Love, Lindsay

'My Boyfriend Doesn't Want To Have Sex With Me During My Period. What Should I Do?'

All your relationship questions answered — right here, right now.

Dear Lindsay, 

I've been with my boyfriend for a little over a year, and every time I get my period, he doesn't want to have sex with me. He says it's just because the thought of blood grosses him out, but I've never really had this issue with a guy before. There have definitely been guys who don't love having period sex, of course, but none that have shied away from it as much as he has. 

So do you really think he doesn't want to have period sex just because blood genuinely freaks him out or because he thinks menstrual blood is grosser than normal blood? Should I try to convince him to get over it, or is there a way we can work around it so we can still have sex when I'm on my period? I don't want to make this a bigger issue than it already is, but I also don't want to feel ashamed about this thing I can't really control. Any help would be appreciated!   

- Carlie

Dear Carlie,

Though few people want to talk about it, pretty much everyone has an opinion on period sex. Some embrace it, others avoid it, and others work around it. The issue only arises when one partner wants to have period sex, but the other is "grossed out" by it. 

So let's begin by unpacking the double standards in how we're taught to deal with sexual bodily fluids. Women are expected to be not just fine with, but even into, semen — every single time they have sex. But when it comes to the "time of the month," which can last anywhere from two to seven days. many freak out at the first sight of menstrual blood, and women feel ashamed for a totally normal part of their reproductive health

Of course, some women might not feel their most confident during their period due to the physical effects — cramps, fatigue, bloating, breakouts, and changing hormone levels — making them want to avoid having sex. Others like yourself, however, still want to have sex with their partner, but fear rejection. While a partner may have a legitimate aversion to blood in all its forms, in many cases, a fear of period blood stems from cultural attitudes that still seem, well, bloody archaic. 

Since the days of the Old Testament, menstruating women have been considered "unclean." And according to the Book of Leviticus, so is anything they touch, including their husbands. In medieval times, it was believed that if a man's penis touched menstrual blood, it would burn up. More recently in Nepal, the Hindu practice of sending menstruating women to secluded mud huts was common practice until it was banned in 2005. And in Japan, Shinto women are still forbidden to enter temples during menstruation and to climb certain sacred mountains. 

Luckily, we've made some progress over the last 1,500 years. According to a 2011 survey of 500 men and women asked about period sex, respondents were pretty split on the matter. A little less than half (45 percent) weren't into it, while more than half (55 percent) were totally cool with it. 

"Sometimes a man can discover that the reality of menstrual blood is less daunting than his imagination about it," says New York City sex therapist Stephen Snyder MD, author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship. "But the best way to improve the chances of that happening are to start by accepting his current feelings as real and important."

If this helps him realize that some of his feelings about period sex may be rooted in societal perceptions, then you can start to work together to change the way he reacts to it. One way to reframe the negative perception of menstrual blood is to think of it as a natural lubricant — because it is. That, by the way, factors into another reason women want to have sex on their period — it feels good. When the uterus expands with blood, it presses upon nerve endings around the vulva, and when those are stimulated, the brain can interpret it as if something is actually touching that area.  

It should also be noted that multiple studies have concluded men find women more attractive when they're ovulating — the days leading up to their period when the ovaries release an egg ready for fertilization. During this time, women are most fertile, and men can biologically pick up on that. 

So those are two pretty great reasons to have period sex, especially when you take the time to learn about the menstrual cycle, and the blood that comes with it. Though it certainly isn't your duty to teach your boyfriend the biology lesson his high school health class didn't, educating him on the reality of your period is another way to help him change the way he's been taught to think about it. 

We often fear things simply because we don't understand them. When you take the time to learn about the "time of the month," however, you realize the main difference between menstrual blood and regular blood is that it contains the lining of the uterus, but that's it, and that's not gross. 

Once you and your boyfriend have worked together on changing your attitudes toward period sex, you're better equipped to have a constructive conversation about it. Seventy percent of people reported having a conversation with their partner about being on their period before having sex, so you're in good company. As with any sexual encounter, it's important for both people to be clear about what they want, and what they're working with, so they can figure out how best to handle it together. 

"It will be important for each of you to discuss your feelings on the subject," Snyder notes. "The main thing is that both of you feel accepted, both emotionally and physically." After all, if your partner had something going on down there, you'd want to know, right? 

The best way to start this conversation is also the simplest because — one more time for the people in the back — a period is a totally normal and natural part of life. If you're good to get it on, all you have to say to your partner is, "Hey, I have my period. Let's put down a towel." There are a few other things you can do to make the most of period sex without making a mess, like having body cleansing wipes readily available or scheduling period sex when both partners have time to shower afterward. 

All that said, there are some people who object to period sex because the sight of blood, any blood, legitimately freaks them out and can even make them sick. "It's possible your boyfriend has what we therapists call 'blood-injury phobia,' which can involve a heightened anxiety response to blood," Snyder says. "If so, he may be accurately reporting what he feels when he sees or imagines your menstrual blood. If this is the case, it's often treatable. A good behaviorally-oriented psychologist should be able to help him with it." There are also some other more cost-effective options. Certain menstrual disks are specifically made for mess-free period sex so they are safe, comfortable, and easy to remove after you're done.

Another option Snyder recommends is performing outercourse, which is basically everything you and your partner are comfortable with except penetration. "The general rule is that couples should state clearly what they'd like," he explains. "Then, if there's conflict, see if they can come up with creative ways to solve it." 

Couples can also choose not to have sex during the woman's menstrual cycle, but it's important to ask each other — and yourselves — why you don't want to. If it's a reason that both partners feel is legitimate, then that's no problem, but if it's because you feel some kind of societal pressure, then there's no better time than the time of the month to face that, question it, and work to get over it. Ultimately, the key is discussing what each partner needs and what they're comfortable with in regards to period sex to figure out how you both can have a fulfilling sex life every day of the month.

Love, Lindsay 

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