“Oh f*ck” is often the first thought that comes to mind when it’s that time of the month. From as early as I can remember, periods were something girls were taught to be ashamed of and boys were taught to fear. In short, everyone was grossed out by them. So it’s not surprising that period sex is a double hit of taboo — take sex, add in periods, and you’ll understand why it’s often left out of sexual education entirely.
During my time as a member of Sexual Health Education and Advocacy Throughout Harvard College, I was so excited to help run our first-ever period sex seminar. It happen to get scheduled right on Halloween, so naturally we named it A Blood Good Time and filled the room with sex-ed newcomers. When our seminar schedule went online and we finally checked the comments post-event, the comments section showed the glaring issues people still have with this topic. Hateful and dangerous statements filled our feed.
But whatever the reaction, I still think period sex was one of the most important topics for us to cover. Seminars like these are key because they are basic concepts that people need to learn about during their sexual education. Period sex will likely be a big part of the experience many lesbian couples, as well as people with vaginas, and those who have sex with them.
Read that again: That’s a lot of people.
Periods are a natural and normal bodily process, so why aren’t we including those days in sex-ed? If that isn’t convincing enough, the average menstruator bleeds about 450 times throughout their lifetime, on average (2). That adds up to a total of six years of menstruation, or up to six years of sex to miss out on. So we need to ditch the stigma, and know our options.
During a period cycle, any shift in hormones can change a person’s idea of sexual pleasure. These changes can vary throughout the cycle, and cause sex to become increasingly pleasurable for some, and less so for others. The only way to know which person you are, is to tune into your desires and needs during your period, as well as the days leading up to and after it.
For those who experience an increase in arousal, engaging in period sex is great because the release of oxytocin and the boost in endorphins that occurs during most sexual encounters can help to alleviate cramping or low moods (2). Furthermore, menstruation can act as a natural lubricant. Period sex might even help shorten a person’s period, as orgasm contractions can make the uterus shed its lining that much more quickly (2). So, all in all, there are many benefits to be had!
On the other side of the coin, negative side effects of menstruation can include changes like an increase in vulva pain. If you fall into this category, there are ways to alleviate this discomfort — but you likely won’t be eager to have sex until the pain subsides. You might also experience some slight discomfort after sex once your period is over. This is because the soft tissue of your uterus is more exposed after you shed the lining that makes up your period (4). (This should feel more like short-term sensitivity, rather than something sharp or ongoing; if you feel genuine pain, talk to a doctor ASAP.) You could also experience an increase in dryness before or after your period due to a drop in estrogen levels, so lube will be your best friend!
ToolsIf you want to keep sex during a period mess-free, you might want to invest in some towels you don’t mind getting a little messy, or taking activities to the shower. You can also invest in a menstrual disc such as the Flex Disc, which is sort of like a menstrual cup but allows you to have sex while it’s in. A friend who recently tried one said she couldn’t feel the disc once it was inserted, either during the day or during sex. “When it came to sex, it went totally undetectable during the experience,” she noted. Sounds like a pretty good mess-free option to me,PSA
If you think that having period sex will serve as fool-proof birth control, please know that you can still get pregnant while having period sex! (And needless to say, having sex on your period won’t protect you from any potential sexually-transmitted diseases.) Don’t forget a condom, especially if you are not on birth control, and talk to your partner about both of your sexual health.
And if anyone makes you feel ashamed of your period or your interest in period sex, tell them to drop the judgment and….
- Lapidos, Rachel. “Sex Feeling... Less than Orgasmic? Your Period Could Be to Blame.” Well+Good, 24 Jan. 2020, www.wellandgood.com/menstruation-cycle-sex-connection.
- Fixx, The. “Period Sex Guide: Why It's Amazing & How To Have Mess-Free Period Sex.” The Flex Company, 15 July 2020, Flexfits.com/blogs
- Mintz, Laurie B. Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters--and How to Get It. HarperOne, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018.
- Burke, Caroline. “It's Not Unusual For Sex To Hurt Right After Your Period, But Here's What You Should Know.” Elite Daily, Elite Daily, 4 Dec. 2017, www.elitedaily.com/p/why-does-sex-hurt-after-my-period-its-not-that-unusual-but-heres-what-you-should-know-6772774.