Having sex on your period isn't gross—or taboo. Here's how to stop your sex life from reaching a screeching halt every month.
When people start talking about period sex, the conversation usually goes in one of two directions: A total shut-down, where everyone acts like there's no way they'd ever be into such a heinous act, or a quick shrug of the shoulders, noting their total indifference toward the topic—and a lack of admittance that they participate in such an activity.
But that's not what's happening in the bedroom. According to a recent survey of 500 people by The FLEX Company, 55 percent of people think having sex on your period is "natural" or "awesome." And 30 percent want to do it more.
That's because period sex can be awesome. Think about it: "Your estrogen and progesterone [hormones] begin at their lowest level on the first day of your period, and slowly climb with each day," says Sari Cooper, certified sex therapist and director of Center for Love and Sex in New York City. "As that happens, there may be more energy to connect and a better mood overall."
Translation: Women often feel more aroused while menstruating, making the idea of an orgasm—or five—all the more enticing.
The problem, of course, is the stigma surrounding period sex. Whether it's for religious reasons—some deem it off limits—or an unfounded belief in myths that have pervaded themselves for years, many people are afraid of exploration.
"We are cultured to associate blood with pain, with violence, and as something dirty to avoid," says Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., sex and relationship therapist and director of The Intimacy Institute.
Not anymore. Consider this your guide to period sex, from why it can be so GD great to how you can make it your best sack session yet.
Why Period Sex Is Amazing
You likely want to get laid—plain and simple. There are three major hormones that control the menstrual cycle—estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. Estrogen impacts emotional well-being. Testosterone increases a woman's sex drive. And progesterone decreases desire, as its main function is to maintain a pregnancy—which obviously isn't happening now that you're menstruating. Estrogen and progesterone levels are pretty low at the start of your period, but there's a surge of testosterone—which translates to a cranked-up libido. Couple that with increased pelvic congestion (that feeling of heaviness associated with periods), which can also trigger arousal, and you're looking at the perfect window of opportunity to really go for it in the bedroom.
It can feel sexy AF. "If crossing a cultural taboo is an erotic trigger for someone, then period sex might be experienced as more exciting," says Cooper. So if you're into the idea, and thinking about it feels slightly naughty, don't shy away from that—it may help the sex feel more explosive than usual.
Your partner probably doesn't care. For many heterosexual couples, women may be getting in their own way of achieving an orgasm. The FLEX survey found that women are twice as likely as men to turn down sex with a new partner while on their period. Now, that can be for a myriad of reasons—like cramps, bloating, and headaches, for starters—but if your only reasoning is because you think he won't be into it, it's less likely that that's the case, and more likely your own insecurities are at play.
In fact, they may be super into it. It's true: Some men don't like the idea of having sex while you're on your period, and 45 percent of women have had a male turn down a sack session because she was on her period, cites the FLEX survey. But remember, that's not all men. Some enjoy having intercourse with a woman while she is menstruating; when it reaches a fetish level, it's known as menophilia, explains Cooper. The reasons for why vary, but some men and women claim it's because the blood offers more lubrication and makes intercourse more comfortable, she adds. Regardless, the point is this: If one partner shot you down in the past, that doesn't mean your current one will.
You're not spewing gallons of blood. A lot of people actually think that having sex on your period is obscenely messy, and conjure images of destroyed sheets and blood-spattered floors. But that's not even remotely realistic, says Skyler. "It's not like a woman gushes blood out by the cupful. It's only a few teaspoons!" In fact, the average amount of blood loss each month is less than 60 milliliters, or about 4 tablespoons. So, big sigh of relief, everyone—the mess can be contained.
It can relieve PMS symptoms. "For some women, sexual activity—and especially orgasm—can relieve the pain of cramps and headaches that coincide with the early days of a period," says Cooper. Research has also shown that sexual activity can ease pain for those suffering from migraines or cluster headaches. But remember, not all women orgasm through vaginal intercourse—only 25 percent can, actually, and most need clitoral stimulation to take them across the finish line, says Skyler. Try a couples vibrator, like this hands-free one from Dame—it's designed for use during penetrative sex and hones in on your vulva so you get the exact sensory boost necessary to reach the big O.
