EWW! Is That Period Blood?!

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is people’s aversion to menstrual blood. Perhaps I’m just super comfortable with my body or took one too many reproductive health classes or maybe I’m just gross, but I really don’t get why people are so thoroughly disgusted by menstrual blood.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently because I got a Diva Cup a couple of months back. I brought it up one day when I was talking about traveling because I was excited that I wouldn’t need to carry loads of pads and tampons anymore — just my little Diva Cup and a Lunapads pantyliner. Everyone [all female] turned around and looked at me as if I had just said I drink urine with my breakfast or something. I’ve shared my excitement with other people, and they also seem put off by this.

Then yesterday, I somehow ended up on a link about menstrual art, which I shared with a friend of mine [also female] and her reaction was “EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.” I didn’t think to myself to save the link (because I’m a moron sometimes), but here are some menstrual art links for you to enjoy! So anyway, she freaked out, but I thought it was cool. I think some of it is really rather beautiful.

painting made with menstrual blood

I know we’re taught to hate menstrual blood. We’re made to believe that it is unclean, smelly, gross, and every other negative thing you can think of. This fact is nothing new to most of us who read and write about feminism on a regular basis. Yet it still strikes me as odd whenever I see another example of this, especially from women I know. Somehow I expect more from them I guess…

I just can’t see what is wrong with inserting a cup into your vagina, collecting your menstrual blood, dumping it, and then doing the process over and over again. Many of us have no problem inserting other types of foreign objects into our vaginas, so what makes this different exactly? The fact that your skin might come into contact with your blood?? *GASP* OH, THE HORROR! And if people want to keep that blood and then turn it into art… I just don’t see what the problem is.

Does this cross some sort of blood tolerance line that I wasn’t aware existed? Am I really just so incredibly feminist that these things don’t faze me anymore? And can somebody please let me know what they might say in my position so I can start having my responses ready?

(Cross-posted at Jump off the Bridge.)

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108 comments for “EWW! Is That Period Blood?!

  1. August 7, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    How exactly is a blood-filled cup grosser than a blood-soaked tampon? (Well, okay, I guess the spin-art effect you get when you shake it out in the toilet could be off-putting to some.)

  2. August 7, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Julie, I’m not entirely sure… lol I guess maybe because you don’t have to actually touch the tampon as much?? You also have to wash the Diva Cup, so maybe that too?

  3. Lindsay
    August 7, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    I take issue with the statement “we’re made to believe that it is…smelly…”

    That’s a pretty objective judgment that can’t really be taught–it just is.

  4. Michelle
    August 7, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    I don’t know…. I love my diva cup, but I am generally squicked out by blood and other medical-type things. To me menstrual blood is just blood. I don’t mind dealing with it for my period because, let’s face it, with a period I always have to deal with blood in some way or another. But saving any kind of blood to use in artwork would kind of ick me out.

  5. prairielily
    August 7, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    I’m with Michelle. I also love my Diva Cup, and menstrual blood is just blood to me. Using it in art weirds me out because saving any kind of blood to use in artwork weirds me out. Doesn’t it start to turn brown? I assume she treats it so it doesn’t smell.

    I can still deal with it and admit the piece you posted looks pretty cool. Art that’s made from dead hair, though? Excuse me while I go barf in the corner.

  6. girl
    August 7, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    I know, it’s extremely weird to me that people are so disturbed when I tell them about my DivaCup. I’ve had mine for over a year and LOVE it… but when I tell my family members about it they get this look on their face like I’m talking about storing my poop in a jar or something.
    I’ve found that I can keep track of what’s happening in my body more easily now. I never knew what my cycle was really like when I used tampons or pads. Now that I use a divacup I know my body better… and I look forward to my period.
    Maybe that’s why people are so weirded out by the whole thing. There are now wands that you attach toilet paper to so you don’t have to touch your ass while wiping. We try so hard to pretend that we’re not animals with physical bodies… Menstruation isn’t commonly talked about in… ahem… polite company… bathrooms are called “the little girls’ room” like it’s a powdery pink girls’ club, and we go to “powder our noses” instead of shitting.

  7. August 7, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    I was happy to switch to GladRags instead of Always, and wanted to tell people how much better I’d found reusables than disposables. And yeah, I’ve gotten a lot of “OMG I can’t believe you’re talking about your period” and “Ewww, you have to *rinse them out*” sort of reactions, which boggle my mind. Cleaning them isn’t my favourite thing in the world to do, but it’s not horrible either, and you can actually water plants with the water you soak the pads (before washing), which I think is marvellous, because it allows me to do something useful with an otherwise mostly annoying biological function.

    My mother taught me how to get blood out of clothing very soon after I began menstruation, so maybe I’m just very not squeamish about menstrual blood. Though I’m still pretty bad about anyone else’s arterial blood.

  8. Geri
    August 7, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    There is definitely a blood tolerance line – I know, I had to overcome it within myself, mostly thanks to reading blogs like yours. Even think of the discourses surrounding menstruation: it is usually presented as a ‘problem’ that we must keep quiet and find ways of overcoming. Think about terms like “feminine hygiene products” or “sanitary” towels. Almost th entire discourse around menstruation in the west is propagated by an industry who try to convince us that our own bodies are problematic and dirty. The blood tolerance line is created by these industries who sell products which ‘lock away’ our blood, ‘absorb’ it, don’t leak it; the blood line is that we look but don’t touch.

    As I said, I’ve come some way in personally overcoming this blood line, around the time that I discovered that I was a feminist (I had a ton of feminist beliefs, but it took me some time to identify as a feminist – long story). Around that time, I was also getting into environmental protection. I purchased a mooncup after reading about ‘sanitary’ products ending up in landfills and the oceans. This meant that for the first time – ever – I had contact with my menstrual blood – and it was empowering. I realised that its not dirty or unsanitary, but a very natural part of me, and since then I have become increasingly angry at these industries who thrive on making us horrified by our own bodies.

  9. August 7, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    The DivaCup changed my life. It’s a lot harder to hate your period when you’re not having to deal with a boatload of contraptions just to contain it every month. I’ve had mine for a few months and recently noticed how remarkably invisible using the Cup has made my period for me…really turned it into a non-issue.

    I don’t get this aversion to menstrual blood, either. I never really found it gross, it was always kinda fascinating to me, but I’m weird. We’ve all been conditioned to see the whole female organ system as gross and unusual, and this is just another manifestation of that. I personally believe making the female body weird and disturbing was a means of trying to change the hand of power, in making the patriarchy the dominant system that it was. You can’t do that without tarnishing the reputation of the thing you seek to overthrow.

