I want to preface this post by admitting that I am not a squeamish person – though I understand completely if for others this post makes others uncomfortable. Please consider yourself warned!
I am not one of those people who gets off put by the sight of blood (though I do have a distinct fear of needles); I’ve watched too many horror movies, and worked too many really gross jobs, for that. My instinctual response to seeing someone bleed because they’ve hurt themselves is just to go “dude, bummer”, and go try to find them a bandaid. Very, very, very few bodily fluids or reactions gross me out at this point- and this was hard won so trust me I’m not gloating- so I tend to take the practical approach.
Weirdly though, I’ve always, until recently, been disgusted by period blood.
If I had to explain why, the gut response that rears up (which shows a part of that disgust still lives in me) is that it’s dirty. It’s gross. And a wide variety of common-yet-ultimately-meaningless other points. As a girl, I was taught by my mother how to use pads, and later tampons, and while I remember my mom tearfully saying “you’re a woman now!” It was otherwise not discussed as anything other than a painful inconvenience, something that my mother sympathized with me having to go through. Which I suppose is partly how I’ve viewed it in the past. But mainly, I just thought it was gross.
I would refuse to let any men whose company I was currently enjoying have sex with me during it, ever. I greeted each onset of my period with disgruntled swearing, and a sense of resigned defeat. I wondered, from time to time, odd things about it; do apes and monkeys menstruate too? What about other animals? Why do women have to do this? Oh sure, I understood the biological reasoning behind why it happens to me – the uterine lining/unfertilized egg in my uterus was being shed from my body, to prepare for going back in ovulation next month. I got that. But why? Why does it specifically happen THAT way, when, after I did a quick Google search, it seems like the vast majority of other animals on the planet don’t? Most animals, particularly mammals, have a time once or twice a year when they go into heat, and are ready to breed. Some do bleed at this time. But for them, this signals that they are super fertile – while for human women, the odds of pregnancy during menstruation is pretty god damn low.
So…why? Why would the Mother cause this?
Well…for one thing, since I know I am very unlikely to get pregnant during menstruation, I right off the bat have more control over my own reproductive system then pretty much every other creature out there; I know when I can have sex, just for fun, if I want to. I am not advocating unprotected sex, mind you – I’m saying human women, in the course of human history, before condoms or the Pill or whatever, have a distinct advantage of having a set time when they KNOW that pregnancy is extremely unlikely (and most evidence points to us figuring this out pretty early). Further, with practice and paying attention, a woman can figure out when she’s ovulating as well, without modern tests, as physical, emotional, and mental changes affect us during that time as well. This means that, unlike every other species I know of on our planet, we are able to both know (a) when we’re least fertile, and (b) when we’re most likely to get knocked up. Evolution-wise, you couldn’t ask for a better gift to our sexual freedom.
Not only that, but most modern, non-biased studies now show that women crave sex, or at least think, dream, and talk about it more, during their periods then they regularly do: in fact, according to an excellent book called “The Wise Wound”, by Penelope Shuttle I think, women tend to be most “passively” horny when their ovulating (I.e. fantasizing about somebody having sex with them), and most “actively” horny (I.e. THEY are having sex with someone) when they’re menstruating. Or to put it more simply, when women are in baby-making mode, their sexual fantasies in general seem to revolve around “receiving” sex from a partner.
But when we’re bleeding, THEY are receiving sex from US. For this reason, sexual fantasies during menstruation can make people uncomfortable; they can take a different, or stronger tone then you might be used to. But that doesn’t make them bad. Your body is encouraging you to take charge of your sex life. To recognize some buried feelings. That’s awesome. And while I know not everyone’s fantasies will fit in this neat little mold, it is worth contemplating how your urges change when you are bleeding regardless; what sexual fears or desires have you been bottling up?
Nor does the dreaded PMS make menstruation bad either; especially since even the most painful cramps now appear to be mainly psychosomatic. In cultures where a women’s menstruation is honored as a sacred time, as a time when women are at their most powerful, PMS is basically unknown. But since folks like myself are raised in an environment where, at least implicitly, we’re taught the period is something to be avoided, something gross…if you reject a part of your being, powerfully enough and deep enough, for long enough, even subconsciously, what do you think happens? I’m not implying all us women are lying when we complain about cramps, headaches, or whatever – believe me, I’ve had days in my past when standing upright seemed like an act that should earn me a medal, my cramps were so bad. And my crankiness was something spectacular to behold in its ferocity.
…but after researching so much about the history of menstruation, and doing meditative exercises to honor myself as a women, including the awesome sexual freedom I’ve been given? Through my periods I mean? My last period caused a hour or so of mild twinges so small I barely registered it as pain. And my extreme changes in mood began to evaporate around the same time the extreme pain did (odd, huh?). When I do cranky now during that time, I also notice that it’s less “me being hysterically hormonal and it’s making me enraged for no reason”, and more “this is something that ALWAYS bugs me, period or no period, and my soul will NOT allow me to meekly accept it for another minute!”
I’m not saying this is the right way for everyone to go, or that I have everything figured out because I really, really don’t…and I know for many out there, nothing I’m saying is new. What I’m saying is, it’s new to me, and maybe give some love to the much-hated “curse”. It deserves it.