"Feeling no shame": Sex and Menstruation

By Jana

menstruationRecently I was having a discussion with a friend about whether or not to have sex during menstruation, and this love scene came to mind from LDS author Judith Freeman’s A Desert of Pure Feeling. The woman in the encounter is LDS and was married at age 19. Her first child suffered complications at birth that compelled her to leave Utah and her cheating grad student husband behind to seek state-of-the-art medical care thousands of miles away. There she meets her son’s handsome Guatemalan doctor and they end up having an affair. I’ve excerpted some relevant portions of the scene below [and do note that I’m not condoning adultery by quoting from this novel, I merely use it to illustrate a point about sex & periods]:

“We made love in the dark. I was struck by the slenderness and tautness of his body, and his extreme grace, his almost agonized ecstasy at the moment of orgasm. And I remember afterward turning on a light and seeing all the blood, and feeling no shame that it was mine. I had not mentioned this to him, that I was menstruating, and later when he’d washed off in the shower and come back to bed, he’d said very casually, ‘You’re bleeding, you know,’ and I said ‘Yes I know.’ This seemed to amuse him that I felt no shame, no embarrassment, that it hadn’t stopped me from coming to the motel with him. “It’s nice,” he said to me very gently, “I don’t mind.” He showed none of the disgust I would later feel with other men, who recoiled from the thought of making love during this time. I was so young, so inexperienced in spite of marriage, that I didn’t know about these things, did not even consider it, did not know what one should do or shouldn’t do in such situations. I only knew that I wanted him, and that he wanted me, and lying in his arms afterward I was suffused with feelings of love for him.” (94-95)

From conversations with many of my friends, I’ve found a wide variety of attitudes about having sex during menstruation::

1) Many said that they abstain from sex and/or sexual intimacy during menstruation and even the 2 or 3 days before and after the woman’s period because one or both partners find sex during this period to be unsavory.

2) For friends using the rhythm method of birth control, they really enjoy having sex during her period because it is the time of the month when she is the least likely to conceive [do note that conception is possible during menstruation, but more unlikely than at other times of the month]

3) On the advice of a physician, a single friend began regularly using a vibrator during her period because it lessened her severe cramps.

4) Some said that during the woman’s period they avoid vaginal sex and engage in other forms of sex or intimacy.

5) One friend said that they had sex regardless, and just learned to use a lot of dark colored towels to keep any bloodstains from their sheets.

6) Using The Keeper or a diaphragm to contain the flow, was also suggested as a way to have sex during one’s period without being so messy.

7) Female friends who have already passed menopause praised the freedom of that era of life, where monthly cycles don’t interfere with intercourse.

I’m curious about your experience with having sex during menstruation. Do you find your cycle to be a desirable respite from lovemaking or do you continue having intercourse during your period?

*Image taken from the Museum of Menstruation

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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No Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Wow, that’s quite a passage. 🙂

    I’ve never given a whole lot of thought to the sex and menstruation thing. It’s a non-factor for us when we decide whether or not to have sex. I’m glad Mike’s not fastidious about it.

    Is that the author who wrote Red Water?

  2. Steve S says:

    I always felt a bit insecure about it, because Ezekiel seemed to view it as a significant sin. My wife similarly has doubts about oral sex, because our bishop in 1982 told us that it was considered impure and unholy.

  3. Jana says:

    Caroline: Yes, Judith Freeman also wrote _Red Water_.

    Steve S: I often look to the Old Testament and/or decades-old admonitions from priesthood leaders when making decisions about my sex life. 😉

  4. AnneG says:

    For me it’s a huge factor, because I have very painful cramps. Intercourse would be excruciating (although I have found orgasms achieved in other ways to be helpful). We have no qualms about the blood, sex is messy anyway.

  5. Caroline says:

    Steve,
    You’ll be happy to know that that 1982 admonition about not having oral sex was quickly dropped within a year or two. Apparently there were quite a few people who didn’t think that part of their married lives were any part of the church’s business. And the church ultimately agreed and retreated.