    That being said…a lot of people just plain out have phobias with this stuff, and can never really learn that blood won’t hurt you and I think that’s okay. It’s not vital, life-saving knowledge though I personally think it makes living a little more stress-free.

  10. August 7, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    When I was reading this, I couldn’t help but think of a post I read a while back over at Essin’ Em’s blog.

    You can read it here.

    It made me evaluate where my level of squeemishness is. I felt like I was pretty comfortable with the idea of menstruation. It has never got in the way of my sex life, and isn’t something that grosses me out. But reading her account of sex during mensturation made me feel like a prude.

    Food for thought, at the very least.

    • August 7, 2009 at 4:38 pm

      @OxytocinAddiction: Just out of curiosity, what about the post made you squeamish? I just read it (FYI: Probably NSFW)… is it just the sex-during-menstruation thing?

      As a side note, do people really not have sex when they’re menstruating? Obviously I’ve heard of this, and I know a lot of women who use “It’s that time of the month” as an excuse when they don’t feel like it, but I guess I didn’t realize there were a lot of people who legitimately refuse to have sex if there is any menstrual blood involved at all … until a dude I was talking to mentioned that he never has sex with women when they’re on their periods. I was honestly a little shocked. I get saying no when it’s your heaviest day and you have really nice white sheets, but… really? Never?

  11. Kate
    August 7, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    hahaha my mother gave me OB tampons when I first got my period, so I became okay with the blood early. I would use the Diva if I got periods enough to think about it very much, but I use Seasonale so I barely ever think about periods.

  12. RMJ
    August 7, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    YES to this.

    But I’m a little more optimistic on the “talking about periods” line – I’ve successfully recommended it to a couple of my friends, and I have few who go EW GROSS at periods.

  13. August 7, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    I take issue with the statement “we’re made to believe that it is…smelly…”

    That’s a pretty objective judgment that can’t really be taught–it just is.

    Maybe this differs from woman to woman, and maybe this is TMI, but: I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, and I have never noticed that my period blood was smelly. Those scented tampons always confused me, so I figured that for some women, period blood does smell (or maybe hormonal changes make the other bits smell a little different during that time of the month?). Anyway, point being, I do think there’s an over-emphasis on the smelliness of female genitalia, especially during menstruation. And there’s a difference between “has an odor” and “is bad-smelling.” Bad-smelling is not necessarily objective, and that’s what “smelly” connotes. My under-arms get smelly if I exercise; I have a good friend who has never worn deodorant a day in her life because she just doesn’t sweat and doesn’t ever smell. Our bodies work differently. So no, it’s not an objective judgment that just “is.”

    But back to the point of the post: I’ve never used the DivaCup; I’m a tampon kinda gal. Blood doesn’t gross me out in the slightest (unless I’m getting blood drawn and see it go into the bag — then I pass out. But menstrual blood is no biggie). However, the cup/reusable pad/sea sponge never seemed like a good option because of the “you have to wash it out” issue. I would feel a little weird doing that in the bathroom at my corporate office. Also, I am lazy, and any sort of extra washing (especially washing of things like a Diva cup, which I would feel a need to wash every day) is a major disincentive for me.

    But a good friend of mine painted with her period blood for a while, and I thought that was neat. Some of her stuff is on the MUM website.

  14. Susan
    August 7, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    It is pretty interesting how people tend to react to any kind of discussion around menstrual blood. I know, I know, that’s just how we’ve been socialized to handle it, but I always think it’s pretty funny to see people running for the hills, hands over their ears, screaming “La la la! Not listening!”

    I think the DivaCup is completely and totally amazing. I mean, forget the convenience, or the fact that you get to really see how much menses collects (which I think is SUPER COOL, actually), but just on an environmental level, it totally rawks.

    Also, the art gave me somewhat squeamish feelings at first, but upon reflection of why I felt that way, I realized that it -is- really cool. It’s a very interesting way to celebrate menstruation as opposed to allowing the shaming messages continue on.

  15. August 7, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    In non-supportive company, I get the best results with either the “it’s good for the environment” response or “it’s so much cheaper than blowing $x bucks a month on tampons.” But sometimes I go mean and tell people about the little measuring lines on the cup so you know *just* how much blood you’re bleeding.

    Hey I think it’s fascinating.

  16. August 7, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    My skin comes in contact with the blood no matter what… too much of it not to… :p
    Cups aren’t really an option for me — and as I’ve written recently, a lot of the rhetoric around them really bothers me — but I do think they are a Good Thing, and I do think the reaction to them (mostly by women; men seem to react with equal [HIGH] amounts of disgust about ANYthing menstrual, indiscriminate) is just silly — and more than a little telling.

    Me? Bodily fluid art ain’t my thing, so I’m not going to do it. But that doesn’t mean it’s invalid, or that it’s Especially Gross. Just like leg hair is regarded as “unsanitary” on a woman, while armpit hair (surely crawling with far more germs than shin hair) on dudes is just kewlies.

    Honestly? A lot of our ideas about germs, bacteria, infections, and what is dangerous, are not scientifically based except in the remotest of ways, and not actually connected to the reality of what is dangerous to us as living beings. And a lot of that is gendered too, when you think about it… who do they sell Lysol to… etc.

    Just a little free thought/association rambling.

  17. Michelle
    August 7, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I can’t imagine avoiding sex any time I was bleeding. I guess some people do, but often that’s a time I want to have sex! We do grab old towels, though, and the actual image of the blood itself isn’t a turn on for me, but to each their own, y’know? For me it’s mostly a logistical issue of avoiding ruining the bed or the duvet or something.

  18. August 7, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I’ve gotten a lot of “OMG I can’t believe you’re talking about your period” and “Ewww, you have to *rinse them out*” sort of reactions, which boggle my mind.

    I had to rinse out my underwear at least once every month as a teenager (when I couldn’t just wear a jumbo pad for the two weeks in which my period might start rushing any moment), so hey. Nothing new. :-p

  19. August 7, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Jill — honestly, I think that might almost be an NY thing (the comfort with sex during periods). It’s always been my impression that it’s the rare guy who’s comfortable doing that, whether the woman is up for it or not. (Based on my own friendships with women who have been OK talking period and sex stuff.)

