Positively sex: Breaking the stigma around period sex

“Check it out,” my roommate said, holding up the corner of the sheet she was stuffing into the dryer. “My boyfriend came over last night and… well, he left a perfect handprint.”

Sure enough, in a familiar shade of reddish-brown, a handprint it was.

How do you measure the strength of a stigma?

The one around menstruation seems to be lifting. In spring of 2016, Newsweek published an article called “The Fight to End Period Shaming is Going Mainstream.” They have a point: we’re seeing serious innovation in the menstrual hygiene market for the first time since 1930, and USA Today described period hygiene as “the newest consumer battlefield” earlier this year. That’s not nothing.

On the one hand, this is undeniably a sign of progress. In 1925, I would have had the choice between an uncomfortable belted pad and pinning a rag to my skivvies. Now, I have everything from silicone Diva cups to organic sea sponges.

On the other hand, is this actually going to solve the underlying issues at play?

Take FLEX, a menstrual disc that can be worn during sex without letting anything spill. For some people, this product is the difference between having sex or not for a week each month, and that is absolutely a great thing. For others, though, it’s just another way of covering up that shame and preventing your period from being anyone else’s problem. As much as these new products have the potential to help us overcome our hangups, they have just as much power to capitalize on them instead.

Now, I am not about to fault anyone for finding a solution that works for them. There’s a million reasons the sex wouldn’t be worth the mess, from menorrhagia to new sheets. When 15 per cent of the population gets faint in the presence of blood, there’s not a lot of point in wasting time about the underlying ideological principles at play — if you’re fainting, you’re not having sex. If having more stuff to choose from solves your period-related issues, all the better.

At the same time, humans have been bleeding for as long as humans have been humans. For a lot of us, workarounds are going to be cheaper and easier than whatever silicon valley startup is dominating the headlines this week. The only catch? We have to be prepared to face the mess.

If you want to spend your money on supporting the feminine hygiene industry, there are more than a couple of charities which focus on menstrual justice, including our very own Period UBC. For a cheaper FLEX alternative, just put down a dark towel or a puppy pad, or go rogue and bang in the shower. Not everyone wants to wake up to a bloody handprint. But when you do, don’t get hung up on the blood — brag to your roommate about the shape.