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Dear Dr. Laura,
I have been with my boyfriend for about a year, and we thought about trying new things in the bedroom. He made a strange suggestion about having sex on my period. At first I thought he was joking, but once I realized he was serious, I was a little horrified and grossed out about it. He claims that having sex on my period can relieve my cramps. Not only am I scared about the bloody mess (literally), but I’m scared it might cause a STIs. Is this possible? Does it really help with cramps? Are there any risks of having sex while on your period?
Dear Period Pondering,
Ah, period sex, one of the most contested and polarizing types of sex you can have. No matter what you are counting as “sex” (see last month’s column), sex with menstruation continues to be a major taboo. We grow up with such negative attitudes about both our periods and sex, it’s no wonder that combining the two would leave people feeling shocked and shamed. One of the first things people learn about periods is that they must be hidden—we discretely hide menstrual products, rarely talk about them positively, and go to great lengths to make sure no one knows it’s that time of the month. No wonder we get freaked out about our lovers getting all up in our business when our business is bloody and sensitive!
Now first things first: just a reminder not all people who have periods are women (such as trans men and non-binary people) and not all women have periods (such as trans women or persons who have had certain medical interventions). For those who do have periods, many feel especially horny and ready to get down with their sexy selves during that time but stop because of many of the fears you are expressing, so let’s break this down like the lining of a uterus.
Let’s start with cramps. The uterus is a muscle; in fact, it is a smooth muscle like the kind your heart is made out of. When you get your period, the lining of the uterus, called endometrium, breaks down and falls out. The blood is just the tissue becoming watery and liquid-like, and any clots or lumps you see are less liquefied uterine lining. In order to get this lining out, your uterus contracts like any good muscle would (shout out to all those muscles out there working hard, the struggle is real). When you have sex and reach orgasm, your uterus also contracts, but in a relaxed, pleasurable way. Additionally, when you climax, your body floods with a lovely cocktail of hormones that decrease your ability to feel pain. So, having pleasurable sex during your period can relax the uterus and relieve some of your cramps! Yay!
Now, the mess. Oh messy, messy, lovely sex. If I could give the world one thing, it would not be a Coke, it would be a freedom from fear around sex and our bodies. Sex is messy. I know it’s shocking, but no matter how much you shave, wash, primp, or preen, sex is messy business. Between vaginal fluid, penile ejaculate, saliva, sweat, lubricants, urine, menstrual fluid, fecal matter, etc., there is a lot of stuff going on. But that’s not a bad thing—it’s completely natural. The more comfortable we are with all these elements, the more we can relax and enjoy the sex and intimacy we are having. So for mess, simply put down a towel, wash it in cold water after, and remember that one body fluid is not better or worse than any other. As far as STDs, yes, period fluids do have a higher concentration of whatever is in our body, including viruses and bacteria. So my one suggestion is to not get into period sex if you are not “fluid bonded” with someone. That means if you have both been tested, are clear on who else you do or do not have sex with, and decide to share your bodily fluids and accepted the trust that must be present for that, then you are good to go. Try to relax and enjoy what may become your new favorite time of the month to have sex!
In Sex Positivity,
Tanfer, K., & Aral, S. O. (1996). Sexual Intercourse During Menstruation and Self‐Reported Sexually Transmitted Disease History Among Women.Sexually transmitted diseases, 23(5), 395-401.
Breanne, F. A. H. S. (2011). Sex during menstruation: Race, sexual identity, and women’s accounts of pleasure and disgust. Feminism & Psychology, 0959353510396674.
Johnston-Robledo, I., & Chrisler, J. C. (2013). The menstrual mark: Menstruation as social stigma. Sex Roles, 68(1-2), 9-18.
Dear Dr. Laura,
For a few years I have shaved my pubic hair. I’ve been told that it keeps the vagina healthier. Lately, I’ve been tired of taking the time to shave it. Are there any benefits to having pubic hair? Is it really healthier to have shaved genitals?
Dear Sassy Shaver,
Hair, we love it, we hate it, we once had a musical named after it. We spend thousands of dollars trying to get more of it on our head and ripping it out everywhere else. Our poor bodies! They get such mixed signals from us. We come into the world with everything as it should be and then wham!, shame comes and hits us upside our head with the giant arm of cultural norms. Ouch!
Tons and tons of people think that hair is dirty and thus shaving/waxing, etc., makes them cleaner. Sometimes this comes from our families, our religion, or worse of all, those who we want to be intimate with. They might tell us our hair is gross, that they won’t do certain sex acts if we are so furry, and that makes us feel sad and ugly. But please remember that whole script is pretty darn new to our world and our culture.
Shaving our bodies to this extreme is pretty recent in human history. Yes there is some historical evidence that people were shaving and plucking hair, mostly on their faces, in ancient Rome and Egypt. But this idea of going hairless and removing pubic hair only became popular in the 1920s and mainly in the western world. Even today many cultures never shave their legs, underarms, or pubic hair and, for almost all of human history, no one did. So somehow in all that fuzz, people were still attracted to, turned on by, and had sex with each other! It’s a hairy miracle!
Let’s look at the research on pubic hair removal (see citations). There is some rather confounding evidence that removing pubic hair has a pretty bad effect on our health. It rather largely increases the risk of transmitting STDs and opening up our bodies to infection. The reason is that no matter how you remove the hair—shaving, waxing, or creams, you are creating teeny tiny tears in your very sensitive pubic skin. You can’t even see most of these tiny cuts, but they are there and ya know who can see them? Bacteria and viruses! Oh my! Keeping your pubic hair actually protects you from many of these bad guys—believe it or not, your pubes have a purpose!
Now maybe you are thinking, “Well that’s nice, but I hate the look of hair on my body.” That’s fine, too! Preference is a very complex thing and, sometimes, we just don’t like how something looks or feels. At the end of the day, it’s your body and you can alter it or preserve it exactly as you see fit. But just remember, you are perfect the way you are—there is no medically necessary reason to remove your hair, and a lot of good reasons to keep it as is.
In Sex Positivity,
Desruelles F, Cunningham SA and Dubois D. Pubic hair removal: a risk factor for ‘minor’ STI such as molluscum contagiosum? Sex Transm Infect 2013; 89: 216.
Dendle C, Mulvey S, Pyrlis F, et al. Severe complications of a ‘Brazilian’ bikini wax. Clin Infect Dis 2007; 45: e29–e31. 6.
Castronovo C, Lebas E, Nikkels-Tassoudji N, et al. Viral infections of the pubis. Int J STD AIDS 2012; 23: 48–50. 7.
Villa L, Varela JA, Otero L, et al. Molluscum contagiosum: a 20-year study in a sexually transmitted infections unit. Sex Transm Dis 2010; 37: 423–424.