    And, fwiw, I feel way too shitty during my periods to even think about sex — it’s not always just an excuse. Whether that’s all-over pain and fatigue, or area-specific cramps, or just plain not being in the mood for anything down there (think how BFing women feel about their guy trying to play with their breasts). Plus more mess for me to clean up at the end, when I’m already not feeling well… I do generally avoid it during that week(ish), and not ‘cuz I’m trying to get out of an obligation or anything like that.

    • August 7, 2009 at 4:56 pm

      Huh. That’s interesting, Amanda. And just to clarify, I didn’t mean that it’s always an excuse for women — on my worst period day, sex is the last thing on my mind too (I share your horrific, unable-to-move cramps). But in my entire dating history, which has admittedly been confined to NY, I never met a guy who was against period sex, even though growing up I was always told (and really thought) that period sex was off-limits. Maybe it is a regional thing (or an “I’m just weird and date weird dudes” thing… I’m ok with that).

  20. August 7, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I do not get the aversion to period blood either! I’m a pretty easily grossed out person, but period blood is so not a big deal. I mean, I understand if people don’t want to hear about any bodily functions, but I just don’t get it when people start acting like menstruation is way grosser than anything else that could possibly happen in your body. A male friend of mine once remarked in public that period blood was the most disgusting bodily function (he’s 26 and still a virgin; inexplicable, really, given his willingness to publicly revile the female body).

    I also find it funny how people think it’s so horrifying when I mention my DivaCup. Just mentioning the existence of menstrual cups as a tangent in a conversation with my dad caused him to make a caricature of a disgusted face and say, “Do people actually USE those?” Bit awkward since I was wearing one at the moment. Interestingly, the reaction I usually get from women is less often, “Ew,” and more often, “Oh my God, don’t talk about that in front of guys, you’ll freak them out!” Thanks for protecting the poor defenseless menfolk, but I think they can handle it.

    If I did anything right in helping raise my much-younger brother, it was make menstruation seem like a totally normal thing. My sister and I were always very upfront about it. My sister especially would just be like, “Well, I need to go deal with my bleeding vagina, I’ll be right back.”

  21. Alyssa
    August 7, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    If you are uncomfortable having sex during your period because you feel bad, then that is understandable. No one is going to be in the mood if they are crampy, bloated etc.
    But I don’t understand avoiding it because of the mess. Doesn’t anyone have sex in the shower anymore?

  22. August 7, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    It might be one of those things people don’t admit to readily, even if they’re really ok with it in practice, too.

  23. Zoe
    August 7, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I have no problem being in contact with my own menstrual blood and I plan to, when I have the money, buy reusable pads. As for art, though…I dunno, just can’t say that I really want to look hard at it. Does that seem hypocritical? I don’t think so.

  24. Bakka
    August 7, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I don’t know if it is just me, but sex on my period is great! If I have cramps, or some all-over discomfort, then an orgasm is just what I need. It usually takes care of the cramps and the crappy feelings all at the same time.

    I have a diva cup, but I don’t use it that much because I have some home made pads that I find work just great. One thing I like about the diva cup, which is better than OBs or other tampons, is that the diva cup does not dry me out. Tampons make me so dry that sex hurts, and there is no wonderful cramp-releasing orgasm! I hate the overly-dry feeling I get if I use tampons.

  25. August 7, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I honestly judge people by how they respond to me talking about my period. If they squick out I tend to not have as much respect. I mean, actually seeing blood is one thing, and I don’t go into great detail, but I’m not going to hide the fact that I am bleeding any more than functionality requires.

  26. August 7, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    @ Jill: No, not period sex in general. I love period sex, and I am a 100% fan.

    And I am not saying squeemish in a bad-judgmental-that-is-gross-for-you way. More or less, it just makes me blanch because it is… staining fluid. I don’t know how to describe it. But this is from the girl who keeps her home clean, her bed made.

    I have always viewed menstrual blood as an inconvenience, at least when it comes to sex. It means that you have to think more about where you are doing it. It means that I have to consider if I am laying on my favorite white down comforter. It means that sex in the shower is a plus, and sex on the couch is probably out.

    The idea of playing in my partner’s blood… Of actually enjoying it in a sexual facet … hadn’t even crossed my mind. But I think the problem is that I am just a squeemish person when it comes to anything that can leave a stain that detergent can’t get out. I also can’t imagine chocolate syrup to come play in my bed, at least without a towel.

  27. Elizabeth Anne
    August 7, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    I think there’s a fundamental thing there, too – we’re fairly hardwired to be distressed by seeing a lot of our own blood. Of course, what defines “a lot” differs from person to person. And there’s the whole Julia Kristeva / horror of the abject thing, which , again, I think is fairly hardwired. But I agree, seeing menstrual blood as *particularly* so is a different issue.

  28. August 7, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Oh my, I start my commute home and miss out on all the fun! A few points I’d like to make:

    re: the smell thing — not only do I think this varies from person to person, but it also changes over time. When I was younger, it didn’t smell at all. A few years ago it started to smell a bit, and it hasn’t smelled at all since I started using the Diva Cup (granted, it’s only been about 3 cycles, but still). This last observation I made makes me think part of the smell might be with the products we’re using themselves. I don’t know exactly how that might work — just an observation and a guess.

    re: the sex thing — first of LOL @Amanda about it being a NY thing! Maybe that’s it then, because I don’t really have a problem with it. Ever since I stopped using b.c., my flow is moderate to heavy for most of my period, but those last few light days I have no problem with it. Being in the shower or another place that is easily cleaned (as in, not on your bed w/the sheets) really helps any clean-up issues, IME.

    re: the art thing — I guess this is the part where preference comes in. I don’t really have an issue with art made from any type of blood. I personally wouldn’t make art that way myself, but I’m also not an artist so I’m not sure how I would feel if I were an artist. But just as a spectator, I think using blood as art is kind of cool, menstrual or otherwise.

  29. Kathryn
    August 7, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Sometimes the whole inside area is more tender during my period and I wouldn’t want to have sex. One of my friends never wants to for this reason – it makes it physically uncomfortable.

    Though I wonder if I feel tender because of the tampons I’m whipping in and out, and scraping my vaginal walls with. She doesn’t use internal protection though. Everyone is just different and it doesn’t always mean they are repressed.

    (Though I always assume it DOES!)

  30. Kristen J.
    August 7, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    I don’t know if it is just me, but sex on my period is great! If I have cramps, or some all-over discomfort, then an orgasm is just what I need. It usually takes care of the cramps and the crappy feelings all at the same time.

