Iillustration by Maddy Pease.
Period sex. Yes, we’re going there, and yes, it is going to get bloody. Lately, more and more voices are being heard about the need to de-stigmatize menstruation. From celebrities openly talking about their periods, to a marathon runner deciding to free bleed as she runs the London Marathon, to Aunt F.L.O in Los Angeles and the Menstrual Product Equality movement in a Pennsylvania high school, the topic of periods is slowly becoming less taboo. However, periods are still highly stigmatized in our society, and period sex is even more so.
Why are periods stigmatized in the first place? Isn’t it just a naturally occurring process that over half of the world’s population experiences? Why is this still an issue?
The answers to these questions stem back to Abrahamic religions. Both the Qur’an and the Bible state that a person on their period is “unclean” and “spiritually impure.” The Bible specifically addresses period sex in Leviticus 15:24, saying that “If a man has sexual intercourse with her and her blood touches him, her menstrual impurity will be transmitted to him. He will remain unclean for seven days, and any bed on which he lies will be unclean.” These religious texts have contributed to the dated idea that the menstruating body is dirty and that period sex is “gross,” and have also led to misguided beliefs that it is unhealthy because of that.
For instance, Nickolas Bruce, a third-year electrical engineering major who identifies as a heterosexual cis man says, “Period sex is gross because of blood. Blood transmits a lot of bacteria and things the person may have.” When asked whether he thought using protection would change anything, he said he still thinks it’s gross, stating that “it all comes down to preference. I also like to go down on my girlfriend, and I don’t like penny-tasting blood in my mouth.”
While Nick was correct in saying that it all comes down to preference, the idea that period sex is unhealthy is not true. According to Everyday Health, having sex on your period is completely safe and “medically and secularly speaking, there is no reason not to have sex on your period.” The article does warn, however, that safe sex during your period is extremely crucial since the risk of passing on blood-borne diseases like HIV increases, you are more likely to develop yeast infections, and there is a still a risk of getting pregnant (unless you are on other birth control methods).
In fact, according to both Everyday Health and Cosmopolitan, there are many good reasons to have sex on your period. Olivia DePalma, a third-year anthropology major who wanted to clarify that she has not engaged in sexual activity, acknowledged the pros of period sex: “Physiologically, it’s supposed to relieve cramps, and medically speaking, surprisingly, period blood is actually clean, weird to say.” She continued to say, “If it does something for you, then go for it.”
And if you would like to go for it, there are multiple articles online, like this one, which give you tips on how. Be warned however, most of these articles are pretty cis- and heteronormative. Remember that many people, not just women (and not even all women), experience periods and that sexuality and sex is very diverse.
Overall, period sex should not be as stigmatized as it is today. It is not gross or unhealthy, and a person on their period is most definitely not dirty. However, as Nick said, it’s up to you and your partner’s preferences. It is very important to make sure that all parties feel completely comfortable when getting intimate, and if periods or blood makes one of you queasy, then maybe just stick to having sex any other time of the month. Focus on comfort, but also question the reasons behind why you or your partner might be grossed out. These reasons might have more to do with a social stigma surrounding periods than you may think.