Exploring Intimacy While Menstruating
When I was 21, I had a boyfriend visit me from out of town. It was a surprise visit, and I happened to be on my period. While I’d never had period sex before, I decided to brave the waters, and we ended up having penetrative sex. Everything was going fine until he saw period blood.
“I feel dizzy,” he told me, and we stopped. I shouldn’t have felt responsible, but I did, and for years after, I felt shame whenever having period sex with partners.
But the shame surrounding my period started long before that. I grew up in a culture where menstruation was a source of pain and embarrassment. We never talked about my period growing up, and my mom and teachers used nicknames like ‘that time of the month,’ ‘chums,’ ‘mother nature,’ and ‘auntie flo’ to avoid saying the word at all. Even shopkeepers wrapped sanitary napkins in layers of newspaper before placing them in our grocery bags.
This negativity surrounding periods was and still is pervasive and deeply entrenched in our society. In certain cultures, period taboos are so severe that people who menstruate aren’t allowed to enter the kitchen, sleep in their own beds, enter places of worship, or touch others. These ideologies influence how we think about menstruation, and they can also affect our sex lives. We were never taught to love our periods, so why would we be open to sexual activity while menstruating?
We were never taught to love our periods, so why would we be open to sexual activity while menstruating?
As an adult, I’ve had to re-educate myself about sex and sexuality. And this journey has involved figuring out how to love my vulva and my body, especially when on my period. Going through this phase has been pivotal, and understanding my body means understanding its needs and advocating for my pleasure, whether I’m menstruating or not.
Fortunately, re-education has helped. And the good news is that period sex even has several benefits for our mental and emotional health, as well as our sexual encounters. Here are a few:
Cramp Relief: If you’ve ever masturbated while on your period, you may have discovered that it helps to relieve menstrual cramps. Orgasms release endorphins and, in addition to making one feel happy, endorphins stimulate opioid receptors, lowering pain levels drastically. Studies show us that pain tolerance is decreased during sex because our uterine lining contracts and sloughs off endometrial cells, which can help relieve cramps.
Menstrual Migraine Relief: Oxytocin, another hormone known to decrease cortisol (commonly known as the stress hormone), also levels during this time. And sex while on your period can help relieve menstrual migraines, which more than 60 percent of people experience.
Increased Sex Drive: We’ve all wondered why being on our period makes us feel aroused, and it’s because of the rise and fall of hormones in our bodies (e.g., estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone). One study showed that the end of the first phase of your menstrual cycle (the follicular phase) is when estrogen is at its peak, explaining why some folks are just itching to get it on.
Partner Intimacy: Period sex can also be a powerful source of intimacy and love for many couples as it encourages thinking outside of the box and trying sex in less traditional ways (like using period blood as a natural lubricant!). While not for everyone—and one should only engage when they feel comfortable—it can make people feel closer.
Having sex during my period has been a great way to get in touch with my sexuality, release myself from period shame, and become more intimate with my partner.
It’s a liberating experience to realize our periods are beautiful. And it’s extremely validating when we allow our bodies to show up in their entirety during any sexual encounter. Having sex during my period has been a great way to get in touch with my sexuality, release myself from period shame, and become more intimate with my partner.
But most importantly, I am no longer apologetic about my body. I embrace all aspects of my body, even the messy ones.
*Author’s note: While the chances are low, it is still possible to get pregnant during your period. Always use external contraception if pregnancy is not in the cards. Condoms also prevent you from STIs commonly spread through the blood, e.g., HIV and hepatitis.
Varuna is a queer immigrant woman of color. She writes and creates educational content around decolonizing sexual health, prioritizing emotional wellness, and reproductive justice. You can find her work online and on Instagram.