A solo sesh is about to dethrone Advil, CBD, and Ben and Jerry's as your most useful period ritual.
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If you feel like your sex drive increases when Flo comes to town, that's because, for most menstruators, it does. But why is it during a time that you may feel most un-sexy that your sexual desire is turned all the way up? And is it a bad idea to indulge the urge and masturbate on your period?

Here, experts explain why period masturbation is actually magic, and how to take advantage even if you feel ~bleh~ about it.

Why You Should Always Masturbate During Your Period
Credit: Photo by Malvestida Magazine/Unsplash

The Benefits of Masturbating On Your Period

For starters, "people are hornier during their periods due to surges in hormone levels," explains Shamrya Howard, L.C.S.W. A 2013 study published on hormones and behavior found that an increase in sexual desire and arousal happens as a result of estrogen levels dropping at the beginning of the period, then rising as the days progress, while progesterone levels remain low. This surge in estrogen (the main female sex hormone) may increase sex drive and function (read: getting wet, reaching orgasm, etc.).

Unfortunately for some, the shift in hormones may also trigger uncomfortable period symptoms, including headaches, cramps, and mood swings. One of the easiest ways to garner some relief? According to a study conducted by pleasure toy brand Womanizer, the answer is masturbation.

"Masturbation has a number of benefits, regardless of when you do it," says Christopher Ryan Jones, Psy.D., clinical psychologist, sex therapist, and lead researcher of the study. He says masturbation can alleviate stress, improve quality of sleep, enhance moods and alleviate pain, just to name a few.

Though these are perks of masturbating anytime, the last one — pain — is especially important to note for masturbating on your period, and was a major focus of the Womanizer study. For six months, menstruators participating in the study were asked to trade over-the-counter pain medication for masturbation to deal with pain during their period, says Jones. At the end of the study, 70 percent of participants said regular masturbation relieved the intensity of their period pains, and 90 percent said they would recommend masturbation to combat period pain to a friend.

Why exactly, does it help, though? "Most people understand that increased blood flow is very beneficial to the body," explains Jones, referencing the benefits of things including therapeutic massage for reducing pain and stress and promoting relaxation. "In like manner, masturbation increases blood flow to the genitals and this, in and of itself, is very therapeutic."

Hormones released throughout the arousal and stimulation process are also factors in pain relief, says Jones. Both endorphins (yes, like the kind you get from a workout) and oxytocin (a feel-good hormone) are released during an orgasm, which are relaxants that may contribute to alleviating cramps and headaches. Research published in the World Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology even refers to endorphins as the body's "natural opioids" as they're reputed for pain reduction and boosting confidence. This research also noted that, when released in tandem with endorphins, oxytocin can be responsible for the bonding between partners; perhaps relying on masturbation during this time of the month can even promote a kind of bonding with your own body.

"Sexy is a state of being, and you can definitely use the transformative space of menstruating to feel even sexier," says Howard.

Having an orgasm during your period may also lighten or speed up your period, says sex educator Searah Deysach, since "the contractions that happen with orgasm can contribute to your body expelling everything more quickly."

Achieving an orgasm also allows the release of sexual tension — and if you're someone who experiences a libido surge during your period, an orgasm provides a welcome relief of this pent-up energy, says Howard. Orgasms could even feel better and be easier to achieve; in addition to increasing your sex drive, the surge in estrogen that happens during your period may boost your ability to achieve orgasms more quickly (and intensely). "The more turned on you are, the closer you are to an orgasm," she says. "Basically, if you feel hornier while on your period, feel free to overdose on sexual pleasure."

But though some people may feel hornier, this doesn't necessarily translate to feeling super sexy, which can in fact make orgasms harder to achieve, says Deysach. "Hormone levels play a part in orgasm achievability, but how you feel about your body can also influence how easy (or how hard) it is to orgasm," she says.

Howard says that period stigma built into our society is a large factor in feeling less sexy during this time of the month. Period stigma includes misinformation and lack of education, shame, and discrimination around menstruation. "Add that to the physical symptoms associated with periods and we have a recipe for one of the most distressing times of the month for so many people," says Howard. (Related: Why You Might Be Scared to Finger Yourself)

How to Start Liking Period Masturbation

How do you combat the catch-22 that is an increased sex drive, but a self-appointed decreased sex appeal? How do you feel sexier so you can obtain some release? Deysach recommends trying an erotic book or movie, and choosing a toy that you feel comfortable using. There's no need to finger yourself or play with penetration unless you want to.

"Easy-to-clean toys are a great choice while you're bleeding," says Deysach, pointing to materials like glass, stainless steel, or 100-percent silicone. "Many people find that the soothing sensation of a vibrator can feel particularly good on your body anytime, but particularly during your period."

Part of choosing the right toy and method of masturbating while on your period requires getting familiar with your body, which Howard highlights as another benefit to masturbating on our period. "Orgasming is a great way to become more comfortable within your body, especially if you allow yourself the pleasure of orgasming while menstruating," she says.

This starts by taking the time to recognize which parts of your body are more sensitive during your period (maybe tender breasts or labia), being mindful of this, and adjusting your masturbation routine if necessary, says Deysach. (Try vulva mapping to get better acquainted.)

"You may feel like you don't want anything inside of you while you're on your period," says Deysach. A clitoral vibrator or suction toy can be used externally and still give you plenty of pleasure. "Your vagina may feel drier during your period," she says because blood doesn't quite have the same ability as lubrication to stay slippery — so be sure to have some lube handy, she adds of this common time-of-the-month compliant. Lastly, "if you're worried about getting blood on your sheets, put a towel or period blanket down before you masturbate so you can enjoy your alone time without being distracted by, or worrying, about a mess," she says. (Once you tackle period masturbation, learn to love period sex, too.)

Finally, if for no other reason, Howard suggests that masturbating "can present you with something pleasurable to look forward to" which can replace some of the dread during "that time of the month." And, hey, in the end, what have you got to lose by giving period masturbation a try?