From the reader mailbag: Can you please talk about sex while you're on your period? Should I be offended if my boyfriend would rather not? Shouldn't he be willing to accept my body no matter which phase of the moon it is?
Well, this is one we've all dealt with many, many times, right?*
The question of to fuck or not to fuck while menstruating is an ancient one; there's a whole section of the Old Testament devoted to the issues of "uncleanliness" caused by menstruation, and the Babylonian Talmud includes an absolutely exhaustive discussion of menstruation called the Tractate Niddah, including rules about the use of testing rags to ensure that there's absolutely no trace of menstrual blood in the vagina. The ancient sages--all male, of course, and all extremely squeamish--even voice concerns that the woman might be in such a hurry to get laid once her period is over that she won't check properly:
Rab Judah, citing Samuel ruled: A testing rag used before marital intercourse does not reduce [the doubtful period of retrospective uncleanness] as an examination. What is the reason?
Rab Kattina replied: Because the woman is in a hurry to do her marital duty.
--But what matters it even if she is in a hurry to do her marital duty?
--Since she is in a hurry to do it, she does not insert the testing-rag into the the depressions and folds.
OMG! That horny girl forgot the depressions and the folds! There might be a stray drop of nasty, nasty blood to soil the immaculate peen! [eyeroll]
Menstrual blood has definitely been stigmatized by many cultures, but our modern Western society seems to have made a lot of progress in that department. Hell, these days, there's even a menstrual activist movement, with art featuring women wearing their menstrual blood as lipstick. I don't know about you ladies, but while I don't have any shame or squeamishness about any of my bodily excretions, I don't care to smear them on my face (or see them smeared on yours, thanks very much).
When it comes to sex, though, I think responses to menstrual blood vary widely. I personally have no problem getting busy during my period--throw down a towel to preserve the sheets, and I'm good to go. I was lucky that my first serious boyfriend was completely unfazed by my period, so I didn't get any negative messages about it early on. I've had a few guys say "No thanks, I'll wait," and I just took it in stride. Everyone should be able to say no to sex if there's something about it that makes them uncomfortable, including mensturation. While that was occasionally (sexually) frustrating, it wasn't a big deal. And plenty of men didn't mind at all, especially since I use condoms pretty much 100% of the time, so it's not like he's actually coming into contact with the blood anyway.
Where I did have problems was on the very rare occasion I got an "Eww, gross!" response. Those men received the Feminist Lecture Series about how my vagina does not exist solely for their pleasure--it's part of my reproductive system, and if they couldn't handle that, they could get the fuck out.
If you or your significant other don't particularly like period sex and want to give your vagina a week off, you shouldn't feel like you're somehow being negative about your body. To each her own. Just don't let anyone tell you there's anything wrong with what's going on down there, or that it makes you gross or less feminine or less attractive.
A funny side note about periods: I recently read an interview with Stephenie Meyers, author of the Twilight series, who said that--to her irritation--one of the questions she gets asked the most by readers is about menstruation. Specifically, if the all the tension of the novels have to do with the way Edward is so aroused by and attracted to the smell of Bella's blood, what happens when she menstruates? This made me laugh out loud. The author might not like to contemplate that, but it's a totally legit question, IMO. How can Edward stand it? Fresh, flowing blood! How can he stand it? A girlfriend of mine said, "If she used a diva cup, she could share--problem solved." Brilliant! The Diva Cup's a shot glass for your vampire boyfriend! (For more about my own adventures learning to use the Diva Cup, go here). I think at the very least, we know that Edward Cullen wouldn't be one of those boyfriends who's turned off by period sex...
* I realize I'm approaching this from a totally hetero viewpoint, because that's the only experience I've had. So women who love women, please free free to discuss/compare/share your own experiences about period sex in the comments.