  6. Zillah says:

    I’m all for it. Neither of us minds the mess. Though I have an IUD, I still worry a bit about unplanned pregnancy, so period sex has the least amount of accompanying anxiety, which I like.

  7. tracy m says:

    You know, before I had kids, it made no difference to me- post babies, my periods got a lot heavier, and it became uncomfortable. Orgasms definately help with cramping, no doubt.

    (Reminderr: I joined the Church as a married adult) I had a boyfriend who liked it, and I had a boyfriend who was put off. Mostly though, it didn’t matter.

    And wow- I’m horrifed the church ever said anything about oral sex- yeesh!

  8. mraynes says:

    I would have been upset if my husband had been grossed out by my period and refused to touch me. He gets a lot of benefits from my being a woman (i.e. heterosexual sex, children). We would have had much bigger problems if my husband hadn’t accepted all aspects of my femaleness. Luckily my period doesn’t bother either of us so we just use a dark towel so we don’t stain the sheets. Also, I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding for 17 months of our 2 1/2 year marriage so it hasn’t been much of an issue.

    P.S. I love the picture!

  9. M says:

    We have had period sex but sex is messy enough that we generally abstain. Occasionally though we are both in the mood and who cares? It’s just another bodily fluid. I will admit that part of the reason I married my husband was his comfort with woman’s cycles and the accompanying mess and products.

  10. Jia says:

    Wow. Just found your site and what a controversial but powerful topic! I personally do have experience with the shame thought of it all. I’ve always had very irregular periods so if we abstain, it’s for very long periods of time. Once, after being propositioned by my husband, I said “Okay but I’m on my period.” With a disgusted look on my face and he cringed slightly and said nevermind. It destroyed me! Later on though, he told me that it had nothing to do with my menstration, but moreso my reaction to it caused him to turn away from me.

  11. Jamie Trwth says:

    Jia,

    I have always been as Good, Giving, and Game for almost anything my wife comes up with and for the most part she had been the same way. When my wife was on her period we both would want to make love. Usually at the tale end making love would stop her flow. But on occasion we would make love during the high point of her period. Doing this would help stop the cramps. And I always told her. . . . anything to help you. . . . it’s all for you honey. But she knew it wasn’t a one way expression of love. She thought I would be grossed out by it but I think being mature about such things makes one a better person to your spouse.

    Jamie Trwth

  12. madhousewife says:

    My post-baby physiology is such that period sex is just not enjoyable. Sometimes it is uncomfortable (not exactly painful), but mostly it is just devoid of anything remotely akin to an orgasm, and therefore, eh. I never had a shame issue with it.

  13. Stady Canton says:

    We chose red handtowels & washcloths for this purpose, and we keep them in a bedside drawer for easy access. We like them because they are distinct from any other linens and because they work well all the time, no matter which fluids have mingled.

    In another angle on the subject, my friend’s would-be rapist stopped his attack when he discovered she was menstruating at the time. He started cursing and exclaiming in disgust, did up his pants and left the party.

    I’m not sure what effect this incident had, if any, on making love during her period.

  14. John says:

    Interesting topic. Though my current partner and I haven’t discussed it, I wouldn’t be opposed if she were comfortable and enjoyed it. I don’t know anyone named Ezekiel, but if I did, I wouldn’t ask him what was OK for my sex life.

  15. Ziff says:

    I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding for 17 months of our 2 1/2 year marriage so it hasn’t been much of an issue.

    Okay, enough with the silly puns! (Sorry, mraynes, it was just too perfect.) 🙂

  16. sarah says:

    It hadn’t occurred to me until reading this that anyone would ever feel shame over the idea of sex during menstruation. I’ve been married for 7 years, and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t occurred to my husband either. And that is remarkable for the reason that my sweet husband was more naive than I thought possible when we married. He once came to me, after we had been married for a few weeks or months, and told me there was a “puffy bullet” on the floor of the car. I figured out he meant a tampon. When we discussed the reason for a tampon (I don’t know how this escaped his upbringing, he had 4 sisters), he asked how long a period lasts. “What is it, like an hour or something?”

