The Historical Stigma Of Period Sex And Why You Should Ignore It
Our guest blogger, Laura Delarato, talks period sex - why we've been taught it's shameful, and why you need to start having orgasms every day of the month if you want.
Oh my god, what the fuck!
Those words have chimed through my subconsciousness for years; verbally connected to a credulous man I was sleeping with when I was 24 years old who was not expecting to look down post-orgasm and find his groin and penis covered in menstrual blood. I’ll never forget that moment — it was disgust and shame and selfishness wrapped up in one ball of energy and placed right in my lap as I (equally shocked) sat up from the red spot.
Of course this was the reaction. We have been handed the narrative of disgusting menstruation for years; perpetuated by negative representations of the “that time of the month” through language and media spots — not to mention the sophomoric ways we hide the actual event behind blue liquid tampon/pad commercials to not offend. So when a person does have sex while they are on their period — or gets it right in the middle of sex — they are bringing along years of internalized stigma.
This is interesting. I have watched full-on murder scenes in film, the news will outright show graphic violence, Dr. Pimple Popper literally does full surgery on Instagram, but periods are gross and we should cover them up? The shame derives from a lot of places, but all of it tends to lead back to one location: Religion. Religious texts outline periods being impure. “Menstrual Taboos Among Major Religions”, in the Journal of World Health and Societal Politics, takes a look into how different religious texts view menstruating women. Menstruation has been used as justification to keep menstruators away from positions of authority (Christianity), sequester them (Islam), deem them poisonous (Buddhism), or just ritually unclean (Judaism), and many more. Of course, some taboos have been mowed down by science, education, empowerment, and female-driven companies, but a lot of shame still exists. We teach our prepubescent children to shame and be shamed by this outdated information. It’s a vicious cycle that then seeps into how we represent periods for the masses.
Period sex hasn’t really made it into our media zeitgeist. All I can remember is Jonah Hill’s character being tagged “Blood Brothers” with another partygoer after a woman he is dancing with gets period blood on his denim in Superbad; setting off a storm of awkward jokes and disgust. Wow. Okay, that’s a four minute scene that definitely doesn’t teach an appropriate response to a period. There is also Sansa’s first period scene in Game Of Thrones where she tries to hide the evidence as to not produce an heir for the Lannisters. And that scene in Friends when Monica does period math when she wants to have a baby. While period sex is not a full-on thing in media (except maybe this amazing moment in Crazy Ex Girlfriend), we are still left with these super intense depictions of just having a period. I’ll leave you with this well-known scene in Carrie where she is left unaware of her menstruation and taunted by her classmates because she thinks she is bleeding to death. Just, wow.
The only shame that we should acknowledge are the missed opportunities to have great sex because we’re afraid of it being gross and embarrassing. There’s more lubricant, oscillating hormones and major blood flow to the area might launch your sex drive skyward, and the orgasms reduce cramps!
Still feeling embarrassed? Think about this: Period sex shame is, literally, man-made. It’s the patriarchy. Take that into consideration when you’re about to have period sex — every bit of information you’ve been given has directly correlated to a shame tactic for you to feel bad about your body. Own your body and your menses. You can even use this as a moment to feel more connected to your partner. Talk about fluid boundaries and mention your own comfort (cramps cramps cramps). Let this be an opportunity for both of you to strengthen your communication. Also, try different positions! Because your genitals might be more sensitive, you might be more interested in deep penetration. Experiment with this! And sure, it’s messy but so is regular sex. If you’re emotionally mature enough to touch genitalia, then you can extend that a bit more to accommodate menstruation.
So, has anything changed? We’re going in the right direction! We now have incredible TV episodes where menstruation is actually talked about i.e. Big Mouth’s Everybody Bleed, period conversations are becoming more mainstream especially as social media has expanded different POVs across the globe as a helpful resource — just YouTube search “period sex” and you’ll find a ton of people who want to talk to you about it. We’re getting there, babes.
I think a lot about that night years ago when I was 24 and totally fearful of what it meant to have period sex. I was so afraid. I internalized his complete lack of maturity into the intensely shameful story I had been told about my period. But, oddly, I don’t regret the experience. Of course, I wish I had better information to keep me secure in my body and push back on his offensive reaction. But that one singular moment allowed me to recognize the work we have to do to remove the stigma. Period sex is awesome. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.