Recently, I was re-watching a much-revered recording in which Sonya Renee and Andrea Gibson perform Christian Drake’s “Bloodbath," though problematically gender-essentialist (I don’t define a woman as someone who regularly menstruates), the poem is a sexy proclamation, a revolutionary war cry (“Baby, I will make love to you until we both look like a war zone. Give me the sweet murder of your body until they stream crime scene tape across the bedroom because period sex is awesome!”) about the sexiness of (safe, consensual) lovemaking on the rag. Like many folks who bleed, my relationship to my red is complicated—I come from a Southern Baptist upbringing so rife with body shame, I hid my period from my mom and two sisters for two years. For me, the implication was (retrospectively) an interesting one; I wasn’t necessarily ooged out by my body and all of it’s wet mechanics, the deep shame came from the dozens of matriarchs in my life who lauded insistently that menstruation was the beginning of what seemed, to me, like an endless tirade of being pigeonholed.
The discussion of bleeding is a hot topic, and it would be irresponsible of me to begin the talk without addressing a few key problems. The first is one mentioned above: gender essentialism is not sexy, and I would never attempt to define what it means to identify as a woman, let alone leave that definition to the flawed system of physiology. Bloody or not, it is not up to me to police your body. The issue I want to bring up is two-part: firstly, gender essentialism may not be sexy, but nothing gets me going like good, hard consent. Do you feel uncomfortable engaging in bed-breaking orgasms while bleeding? Does it not feel right to you to allow your lover to snorkel in your red sea? Then by all means, take care of yourself and place the necessary boundaries around your sex life that make you feel safe. The second part to that stipulation is that all bodies are different, and I make no claims to assuming that what feels amazing and pleasurable to me feels the same for you. Chronic illness, dis/ability, PTSD, cancer treatment, and environmental illness all affect desire, mobility, and feasibility*.
While I was watching Renee and Gibson tear it up on stage, I was reminded at how powerful it is to overcome misogyny (internalized and societal) that tells people who bleed that they are disgusting, that they are messy, that their bodies are worth more when they are ovulating and less when they are menstruating. Ovulation is a super power—when we ovulate, we are more powerful, we have more energy, our hair is shinier, we are less stressed out, and we are more likely to want to get down. But periods? Forget it. The first two days of my red, I want nothing more than to sit on a pile of something soft with a heating pad or an entire season of Breaking Bad, and not hear a damn word from a single other person. I feel emotionally needy—a highly un-Julylike characteristic that often throws my loved ones for a loop. Tell me how beautiful I am; tell me that the heaviness of my tits and the sharks in my belly are a gorgeous part of my ecosystem. When I am bleeding, I crave nothing more than the speaker in the Christian Drake poem: someone who sees the body for what it is, and revels in the sexiness of its seasons.
In my two-year menstrual exile, I was terrified of what it meant to be assigned the task of being a woman (and terrified of the fact that bleeding implicated me as a woman), because to have a body that bled every month meant a plethora of unsettling things. That my body was disgusting in its messiness, that my emotions were weak in their vulnerability, and that I would be rendered essentially sexless for almost an entire week out of every month. In “Defense of Period Sex” on Feministe, the break down is clear: assuming a normative life span and average cycles, we will spend seven years of our lives bleeding. Seven years. Does that sound reasonable to you? No. Do what you like, but there is no fucking way I am going to be going without orgasms for seven years.
So here is a message to all of the folks who love and fuck people who bleed: doubt comes in through the window when inquiry is denied at the door. Do your research. Talk to your lovers about their bodies, sensitivities, and particularities. Let your sex be revolutionary, messy, sexy, and reclaimatory.
*A fantastic post about living with chronic illness can be found here, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarashina.