In the last year there is one sex act I have broached with three different men that has elicited three wildly different responses. Here they are, in the order in which they were received:

  • "Hell no! That is never appropriate!"
  • "Yeah ... that’s something I feel like you talk about when you’ve been together for a while."
  • "I'm a grown man for god's sake! Grab a towel and let's go!"
What was the act in question? What was the thing that I put on the table that was so daunting that only one man felt he could rise to the occasion? Better question: What was the thing that made two of these men rethink sex with this adorable, sassy redhead? Sex during my period. (Get some background on menstruation and its fascinating, wacky and sometimes downright scary history in "Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation.")

The Great Debate

Period sex is a divisive issue. A quick spin around the Internet reveals that folks are talking about it all the time. Frankly, I think the conversation is a little absurd and shows that as a society, we haven’t entirely moved past the idea that a menstruating woman is "unclean," her menses unmentionable.

After all, the products sold to women for their periods are called "feminine hygiene products" - because it's so dirty! Those products emphasize discretion and secrecy and weird blue liquid - because heaven forbid we even imply that there's blood coming out of there. (Check out the great spoof about the advertising around feminine hygiene in the YouTube spoof below.)

But here’s the thing: menstruation isn’t a flaw. When a woman has her period she is not sick or broken. Her body is doing exactly what it's designed to do. And when it comes to sex, there's no reason to assume that she's out of commission. In fact, many women don't want to be. After all, women spend an estimated 3,500 days of their lifetime menstruating. If you take period sex off the table, that could mean a lot of wasted sexual potential. So, rather than be out of commission for several days each month, or worry about the mess of period sex, let's look at the positive side. (Learn more about your lady bits in 10 Things You Don't Know About Vaginas.)

Why Period Sex Rocks

There are a few great things about period sex - both for women and their partners - that are often overlooked. Add these up and it's pretty clear that not only is period sex perfectly OK, it might just be frickin' great.

  • A shorter period: Orgasm can trigger uterine contractions, which increases your flow post-sex, leading to a shorter period. Woohoo!
  • Relief from cramps: Those same uterine contractions cause the release of oxytocin,a happy brain chemical that can end your cramp suffering - without side effects.
  • Increased lubrication: Having your period means a little extra lubrication, which can make sex more enjoyable for both partners.
  • A little extra heat: Increased hormonal activity can actually increase sex drive for some women.

How to Rock Period Sex

OK, so maybe you’re on board with the whole period sex thing, at least in theory, but then you go "Hey, what about my sheets!?"

I hear you, but there are a few simple things you can do to contain the mess. Plus, as long that mess is easily cleaned up, who really cares? Sex is kinda messy at the best of times (actually, especially at the best of times!)

Keepin' It Clean

First, don't be shy about protecting your bed (or couch or ottoman, etc.). The towel is a tried-and-true period sex staple. Throw one down and have at it.

The other option is to contain the flow. Many women don't think of this one, but Dr. Ruth famously recommended inserting a diaphragm because it catches and holds the blood. It also helps protect against unwanted pregnancy, which is still possible during your period. For those of you who don’t use diaphragms, softcups are a great option: they are soft and flexible cups that are inserted in the vagina. The cup retains the blood until it is removed. Note that softcups aren't recommended for women with IUDs (like myself), which is why I am a fan of sea sponges. These work like applicatorless tampons and can be worn during intercourse. They usually cannot be felt by either you or your partner and, unless your flow is very heavy, they do an excellent job of keeping things clean.

Period-Friendly Positioning

Position is also important when it comes to period sex. Common wisdom says you should definitely be on the bottom to ensure that gravity is working in your favor. This sometimes creates some of its own mess, so try some things out and see what feels best for you. In this situation, a gentle, rear-entry position often works well. (For more ideas, see Try It, You'll Like It! 8 Entry-Level Sex Positions.)

Think Outside the Box

There are so many sexual options that don’t involve vaginal penetration. Your period gives you an excuse to explore your options! And, of course, you and your partner can always hop in the shower. Actually, that's a great idea any day, but your period is as good of an excuse as any.

Menstruation has been seen as a rite of passage, a disease and everything in between. Now we know that it's just a natural part of being woman. So what's the big deal with period sex? There isn't one - or there shouldn't be. And as long as everyone's on board, there's no reason that being on the rag should throw you off your game.

Tell us what you think: Is your partner open to sex during your time of the month? Do you enjoy period sex or hate it?