    I completely agree. Plus the bonus post sex nap…which always feels more awesome than any other nap.

    As for menstrual blood, I freely admit to being squigged out. But all blood squigges me out. I dislike reminders that I’m mortal and filled with this thing call “blood” or organs or whatnot. Before I got Mirena, I used Instead pretty frequently, and yes touching the blood made me all lightheaded, but definitely better than feeling stuffed with cotton…but still…menstrual art…as cool as it looks on the computer screen, will not be hanging in my house…

  31. jemand
    August 7, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    well… I read the entire bible by the time I was ten… and the rather large sections in Leviticus were some of my earliest “sex ed” type info on periods, at least for how long they lasted (I reached menarchy late, around 15, and I was too shy to ask anyone who probably would have been a much better source of information… lol). It also was VERY clear that sex during menstruation was ABOMINATION. And that menstruating women were UNCLEAN.

    I’m an atheist now, but that kind of early reading (repeated several times through the teen years) left all sorts of little mental land mines that I’m having to slowly root out… I think I’m almost getting close to having found and dealt with all of them.

    It certainly does help that my boyfriend treats menstrual blood as no big deal, something that might make a mess, but otherwise no issue, and that even a mess just means some cleaning and isn’t the end of the world.

  32. mizztcasa
    August 7, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I really like my diva cup; don’t have to worry about running out and spending money on tampons; I can reuse the Cup; I can leave it inside me for a long time…etc.etc.

    As far as coming into contact with blood, I find that I have a healthier relationship with my blood now that I use the Cup. My blood doesn’t gross me out anymore and doesn’t smell (bad) like it does soaked inside tampons. I have no problem cleaning the cup. I come in contact with blood while using tampons regardless due to leaks, which i rarely have had with the Cup.

    The only issue I have with Cup is that I’m lazy and don’t like that it takes some time and effort to put it in and get it out… in contrast to tampons, which I can stuff in and pull out in a few seconds. So I keep tampons handy for lazy moments.

    As far as other peoples’ reactions, I don’t understand them either. A smelly soaked tampon vs a (not smelly) cup filled with blood. I’d taked the second one anyday (except for the lazy days) :)

  33. melanie
    August 7, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    I have absolutely no problem my my own menstrual blood, it doesn’t disgust me at all. My boyfriend and I are usually okay with us having sex in the last days of my period, when there’s just a light flow (I don’t want any when I have cramps, and things would look like a massacre).

    This doesn’t mean that I have to find menstrual art great, and to be honest, I don’t want to have anything to do with or even know about someone else’s period. Sure it’s just blood, but I don’t need to get in touch with some stranger’s other bodily fluids, like snot or urine (i.e. fecal art? does that sort of thing exist? probably) either. That some people are fascinated with it baffles me, but to each their own.

    Lastly, I just wish people would stop aggressively trying to push DivaCups on me. Yes, great for you, but I don’t want that piece of plastic in me (my vibrator is enough, thx). Let people decide for themselves.

  34. August 7, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Male-bodied person weighing in:

    I don’t get it, either.

    I’m not a big fan of blood in general. I don’t scream or turn funny colors or faint or anything, but I’d rather…not…deal with it. But is uterine-lining blood somehow hugely different from regular blood to make it “more” disgusting?

    I’ve never noticed blood itself having a smell, but maybe that’s just the last thing on my mind when I am bleeding.

    This whole disgust at menstruation is just more of your average pathologizing-the-feminine patriarchal bullshit. That classic piece (was it Steinum? I can’t recall and don’t feel like googling), “If Men Could Menstruate,” pretty much summed it up!

  35. August 7, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    I spelled Steinem wrong but it won’t let me edit. :(

  36. Maria B
    August 7, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I once watched one of those CSI type shows where they found a towel with a small amount of blood on it in a household with at least one woman in it, and at no point in their discussion of how it could have ended up there did they mention periods, or even shaving legs. It struck me as odd.

    About the Diva Cup, does it work properly even if you bleed quite heavily? And how easy is it to use?

  37. falloch
    August 7, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    here is a website that proposes a very different way of looking at archaeology and what we call ‘civilization’, that is based around the menstrual cycle and is pretty interesting

  38. August 7, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    I love my DivaCup. It’s a pain sometimes because I have a hard time getting it to seal, but other than that, it’s wonderful. I can wear it for a long time without worrying about TSS. Plus, it doesn’t dry me out like tampons do.

    “How exactly is a blood-filled cup grosser than a blood-soaked tampon? (Well, okay, I guess the spin-art effect you get when you shake it out in the toilet could be off-putting to some.)”

    It’s actually a bit messier since you usually end up getting a bit to a significant amount of blood on your hands depending on how difficult it is to pull it out. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

  39. Ellid
    August 7, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    I’m not especially bothered by the feel of menstrual blood or the sight of it ( ex was another matter – he wouldn’t have sex with me during my period because it bothered him so much). The smell is another matter, though – I don’t like it very much and never have.

    As for Diva Cups…I strongly dislike the feel of something up inside me,* and gave up using tampons and diaphragms because it was so uncomfortable. Even if the Diva Cup had been available when I was young, I probably wouldn’t have used it because of this. I considered trying a cervical cap and was vetoed because I have a tipped cervix, so that might be why.

    Finally…sorry, but I find the idea of using any sort of bodily fluid in art repulsive. Leaving aside the reality that a lot of pathogens are carried in blood (HIV, hepatitis, and so on), it’s way too close to Dada for my liking, or Damien Hirst and his obsession with dead animals.

    YMMV, of course….

    *that isn’t for a sexual purpose, that is.

  40. August 7, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    melanie, I’m not sure who’s pushing the Diva Cup to you, but I apologize on their behalf =/ I don’t think people should be pressured to do anything. One thing that stopped me from getting it for a long time is having the money up front to buy it. In the long-run, tampons and pads are more expensive, but I can spend a very small amount to last me one or two cycles. The Diva Cup isn’t something you can just try on in a store, you know? But even then, you have to be comfortable with the process of pushing in and pulling out a piece of silicone.

    Maria B., the Diva Cup can handle a heavy flow, but you will need to check on it more regularly than somebody with a lighter flow. You can find more information about it here.

  41. Alexandra Lynch
    August 7, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    I wouldn’t mind using a Divacup, but that my body really doesn’t like anything insertable right around that time. It is a general ban, whether a tampon, a menstrual cup, or a penis. (shrugs) I have considered starting to use reusable pads, but keep getting annoyed with people who think they should be Cute! and Fun! (I am so not a girly person….)

