In a woman’s life, menstruation is a natural biological process that typically occurs every 28 days. In this timeframe woman usually have less sex then in a time without their period. Why is that?
Stigma Surrounding Menstruation
There is a lot of shame and stigma surrounding menstruation. Women frequently feel like their menstruation is disgusting and they hide their menstrual status. Historically menstruation was always seen as something taboo or something that is shameful. Nowadays our societies still hold that thought, which drives attitudes towards menstruation that are not always helpful and give way to a negative body image.
Menstruation-related negative feelings are common in women, and often continue to sexual activity while experiencing menstruation. However, men also described menstruation as something negative, even more often than women and feel uneasy when women are disclosing information about their menstruation. This makes sexual encouters for both parts somewhat negative and less likely to ocurr during menstruation.
Why do people object to having sex during menstruation?
Some women feel uncomfortable with having sex while they are menstruating because their blood flow is too strong or because they are in pain. Others say that they feel disgusting, do not like their body during that time and do not want to put up with the messiness. Oftentimes the partner(s) of the women share the strong disgust towards menstruation and so reinforce the negative feeling of disgust and body shame. Even if women did not have strong emotions towards menstrual sex in the beginning, they anticpate their partner to have negative and strong emotions towards it and avoid having sex overall during that time.
Why do people want to have sex during menstruation?
Women who are sexually active when menstruating claim that it is more physically and emotionally pleasurable than when not. They feel like having sex while menstruating lets them feel more loved and accepted from their partner and increases their intimacy. Furthermore, some women say that they even experience stronger sexual desire and orgams during menstruational sex. Others, like the additional moisture or the cramp relief due to sex.
Why negative feelings towards menstruational sex can be harmful
The disgust and shame associated with menstruation leads to decreased sexual experience and body image. Male partners are often taught little about menstruation and therefore paving the way for the feeling of disgust which is reinforcing the women in their disgust. Those negative attitudes towards menstruational sex are often caused by a cycle of aversion that involves both women and their partners. Women, thus often struggle not only with their internalized body shame regarding menstruation, but also their partner’s expression of the shame. We should advocate that women and men have a critical consciousness about periods to allow a positive view of women and their bodies.
Change of perception
It’s interesting to note that women’s attitudes toward menstrual sex can change with a change of partner, and that some women have subverted anti-menstrual attitudes by viewing menstruation as positive and even sexual. Notably, women and men in a steady, longer and committed relationships, do not use the language of disgust so often and did not feel like menstrual sex is gross anymore. They simply acknowlegded the messines and felt like it is just a part of a mature sexual relation. Those couples also said that at one point they found menstrual sex gross but came to accept it. They felt like menstrual sex is something to communicate and negotiate about.
If you want to have sex during menstruation, you can plan accordingly and make it less messy, so you and your partner(s) feel more comfortable. The most important thing is to discuss period sex activly and make an informed decision about whether you want it or not. Both options are fine. Do not avoid the topic or let yourself or your partner feel shameful about it.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Lisa Zach is an intern at Willingness and currently pursuing her master’s degree in clinical psychology. As an aspiring therapist, researcher, and educator, she is particularly interested in action-oriented research, advocacy, and holistic approaches to mental health.
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Allen, K. R. & Goldberg, A. E. (2009). Sexual Activity During Menstruation: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Sex Research, 46(6), 535–545. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224490902878977
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