To Bleed or Not To Bleed


Earlier this week, the FDA approved Lybrel, an oral contraceptive which can be used to completely stop a woman’s menstrual cycle. Unlike traditional birth control pills which produce a period-like bleeding once a month, Lybrel is designed to prevent women from bleeding at all, or at least until they stop taking the drug. The controversy surrounding medically-induced cessation of menstruation has been much discussed amongst feminists, health professionals, and others. Some commentators cheer it as Lybrel the Liberator—a knight in shining armor freeing oppressed maidens from the evils of cramps, bloating, and messiness. Proponents also argue that it will drastically reduce PMS symptoms, allowing women to better, and more consistently, function in the workplace, home, and community. It could also provide women with greater control over the timing of sexual relations.

On the other hand, some have expressed concern about the long-term physical effects of the medication, and the potentially negative message it sends to women (and men) about a very natural function of a woman’s body. Moreover, some denounce it as just one more way for men to pressure women into accommodating them sexually. Still others argue that menstruation is a key component to their understanding of themselves as women—a fundamental distinguisher between the sexes. Women are so emasculated already, if you take away menstruation, they say, the gray lines separating the genders will only be further blurred.

The idea that menstruation is a key component of our understanding of femininity seems strange to me. Perhaps this is because the essence of being female, or a woman, or a daughter of God, has never been closely connected to the blood, cramps, tampons, and pads that arrive in my bathroom every 27 to 29 days. While I’m not yet completely certain of how I derive my understanding of myself as a woman, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have anything to do with menstruation. True, at some far recess of my mind it is theoretically tied to fertility and the bearing of children. However, on a practical level, it’s mostly just an inconvenience, a bodily function I have to deal with more often than I’d like. I’m curious as to whether other women feel that menstruation informs their understanding of their femaleness, and if so, the reasons why.

Additionally, from a doctrinal perspective, I’ve been pondering on the potential religious or eternal purposes behind menstruation. While it is often fruitless to attempt to divine God’s motivations, I wonder if perhaps there is some purpose behind women being inconvenienced by (best case scenario) or suffering from (for those who experience heavy cramping, bleeding, bloating, or headaches) the process of menstruation for 25% of their adult lives? Is there something we are supposed to be learning from this? Is menstruation a punishment? Is it connected to the curse placed upon Eve in the garden? Maybe the cyclical shedding of blood is some type of symbol that will help us remember the blood that Christ shed for us (an obligatory monthly sacrament)? Or is it just supposed to be a monthly reminder that we should be bearing children and breastfeeding them, and not menstruating at all?

Painting: Red Canna, Georgia O’Keefe, 1923

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  1. Sally says:

    I find myself totally baffled by women who find a womanly purpose and identity in menstruation. I have found that the mess and incovenience is frustrating. I have often wondered why there is a need for it – HF could have easily designed the body to just absorb the blood or some other mechanism. It seems so unfair that men basically breeze through life physically while women put up bleeding, bloating, cramps, hot flashes, mood swings… I can’t seem to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why HF makes it so much more difficult for women physically.

  2. jane b says:

    “I’m curious as to whether other women feel that menstruation informs their understanding of their femaleness, and if so, the reasons why.”

    No, actually, when I first began menstruation it informed my understanding of my being a mammal. If I were a female bird or reptile or fish I’d have been dealing with laying eggs! 🙂

    I figure that I only have to deal with the mammalian hassle of menstruation 1/4 of my life between the ages of 16 to 50 or so. My husband, on the other hand, has to bother with facial hair every day of his life from age 16 to the end of his life (either shave it or wash it or trim it or whatever) while I usually choose not to bother about body hair at all. If I had to choose between the two, I’d go for the 1/4 of my middle life hassle rather than the every day of my life bother.

    So do you suppose that medical science will be finding a way to prevent growth of facial hair in men to assist men who deal with ingrown beard hairs and other such annoying things? Not likely. Though men may find shaving or grooming facial hair a bother my sense is that in our North American culture facial hair has become much more of a statement of masculinity than menses ever has become of a woman’s identity. Women who see their bodies as an expression of their femaleness tend to focus more on other aspects of their female body in their womanly identity.

