WARNING: This articles contains sexual content and is only recommended for a mature audience.
COMMENT: By Nadia Bokody
"I don't do period sex," a girlfriend recently confessed over wine.
"Why? You don't like it? You know it's great for easing cramps," I answered, swirling the last of my rosé around in the glass.
"No, I like it. My boyfriend doesn't though. He says it's a turn-off," she sighed, looking down dejectedly.
This was the same boyfriend who complained it made him feel undesired when she didn't perform a certain act after sex and who had a penchant for pearl necklaces (the kind you find in porn, not the jewellery store).
A little googling reveals my friend is far from alone.
In fact, the words "My boyfriend won't touch me on my period" returns over 11.8 million search results, studded with stories of women whose partners have told them in not so many words, that menstruation is gross.
As someone who's written about sex for nearly a decade now, I'm an advocate for not pressuring a partner into doing anything that makes them feel uncomfortable in the bedroom. Including period sex.
It should also be noted, however, if your partner refuses to have sex with you because they are physically repulsed by your body carrying out a natural process, you probably shouldn't remain in a relationship with them.
Relationship red flag
This isn't a question of respecting sexual boundaries, it's a relationship red flag.
A 2011 study published in the journal, Feminism and Psychology, found women with negative attitudes toward period sex had, more often than not, experienced judgment or
shaming around their period by a male sexual partner.
The study also revealed male partners ascribing derogatory words like "messy" and "gross" to period sex.
So powerful are these messages, 73 per cent of women reported going to great lengths to
hide their sanitary products in a 2018 survey by menstrual underwear brand, THINX.
In case you're short on ideas for how to avoid making your man feel nauseous because you're surfing the crimson wave, there's an entire segment of YouTube dedicated to "hacks" to help girls conceal their periods from their boyfriends.
Filled with tricks like sewing secret pockets into your underwear and storing pads in empty confectionary packets, these how-to style videos are emblazoned with titles like, "Avoid Period Embarrassment!" and "Ways To Disguise Tampons!". (Subtext: "Because Periods Are Icky And Gross Boys Out!")
It's little wonder then, research indicates just 15 per cent of women engage in intercourse
during their periods, despite menstruation being a monthly, week-long occurrence for most of us (and the time we're scientifically at our horniest).
Perhaps most strikingly though, the same study – which included more than 95,000 participants across 200 countries – found 41 per cent of women performed sexual acts on their partners during this time.
There are even jokes about what to do instead when "the river runs red" a male told me when I quizzed him on his feelings toward periods.
Memes touting similar messages proliferate the internet.
"I don't always want sex, but when I do, she's on her period" jokes one. Another, featuring
Seinfield's iconic Soup Guy, declares "No sex for you!" to a hypothetical girlfriend propositioning sex during her period.
But while there's a disturbing segment of men who appear genuinely incapable of hearing
the word "period" without reeling in disgust (or, as one male friend put it, "there's nothing
harder than getting turned on when it looks like a murder scene down there"), in reality,
menstruation is one of the female body's most incredible processes.
(Incidentally, it's also the reason you're alive, Chad.)
Besides, any guy who fails to see the hypocrisy in enjoying his partner's body and then refusing period sex on the grounds of being "grossed out" by bodily fluids, isn't worth the time it'll take you to find a towel and wipe yourself down afterwards. Just saying.
* Nadia Bokody a sex-positive journalist and mental health advocate