Period sex – despite being enjoyed by 55% of Australians – is still a divisive topic. For some, it can bring up feelings of disgust, while others may not be phased by it at all.
We sat down with sexologist, Aleeya Hachem to break down the fun, and only slightly messy world of period sex.
Why is there still a stigma around period sex?
In some cultures, period sex is considered ‘dirty’ and taboo. From a young age, we are taught to associate blood with injury or disease. Thus, we are more likely to view blood as ‘dangerous’ rather than the natural process of the menstrual cycle. Growing up, vulva owners are taught to be discreet around their period and to hide it – there can be a lot of shame that comes with this that only perpetuates the idea that menstruating is bad and taboo. We know that vulva owners typically menstruate for one-quarter of the month, so why wouldn’t we prioritise intimacy and connection during that time?
Is period sex hygienic?
Absolutely! Education around what a period is, and the menstrual cycle more broadly is important to dispel myths around whether it is considered ‘clean.’ Period blood is made up of the lining of the uterus (endometrium) as well as immune cells and cervical fluid. It is very different to the blood from an injury.
What are some of the benefits of period sex?
For those with conditions such as endometriosis or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) sex may feel very uncomfortable or the last thing on their mind! It may not be for everyone. However, for those with mild symptoms, it does have its benefits. As some vulva owners experience a peak in libido around the time of their period it makes sense to foster and prioritise intimacy during this time. Additionally, Orgasm is a natural analgesic, meaning that it can help to relieve pain associated with menstrual cramping. We also know that the oxytocin experienced after sex is a natural mood booster, so those experiencing mood changes may benefit from experiencing orgasm.
How can we approach conversations with our partner around period sex?
Educating our partner about what is happening to the body during the menstrual cycle and what a period is incredibly important. For those in heterosexual relationships, penis owners aren’t typically taught about the menstrual cycle, and normalising periods in the relationship is key to reducing shame associated with periods and increasing dialogue around period sex.
Also, if penetrative sex during your period makes your partner feel squeamish, you can practise outercourse – clitoral stimulation through oral sex or fingers. Inserting a menstrual cup such as these from Moxie prior to means that there is no sight of blood and is very discreet (no tampon string!) Discuss any concerns they may have, listen without judgement, and find a way that works for both of you.
NOTE: do not have penetrative sex with a tampon or menstrual cup inserted into the vagina.
What are the best positions for penetrative period sex?
There are a couple of positions that work well for period sex from a logistical perspective. Missionary position (where the vulva owner is lying down) or spooning (side by side) are great options to avoid mess. Standing sex in the shower (against a wall for support!) is also great, as the shower can wash away the blood straight away. However, it is important to experiment with different positions to see what feels comfortable for you. The position of the cervix lowers around the time of your period, and deeper penetration may feel uncomfortable for some. There is no one size fits all!
What are some tips for period sex with a partner?
If you (or your partner) are a bit squeamish about the potential mess, opt for sexual penetration around the start or the end of your period where the flow is slightly lighter. Use dark towels and keep wet wipes handy to clean up any mess. Sex in the shower is always good for avoiding mess and experiment with practise ‘outercourse’ or external stimulation. This can be achieved for both individuals as well as for those in a relationship.
Do you still need to use contraception?
Yes, while the chances are slim, it is still possible to get pregnant while menstruating. Additionally, you are still able to contract sexually transmitted infections during this time as the cervix is more open. Using a condom during period sex (if not on hormonal contraception) is recommended, and your partner may feel more comfortable doing this from a mess perspective also.
What about self-pleasure during menstruation?
We know the benefits that experiencing orgasm can have on alleviating symptoms associated with PMS, so self-pleasure during this time is highly encouraged (if you feel like it.) You can use sex toys during your period (both internal and external) or opt for external stimulation of the clitoris if you don’t feel like penetration. Again, a tampon or menstrual cup (Moxie have you covered for both of these) can be inserted prior to self-pleasure to avoid any mess. Using a water-based lubricant, such as Lucy Lube can make clitoral stimulation more pleasurable and is safe to use with condoms and silicone sex toys.
Periods are a completely natural process experienced by most vulva-owners every month. Through education and dispelling myths, we can normalise the conversations around period sex and the menstrual cycle more broadly.
Aleeya’s qualifications include a Bachelor and Honours in Psychological Science, and a Masters in Sexual and Reproductive Health, specialising in psychosexual therapy and reproductive endocrinology.
She is a sexologist and fertility counsellor who is passionate about normalising the conversation around sex, pleasure and fertility. She holds a membership with the Society of Australian Sexologists (SAS) and Fertility Society of Australia (FSA.)