There aren't many naturally occurring life events more disliked than the monthlies. Popular consensus has it that bleeding time is a bad time and truth be told, that's how a lot of us experience it - cramps, bloating, moodiness, all that stuff. That's how it used to be for me too, until I discovered that there's more to menstruation than mum or my phys ed health class ever told me.
Could it be that it's because we live in a society that still feels pretty uncomfortable with female sexuality and female pleasure that I had to discover completely on my own that menstruation can actually feel erotically and sexually pleasurable? The first time I had this experience, it took me months to put the pieces together. Then it hit me like a lightning bolt. Hey girl, wake up! Guess what parts of you are pulsating to get that blood on out of your body- the same parts that quiver and quake when you come! And if you stop fighting them, fearing them or shaming them, those rhythmic contractions can feel good, ecstatic even!
I made that discovery 14 years ago. Since then, some of the most profound, most spiritually satisfying sexual experiences of my life have been given to me by my period. Opening up to my bleeding self has been a lot like discovering, to put it kind of crassly, a built-in lover, who's dear enough to visit every month. The nice thing is I don't even have to do much to experience pleasure with this partner - my period likes being the active one. The moment often arrives (usually on the first or second day) when I feel compelled to lay back and relax my whole body and mind as deeply as I can - then the love vibes starting in my womb and yoni start travelling far and wide through my bodily landscape.
Menstrual pleasures are often more mystical, I find, than what comes through self-pleasuring or partnered sex. As my belly pulsates, so does my mind, drifting in and out of dreams, intuitions, memories shimmering like reflections in a lake. Sounds, colours, sensations can take on particularly intense and vibrant reality - sometimes I've felt like I'm somehow hearing or seeing the essence of what I'm focused on. In some of my peak period moments, I've felt streams of life energy gently but insistently rise through my body, reminding me of the stubborness a salmon brings to its swim upstream. It's like getting a tiny taste of the divine.
And while it all sounds fabulous, I know I have to be careful not to make it sound like it's also always easy. My period has turned out to be a totally tuned in and non-compromising lover. If there's a place in my body, mind, or heart that's not fully open to that months flow, my menstruation informs me in the language of pain or dysfunction - without fail. Eating stuff I know is bad for me, letting someone abuse me, abusing someone in turn, feeling sexual shame - it's all closed me down at various times and resulted in menstrual pain. How do I know what the problem is? I put my hands on my belly, relax as much as I can (especially my upper body) and listen to my lover. I know I've gotten the message when I think 'aha!' and the cramps and pain start to melt away. It can be very hard, I've found, to face up to everything my period wants me to know about how I treat myself and others. But if I insist on remaining unawares, I can't clear the way for that sweet menstrual wave. Setting things right again means that if not this month, then next month, we'll have another pleasure romp. I'll open my heart to the waves animating my womb and my vagina, and feel the wide, free, and blissful loving of my moontime par amour.
Personal issues aren't the only ones that interfere with my love affair. Social convention isn't exactly supportive of menstrual eroticism. According to women's magazines, what I really need are painkillers, superabsorbent feminine hygiene products that won't give away the horrible secret that, like most women, I menstruate, or better yet, synthetic hormone brews or surgeries that will stop the inconvenient blood altogether. (The articles and doctors promoting these treatments often talk about how we find menstruation inconvenient. They never talk about the darker secret, that what many of us are trying to get rid of with these medical interventions is our feelings of shame and disgust about our periods, ourselves.) I wonder sometimes whether a lot of the moodiness and cramps so many of my sisters experience are just a reflection of repressed sexual energy. I mean, how would any partner react if, month after month, they weren't allowed to do their thing, and love your whole, delicious body?
My menstrual lover also demands time and attention from me, and that's not time most employers or families easily concede. I've learned a lot about assertiveness just by deciding that I want to spend time letting my period make love to me. It's not a conventional excuse for rescheduling a dinner date, if you know what I mean. Then there's the whole woman sexual autonomy thing. If a period can make you feel good all on its own, that can be threatening to the old patriarchal gods we still sometimes carry inside, the ones who insist that women envy the penis and need a man - and a child in the womb - to fulfill them.
For me, the struggle to be with my menstrual partner has been completely worth it. I'm a way happier, healthier human than I used to be. And like any woman worth her salt - or in this case, her salty blood - I'm going to keep doing what it takes to be with my beloved, on our terms. After all, we go back a long, long way.
by Sibylle Preuschat
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