would at least try for masturbation, as rumor has it that orgasm reduces cramps, but I haven't experienced any benefits. In fact, it seems counter-intuitive: don't orgasms involve uterine contractions? I'd think that would actually contribute to the problem. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. :)

wait, I'm curious...

Does he tuck the pads under his arms to deal with the sweat problem? I know women who use occasionally use pantiliners in the armpits of their silk blouses to prevent sweat stains.

As for the uterine contraction thing, my totally unscientific theory is that the contractions you get from orgasm kind of stretch and loosen up your uterus. Right before you come, the uterus actually balloons up a tiny bit, so if it's cramping, that might counteract the squeezing motion of the cramps. Or it could just be because the endorphins your brain releases during orgasm are a natural painkiller, so your cramps hurt less.

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Seems so.

I'm a victim of the first two days of my period. Fertility blessing or not, the first two days of my period can be debilitating (especially if I'm a moron and go drinking the night before or have had a really stressful pre-menstrual week). I've had cramping so badly that I've had people ask me if I want to go to the ER; these first two days I cannot go unmedicated, and even with prescription nSAIDs and some leftover Darvocet from a rotator cuff injury can do nothing for it but take the edge off. I should probably get checked for endomitriosis, but the idea of exploratory surgery in order to just see if I have it is really freaky and I'm a chickenshit... There are other reasons, too, but that's beside the point.
Occasionally, I will have a raging sex drive once the really bad cramps go away, but I've heard that orgasms do help cramping and I've tried it. Masturbation really does help, and sex-- after the serious cramps go away and I actually feel like doing it-- if messy, really does help. For whatever reason, the muscle spasms I have (back muscles, thighs) go away after this excursion.

I Know This Is Unrelated to the Larger Topic...

...but I also have this cramping problem, it's called dysmennorhea. A lot of times a sonogram can tell you if it's endometriosis. I got a sonogram (boy, that WASN'T what I expected), and we didn't see any lesions. But you should get one if possible because over time, if it is endometriosis, you can end up really bad off. Plus, you get to see your follicles! They're so cute!

What I do for the pain is basically I don't have periods. I take low estrogen birth-control pills every day (no placebo weeks off) for six months at a time, and then I let myself have a natural cycle. Better this than the 750mg Vicodin horse-pills my body was becoming dependent on. The gynecologist recommended this.

Back on topic: can't wait to try this cup in 5 months!

hmm ...

... yeah, to the OP of this thread, if you find periods so awful, why not use a form of birth control that eliminates periods, or at the very least makes it so that you have fewer periods?

Bring it On

My boyfriend will have sex with me, go down on me, or do pretty much whatever he ordinarily would during my period. I was squeamish about it for about the first five seconds, but I got over it.

Diva cup sounds awesome! So tired of chucking a million pads every month.

The Diva cup saves you a lot

The Diva cup saves you a lot of money, too--since they last for 10 years. And think of all the virgin forest (heh heh) that won't be destroyed to make pads/tampons.

Okay, I'll shut up about the Diva cup now...

And your boyfriend sounds awesome.

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

The Diva Cup is not the only menstrual cup

The Diva Cup seems to have become popular because people think there are no other options out there, but I'd recommend anyone interested in using a menstrual cup shop around a bit - there are at least a dozen options available in the US.

I have a very low cervix, so low that even the small Diva cup is too deep for me to wear properly. I currently use a Lunette, which I love.

Periods are Powerful!

For those of you ladies who express disgust/disinterest with the period sex, please give it a go. No judgment if you don't like it afterwards, but there is certainly a feeling of sexiness and power when you're through (not to mention you can skip the lube!). You can even ease yourself into it, by going at it the first time when your period is light.

Your menstrual blood is clean, part of you, and awesome. And after you finish up, you're going to find your partner that much more incredible to you, because you'll realize they see it the same way. I've gotten to the point where a man or woman who isn't cool with my period is causing a deal breaker. Having someone refer to my menses as "ew" or "gross" makes them less attractive to me.

A week off great sex? Not doin' it.

I totally agree

Not only do I get into a kind of heightened state during my period, but my vulva is more sensitive (in a very good way), which can make sex-play more pleasurable and intense. I absolutely couldn't put up with a partner who thought that was disgusting. The whole idea seems really juvenile. I think people who haven't had period sex often get this image of blood just gushing all over their partner, when (in my experience) it really isn't that dramatic. It just seems . . . natural.

:)

"sex"

BTW, sex can mean all sorts of things, so if the thought of penetration while on your period makes you want to curl into a ball, you might still enjoy other kinds of stimulation. I think it all comes down to what works for You.

I have problems with my

I have problems with my boyfriend and period sex, not because he's grossed out, but because he thinks he's hurting me. He is so worried about poking a swollen cervix and I think he also cannot get his mind around the fact that there would be blood without any wounding pain. I end up having to trick him into penetrative sex sometimes when I'm on my period, like "Oh, woops, totally forgot about that!" But it's nothing a quick shower can't mend, and as with most people, once sex is on the horizon ,there's no stopping them from going there.

