Period sex is a hush-hush conversation that still makes some of us squirm (not including me 😋). But when you consider menstruation more broadly, it becomes a topic that is both important and unavoidable to contemplate. Below are my personal tips on how to enjoy it.
The fact is periods and sex still linger as taboo subjects in our culture. Together, they are the perfect recipe for a controversial cocktail, likely shrouded in social conditioning and patriarchal perspectives.
I've been fortunate to have had relationships with fairly open and progressive partners (minus one, maybe) and haven't experienced much disgust or distaste towards period sex. However, I have always secretly (or not so secretly) judged my male partners based on their opinions about it. While I believe that people are entitled to their own views, feelings, and boundaries around physical intimacy, I've felt that if a man's approach to menstruation is not as pragmatic as mine, then he probably isn't the right partner for me. It provides me with a little insight into their character. Perhaps this is a cultural difference; being a European in the USA, I've noticed varying levels of openness around these topics. I find myself having similar debates with friends when it comes to the pro-pubic hair discussion. But that's a topic for another newsletter.
Let's break this down. Sex is a natural and essential part of humanity's survival, ingrained in us and providing us with pleasure. Menstruation is also a crucial fact of life and is even considered our fifth vital sign. If there is a desire to combine the two, why not? The benefits outweigh the negatives: orgasms release endorphins and oxytocin, which are feel-good chemicals that support your mood, well-being, and healthy stress response.
Dopamine and serotonin are also released, which act as natural painkillers, potentially relieving anything from cramps and back pain to headaches and joint aches.
For some, having sex during their period can be an opportunity to express real intimacy and trust with a partner. However, it doesn't always have to be that deep. You could view it as an opportunity to connect with your body and menstrual cycle in a unique way, or as something that might bring excitement or novelty as you venture into uncharted territory. Or perhaps you're unfazed and see it no differently than having sex on any other day of your cycle, except for some extra damage control—let's face it, isn't that what dark towels are designed for?
I appreciate this might not be for everyone, but I believe that sex is all about exploration and trying new things, and that’s how we keep things feeling fresh and rewarding for both parties. Personally, on day 3 of my period, when the endo belly bloat and discomfort finally start to subside, my sex drive skyrockets. This is also a rare moment for me when I don't feel any endo-related discomfort during sex, and my flow isn't as heavy.
With all of these positive aspects to delve into, along with the fact that both sex and menstruation have been a thing for, oh, only like 300,000 years, why do we think it's something so under-pursued or rather under-discussed?
While physical discomfort alone is often a deterrent, shame and embarrassment are common significant factors.
What's important to consider here is that, although we are all entitled to our own preferences and levels of comfort without the need for an explanation, how natural are these ideas? Or, more so, how twisted has our attitude towards periods, particularly period blood, become due to generations of society positioning it as something dirty, gross, unsanitary, and disgusting? As something we should go above and beyond to hide any sign of and never (god forbid!) share. Inheriting this kind of conditioning is, for sure, a lot easier than unlearning it, but opening a conversation around it, whether that's with your partner, your friends, or the internet, is a beginning to reapproaching your relationship and breaking down any stigma you might feel around menstruation and sex.
I've had a few friends ask me for advice about having sex during their period. While I'll leave the medical input to Looni's adviser, Dr. Colantonio, below, here are some of my personal tips if you're interested in trying it out:
- Talk to your partner; communication is key! Find out how they feel about it when you mention that you're 'in the mood' but currently on your period.
- Consider your flow, especially if you'd feel more comfortable with less mess.
- Use protection; you can still catch STDs and get pregnant on your period.
- Be playful and have fun with it. Try to approach the conversation or act with confidence. If you feel good, your partner should feel that too.
- Lay down a dark towel or explore having sex in the shower.
- Check in with your partner afterward and see how it was for them. Be open about how you found the experience.
🩺 SCIENCE AND SPIRIT 👁️
🧑⚕️ from Looni’s medical adviser, Dr. Stephanie Colantonio
Shame and stigma often surround the topic of menstruation, and it's no different with period sex. But let's talk about it!
There are only a few medical reasons to avoid having sex during your period. For example, if you are still bleeding after a recent abortion or miscarriage, it's best to wait until the bleeding has stopped. If you are being treated for an STD, hold off until the treatment is complete. Why? People may be more susceptible to infections during their period due to cyclical shifts in the immune system and changes in vaginal microflora. Using a barrier protection like condoms minimizes the risk.
If you are trying to prevent pregnancy, most folks are safe to have sex during the first 3 days of their bleed. That being said, some people may ovulate while they are still bleeding, especially if they have a cycle less than 25 days long. This is important to keep in mind if you aren't using contraception.
One of the primary reasons for avoiding sex during menstruation is simply not feeling up to it. During the menstrual phase of your cycle, reproductive hormones are low, which can lead to lower libido or sex drive. Additionally, if you're experiencing pain or need alone time, you may not be in the mood.
However, having sex during your period can actually be good for you. Orgasm releases endorphins and feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and oxytocin. Nitric oxide is also released, which can provide cramp relief by relaxing smooth muscle. Increased blood circulation may decrease pelvic congestion and support less painful uterine contractions. Additionally, it's thought that activation of brain centers associated with pleasure has an analgesic or pain-relieving effect.
When I say "sex" here, I mean both with a partner and self-pleasure. Your period can be a beautiful time to connect with yourself and explore masturbation alone.
It's not surprising that little research exists on the topic of period sex. If you feel up to it, in most cases, it is perfectly safe to do your own personal investigations.
If you're curious about period sex, here are some ideas to consider:
- Communication is key! Talk to your partner about it. Express your desires and concerns, and ask how they feel about it. Decide together if it feels right for both of you.
- Worried about staining the sheets? Lay down a towel or old blanket that you don't mind getting some blood on.
- Have some lube handy. Although blood is a liquid, you may notice that it can be quite drying. Playing with a lubricant can make a big difference in comfort.
- Explore different positions. Some may feel better than others during your period.
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