In my life I have proposed one sex act to multiple partners and received responses so varied it seems noteworthy. Before we talk about the act, let’s talk about some of the wildly different responses:
Bloody Hell! Is Period Sex Really a Big Deal?
- "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 out of three felt he could rise to the occasion? Better question: What was the thing that made two partners rethink sleeping 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. Now, obviously, no one should feel they have to engage in any sex they are not comfortable with, period sex included but, frankly, I think the extensive conversation around the issue is a little absurd and shows that as a society, we haven’t entirely moved past the idea that menstruation is “unclean," and menses unmentionable.
After all, the products sold for their periods are called "feminine hygiene products" - because it's so dirty! Those products emphasize discretion and secrecy and their advertisements often feature weird blue liquid - because heaven forbid we even imply that there's blood coming out of there.
But here’s the thing: menstruation isn’t a flaw. When someone has their period they are not sick or broken. It is just the body doing exactly what it's designed to do. And when it comes to sex, there's no reason to assume that menstruation by its nature puts us out of commission. In fact, many folks don’t want to treat their period as a mandatory sexual time out.
After all, if someone has a uterus, they are likely to 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 assume sex is just not doable for several days each month, or worry about the mess of period sex, let's look at the positive side.
Why Period Sex Rocks
There are a few great things about period sex - for everyone involved - 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: The increased hormonal activity that takes place during menstruation can, for some folks, actually increase sex drive.
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. If you want to get fancy with it, there are waterproof blankets specifically designed to protect beds and other surfaces from the inherent messiness of sex and period sex is an excellent reason to bust one out.
The other option is to contain the flow. This can be a great option for folks who want the sexy times but don’t want to deal with clean up after. There are several options available these days but probably the hands-down best option is the Ziggy Cup menstrual disc. It’s a reusable silicone menstrual cup (what’s up eco-conscious menstrual products?!) that is designed to be worn comfortably during sex. With its wide, shallow shape and super soft silicone, once it’s inserted, it practically can’t be felt at all, by either partner. When it comes to period sex, it may be the best of all worlds— all the pleasure with none of the clean up!
Think Outside the Box
There are so many sexual options that don’t involve vaginal penetration. Your period gives you an awesome opportunity to explore those options! And, of course, you and your partner can always hop in the shower. Actually, that's a great idea any day, but it’s extra-convenient during your period!
Position is also important when it comes to period sex. Common wisdom says you might want to 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.
The Bottom Line
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 life. 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?
JoEllen is a writer, speaker, researcher and mental health advocate whose work explores the impact of depression on sex and relationships. Since 2012 she has written about sex, mental health, and how none of us are broken on her award-winning site The Redhead Bedhead.
JoEllen's book The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression & The Conversation We Aren’t Having is now available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.