I think sex on your period is important for a couple reasons. One, women should not be expected to perform oral/manual sex if their partner is wanting something and they aren't, or their vagina is off limits. Also, penetration it helps bring out that last bit of goo in there. I use a Diva Cup and one of the benefits I attribute to it is shorter periods because it can all just move faster.

On the lesbian tip: I was having a gossip sesh with girl friends about the grosser/stranger sex things we had done and one of them said she dated a girl for a minute who LOVED period sex. She would get on her knees and suck the blood off of and out of my friend's vagina. That one sicked me out. Good starting point for the Twilight fanfic though.

Way better than a milk

Way better than a milk moustache!

a bar conversation i once had

a drunken aquaintance and i once sat at a bar and had a conversation about sex and love.

she said, 'do you know when a guy really loves you? when he wants to have sex with you when you haven't shaved your legs.'

to which i responded, 'they don't care if you shaved your legs or not. you know a guy really loves you when he'll have sex with you when you're on your period. and doesn't treat it like an obstacle.'

i know that's not necessarily true, but i thought it was a funny little conversation.

lesbian lovin while on the rag

i go down on my gf and she goes down on me, no problem, as long as we both have tampon/diva cup in. i usually take a shower first. most of the time i can't taste the blood. i really enjoy eating her out when shes on her period (as long as im not tasting the blood) because its a lot warmer down there, she's more sensitive and it just feels....right? i feel like her power is flowing to me! haha, thats the only way i can describe it. she pretty much says the same thing about me. periods have never stopped us before (unless im really bloated and feel sick)

Re: lesbian loving

If you have something in, there are a lot of options open to you even if one or both partners are squeamish about tasting blood. (Personally, I'm more insecure about not looking clean.) Focus on external stimulation, manual massage or rubbing, or, if penetration is really necessary for your good time, take the sessions on your period to focus mostly on your partner, and she can return the favor accordingly.

The general attitude in the

The general attitude in the comments here is that if someone does not want to have period sex they must be ashamed of themselves or think periods are dirty etc. I can't be the only one who thinks that is more than a little judgemental. Has it occured to anyone that there are other reasons for disliking period sex? Using myself as an example I can say that I don't like blood. I would no more want to have sex while on my period than I would want to be kissed when my lip is bleeding. This is not shame. Stop calling it that.

An interesting comparison you just made...

I don't believe I read any comments judging those who chose not to have period sex. Most of the comments seem to be full of polite encouragement, acceptance, appreciation of period sex, and sharing of personal experience.

What I found interesting about your comment was that you equated period sex with a bloody lip. Perhaps these types of comparisons are part of our social inclination to shy away from having period sex (in essence to be ashamed of our periods, to think they are dirty, just like you said in your post).

Your comment makes me want to discuss the composition of menstrual fluid. While menstrual fluid resembles blood, it actually comprises mostly of tissue and fluid from the uterus, some blood which feeds the endometrial lining, and the endometrial lining itself. Our menstrual fluid is very different from a bloody lip. If I had a gash in my vagina that was bleeding, I wouldn't want to have sex, because i would be concerned with caring for the laceration. Menstrual fluid is not a result of a cut, it is a natural process our incredible bodies undergo. I think comparing a period to a bloody lip is exactly why some women feel ashamed or dirty and have a grossed out feeling when considering period sex.

It is our responsibility to encourage a comprehensive understanding of our biological processes. The more you know. :)

Maybe it's just me

Interestingly enough, I find that men are most attracted to me when I have my period. I am a single gal and it's not like these men KNOW that I am menstruating. It just seems that it's during my time of month is when random men will most likely walk up to me at a club/bar/grocery store/train station/wherever and "strike up a conversation". It's very odd and I never quite understood it - it's like I have a siren going off. I'm not a big fan of period sex because of the messiness, catholic repressions, and some of the men I've been with are not comfortable with it. However, I do get noticeably hornier during my period. I guess it's the whole "want it but can't have it" dynamic that gets me riled up and possibly attracts others.

It's not just you

I actually read an article once that says women scientifically go through certain processes around their periods that may make them more attractive to hetero men.
"Whether she consciously wants a baby or not, her body sure as hell does. Her lips plumpen, her pupils dilate, her voice increases in pitch and, most importantly, her breasts swell. On their egg days, women can just sit back and let their ovaries turn her into Jessica Rabbit. OK, many women also get abdominal pain and low grade fevers, but still, boobs."
http://www.cracked.com/article/206_6-ways-you-can-accidently-attract-lad...
I am not sure about the accuracy of this at all and the phrasing wasn't exactly feminist, but it's interesting to note.

This is actually not around

This is actually not around their periods, but during ovulation, since it is when you're most fertile and your period is when you're least fertile. But yeah...interesting phenomenon!

A friend of mine told me

A friend of mine told me that her almost fiance and now her ex was yelling at her several times when she got a little blood on a mattress
I'm happy to tell you that I've never had a serious relationship with a man who had a problem with period sex. If anything, I'm generally the one who hesitate because my symptoms are generally pretty unpleasant.
But I agree that being grossed out by the natural functions of the female body is a big red flag! I think they're the same people who think body hair is disgusting.