In a nation where you can’t sunbathe naked in your own back garden without facing social scrunity, it’s no surprise that when you mention period sex to your boyfriend’s mother she asks,
“Like people pulling up their bloomers and things?”
Although the thought of Poldark’s Aidain Turner putting on (and taking off) my stockings by the firelight is more than enticing, today I won’t be talking about the kind of sex that might call for you to remove your girdle. No, today I’ll be revealing the sanguine truth of period sex.
If we trust the tall tales we heard in secondary school then we might come to the conclusion that period sex just isn’t worth the risk of becoming a social pariah if people found out. We’ve all heard similar stories, an unnamed girl and boy at a party have sex in the dark, and he emerges covered with menstrual blood in front of all his peers; it’s a scene that almost feels as though it belongs in Stephen King’s Carrie. On hearing these tales, we wrinkled our noses in disgust and made what seemed like appropriately repulsed noises in response; all too ashamed to admit that we too bleed, and that sometimes we feel horny when we do. We mark the encounter as something dirty, foreign and wrong.
Knowing how to navigate our bodies as young adults can be difficult, but when you conflate this with sex, it can feel like crossing a minefield. I have a friend called Penny, and despite her family being incredibly open about periods (they wanted to throw her a party when her periods began and when she declined they gave her £10 instead) she nevertheless found herself in a situation where having a period felt like a crime.
Her boyfriend’s best friend was throwing a party, and much to their delight they were given the biggest and best bedroom to sleep in – the parents’ bedroom.
It felt like a honeymoon suite, there was a balcony, ensuite and a bed with sheets so silky and with such a high thread count that the Egyptians might have built a pyramid in honour of them. While the party raged downstairs, Penny and her boyfriend Matt snuck away upstairs to have sex. Halfway through, as they shifted positions, Penny saw the blood.
Within the space of a few seconds, the honeymoon suite had become a crime scene, and the beautiful silky sheets had been martyred in the name of their teenage dirtbag status. Hushed whispers were exchanged.
“Shouldn’t we tell your friend?” Penny asked.
Matt’s response was frantic and incredulous.
“Of course not.”
Ashamed, they attempted to get rid of the evidence, scrubbing the stain in the en suite’s marble jacuzzi bath, but to no avail. They would have to bag the body in a Sainsbury’s bag and remove the evidence altogether. They kept it their little secret and stole the sheets. The sheets stayed under Penny’s bed for over a year. She was convinced that at some point she would have them dry cleaned and maybe return them, but I’m sure somewhere at landfill a rat has a very silky and cosy bed in those sheets.
This story depicts the horror with which we viewed period sex in our teenage years, as something messy and gross which only brings horror to something which otherwise should be rather fun. Many carry this fear into adulthood too. Periods themselves have been relegated to the realm of taboo, something unspoken. And period sex? Unheard of. Only one of our preconceived notions about period sex is true: yes it is indeed messy, but what truly great sex isn’t?
We like to think of ourselves as a progressive and sexually liberated country, but how can we be, really, when having and being associated with a period results in a burden of shame? In parts of the world such as India and Nepal, girls are sent away, ostracised by their community when they have their period. Though we in the UK certainly don’t suffer such overt period shaming, the sentiment behind Penny’s experience isn’t as dissimilar as we’d like to think. In 2015, Rupi Kaur proved that these ideologies aren’t limited to physical world, but one reinforced by the virtual when Instagram removed her image of a woman bleeding through her pyjama bottoms twice because it violated their community guidelines. Yep, our bodies deemed unworthy of community, even in the impersonal, virtual world of social media.
In a world where it seems like everyone besides me has seen ‘2 girls 1 cup’, peeing in the shower is normal, and licking assholes is glorified, I have to question why no one bats an eyelid when Tyler the Creator raps “I’m tossing bitches’ salads and I’m eating up the croutons’, but period sex is taboo.
All of the above prove that period sex hasn’t been committed to taboo because it’s disgusting, but merely because it hasn’t yet merged into the mainstream.
I have to also question whether or not period sex is taboo in some part because many women have learnt to use it as some means of power. Intelligent, strong women I know frequently use ‘I’m on my period’ as an excuse not to have sex. But this is 2018, and it’s time to declare that our bodies are off limits when we say they are, not just because they’re bleeding and definitely not because when they’re bleeding they’re unworthy of your ‘use’. It’s the 21st century and no one needs an excuse not to want to have sex. But, it being the 21st century, I also hope that means society is growing more open minded about the different kinds of sex we can have.
Period sex is fantastic, but as with all kinds of sex, it’s all about your headspace. I spoke to another friend, Lucy about the first time she had period sex, which was with her ex-girlfriend Hannah. Things were getting a bit frisky, so she warned Hannah she was on her period. Using sanitary pads at the time, she was especially wary due to the blood being visible. Hannah simply smirked and pulled off her shorts, knickers and all. Her current boyfriend likes it when she sits on his face, and plucks out her tampon as casually as one might pull a light cord. She knows however, that had she been less confident when it came to them having period sex, that he would be shy too. Just as Hannah gave her confidence in her body while she was on her period, she has given David the confidence bug. Couples feed off each others’ energy. In Penny’s situation, anxiety breeds anxiety, but if you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself then this too will be catching. Period sex need not be any different from any other kind of sex you have.
Yesterday, I came home from work, hot and bothered. I’d just found out that I’d bled through and as I stood there at the sink, hips aching, hands covered in suds and knuckles raw as I scrubbed at my knickers on Facetime to my boyfriend Ben, I’d felt at breaking point. In a hormonal rage after discovering there was no bread for lunch in the fridge, I rang Ben back purely to have a shouting match over the phone. Did it make me feel better? Of course not. What I really needed was a good fuck to sort those hormones out.
I went over his and, with timing that could have been facilitated by God, had I believed in him, his parents were out at a party. It was great sex. Sex feels at its most intimate when you’re on your period. I know that my boyfriend feels trusted to be privy to something only I experience. Plus, why allow a period to be a roadblock on your way to sexual satisfaction, on the very week your vagina is most sensitive?
Go forth and fuck left, right and centre, the only two rules to remember are to use contraception – your period doesn’t protect you from STIs or pregnancy – and to let your partner know you’re bleeding (it’s only manners). But also let them know you’re horny AF. If you’re feeling enthusiastic about fucking, they’ll lap it up (hopefully figuratively and literally).
While writing this article, I have been shocked by the responses people have given when I’ve spoken about it. A gentle ‘o’ hopping from their mouths, stunned. I’ve been slightly surprised it’s even considered taboo, with the casual way my boyfriend and I chuck a towel down and get to it. I’ve heard (and told) all sorts of sex stories, but nothing seems to really silence people like chucking the word period in there too. Hell, some people I know don’t even masturbate on their period, but I’m here to tell you, you’re bloody missing out. If you’re truly self conscious then stick a lovely organic tampon up your cooch, remind yourself that you don’t bleed from your clitoris, put some Poldark on and get rubbing.
Words by Kate Nesbit
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels