Let’s talk about (period) sex, baby
Sex is a huge part of most of our lives. And so, for better or worse, are our periods. While we think period sex is truly amazing, one of life’s most underrated gifts, in fact, it can be really bloody hard to talk about. There are a lot of societal taboos still clinging to both periods and sex that make them, independently of each other, pretty heavy and occasionally awkward topics for us to talk about - especially us stuffy old English folks. Throw both of those things together and you have a bright red elephant in the room that, at least until we’ve unpacked some of our internalised shame and stigma, feels almost impossible to tackle.
Period sex is something we need to be informed about. Thanks to the aforementioned taboos, a lot of people don’t know some of the basic facts surrounding period sex - like the fact that yes, you can get pregnant if you have penetrative sex with someone with a penis while you’re menstruating, or the fact that period sex actually comes with a higher risk of spreading STIs than sex at other times of your cycle does. But period sex can also be fun, exciting, and even better than sex at other times of your cycle. Don’t forget to check out part one and two of our beginner’s guide to period sex series before diving right into the nitty gritty of how we should be talking about sex.
How to talk about period sex
Language is loaded. There’s often a lot of stigma and prejudice in the language we use every day without us even realising it. It’s so important to create a safe space to explore our bodies and our sexuality; changing the ways in which we talk about our bodies can be the first step in helping us to alter our mindset and make sex, even period sex, something we’re happy and comfortable not only discussing but having with wild abandon and shouting about from the rooftops.
Your body is not gross. So don’t talk about it like it is! This advice is not specific to sex but to your every day life. If you constantly think of your period as something disgusting or shameful, you’ll never progress to a point where talking about your period, menstrual cycle, and period sex feels comfortable and natural to you.
Don’t be sorry for bleeding! Your body and the wonderful ways in which it works, including shedding that uterine lining for you like a total champ every damn cycle, is nothing to apologise for. Try not to engage in the kind of negative self-talk that shames you (or your partner, if they menstruate) for having a cycle. “Sorry I can’t have sex because I’m on my period” - nah! You absolutely don’t have to have sex while you're bleeding, but don’t apologise for your body or imply that your period physically prevents you from having sex when it actually just affects how much you’re in the mood for it. Try: “I’m not in the mood right now, I’m on my period and I feel [insert adjective here]” or “I don’t feel very sexy when I’m on my period, but I would really love to [cuddle/kiss/spend some quality time together]." That way, you’re not giving excuses for your body or your lack of sex drive (which you don’t owe anyone), but you are practising making period talk a normal part of your conversations with your partner.
If your sex drive plummets like a lead balloon or rockets into outer space when you’re on your period, tell your partner! Not only is it something you might want your partner to know about because it’s something that you’re experiencing on the reg, it will subsequently affect their sex life! If you’re having regular sex with someone, it’s really important to know each other’s turn ons and turn offs, of which hormones can play a big part. “I always get so horny when I’m on my period” should be a completely non-awkward thing to say to someone who’s regularly getting up close and personal with your vagina. Likewise “my sex drive is totally non-existent when I’m on my period, I wanted to let you know so you know it has nothing to do with you” is a great way to manage your partner’s sexpectations and help them to not feel confused or insecure if your interest in sex suddenly vanishes for a week straight every month.
How to ask for period sex
Yep, you need to ask for period sex. Ask about period sex. Ask what kind of sex involving blood is off the table and what positions, moves, and toys are a-ok. Consent is everything. Like all sex, having consensual period sex that is fun and comfortable (or comfortably uncomfortable, if you’re into that) for everyone involved means getting explicitly informed consent. Whoever you’re planning on having sex with will need to know you’re menstruating beforehand, which means being able to talk about your period (see above!). It means discussing exactly what positions, moves, and toys they’re comfortable using, as well as what level of blood exposure, shall we say, that they’re open to. Do they not give a flying F*ck about blood? Cool, do whatever you normally would. Do they feel comfortable with your normal penetrative sex but don’t feel comfortable going down on you? Do they in fact have a blood kink and wanna spend the whole time with their face between your legs? Well, cool. Just find out first.
Sidenote - all of the above applies to you too. Just because your partner doesn’t mind getting messy doesn’t mean you have to. Your comfort and consent is equally as important and you shouldn’t feel pressured to be as comfortable with messy, acrobatic period sex just because it’s your body that’s bleeding.
So, you’ve broached the topic. They are aware you’re a menstruating human and you’re aware they’re down for some period sex. Now time to talk about what kind of sex you’re both up for when there’s period blood involved.
If you want to engage in some level of sexual activity but you and/or your partner aren’t sure yet how comfortable you are getting messy, mutual masturbation could be a great option. Remember that keeping a tampon, cup, or disc in will keep blood mostly out of the way (if you get super energetic and enthusiastic, I’m not on the hook for your white bedsheets) so you can engage in mutual masturbation, clitoral play, or oral sex that doesn’t involve penetration.
If you do want to engage in penetrative sex (be it with a toy, strap on, or penis) but are worried about bed sheets, the go-to solution is throwing down a towel or even getting hot n heavy in the shower - the blood will be visible, but it will wash away instantly. Another great tip for sex where one partner is a bit squeamish about the sight of blood but still wants to give it the old college try is using a blindfold. Kinky and exciting, all your senses will be heightened and you'll forget what it was you were squeamish about in the first place! This just goes to show why having a conversation about period sex beforehand is so important - it not only allows you to consider all your options, it could even result in you coming up with some fun sexual activities you'd never had thought to try otherwise!
If, at any point, either of you want to stop because you aren’t into the period blood, that’s okay too. We can get on our feminist pedestal and shout about how the patriarchy brainwashed us into thinking periods are gross all we want, but we can’t change the fact that we or the people we shag may simply just not like it. We have to allow people to set their own boundaries and respect them, even when they don’t fit into our sexually-liberated, feminist utopia ideals.
Talking to your partner about period sex
Talking to your partner about period sex can be daunting at first, especially if you have no idea how they’re going to react. Before you go any further into your period sex odyssey, I want you to answer two questions for me: have you ever spoken to your partner(s) about your menstrual cycle before? Do you already have open, honest, vulnerable communication about sex (non-period related)? If the answer to both those questions is yes, then you’ve already passed go - good for you, babe. If not, you’ll have some extra homework to do. When you’re sharing your life/heart/body with another human being, communication is god. Especially when it comes to topics that can cause people to feel vulnerable, insecure, or like their needs aren’t being met.
Be patient with both yourself and whoever you're having sex with. Be mindful of the internalised stigmas we're all carrying around, the ideas and stereotypes we've all be socially conditioned to believe, and the fact that sex is one of the most personal, intimate, and vulnerable things you can talk about - so don't expect it to be easy. The good news? This stuff gets easier every single time you do it. The first time you mention your period might cause you to go bright red in the face and accidentally use a bunch of self-deprecating language that makes you want to drop the subject altogether. But, provided your partner is understanding and open to hearing anything and everything you want to talk about (which I bloody hope they are or they'll have me to answer to), you'll soon be wondering what you were ever so stressed out about in the first place. Above everything? Sex should be fun. Blood or no blood.
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