Having a period is a natural part of a woman’s body, so Emily Heist Moss wants to know: Why are some men so afraid to have sex during a woman’s period?
“It’s a timing issue, if you know what I mean…” I told him, gesturing toward my pelvis.
“Is that code for you’re on your period?”
I nodded. We were in bed. It was the wee hours of New Year’s Day. The countdown was three hours and a long, cold, Chicago walk behind us. We had finally made it back to my apartment, but my cheeks were still pink from the chill.
“I mean…,” he said, “I don’t care if you don’t care…”
I grabbed an old towel, and we were off, thoughts of timing and mess and hesitation safely behind us.
An average woman will have about 500 periods in her lifetime. At five days a pop, she will spend 2,500 days (or 350 weeks, seven years) of her life menstruating. So let me ask you this: Do you really want to spend seven years of your life not having sex just because your body happens to be exercising it’s extremely important right to cleanse your uterus? Is your partner looking forward to seven sexless years?
But it makes a mess! Yes, yes, sometimes it does. You may have noticed, however, that sex is often messy, with all manner of bodily fluids dripping, leaking, seeping, and staining. We deal with those messes, though, in the pursuit of pleasure, and period sex is just one degree toward complete carnal chaos. Let’s all learn to roll with it.
I find that men, especially younger men, often display a certain wariness, even fear or disgust, toward periods. They have yet to grow out of the fourth-grade instinct to throw a wrapped tampon on the floor rather than pass it between two girls. It’s icky, it’s weird, it’s scary, it’s that mysterious “time of the month.” I am not interested in these men.
My period is nothing to be afraid of. It should go without saying, though obviously it doesn’t, that menstruation is a totally natural, healthy biological process, as normal as burping, sweating, peeing, shivering, or regrowing a toenail you slammed in that car door.
But periods, unlike those other bodily functions, are the unique province of the ladies, and that’s where it gets tricky. Historically, female bodies have been hidden, shamed, and ostracized for any capabilities they possess that male bodies do not. She’s bleeding! Quick, let’s put her in a tent until she stops! Only recently did feminine hygiene company Always release the first pad advertising campaign that featured blood instead of mysterious blue liquid. Breastfeeding in public is deemed controversial and in some cases, penalized. The word “vagina” was labeled indecorous on the Michigan congressional floor. Carefree recently caused an uproar when they used the word “discharge” to discuss discharge in their commercial. What objectively are amazing feats of evolution are routinely and repetitively construed as abnormal and unfit for delicate sensibilities.
In light of the constant “othering” of my body and its processes, I’m protective of my period. It is not something I ever want to be embarrassed about. It is not something I will ever apologize for, or make excuses for, or hide. It is simply my biology at its coolest, doing exactly what it is supposed to do, exactly when it’s supposed to do it.
The best sex I’ve ever had has invariably been with partners who treated my menstrual cycle with complete nonchalance. Men like that are more common than I thought when I was 19, but I’m still pleasantly surprised every time I stumble upon one. If you don’t care about the fact that I bleed once a month, it’s a signifier to me that our values, at least some of them, are lining up.
I think the human body is pretty much the most awesome thing around, and I hope that you, my sexual partners, do too. I don’t get grossed out when you get erections, or ejaculate, or sweat more than I ever thought was possible, even though those are things my body doesn’t do. In my book, those are just some of the many amazing features of your body. When you can recognize that my period is just my body confirming I’m not pregnant (a fact you should be in favor of), you’re giving me that same respect.
There’s also a pervasive and frustrating belief that women, in particular, need to be astoundingly, religiously clean and neat. God forbid you know that we grow hair on our legs, or that we stink when we sweat, or that, believe it or not, we poop. Periods are not tidy, so when you can roll with mine, it shows me you’re not putting me on a shiny, pristine pedestal, but are instead viewing me as a living, breathing human being. There’s really nothing hotter than peer respect.
And then there’s the mess. If it really bothers you, we can have sex in the shower. But personally, I’ve never had great sex that wasn’t a little bit messy, a little bit chaotic, a little bit surprising, so what’s a little more mess? I want some spontaneity, some playfulness, some humor in my sex life, and that bundle isn’t usually tied up in a pretty, picture-perfect package.
Before I wrap this up, a blanket caveat is needed. Nobody should have any kind of sex that they don’t want to have. Period sex is not a question of right and wrong, only a question of comfort and convention. If it doesn’t float your boat, or your partner’s boat, then go with what feels good to you guys. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it, no shame in that.
But if you’re scared to try it, or scared to ask your partner to try it, maybe there’s some room to experiment. Maybe the only thing stopping you is a misguided belief that civilized people don’t do this, or that your mother would frown upon you, or that bodies aren’t made to connect this way. Or maybe, the only thing stopping you are the new sheets you just bought. To that, I say, throw down a towel.
Emily Heist Moss is a New Englander in love with Chicago, where she works in a tech start-up. She blogs every day about gender, media, politics and sex at Rosie Says, and has written for Jezebel, The Frisky, The Huffington Post and The Good Men Project. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.