    Would I choose a drug that eliminated my menses? No. I’m close enough to menopause that my body will probably do that soon anyway on its own and my menses are not disabling. Would I have chosen it during the couple of decades I lived with irreversible infertility after our last child was born? No. After having the blessing of giving birth to children and mothering them, menses, though messy and inconvenient, was a reminder of the blessing it had been to conceive, bear and mother sweet children. So I guess that now, when I experience it, it is a reminder of a capacity (not an identity) that I was grateful to have had.

  3. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    It seems so unfair that the rest of us basically breeze through life physically while Jesus put up with beating, reviling, bleeding and etc. I can’t come up with a reasonable explanation as to why HF made it so much more difficult for Jesus physically.

    I’m not actually comparing being a woman and having menstruation to Jesus’s suffering. That’s just the image that came to my mind when I read the first comment. We don’t know everything about God’s purposes yet.

    I’ve heard the functions of birth compared to the functions of salvation. The scriptures say we are born of blood, water and the spirit. There’s blood, water and spirit involved in physical birth too. I don’t know if this is folklore or doctrine but I find it interesting.

    Personally, I’m leery of this whole “let’s ‘free’ women from womanhood” push. Some may have the best of intentions but I see no favor in being made more like men. We barely understand how a woman’s body works, how all the hormones interact and their real, long-term effects. No way am I going to let the understanding of man — and I mean that in both senses — muck with my body.

    If you want to wonder about the unfairness of the difference between the sexes, then wonder why 70% of women have difficulty enjoying sex, whereas all men need are their five minutes of friction. I’d live with my periods for 50 years and never complain, bloating, cramping, mood-swings, bleeding and all, if I had anything near like men’s “ease of enjoyment” so to speak.

  4. Katie M. says:

    In reading an article about this new drug it explained how the “period” women get while on the pill is not a real period at all. Birth control prevents ovulation, which prevents the building up of the bloody lining. The bleeding women on birth control experience each month occurs because you stop taking the pill that last week, which causes a hormonal imbalance which makes you bleed.

    Maybe I haven’t been paying attention enough, but this was news to me. I always thought the bleeding I experienced on the pill was just a reduced period. But it is not really menstruation at all.

    This is really interesting because a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of a drug that would stop all your “periods.” Yet we know they are not real. So obviously many women are in fact quite attached to simply the idea of bleeding every month.

  5. Eve says:

    My major concern with Lybrel and similar drugs would simply be the unknown long-term side effects. I find the arguments that menstruation is somehow constitutive of womahood and has some spiritual purpose which we don’t understand pretty unconvincing. Pain in childbirth is, arguably, even more constitutive of womahood–mentioned right there in Genesis as part of the curse of Eve–but we don’t bat an eyelash about administering epidurals. No one’s in the delivery room bemoaning our contemporary loss of the fundamentals of womahood to silly things like pain relief. Thank heavens. But I understand that the administration of anything to relieve the pain of childbirth was quite controversial in the nineteenth century precisely because of the passages in Genesis.

  6. Dora says:

    Trying to attach doctrinal significance to mentruation is ridiculous in the face of all the other ways that we currently accept contraception and pain control (both related to menstrual cycles and child birth).

    I think this should fall under the realm of individual choice. As a current pill user, I know that I can skip the week of placebo pills and go straight to the next pack to skip a period if I am travelling, camping, etc. I’m not sure that I would use Lybrel at this point in my life, but I’m glad to know of the option, and hope that more long term follow op studies are performed

  7. justanotheranon says:

    Dora,
    Don’t call what some people might find meaningful ridiculous. I actually do think that the shedding of blood every month can help me remember the Savior and I don’t appreciate you dismissing that just because you don’t feel that way. We are born into the earth by blood, water and spirit and menstruation can help me think of that. Let me find some significance in my discomfort, OK?

    No one’s in the delivery room bemoaning our contemporary loss of the fundamentals of womahood to silly things like pain relief.

    Obviously you haven’t run into a subsection of people who DO think pain relief is a loss in this regard. Given what I said above, I will say to each her own….

  8. bigbrownhouse says:

    Menstruation doesn’t inform my my sense of femaleness as much as it informs my sense of being a part of nature – cyclical, regenerating, self-perpetuating, sometimes baffling, sometimes reassuring.