    My experience is that my menstrual blood does have a smell. and further that right when I start I have a hot flash and sweat (which apparently dumps some of the water I was retaining) and the sweat smells like very aged red meat that is going sour. That not being a particularly favorite smell of mine, I change and wash head to toe. I also bathe several times during the course of that week, partly for the yummy hot water round the pelvis soothing aches, but also because it does cut down on the odor.

    I’m not Christian, and was never particularly taught that “men don’t like that”…I don’t particularly like it, and find it a literal pain for half of it and a figurative one for three more days of it. I simply take it as the bad side of being seriously multiply orgasmic, and live with it.

  42. August 7, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    I have been meaning to try a divacup (mooncup or whatever other names they are going by these days) but with the general infrequency of my periods I often forget and just end up buying tampons. I definitely don’t think I would be too bothered by the “eww gross” comments as I generally get quite a few of those if I mention that I *gasp* use those crazy OB tampons without applicators.

    As far as sex and periods go, personally I don’t mind it, but my partner does (and he is from New York so that might squash the whole New York dating scene theory :)) His rational however is not the mess and or “grossness” of menstrual blood. According to him the blood just completely changes the texture of the vaginal walls to the point where it’s not comfortable. So we usually end up compensating with other sexual activities or lots of lubricant during that week.

  43. August 7, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    I switched to the cup and re-usable pads partly because of the expense, but also just because they felt more comfortable for my lifestyle. I backpack and dive quite a bit, and the cup is invaluable for that. (ever tried to pack out used tampons? yeeeeeah). The pads breathe MUCH better than synthetics, so I end up less irritated and sore by the time the darn thing is over.

    As for sex on the period…yeah, no. I have a hard enough time not staining anything and everything *without* churning it up, thankyouverymuch. Plus, I tend to want to bite your arm off if you touch me for the first four days. But then, I have a double period, so it might be different for other women.

    Maria B: I wear the Diva Cup plus a pad during the day. At night, I use the cup and an extra long overnight pad. I used to worry that if it overfilled everything would spill out, but that seems unfounded, it just starts to leak. I think I’m pretty heavy relative to most women, so hopefully that helps you get an idea.

  44. August 7, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Also re: the sex thing–

    I practice the liberal Jewish version of the no-sex-during-period thing, and I actually find it very calming. Knowing that there *won’t* be any sex for 7 days lets me kind of take my body back/feel like I am not expected to have sex. Also, “unclean” is something of a mistranslation re: Leviticus. I’m not saying it isn’t somewhat problematic, but I’ve made my peace with it.

    It’s funny, but until we started doing that, I never realized how much I had internalized the “good wife must available for teh sex *at all times* and like it,” mentality, even though my husband has never pressured me/doesn’t see it that way.

  45. Jaybird
    August 7, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    I totally love my divacup. The convenience, money savings, not to mention ‘green’-ness of it sold me immediately. Some things I think are important to disclose about it to those who may have misconceptions:

    a) You can wear it for 12 hours straight. No muss, no fuss, no leaks. And I have a super-heavy flow the first couple of days. So the likelihood of having to change it in your corporate office in slim to nil.

    b) I have never, ever gotten blood on my hands removing the cup, not even the first time. If you remember to tilt it cup side up as you’re “breaking the seal”, so to speak, that might help.

    c) I am totally not squeamish about blood, and think it’s really cool to see the sheer volume that the cup collects, and the consistency of it when it’s not absorbed is awesome.

    I highly recommend it but would also suggest trying it out over a weekend at home to work out any issues.

  46. B
    August 7, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Hmm…I don’t mind menstrual blood, and don’t consider it “regular” blood at all (it’s not, after all), which is good, because regular blood makes me faint ;). I use pads (more out of laziness and an inability to use tampons than for any strong love of that method), but I make sure to touch and smell every single period to see how it changes. I actually really like the smell and texture of menstrual blood. However, I’m not a huge fan of talking in depth about my period with other women. Why? Cause I’m a private person, and I don’t talk in huge depth about any of my other bodily functions either–peeing, pooping, mucus or saliva production, etc. Some people consider doing so TMI, and it doesn’t mean they think periods are “uniquely gross,” it probably means they just don’t want to hear (in depth) about whatever waste product comes out of your body.

    Also, second the no sex on period. Orgasms actually worsen my menstrual cramps, which are already unbearable. No thanks. I’ve tried it a few times when cramps weren’t so bad, but it really wasn’t all that great, I was far more sore down there than usual. My guess is, since bodies react so differently to menstruation, our responses to sex will be different as well, which makes it hard to judge others’ sexual habits.

    I also find it ironic that lots of people touting how the diva cup has brought them in touch with their bodies then point out that one of the virtues of the cup is it makes it seem like you’re not even menstruating/makes your period completely invisible. Ok, but if you’re so comfortable with your period, why be so thrilled it’s like it’s disappeared? (Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t mind–my periods are my own personal torture devices in terms of cramps, so I would like them to be invisible too, but I don’t think that’s a sign of being in touch with my body–if we truly were in touch with our bodies and celebrated menstruation, we would wear nothing and let it roll down my legs ;)

  47. Stupendousness
    August 7, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Jill, I usually don’t have sex while on my period. The reason being the high level of pain I have during menstruation. Not just cramps, but severe back pain (and a big reason why I suppress my periods using hormonal BC). My vagina gets extra tender in a non-pleasurable way too. My whole pubic region does in fact smell bad during the first two days of my period. I don’t know if it’s the blood or vaginal discharge in combination with the blood or what. Scented tampons do NOT mask the smell; in fact, it actually produces an even worse sickly sweet odor.

    So yeah, just not a fun time all around, and that means I do not want my husband being physically close to me. Not even for snuggles. I’m the same way when I’m sick with a cold. There’s too much going on with my body during times like that, and I can’t stand feeling smothered by another human being’s presence.

    I have a friend who also doesn’t have sex during her period. She told me it was just too personal to share. Now, maybe if she could find a guy who isn’t a jerk, then she would be okay with opening herself up more like that. But I completely support any woman who wishes to keep some part of her private, even if she lets a person get sexually intimate with her otherwise.

  48. Greg
    August 7, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    I don’t get not getting why people have a problem with menstrual blood. It’s an excretory bodily function. I get squicked out when poo gets on my hand when I’m wiping. Why should I get any less squicked out by menstrual blood?

