Flipping the Script: Periods and Pleasure
I once heard a statistic that over a quarter billion women are menstruating at any given time. That’s over two hundred and fifty million people on their period at once. Now, considering that even the most accurate figure we could gather would be a range based on very average data (everyone’s cycle is different even month to month, some women hardly menstruate at all or do so more often than monthly, and it’s not like anyone is going around asking), it’s an impressive number of people, that much I do know.
Several random things come to mind when I consider the magnitude of that statistic: the number of feminine care products needed at all times, how many otherwise “perfect” date nights are “ruined” every evening, and how much physical pain people are in every single day.
With such a large number of people experiencing the same thing at the same thing, it’s a lot going on. And to make it all a little harder, no one’s really talking about it in a positive way. Well, I’m here to change that; we’re going to talk about periods. Specifically periods and pleasure.
Now I know there are some serious taboos around receiving pleasure when you’re on your period whether self-stimulated or with a partner. I posted a silly tweet about masturbating while on my period the other day (more on that post later) and one of my followers seemed horrified. The part that surprised me the most was that that particular follower has a vagina. I was surprised because it’s usually the people who don’t get periods that get all grossed out from them like we’re walking around with a crime scene in our panties. Before I even dive into the juice of this post, here’s a pro tip: you can play with the clit and have a tampon in at the same time.
Anyways, since I joined the conversation with my own menarche, my mother has always been very vocal in celebrating her monthly period as, “a beautiful reminder of the strength and power of being a woman.” Whenever I would complain about cramps or talk negatively about my period, she would always retort with positivity that undoubtedly had a very unique influence on how I viewed menstruation within a society that typically encourages us to conceal and hide our experiences. In our minds, we may as well be “shamed” Cersei in Game of Thrones-style as we walk with our tampons toward the male cashier at the front of the store and God forbid we bleed through our pants (talk about a scarlet letter!). Thanks to my mother and my very first partner, I have been fortunate to have had a very healthy relationship with my own menstruation experience, no matter how much shit I talk about it.
Period pain and pleasure
I was 14 when I got my first period. Eighth-grade history class. I don’t remember if the cramps started in the beginning or if they came later, but without fail, the first day of my period hits me like a ton of bricks, especially the first 6-8 hours.
Whether my period starts in the morning or in the evening, whether or not I’m on birth control, if I’m sexually active or in a drought, that first day always rocks my whole world.
In high school I used to play sick and sometimes stay or go home; in college, I would skip class; and as an adult, if I can’t get out of work, I simply do as little as possible to keep my job (these bills aren’t going to pay themselves, honey).
I had heard of masturbating helping with cramps in the past but I suppose I had never thought about it while in the throes of pain. There’s something about period cramps that makes you want to crawl up in a ball with a heating pad (a bottle of water with the hottest sink water works, too) and sleep until they loosen their vice grip on your uterus. Because despite the fact that cramps are the body’s way of telling us that things are actually working, it would be nice if they had an off-switch. Sexy time when you’re in that much pain down there? No thanks.
“Masturbating is like drinking water, more of it can only help.”
As for my tweet I mentioned earlier, it read: “I was today years old when I learned that masturbating really does help with period cramps.” Usually, I pop an extra pain killer when mother nature strikes, but this past month, I found myself unusually horny (they say a woman reaches her sexual peak in her 30s and boy did I underestimate whoever “they” are) and for the first time in a long time, alone and actually home.
So I gave it a go and went from agonizing pain to feeling the cramps lifting as I got closer to orgasm. It didn’t take me long to get there as I wasn’t really doing it for the pleasure and after I had a few orgasms under my belt, I hardly even noticed the cramps. Whether it be the added blood flow from the orgasm or how relaxed my uterus was after my release, my cramps were nearly gone. Now, due to my naturally skeptical mind, I will be testing this theory again at the next given opportunity if only just to silence the part of my brain that whispers, “but maybe they were just about to end anyways and your test only proved confirmation bias.” Damn to hell the voices in our heads. Regardless, masturbating is like drinking water, more of it can only help.
Periods and my sexual debut
I was blessed as a teenager that my introduction to sex was with a very open-minded lover who did not muddy my mind with the plethora of society’s behavioral expectations during a woman’s menstruation. If I happened to be on my period he simply worked around it.
Being in not only a sexual relationship with him but also a committed romantic relationship as well, I would often openly discuss whenever my period started, so he usually knew prior to the clock striking passion that I was available on a bit of a limited budget. Just because of how heavy I often feel during my period, if ever I’m going to be intimate during that time, it usually sounds something along the lines of, “Babe, grab a towel and lay your ass down.”
But occasionally we would be in the throes of passion and he would start kissing down my body and I would have to break the news on the spot. The first time this happened, he didn’t stop kissing me when I told him I was on my period and for a second I began to panic. Did he not hear me? Should I say it again? Does he just not care? I wondered if he realized that by having a tampon in, things weren’t going to work quite as well… if at all. I assumed that because he was far more experienced than I was, that he knew what he was doing and so I let him proceed, keeping caution close by.
By spreading my legs apart in front of him, he could see what he was working with. I was comfortable enough with him that him seeing my tampon string was not only not a big deal to me, but I was grateful he saw it because it meant that I didn’t need to say it out loud again. The best part? It’s more awkward for me to be typing this than it was in the moment!
We seemed to have this unspoken understanding between us. He trusted me enough to know that I would never let him near me if things weren’t tidy down there, and I trusted him to be vulnerable enough to allow him to be anywhere near my vagina in the first place. To be honest, as he was my first, I knew no other way. Of course, growing up I was not immune to the “teachings” that periods should be camouflaged from men, but in my young mind, I rationalized that if it was the man that was OK with certain “taboo” experiences during a women’s menstruation, why the hell shouldn’t I, as the woman, be OK with them? After all, it was my blood and my body.
Without even realizing it at the time, it was in a way, an infantile introduction to kink. Giving me clitoral orgasms while I had a tampon in was his jam, and it taught me a very clean way to enjoy immense pleasure during my period. For him to be so into it made it that much hotter, and me that much hornier – like his desire was fuel for my already rampant hormones.
Whether his open-mindedness was due to his upbringing, the sex-ed he received in school or otherwise, the influence of a previous partner, or simply the blessing God created him to be, he allowed me and encouraged me to be completely comfortable with my body and every natural thing that comes with having a vagina.
No Shame, No Pain, All Pleasure
Through the teachings and example of my mother and the influence of a very open-minded and supportive first sexual partner, I was uniquely blessed to have never experienced the shame and embarrassment that so many other women have felt due to misguidance, cultural expectation and/or societal attitudes. I think nothing of it to walk right up to a male cashier with a big box of super tampons, I get turned on when a partner is not grossed out upon learning that I’m menstruating, and yes, I seek pleeeently of orgasms at every stage of my cycle. When it comes to period pain, consider pleasure; the clit is your own personal off-switch. And for those who don’t experience cramping or pain, it’s pleasure for the sake of pleasure, also – pray for me. In the meantime…