    I like the sense that things are happening inside me. I’ll hold on to it, thank you very much.

  9. Starfoxy says:

    No one ever mentions this- if Lybrel doesn’t cost me anything more than regular birth control pills (and if I have insurance then I see no reason why it would) then I get to keep the 100 or so dollars(low estimate) I spend on pads each year. If the no-bleed pill picks up any significant user base then the feminine hygiene industry stands to take quite a hit.
    Being female costs money in todays world no matter how you slice it.

  10. Eve says:

    Starfoxy, amen. Being female is just too expensive, any way you slice it.

    I’m extremely curious about the origins of this connection between menstruation and the atonement. It’s not something I ever heard growing up, and I’ve never seen any basis for it in scripture or in any GA pronouncement of any kind. Is this something we borrowed from other Christians or from some other source? I’m wondering exactly where and when this idea got off the ground.

  11. Eve says:

    No one’s in the delivery room bemoaning our contemporary loss of the fundamentals of womanhood to silly things like pain relief.

    Obviously you haven’t run into a subsection of people who DO think pain relief is a loss in this regard. Given what I said above, I will say to each her own….

    Oh, I’ve definitely run into them. Just not in the delivery room. But before we turn this thread into yet another bash over the moral status of epidurals, ground that’s already been covered repeatedly and thoroughly, I’d really like to consider the origins of this connection between female reproduction (childbirth, and now, it seems by extension, menstruation) with the atonement.

    It’s fascinating to me that the nineteenth-century objection to pain relief during childbirth was that it would interfere with the curse God had placed on Eve. I’m fascinated that what used to be a curse has now somehow morphed into an association with the suffering of Christ. Within our own tradition, it seems very consistent with our general exaltation of women’s subordination and suffering. Patriarchy and pain in childbirth used to be women’s punishment for being weak and sinful daughters of Eve. Now both have taken on the rhetoric of exalted status–women are so pure and good we don’t need the priesthood, and we’re so wonderful that our suffering in childbirth is a type of the atonement of Christ. Where did this second idea come from? What’s its origin?

  12. Ana says:

    A solution like the no-bleed pill looks really appealing when, for many reasons, the only purpose for my cycle that could reasonably be connected with anything more meaningful — that is, childbearing — is 99% certain not to happen in my life. I’m sitting here cramping and bleeding through multiple layers of absorbent material for no real reason I can discern. Yet I haven’t done anything to lessen or end the cycle for the last 13 years. And honestly, it’s because there’s still that 1% (or whatever my real chance of pregnancy is — probably even less than that, really). Logically, it’s nuts. Emotionally and/or spiritually (I don’t know which) I know I couldn’t bring myself to avoid cycling.

  13. AmyB says:

    This post has been on my mind all day. I am glad that women have options. Like bigbrownhouse, I think menstruation informs my sense of being part of nature. It also ties me to a more cyclical sense of time rather than linear time, which I like.

    Forgive the length, but I wanted to share a paragraph from a book I love:

    The menstrual cycle gives women a differeing experience of time. While the contented embonpoint of ovulation is a good time for renewing subscriptions and writing sensible letters; the spiraling time of the paramenstruum is a good time for flaming arguments and making a bonfire of what bores you, for having good sex and for wreaking good havoc. At ovulation, everything is ticketyboo, tmae and tepid, you can sort out mortgage details, fill in forms and be polite, but at menstruation you play with fire and know your own wildest, feral emotions, for the hour is incandescent, thought is quick, sudden as flame; this is the time of woman in her wildest and most isolate aspect. It rises, this feeling, like burning blood which cracks rocks and singes your lips, the rising tide of flame along the body’s shoreline, so hot that only moon itself is cool enough to soothe it.

    From A Sideways Look at Time by Jay Griffiths.

    I’m not exactly sure how periods relate to my sense of womanhood, but I do know that I am very moved by writing like this, and by art like the O’Keefe piece pictured on this post. So there must be something to it, for me, at least.