  49. Stupendousness
    August 7, 2009 at 10:28 pm


    I will have vaginal sex sometimes towards the end of the week of menstruating, depending on how I’m feeling. And if there’s still some blood? Meh.

    Oftentimes I will still feel too sore for intercourse, but back to a better mood otherwise and more than happy to do other sexy-funtime things with my husband. It’s good because it will force us out of routine sex, which tends to happen every once in a while.

  50. Annie Onymouse
    August 7, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    amandaw — do you have a link to your discussion of the rhetoric around cups? I tried some searches on your blog and didn’t find it.

    As to sex on your period, as a straight woman I’ve had partners that feel both ways, and I don’t feel like it’s necessarily an ideological thing. Some people have a stronger reaction — even faintness — to the sight of blood, wherever it’s flowing from. That’s not a thoughtout stance, it’s a fairly ingrained trait. And I knew one man who luvvvved menstrual sex, because it provided lubricant without that pesky getting-the-woman-aroused step. That’s not exactly a progressive attitude stemming from woman-positive stances!

    As to myself, I’d rather ameliorate my cramps all on my lonesome. I’m not 100% against partnered sex on the period, but I feel bloated and sleepy and sticky — not horny.

  51. Dauphine
    August 7, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    My menstrual blood smells like blood. It doesn’t really squick me all that much and I don’t feel the need to “disguise it” with scented tampons (in fact I usually avoid those like the plague).

    One time I walked away from the toilet forgetting to flush down the tampon in it and my brother just flipped out. He kept going on about how disgusting it was, and I ended up getting really pissed and yelling something about how dare he try to make me feel guilty about my body and one of its natural processes.

  52. Ellen
    August 7, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    I promise you all, sex on your period is a worldwide phenomenon. It does not just happen in NY. In fact, I have only had one BF that refused to do it. And it freaked me out that he thought I was gross. He didn’t last long.

    I was also freaked out by the Diva cup at first because I thought you had to empty it in public bathrooms. I didn’t want to have to go out of the stall to wash it out and then back in, all while trying not to get the blood all over the bathroom or on my clothes. But I got one when I found out that it usually lasted all day, and I would only have to deal with it at home. Unfortunately, I don’t really like it. I still use it, because it is important to me not to waste tampons. But I find it painful to take in and out. Oh well.

  53. ilyka
    August 7, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    The only thing I regret about getting a Diva cup a couple years ago is that I didn’t do it decades ago. It’s not for everybody, or for all situations, but for me there’s no going back.

    I don’t know why all the squeamishness about menstrual blood (and like Jill I take issue with “it’s smelly” being a fact. Sometimes I’ve noticed an odor, not a bad one, a benign sort of warm-body scent, but mostly, overwhelmingly . . . not). I guess I always put the shrieking down to either (1) ew, blood!, which is a reaction some people just have for whatever reason, and (2) ew, vaginas!, which is an attitude all too pervasive and etc. I’m fine with people reacting from (1) and annoyed/bored with people reacting from (2).

  54. tor
    August 8, 2009 at 12:51 am

    An example of just how taboo menstruation still is:

    I remember awhile ago that a girl got temp banned from 4chan for posting pics of her menstrual blood. I mean, jeeze – this is *4chan*, which is full of gore, sex and just extreme pics in general. Yet they couldn’t handle a little menstruation.

    They even had a phrase for awhile “Period blood is 4chan’s kryptonite”.

  55. August 8, 2009 at 2:16 am

    I come to this from the opposite perspective of many here. For years, I couldn’t understand why anyone, even the most ardent feminist could possibly not loathe their periods to the point of wanting to perform hysterectomies on one’s self. what I didn’t realize was that the distaste associated with periods, the feeling that it should be deeply unpleasant kept me from realizing for seven years that there was something deeply wrong with my body with regards to menstruation. I only found out when I started having my period while at my doctor’s office, and she told me that feeling like I was dying, vomiting nonstop, dropping large amounts of weight, and having such bad pain in my legs I was contemplating self amputation was really not normal, but fairly typical to people allergic to their own progesterone, which was relatively common for people with my illness (though almost unheard of for anyone else). She could fix it with a shot, and it was a good thing to know, because hormonal birth control could have made me very sick indeed, and pregnancy would likely kill me. This notion that one’s period is supposed to be awful can make a lot of women with real problems think they’re just being wimps. Not good.

    On another note, I will have to try this DivaCup. I hate messing with pads, I always spill over, I have small dogs that get everywhere and like to eat the bloody ones… No pads, not tampons? sounds great!

  56. RacyT
    August 8, 2009 at 2:19 am

    1) I’d be OK with the Diva Cup except that I work a lot and go out a lot, and washing blood out of the cup and off my hands in public seems weird to me. I think I’d be uncomfortable at my office or a restaurant or bar.

    2) Wiping my ass is grosser than changing a tampon. Period. (Pun intended.)

    3) The art looks cool but I would not want hanging in my living room… though I could say the same about a whole lot of stuff I’ve seen done in acrylic.

  57. August 8, 2009 at 2:39 am

    Honestly, my cycle has caused me so much pain and discomfort since the age of 12, I need to be as comfortable as possible. I also bleed heavily, and, even if the Diva Cup can handle a heavy flow, I will stick with sanitary napkins. All things considered, it’s the most manageable for me. Besides, a woman who suffers painful cramps is recommended not to insert tampons, etc. into her vagina during menstruation. As for the menstrual art, I respect the artist’s creative license, but, I will pass on it as well. Between that and a Pollock, I’d rather have the latter.

  58. Geri
    August 8, 2009 at 5:34 am

    To Zoe and Alexandra Lynch: You can make your own reusable pads, thus cutting down on the costs and you can choose whatever you like for fabric (thus avoiding anything to cute looking!)

    Here is a link:

  59. narcissistic.claptrap
    August 8, 2009 at 6:04 am

    I just want to add my voice to the chorus of happy Diva Cup users. The ironic thing is that I have had significantly less contact with menstrual blood since switching away from maxi pads and tampons. I still keep a couple of tampons in my bag for emergencies, but I can’t imagine ever going back.

  60. lilacsigil
    August 8, 2009 at 7:36 am

    To women with heavy, long and or chunky periods (if I was making art, it would be a series of large blobs, with not much fluid to work with!) – resuable pads are AWESOME! I have some with little skulls on them (made by Nice Knickers on Etsy). I don’t want to use tampons or a cup because of severe cramps, but reusable pads absorb large chunks far better than disposable pads, and, if you have 10-14 days periods as I do, they get you through the entire periods without any chafing. I had a 6-week period last year, and…no chafing!*

    *I have PCOS and endometriosis, but it’s all under medical care at the moment and is definitely improving.