  17. Carrie says:

    My husband and I have no problem with it.
    Sometimes I just won’t feel like it, other times
    I do, and we will.
    But one thing, re: #6…a diaphragm, maybe.
    But a keeper? I have one of those. They have a pointy
    little spike/handle thing. Um, the male would
    get impaled on one. Sounds like a great thing
    to wear to a party to deter would-be rapists..:-)

  18. Anonymous bleeder says:

    I’ve noticed that I’m often menstruating when my husband and I are in the mood. It has never bothered us.

  19. Steve says:

    Near the end of her period, my wife has a tendency to chafe, so we abstain during that time. But otherwise I can’t say it’s ever been much of an issue.

  20. Joe says:

    We’ve never really had an issue (pun intended) with that time of the month. But for some reason she is much less sensitive and has to work much more for the Big O. As her libido is quite low to begin with, it makes sense to wait for times when she’s more in the groove… Is this something you women have experienced?

  21. Eve says:

    I’m pleased to ready so have many positive attitudes. Personally I don’t have an issue with it and my husband says he doesn’t mind, but when I start thinking about the mess and cleaning up I loose all the excitement. Also PMS puts me in a bad mood for days before, which creates tension in our relationship that is not conducive to getting intimate. Even though I get very horny we rarely have period sex (I masturbate). When we do, I find that my vagina is very sensitive, engorged and sore so it ends up being a mix of pleasure and pain.
    I often use it as an “excuse” to only give him pleasure orally or manually.
    With some previous partners I engaged in mutual oral sex with tampon and all (“mouse tail” :)) The current level of intimacy with my husband isn’t there yet.
    I am actually needing to find a comfortable way of educating him about my body and it’s rhythms in a way that would not sound condescending. Suggestions?

  22. ZD Eve says:

    Just to clarify; the Eve above isn’t me.

    As you were! 🙂

  23. ScottyDoo says:

    My wife and I actually prefer sex during her menstruation. Her medications that she’s on causes her natural lubrication to be in short supply, so we always have to use a generous amount of lube for intercourse. Well, while she’s menstruating, it’s nice, we don’t need to add any 3rd party lube. I find that there’s some much more heat inside of her (literally) during this time and I rather enjoy that, it adds one more aspect that is enjoyable for both of us.

    I never understood why guys were bothered by this, especially when you’re married.

  24. Kiri Close says:

    OPINION & TIPS:

    Hope this doesn’t offend, but helps.

    Me and Rob abstain from penis/vagina ‘pumping’ during menstruation–it’s kinda messy and honestly grosses me out. We tried it only twice in the beginning of our marriage, but we always felt like taking a shower before both of us were finished with a session.

    But he is really good at rubbing me in/on the right areas with my underwear still on to keep his hands dry and to avoid menstrual fluids to be rubbed unnecessarily all over the place (btw, during menstruation, I normally can’t wear bottom temple-g’s because I run so heavy), and i like to return the favor. He can’t give me oral, but i can to him during menstruation. I think we both have had our share of initiating intimacy by rubbing, especially during menstruation.

    Also, try massaging each other’s back or elsewhere, both aware of each other’s multiple erogenous zones.

    Also, have you tried the non-intercourse with conversation? Making each other laugh during some sex or sexual situations, with or without menstruation, enriches on many levels.

    How about talking dirty to each other, saying how much you adore each other’s parts? ‘Dirty’ talk (within reason) can be a sexy turn-on without needing intercourse;o)

    Okay, is this TMI? just trying to openly help.

    -the sex kitten

  25. I involuntarily abstain during my period. I’m always really aroused during my period, but my partner finds it “disgusting and dirty”. Funny, then, that he has no problem with anal sex, which has a tendency to be messy and smelly…

    I grow tired of feeling neglected, sexually and emotionally, during this time. It has an emotional impact that I just don’t think men understand.

  26. I forgot to add, that “other forms of sexual intimacy” aren’t usually possible or desirable. My partner has no desire to touch me anywhere down there with any part of his body, or even with a toy, during my period. I hate anal sex, and why should I pleasure him if he’s willing to give me nothing in return? He seems perfectly content to masturbate. But self-pleasure just doesn’t cut it for me.

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