I promise, it’s not like that prom scene from Carrie.
If you’ve been taught that period sex is inherently gross, dirty, or shameful, I have news for you: that lesson was taught by the patriarchy.
You’re not alone — many of us are taught from an early age that menstruation is gross, shameful, and something that should only be discussed behind closed doors (if at all). It isn’t a coincidence that we’re also taught all of those same things about sex. So, when you take two taboo subjects and put them together, what do you get? “Ugh, gross…”
The effects of those early lessons about menstruation and sex don’t just go away when we get older; they stick with us as time goes on. So despite the fact that period sex can help relieve cramps, build intimacy, and be pleasurable for everyone involved, it generally gets pushed to the side.
Period sex has a bad reputation, but it didn’t do anything to deserve it. Here are four common myths about period sex debunked, plus what you really need to know about each one.
Myth #1: “It’s going to be a bloodbath.”
We can chalk this one up as a half-truth. Unless you have endometriosis, PCOS, or another condition that causes extremely heavy bleeding, you probably don’t experience a heavy flow for your entire period.
The amount of blood involved in period sex is going to depend on how much you’re bleeding that day and if you are using additional lubricants. Using lube doesn’t stop your flow, it basically dilutes the blood so you notice it less.
If you want to have period sex and want to minimize the amount of blood involved, try:
- Having sex in the shower
- Sticking to external play
- Using barrier methods or gloves for easy clean-up
- Laying a dark towel or blanket down
- Using toys over period underwear
None of those things will get rid of the blood, they just create a little mental distance between you and it. There are tons of options, so play around and find something that feels good for you—that’s kinda the whole point!
Myth #2: “It’ll feel gross for the non-menstruating partners.”
First off, we each have our own personal yuck-o-meter that gauges how we feel about a particular situation. Second, period sex really doesn’t feel all that different from sex when someone isn’t menstruating.
I once surveyed my Instagram followers and asked them what period sex felt like; the responses included “extra slippery”, “great, but stickier than normal”, “like a massage”, “liberating”, and “not all that different from any other time.”
Those responses were from folks who menstruated and their partners. In fact, many folks with penises reached out to say that period sex was really fun and pleasurable for them. So, have a conversation with your partners to see how you all feel about it. If you’re just not sure, you can always try it out and say “hey, it’s not for me.”
And if you’re down but your partner isn’t, that’s okay—period masturbation can be equally fun and pleasurable.
Myth #3: “You can’t get pregnant during period sex.”
This myth ultimately depends on your cycle, but in general—yeah, you can get pregnant if you have penis-in-vagina sex without using a barrier method while you’re on your period. The chances that someone who is menstruating would get pregnant are pretty low, but not zero, and it gets higher the later into your period you get.
Your personal risk will depend on how long your cycle is, how consistent your cycle is, and what day sex happens. To minimize that risk, you can: use a barrier method, emergency contraception, or another form of birth control. You can also stick to types of play that can’t result in a pregnancy, like oral sex, mutual masturbation, or using toys on each other.
Myth #4: “Having sex on your period is always painful.”
Periods can come with physical discomforts, like back pain, muscle fatigue, and abdominal cramps. Some people also experience vaginal pain during their period, describing their vulva and vagina as feeling tender. Or, your cervix may feel particularly sensitive while you’re menstruating.
That doesn’t mean that period sex is or should be painful, though.
If you aren’t actively seeking out pain during sex, painful sex isn’t normal, so if you are experiencing pain during sex, talk with your doctor about it. I recommend keeping a journal monitoring your pain—what it feels like, what level it is, and what triggers it. Bring that journal with you to your appointment so that you have a clear record of what you’re experiencing. Pain with penetration can sometimes point to an STI, endometriosis, vaginismus, or vulvodynia.
It could also be that you’re experiencing tissue inflammation, which can be painful. Try non-penetrative types of sex, like mutual masturbation, oral, or using fingers or a toy on your clit. If you still want to try out penetration, using a tool like the stackable rings by OhNut or a slim, short dildo can help make you more comfortable.
You may have been raised to believe that period sex is totally off-limits and never OK, but the only person who can decide that is you (and your partners). If you decide it’s not for you, that’s fine! Just don’t let the misinformation and shame you were taught make that decision for you.
And if you do decide that period sex is something you want to add to your sexual menu, then cool for you.
Cassandra Corrado is a sex educator who works with adults to unlearn the harmful myths we learned when we were younger. Head to her website or Instagram to learn more!