    @Greg – poo has bacteria in it that can cause illness. Menstrual blood, like sweat or vaginal secretions, doesn’t. Do you find those fluids squicky?

  61. megara
    August 8, 2009 at 8:26 am

    I think it also touches on a larger issue of all of menstruation being taboo, not just the blood.

    How many women and girls hide their tampons as they go to the bathroom? That always struck me as the silliest thing ever. If someone was to carry a kleenex into the bathroom, or even gauze or a band-aid, which deal with blood, no one would be uncomfortable. We had a tampon bouquet we made at work for a while, and it made a LOT of people who came into our office (but didn’t directly work there) squirmy.

    I also remember back to being a teenager and pointing out to my guy friends who were having a discussion about how gross menstruation is that if periods last one week out of the month odds are that one in four of the women around you (that is able to menstruaute) is doing so. I remember them being astounded and almost frightened. These were the same guys that frequently discussed masturbation and ejaculation, and you can’t tell me blood is inherently more “gross” than semen.

    I think some of it is just the ew blood is gross thing, but I think a lot it is societal shaming around the natural workings of the female anatomy.

    Also, if people haven’t seen it, there’s a place that has loud, vibrant mensturation accessories, particularly tampon cases called Vinnie’s tampon cases. It’s unfortunate that it’s Vinnie (a man), but otherwise it’s pretty cool and to me, about not hiding menstruation.


  62. Napalm Nacey
    August 8, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Damn it! Y’all are just reminding me that my period is late. I hate it when my period is late, not because I might be pregnant, but because I have endometriosis, I’m recovering from a recent surgery and my period being some days late makes me nervous. I want to have a visit from my happy red friend! I want to fall to the Communists!

  63. August 8, 2009 at 9:01 am

    “b) I have never, ever gotten blood on my hands removing the cup, not even the first time. If you remember to tilt it cup side up as you’re “breaking the seal”, so to speak, that might help.”

    I actually tend to get more blood on my hand while inserting than when withdrawing. I also think it might be an individual matter – as in differences in the size and shape of a woman’s vagina. I personally have had two children vaginally which altered my vagina (as it does any woman’s). I have also talked to women who get blood on their hands while using it so it isn’t just me.

    “1) I’d be OK with the Diva Cup except that I work a lot and go out a lot, and washing blood out of the cup and off my hands in public seems weird to me. I think I’d be uncomfortable at my office or a restaurant or bar.”

    That matter is pretty easily solved by carrying flushable wipes in your purse.

    re: sex while menstruating

    I never cared about having sex on my period when I was a teenager. Now, however, I consider sex while menstruating strictly off-limits. Not having to have sex during my period gives me a time during the month when I can re-coup and just be with myself. I also engage in certain energetic practices which can be thrown off, so to speak, by having an orgasm while menstruating.

    I have no objections to other women having sex on their periods tho. It’s just not for me.

  64. preying mantis
    August 8, 2009 at 9:54 am

    “(and like Jill I take issue with “it’s smelly” being a fact. Sometimes I’ve noticed an odor, not a bad one, a benign sort of warm-body scent, but mostly, overwhelmingly . . . not).”

    The only time I’ve ever noticed a smell that was different from just plain blood, it was after taking a fish oil supplement and failing to empty and wash my Diva Cup in a timely fashion. Not doing that again. But I have to say that one time in twenty years really isn’t that much to complain about, so far as I’m concerned.

  65. August 8, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Another happy diva cup user, but I have to admit it does kinda squick me out. With the diva cup you get to see several hours accumulation of blood in liquid (not absorbed onto cotton) form. Anytime I empty my cup on a heavy day I have a momentary shock at seeing all that blood that JUST came out of me. I get over it quickly because I realize, intellectually, that all is well, but it still kinda creeps me out to look down and see a completely red toilet bowl.

  66. August 8, 2009 at 11:08 am

    (Am I gonna piss y’all off with this suggestion?)

    Okay. Here’s another great idea for “period blood art”: what if after sex with a menstruating woman, her man slapped his bloody parts on some paper or canvas.
    Wouldn’t that be awesome? A real show of togetherness, there.

    (p.s. Then any “smelly” comment could be attributed to both of them, the pheromones too.)

  67. Nia
    August 8, 2009 at 11:11 am

    I think that the problem with menstrual blood, apart from being something female and therefore “bad”, is that it is the only instance of natural, healthy bleeding in our biology. Bleeding is normally a sign that something is wrong and we’re not supposed to enjoy it.

  68. August 8, 2009 at 11:26 am

    amandaw — do you have a link to your discussion of the rhetoric around cups? I tried some searches on your blog and didn’t find it.

    It was a bit of an off hand comment here — but it’s not exclusive to the cups, or even reusable pads and so forth. In general, there is often rhetoric glorifying “natural womanhood” — and linking it to specific products or methods, meaning that women who don’t fit that concept, who can’t use those products or methods, are drawn out of the circle. Or that people who do non-“natural” things (the distinction between “natural” and “artificial/synthetic/chemical/etc.” is quite arbitrary and not much science-based, btw) are betraying their womanness, in a way. You see it a lot around issues dealing with reproduction — the menstrual cycle, sex, pregnancy, birth and child rearing. The DivaCup, reusable pads, charting (as a method of either contraception orconception), home birth, foregoing pain relieving drugs during birth, etc. But it also occurs in a general sense, especially in the form of feminism that focuses more on appreciating/admiring the female than on equality between male/female. You see a LOT of rhetoric about what our bodies were “designed” for, what we/they are “supposed” to do or “meant” to do, you see a lot about how our bodies “really” work. And beyond that, there’s a subtler form where people speak about learning to appreciate their bodies/throw off the chains that bind them, so to speak (get rid of the internalized misogyny and other cultural fuckups), but do so in such a way that does imply that their newly-found way is somehow better, more natural, more right, “better for you” — or better for the environment (that’s a whole nother rant, but shares a lot with this one).