  14. Beijing says:

    Now both have taken on the rhetoric of exalted status–women are so pure and good we don’t need the priesthood, and we’re so wonderful that our suffering in childbirth is a type of the atonement of Christ. Where did this second idea come from? What’s its origin?

    It’s called “putting women on a pedestal,” and it’s an old trick. If women seem like they might revolt against a system that subjugates them (they might have seemed like that when burning bras was in fashion and the Equal Rights Amendment looked like it might get ratified)…then obviously the “women are cursed” rhetoric isn’t working to keep women in their place.

    So, patriarchy tries a different tack. It tries to one-up the feminists who said “women are equal to men” by saying, “women aren’t the same as men, women are far more spiritual than men, women are more obedient than men, women are much more likely to make it into the celestial kingdom, women’s life experiences are more in tune with Christ’s experiences”

    Without actually changing the position that women were in when it was called a “curse,” merely by changing the rhetoric to call it “Christlike,” patriarchy put women back in their place and pacified them.

    Kind of like how Tom Sawyer got his friends to whitewash the fence for him. Patriarchy has us making doughnuts for men to enjoy after sitting on their butts at a meeting, ironing men’s shirts even when we’re suffering from painful diseases, putting ourselves through untold pain and suffering to bear children, and fill in the blank with whatever suffering you’ve particularly chosen for yourself, because that really is how we as women sincerely want to serve. And it is enough for us that we are told we are delightful, we are blessed, we are Christlike.

    We go looking for arguments in favor of our own subservience. We’re not duped. We WANT to be second class. We sincerely believe that second class is the best and most fulfilling and most Christlike class. Like the abused woman who argues in favor of her husband that he only beats her when she deserves it, so many women argue that they both want and deserve every iota of the crap that biology and patriarchy dish out to them, and will fight you tooth and nail if you try to take it away.

  15. Dora says:

    JAN ~

    I’m sorry to have offended you. Of course, you may attach whatever significance you desire to your own menses. Personally, I don’t attach any doctrinal meaning to my monthly cycles, and find that there are many other ways for me to feel close to the Savior. For instance, the sacrament, which we can partake of every week.

    I find it interesting that we tend to attach meaning to suffering. I do it myself. However, I try to distinguish between suffering that has a point, and suffering because I won’t do anything to alleviate the pain. Or rather, suffering because I want to feel pain because I think it will validate me seems like a waste of time. There are so many painful things in life … why make it any more difficult than we have to?

  16. justanotheranon says:

    Dora, fair enough. I am not an advocate of pain for pain’s sake, but it helps me to find some meaning if there is any when I do have some.

    eve, I haven’t heard this talked about in church discourse, it’s just something I once thought of and that made some sense to me personally. I realize it may not float everyone’s boat.

    I’m not a fan of hormones in any form (they mess me up), so this pill won’t be on my shopping list and pads will stay.

  17. Bored in Vernal says:

    I’m one of those rare beings who have never used birth control, nor pain medication in childbirth. (This used to be a lot more common among Latter-day Saints!) I see menstruation as very much a part of nature and my womanhood. I like taking my life in cycles (backing off on too much exercise during those weeks, for example.) I’d love to have a “Red Tent” society where women were able to withdraw just a bit from their hectic schedules to listen to their bodies.

    There have been times when I have seen my period as unfair, or a burden, but mostly it just “feels” like a significant and natural part of being a woman. I love the quote that AmyB shared:

    the rising tide of flame along the body’s shoreline, so hot that only moon itself is cool enough to soothe it.

    It reminds me of the time I was living in Hawaii, 3 weeks overdue with my 4th child. The doctors were threatening to induce me. Responding to a suggestion of a part-native Hawaiian woman, I went and stood in the ocean at high tide under a full moon. It was an incredible, womanly experience. I wish more women could picture themselves during menstruation as the potentiality of a ripe, 9 3/4 month pregnant woman standing in the ocean under a full moon–instead of a seeing their periods as mammalian hassle, doctrinal punishment, or patriarchal subjugation.

  18. Tatiana says:

    It’s never been a bother for me. I don’t suffer with it. It makes me feel really good for some reason. I get a mood lift the day my period starts.

    I don’t particularly consider it a meaningful part of my identity as a woman. But the function of flushing bacteria from the body seems to me to be important. I am prone to infections of all sorts. I want to keep having a period so I get that cleansing inside each month.

