In this week's Sex IDK column, Emma McGowan, certified sex educator and writer, answers your questions about period sex.
Q: How often do people really have period sex?
Period sex is a fascinating topic, both in history and today. So thank you for asking about it! The short answer to your question is: People have period sex as often as they feel like having period sex. That can be once a month, or twice a day during their four-day bleed, or never ever — and every one of those options is valid.
Here’s the long answer: The frequency of period sex, like every other type of sex, varies completely from person to person. While some people want to get it on as soon as the bleeding starts, others want their partner to stay as far away as possible. Some people don’t like dealing with the mess, while others love it. And, of course, there are also those kinksters who think that period sex is the hottest thing ever because it’s period sex.
Physically, there are reasons why people may or may want to have sex during their period. When a person is bleeding, their cervix is lower and harder. That means it’s easier for a penis or toy or even fingers to bump into it. And too many bumps can lead to cervical bruising, which is the worst pain ever.
Some people are also super sensitive all over during their period, which makes it so they don’t really want to be touched at all. (I personally would prefer my partner didn’t even breathe on me during my period.) And if you have extreme nipple sensitivity? Forget about it. Stay. Away.
However, the vagina is shallower and both the vagina and vulva are swollen with blood during menstruation, which for some people means they’re more sensitive — in a good way. For people with partners who have small penises — or who are primarily having sex with their hands — all of that can result in a “fuller” feeling than they might have during other times of the month. And it can also mean more sensation for their partner.
So what’s going on during menstruation that leads to these different feelings about period sex? It’s actually pretty simple: Hormonal changes. While some people feel the effects of hormonal shifts throughout their cycle really strongly, others don’t. During menstruation, levels of estrogen are at their lowest in people with uteruses. Because estrogen usually contributes to a higher sex drive, it’s common for folks to feel less interested in sex when their estrogen levels are lower.
But there’s another hormone at play here — testosterone! While both progesterone and estrogen drop during menstruation, people with uteruses get a little burst of testosterone during their periods. Testosterone is known to be a libido booster, so that bump could have some people reaching for their partners or sex toys during their periods.
So that’s the physical. Now, let’s talk about the psychological. For people who are concerned about getting pregnant, the fact that pregnancy is really unlikely during menstruation might lead to an increased interest in sex. Before we had effective contraception, for example, period sex was one of the few times that people with uteruses could feel really secure in knowing that it was highly unlikely they’d get pregnant from penis-in-vagina sex.
And then there’s the kink of period sex. Historically, menstrual blood has been seen as dirty and taboo in many cultures. In some places and times, people with uteruses are even separated from the rest of society when they have their periods. And while these taboos have led to many people being very uninterested in anything to do with periods, much less period sex, they’ve also led to some people being really into periods and period sex. When society says something is taboo or dirty, you can pretty guarantee there will a portion of the population that gets off on it!
But back to your specific question: “How often do people really have period sex?” While it sparks an interesting conversation, I’d like to suggest you ask another question instead and that’s: “How often do I want to have period sex?” Because ultimately, it doesn’t really matter how often other people have period sex. What matters is how often you want to. And whether the answer is “every day that I’m bleeding” or “NEVER IN MY LIFE,” you’re good just the way you are.
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