How to Have Sex On Your Period
Have a chat. Seventy percent of people have a conversation with their partner before having period sex, according to the FLEX survey, and Cooper says that's a smart strategy, so long as you set ground rules before you fess up. "It's important that you start off agreeing that neither partner will express disgust, disdain, or any critical judgment of the other's fantasy or interest," she says.
From there, she suggests opening the conversation by talking about fantasies in general. You can articulate what you already love about your sexual repertoire, as "beginning with positive reinforcement warms your partner up to discussing the topic," before segueing into your exploration. Her top tip: Make it clear why you want to try it with your partner in particular, rather than someone random. It's simple, yes, but it allows your partner to feel special, which she says can make them more receptive to your idea.
After you've put the thought out there, let them steer the conversation. If your partner seems hesitant, Skyler suggests asking them to explain why (in a non-confrontational manner), or to try to pinpoint what feels scary. That way, you can "deconstruct the fear and see if there might be more willingness underneath," she says.
If it's a hard pass though, then Cooper and Skyler both say it's best to back off. "It's important to honor our partner's boundaries," says Skyler. (And if that's the case, you can always turn to self-pleasure tactics.)
Use protection. Many people are wary of period sex because, at the end of the day, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are spread through contact with infected bodily fluids—and that includes blood. This can happen—there's no denying that—but Skyler says that it's kind of a catch-22 situation. On the one hand, couples who have period sex are typically in monogamous, sexually exclusive relationships, which can reduce the risk of STIs and STDs in general, she explains. On the other, "couples might use less birth control—condoms, specifically—because it's typically a time when women do not ovulate, even though that's not 100 percent guaranteed." (Yes, you can get pregnant while you have your period.)
Which is why, no matter what your relationship status is, you should still be using birth control. And if you're not in a sexually exclusive relationship (and both haven't been medically cleared of infection), that needs to include a condom to cover all areas of protection, says Skyler.
Slow your flow. According to the FLEX survey, 86 percent of respondents said that "the mess and cleanup" was the biggest obstacle keeping them from regularly enjoying the activity. And 80 percent said they'd do it more if there was a way to make it mess-free. Well, there is. Disposable menstrual cups, like SoftCup, and menstrual discs, like FLEX, collect menstrual blood (rather than absorb it, like a tampon does) and move with your body, so they're safe and comfortable to wear during sex. (PS: Here are 6 Things Athletes Should Know About Menstrual Cups)
Keep it clean. Skyler suggests lying down a couple towels—preferably darker ones—to prevent your sheets from getting stained. (If they do, either rinse with cold water immediately or put hydrogen peroxide on the stain for 15 minutes before a rinse and wash.) You can also keep wipes on the bedside table or in a nearby drawer for easy access.
Go to the shower. OK, so shower sex isn't always the best for women reaching orgasm, but if blood really grosses you or your partner out, it may be your best bet. Not only does it ease concerns for those who don't want to make a mess, but water can act as a natural lubricant, says Skyler. Bonus: You have the benefit of immediate cleanup built in.
Make it sexy. One of the best ways to ease into a new sexual activity is to make it more sensual. That's why Unbound, a sexual lifestyle company that curates and creates sexual wellness products, sells a Period Box. Between the chocolate nipple gloss (which takes advantage of the extra sensitivity in that region), the warm massage oil, and the witty towel, there are enough props to keep you focused on how you're feeling rather than how you're flowing.
Try other tools. At the end of the day, if one of you just can't get down with the idea of vaginal intercourse when a period is in play, that's not your only option. "Mutual self-pleasuring—AKA masturbation—oral sex in the shower, sensual massage, or a really hot makeout session are all alternatives for when you're in the mood," says Skyler. "Get creative—vaginal intercourse is only one flavor of any pleasure-oriented, erotic activities you can choose from."