  19. Deborah says:

    “Responding to a suggestion of a part-native Hawaiian woman, I went and stood in the ocean at high tide under a full moon. “

    Cool.

  20. bigbrownhouse says:

    “…and we’re so wonderful that our suffering in childbirth is a type of the atonement of Christ. Where did this second idea come from? What’s its origin?”

    Well, some of it just might originate from women themselves. I experienced something through the “suffering” (not my prefered word) of childbirth that was profoundly transformational, something I still struggle to find words for. There is something about extreme physical sensation that can put a person so far outside one’s zone of mundane comforts that one might come back forever changed. At a time in my life when I was more religious, many of the analogies that naturally came to my mind were of a religious nature – and it was never along the lines of “if the Patriarchy wants me to suffer like Christ, it’s good enough for me…”

    As I’ve explored through my birth experiences the idea that extreme pain is not necessarily the same as suffering, it has altered the way I think about Christ’s atonement. It has informed the way I think about the real value of physical process, not just symbolically, but as an essential way of gaining knowledge.

    I cherish my body’s reproductive functions – not because they mean I am Godly (I am fairly well stripped of specific religious beliefs at this point in my life) but because they are there, and they fascinate me. My physical experiences enrich my mental and spiritual life. How can I not link menstruation and birth to my female identity? I’m a female. My reproductive system is a very large part of what makes me different than a male. I dig being female. Bring on the blood.

  21. Heather O. says:

    The connection between menstration and the atonement of Christ is one that I have never heard before, nor frankly even thought about. Interesting. And I’m not sure I connect any powerful female identity in menstration. It’s just part of life, isn’t it? Granted, my life has been pretty hassle free when it comes to that, so maybe I’d have a different perspective if I suffered more every month.

    I also have never equated childbirth with the suffering of Christ–I have always thought about it as something powerful given to women to experience. But I freely admit I have a positive image of the pain of childbirth because I got to choose how long I had to endure–I got the epidural when it got too bad.

    The stuff Beijing is talking about also does not really resonate with me. I’m much more with bigbrownhouse. I dig being female. I think being able to bring life into this world is freakin’ awesome. (And that is a technical term.)

  22. Maria says:

    For those that have expressed a connection between menstruation and their sense of womanhood, I have a couple of other questions.

    First, is menstruation then a “necessary” component of your womanhood? Meaning, without menstruation would you be less of a woman? And, if so, are women who do not menstruate (due to physical problems, pregnancy, breast feeding, menopause) less feminine than others who are?

    I guess this is where the logic breaks down for me–because menstruation is not something we always do, I personally don’t think it can have quite the importance that some are attaching to it.

  23. Maria says:

    Ana,

    We’re in the same boat. Although, I think I’m about at the point where I actually will just decide to be rid of it forever. The biggest factor influencing my thinking seems to be time–time is at a premium for me right now (and will only get worse over the next year or so). If I can cut out the time I spend now on cramps, bathroom trips, runs to Target late at night when I remember I’m out of tampons, etc., why wouldn’t I? Especially since I don’t really think menstruation affects my understanding of myself as a woman.

    But that’s just me–I can totally respect why someone wouldn’t want to end their cycle–it is a rather drastic measure when I step back and think about it. Maybe within a few years enough women will be doing it that it won’t seem so unusual/unnatural.

  24. bigbrownhouse says:

    Menstruation is not a “necessary” component of my womanhood, but because it is there, it is a de facto component of my womanhood. The times in my life when it stopped, or will stop (pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause coming up around the corner) are also manifestations of wonderful complexity of my female system.

    I guess thats my point…it’s not that menstruation by itself has this enormous meaning, but that it’s a fairly visible part of an enormous interconnected system of hormones, organs, cycles that support very real elements of my female identity – sexuality, the creation of offspring, the support of said offspring, the beginning of fertility, the end of fertility. Even if those particular functions weren’t being actively manifested for some reason, I can’t get around the fact that the system is there.

