Sex and menstruation.
Updated: Apr 21, 2021
People of all genders menstruate and it happens every month; not only is menstruation incredibly common, but it is incredibly frequent. This means that menstruation and sex undoubtedly cross paths. This week I wanted to work on debunking the idea that period sex is dirty. This is an age-old, worldwide taboo that is so deeply imbedded in racism and sexism yet so naturalized and normalized in our understandings of sex and bodies. I can’t remember ever learning the myth that menstruation and sex don’t mix, but it fits in almost perfectly into the patriarchal narrative we’re taught as young people: vaginas = gross, and therefore everything having to do with vaginas (like bodily fluids) = double gross. I do remember unlearning this idea, and it felt simple and necessary to abandon. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to let go of the misinformation that menstruation is something we have to strictly hide and be ashamed of every month? That just sounds like a lot of work. Sometimes unlearning a deeply embedded idea can seem like an incredibly difficult task, but when we think about how much energy and effort it takes to maintain and accommodate an idea that is useless and even harmful to us, unlearning seems like the easier road to take.
There tend to be many sexual stereotypes, myths, and questions about having sex while someone is menstruating, and I hope to tackle a few in this post. To start, let’s get into what menstruation is anatomically. Menstruation occurs when the inner lining of the uterine wall sheds. This process can last from 3 - 6 days, during which people experience a wide array of both pleasant and unpleasant symptoms; cramps, headaches, cravings, shifts in mood, increased libido, and many more. The cycle of menstruation and fertility will happen every month according to hormone cycles of the body (it’s pretty cool that our bodies have their own internal clock, just like the moon and seasons). There are many reasons why someone might stop menstruating for a few months or indefinitely. Most often we think pregnancy or menopause are the only causes of irregular, infrequent, or ceased cycles of menstruation, but other factors like birth control, taking testosterone, stress, or other changes to the body.
That’s the basic ground work, but of course there is so much more underneath. Just like anything that happens inside the human body, menstruation interacts with all of our other organs systems and even our minds. Because menstruation happens and has happened to most people (and nonhuman mammals!) with uteruses, there is a prolific amount of traditions, writings, culture, and science about the subject. I encourage you to dig into it! What’s often viewed as a shameful and highly private aspect of our bodies might actually be an interesting and exciting part of history and politics. Anyways, let’s get into some questions, myths, and fun facts.
Is it safe and clean to have sex while one of us is having their period? Yes! Having sex while one person is menstruating does not increase any health risk - but the usual risk of STI’s, STD’s, and pregnancy are still present.
Can someone get pregnant while they’re menstruating? Yes! It is a pretty common myth that people can’t get pregnant if they have sex while on their period. Often, the period of fertility, when a person is ovulating, directly follows menstruation. But menstruation cycles are different for everyone, and can be different month to month! This means that having sex while someone is menstruating does not prevent the chance of pregnancy; the possibility is very much still there.
Orgasms can relieve cramps and headaches! Orgasms flood bodies and brains with lots of endorphins, and some of these have pain relieving effects! It’s not a guarantee, of course, but many people claim that sex and masturbating help relieve their body aches.
It can get messy, but it’s not “dirty” or “gross.” Menstrual blood can be a natural lubricant! And hormonal shifts that occur during menstruation leave some people feeling more sexually active than usual. Period sex is safe and natural; just always make sure to be aware of possible spills and stains!
As always, consent is everything. It’s always essential to get consent before experimenting with sex and menstruation. People’s comfortability level may vary, and this is often due to how people have been socialized to view menstruation, blood, cleanliness, and bodies. While it is important to respect people’s comfortability levels and boundaries, it can also be beneficial to discuss menstruation and the sexual stereotypes that surround it. Talk about what parts of it are uncomfy and what parts of it are exciting!
I got a ton of this information from these sources below:
Parenthood, P. (n.d.). Can I have sex during my period? Can I get pregnant during my period? Retrieved from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens/ask-experts/can-i-have-sex-during-my-period-and-if-i-do-can-i-get-pregnant
Period Myths: Explaining the top myths about periods. (2020, April 24). Retrieved from https://www.pandiahealth.com/resources/myths-about-periods/
Wakeman, J. (2020, August 21). Sex During Your Period Can Actually Be Great. Retrieved from https://greatist.com/health/sex-during-periods#side-effects