Put down a dark towel: It’s time to destigmatize period sex

Put down a dark towel: It’s time to destigmatize period sex

By Jay Berghuis

According to a survey published Sept. 23, 2016, by the Flex Company, which creates menstrual cups that can be used during sex, of 500 men and women surveyed, nearly half described period sex as “gross” or “kinda gross.”

Women were two times more likely than men to refuse sex on their period, and 45 percent reported being rejected by a sexual partner for desiring period sex.

Despite these statistics, many women reported to feminist publication Jezebel that they were more aroused during their period, some even saying that period sex was some of the best of their lives. 

So, if women desire sex during their period, why is it that so many of us are scared to initiate it or downright refuse it when offered? 

The answer, at least for heterosexuals, seems to be internalized misogyny. Straight women are culturally trained to prioritize the pleasure of their boyfriend or husband over their own. Because periods are something “foreign” to cisgender men, they are often viewed as gross and messy when the reality may be different. 

In fact, a 2011 study published by Feminism & Psychology reported that women refused period sex not because of their own discomfort, but out of fear of partner rejection and a desire to avoid emotional discomfort from that rejection.

A male partner may never say outright that he finds the idea of period sex repulsive, but taking a look at our male-centered culture reveals our general shame and stigma around menstruation. It starts at a young age, when boys and girls are separated in schools to learn about supposedly gender-exclusive human biology that everyone should know. 

This leads to a culture of misconceptions about menstruation, with some men even believing that women can control the flow of their periods or that all women get their periods at the same time.

If men are not even getting a basic education on menstruation, and we insist on keeping periods the proverbial dirty little secret of women, then it’s not surprising men are likely to picture waterfalls of blood and the equivalent of a murder scene on their post-coital cotton sheets when the reality is much more tame and, often, much more enjoyable. 

If women are taught to prioritize these uneducated and biased beliefs over self-advocacy and experience, they become complicit in shaming their own natural functions and desires.

This is a public service announcement for men, women and nonbinary people who are interested in exploring some consensual menstrual time between the sheets: Lay down a dark towel, put on a condom to keep things a little cleaner and protected, and learn to use your washing machine and shower. I promise it won’t be any more gross or different than the sex you have the rest of the month, just a little more visible.