    Also, I don’t just view the menstrual cycle as a 5 days of bleeding once a month. I’ve been tracking my menstrual cycle for years. Back when I was trying to get pregnant, it was a formal thing – on paper, now it’s very casual and intuitive, paying attention to changes in cervical mucus, etc. The days of bleeding are just a small part of a very cool process.

    Obviously, it’s not the whole picture of female identity. It’s just the part being discussed in this post. My 30-something sister in law just had a hysterectomy. Is she any less a woman? It seems preposterous to even ask the question.

  25. Beijing says:

    bigbrownbag and Heather O., are you implying that I dig being female less than you dig being female? Or that I don’t think it’s beyond awesome to be able to bring forth life? If so, you’re misreading me.

    I was responding to the question of where the idea came from that women’s suffering is like Christ’s suffering. I believe that idea came from people who do not find it worthwhile to relieve women’s suffering or increase women’s opportunities, who will latch onto whatever explanation works to maintain their inertia in that regard.

    I was not addressing the question of whether meaning can legitimately be found in pain. (It can.) I was also not addressing the question of whether I am happy to be a woman. (I am.)

  26. Beijing says:

    Sorry, bigbrownhouse, I was just reading something about brown bags and got your handle wrong by accident.

  27. bigbrownhouse says:

    “are you implying that I dig being female less than you dig being female?”

    No, not all, not one little bit. I’m just sharing my personal experience (which I realize is sometimes considered a little “out there”) and explaining why I don’t see my physical state as “suffering” from which I need to be “relieved” and how if a connection can be made between women’s pain and Christ’s, it is only that there can sometimes be transcendence in extreme physical experience. The “patriarchy” seems far more invested in taking that experience away from women, in my experience.

    I say all this just to offer an alternative to your theory that the Christ/woman connection is merely tool of the patriarchy. There is some truth in what you describe, I’m saying it’s not the whole picture.

  28. Ann says:

    I still track my periods to some extent, too. I like to time my business travel with my period when I can, so I can get all of my “not having sex” out of the way at once.

    I’m 47, and ready to be done menstruating, but I don’t find any need to take a pill for it. I don’t find anything deep or significant about menstruating now, but it sure was a big deal right before I started!

    I think the 1/4 of my life math is not correct. I have been menstruating for 33 years now, and 33*4=132. I don’t think I’m going to life to 132. I may not even make it to 33*3. Maybe 33*2.5, or 2/5ths of my life…

    Two items in the OP caught my eye. One is the idea that women will be pressured to do this for men’s sexual convenience. I can see that happening. The other is that PMS symptoms will be reduced. I don’t know how this drug works, but when I was taking the pill it was like I had PMS all the time. I used the pill for a long time in my 20’s, and it wasn’t until I went off that I realized that I wasn’t a grouchy, miserable bitch by nature. If this drug has a hormonal component, some women will not be helped at all in that regard.

  29. justanonotheranon says:

    I believe that idea came from people who do not find it worthwhile to relieve women’s suffering or increase women’s opportunities, who will latch onto whatever explanation works to maintain their inertia in that regard.

    So are you implying that I am just brainlessly latching onto something to maintain inertia rather than actually feeling something significant for me here? Fine if you don’t, but you got after someone making assumptions about you but you are doing the same to others. Not cool.

  30. bigbrownhouse says:

    This talk of men’s sexual convenience…do most people not have sex during their period?

  31. Starfoxy says:

    That’s something that I was wondering too, BigBrownHouse. Maybe it’s TMI, but menstruation has never stopped us.

    Also, Ann the I’m guessing that the 1/4 of your life is meant to only count the actual days spent bleeding, (roughly one week out of every four weeks makes for 1/4th). However, if you count the days spent bleeding (5 days out of 28 from age 13 to 50 = 2411 days) then it amounts to 9% of a 70 year lifespan. math is more accurate if you only count days spent bleeding.

  32. luminainfinite says:

    Menstruation absolutely shapes my female identity. I complain about it and am angry that men don’t experience it, but I would not stop it. I really just wish I could take a break and enjoy it and celebrate it. I hate that our society says that women have to be secretive about this very real and physically taxing experience. To be on the first day of my period is like having the flu. I really want to talk to someone about it and get sympathy and take a day off from work. instead i have to buck up, stuff a tampon in (which makes everything ache more and just feels disgusting to me) or walk around with this diaper like pad…I want to just be naked and free to bleed and moan and rest, it feels like my body really needs rest while this is happening. But this whole experience does inform my female identity, it is like the glory of running a race coming at the end of the race, the pain brings a feeling of belonging to the human race, and especially to a sisterhood of other women who are the only ones who really know what it’s like to look down and see red blood coming covering your thighs. It’s what makes life beautiful, and although I’m mad guys just simply do NOT UNDERSTAND or ever could understand this thing we are going through, I kind of feel sorry for them because their life is humdrum and boring. I like the bloody drama of women.

  33. Tatiana says:

    It’s interesting to me that people equate menstruating with not having sex. I’m single and have always been single so maybe I’m just clueless. But there’s no reason not to have sex, is there? I mean, other than logistical type reasons of the mess or whatever? Sorry if this is an inappropriate question, but who else can I ask these things besides my sisters?

  34. alexander portnoy says:

    Count my wife and I in the camp of people who do NOT have sex when she is on her period. The sexual cues which arouse and/or turn humans off (or to which we are ambivalent to) are varied and somewhat mysterious. For whatever reason, blood and menstrual fluid is a sexual mood killer for me.

    My wife, a self-described “clean freak” feels even more strongly about this than I do. She almost prefers not to be touched during her cycle, though this may have as much to do with her mood as her feeling of cleanliness.

    Actually, this self-enforced 4-5 day period of celibacy is nice as it heightens the sexual tension and eventual release once the moratorium ends.

    I have known a few men for whom a woman’s period is actually a turn on, especially if, uh, cunnilingus is involved…

  35. Rosalynde says:

    I’ll get on board with Lybrel once big pharma comes out with a testosterone blocker for men, and begins to pressure men to take it for thirty or so years of their lives, starting at about 50 when their wives go through menopause. Now THAT would be real justice.

  36. Beijing says:

    bigbrownhouse, Christ actually suffered. So if you don’t see your physical state as “suffering,” then the Christ analogy breaks down from the get-go, doesn’t it?

    Also, physical pain must be a personal choice for the Christ analogy to work, because Christ suffered willingly. We didn’t choose to be women; our gender is eternal, right?

    The pain must also be necessary, if the Christ analogy is to work. Christ had to suffer to accomplish God’s purposes–there was no other way. But it seems to me that women who are lucky enough to have pleasant periods and easy pregnancies, or who choose epidurals are equally womanly and equally capable of accomplishing God’s purposes as women who endure severe cramps, complications, and labor pains.

    So it seems to me that painful periods have no more in common with Christ’s suffering than any other kind of pain has in common with Christ’s suffering. Do we see people refusing pain medication for other kinds conditions in order to feel more kinship with Christ and willingly experience the transcendence of physical pain? Or is it pretty much just women refusing pain relief in order to get in touch with their womanly curse, I mean, blessing?

  37. bigbrownhouse says:

    I never proposed an analogy, just stated that my own mind explored religious themes on their own, with no urging from The Patriarchy. I have no grand theory, just many ways of playing around with meaning and my own physical experiences, none of which, for me, feel like suffering. Menstrual pain is not a big deal for me, and though birth hurts like hell, it feels more like exhilerating work than suffering.

    And like I’ve said here more than once, I am not a religious woman, and the bottom line for me is that I embrace the experiences of my female body because I feel connected to nature, not to God.

    I’m just explaining why I do what I do. I have not a word of criticism for everyone who chooses differently.

  38. c jane says:

    bigbrownhouse I just wanted to thank you for your sentiments on this thread. I agree with you whole heartedly.

    I also like what luminia said. I think women think of menstruation as inconvenient because we don’t live in a society that allows for women to have a period. As long as we view our cycles as inconvenient they will be just that.

  39. claire says:

    I’m late to this party, but wanted to glom onto Rosalynde’s idea. I was recently discussing the ’08 election with a man who felt like Hilary Clinton’s hormonal swings might influence world politics and how that would be a big disadvantage. I wish I had thought at the time to come back with something smart about how women have hormonal mood swings only part of the time, when men are affected by testosterone their entire adult lives.

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