    All of this serves to exclude women who have non-“normal” bodies. Women with various disabilities, women with other medical conditions, trans women, non-conforming women. Those of us who experience very painful periods aren’t always terribly excited about acting like periods are natural, wonderful things. Those of us who go through enough pain in life might appreciate or outright need pain relief during childbirth, those of us who have complications during pregnancy might actually need surgical intervention, those of us who are unable to take on the extra work that “natural” solutions often bring might prefer to do things the supposedly bad-for-you/bad-for-your-child/bad-for-the-environment way. And not all “natural” solutions are extra work; some make life significantly easier! But the assumption that 1) all these solutions make life easier and/OR 2) the extra work is worth it, the ways it makes your life harder aren’t “that bad,” are trivial, don’t matter in the end, etc. does, necessarily, create a value judgment on these things that then transfers to the women who are unable to access them — monetarily, physically, pragmatically, whatever.

    What we need to realize is this: 1) every body is different, period. 2) every life situation is different, period. and 3) different things work differently for different people. 4) there are different things going on in different people’s bodies/minds/lives. and 5) there are advantages and disadvantages to everything, period, and how much each of those advantages/disadvantages matter to a person is going to be different for every person, meaning one thing might be great for one person and awful for another.

    So the best way to approach these things is- – cautiously — but also make sure that you speak about your experience with something, and be careful not to generalize outward. Make sure you are clear that you’re talking about how this affects you, individually. And even within that frame, try to be careful about how your words might imply these things — better-for-you/better-for-the-world/etc. Mind the fact that something works for you BECAUSE your life circumstances are arranged in such a way that it is more advantageous than not — and mind the fact that your life circumstances are YOURS, and not womanhood’s.

    I mean, yes, disposable pads and tampons in landfills are somehing we want to avoid as much as possible. But that’s different than saying: disposable pads and tampons are bad. Do you see the distinction?

    I have no idea how long this is, and I’ve rambled a bit :) Don’t mean to derail, in any case.

  69. August 8, 2009 at 11:50 am

    An example of just how taboo menstruation still is:

    I remember awhile ago that a girl got temp banned from 4chan for posting pics of her menstrual blood. I mean, jeeze – this is *4chan*, which is full of gore, sex and just extreme pics in general. Yet they couldn’t handle a little menstruation.

    They even had a phrase for awhile “Period blood is 4chan’s kryptonite”.

    You have no idea how glad I am to hear this. I feel like I have a superweapon against the 4chan hordes now, and it’s a hilarious picture of me laughing with menstrual blood all over my face after going down on the bleeding photographer. (Who happened to be someone who liked having sex during menstruation, which doesn’t feel good to everyone, of course.)

    In other news, I obviously don’t understand at all why anyone wouldn’t want to have sex with someone who’s menstruating. All discussions about barriers and safe sex aside (of course you want good fluid barriers if you are having safer sex with the other person), there are fluids involved in sex. There just are. What makes blood grosser than other kinds of secretions, semen, etc?

    I mean, there is this big “ultimate most vulnerable tight hot kind of giving it up sex” fetish for ANAL sex in the last decade, and for those of you who aren’t aware? There is a likelihood that you are going to get some SHIT on whatever you stick up someone’s ASS, even after thorough cleansing, and this apparently isn’t as big of a deal for lots of people — like say, guys who really want to do girls in the ass. I can’t fathom why menstrual blood would be even MORE of a taboo than that, unless there’s something extra squicky about blood because of feelings about injuries that bleed and could kill you, or something. But exalting that, when you’re talking about menstrual blood, is awfully close to those ancient misogynist jokes about “never trust something that can bleed for five days without dying.”

    My favorite take on menstrual blood was of an ex who described it as “I’ve got this crazy H.R.Giger-esque biological machine inside of me that can actually MANUFACTURE HUMAN BEINGS from practically nothing, and it’s ALWAYS READY TO GRIND INTO ACTION and if I decide not to use it then it GRINDS OUT BLOOOOOD INSTEAD. How awesome and fucking metal is that??” Hell yeah. I mean, I should have been making devil horns in that photograph. Metaaaaaaall!!!!

  70. August 8, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    But exalting that, when you’re talking about menstrual blood, is awfully close to those ancient misogynist jokes about “never trust something that can bleed for five days without dying.”

    I hear this at least once a month… ugh. I just cringe every single time. And of course it’s “only a joke” and they don’t really mean it but “hahahaha look at how funny this is.” Please spare me.

    And Amanda, your reminder to focus on one’s own experience rather than generalizing is an important one. I’ll try to really think consciously about that from now on. Oh, and for what it’s worth, I don’t think stressing that would derail any thread because it’s a reminder we all need from time to time, regardless of the specific topic being covered.

  71. August 8, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    “Okay. Here’s another great idea for “period blood art”: what if after sex with a menstruating woman, her man slapped his bloody parts on some paper or canvas.
    Wouldn’t that be awesome? A real show of togetherness, there.”


    Not seeing any problem with this either, just so long as the woman was ok with such a thing occurring. If the woman was uncomfortable with it, or felt that it was triggering in some regard, then I would say it was out of bounds.

    “Anytime I empty my cup on a heavy day I have a momentary shock at seeing all that blood that JUST came out of me.”

    Menstrual fluid is actually compromised of only a small percentage of blood. It’s not quite so freaky when you know that you are actually only losing a small amount of actual blood. Like someone else said up thread, I actually find it interesting to be able to see just how much fluid I’m expelling.


    “Although it closely resembles blood, menstrual fluid actually comprises a mixture of tissues and secretions from inside the uterus including water and mucus from the uterine glands, blood from capillaries feeding the endometrium, and the glandular tissue of the endometrium itself.”

  72. August 8, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Yep, the ratio of blood in the discharge is actually much smaller than most people think. It’s the lining of your uterus, after all; what you’re losing is tissue for the most part. You shed your skin on your sheets every night, too ;-p

  73. August 8, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I ran into the same reaction when I tried a menstrual cup in the 1990’s. Everyone thought it was the most disgusting thing ever when I extolled the virtues of my “Instead.”

    After using it for several months, though, I got tired of getting my fingers all bloody and mucousy every time I needed to change it. Also, if it begins to leak because it gets too full (heavy bleeder, super long meeting), man does it LEAK. Not pretty.

    I switched back to tampons but then got a hysterectomy so I no longer have to deal with periods. Best. Thing. EVER.

  74. August 8, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Cate – my husband laughed out loud at your comment, and I didn’t even point it out to him or say I knew you first.

    You are hella entertaining. I’d like to see some penis/period blood art too!

  75. emjaybee
    August 8, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    All blood has a smell; usually kind of coppery, when fresh. Sometimes menstrual blood that’s been on a pad/your body for a while also has a body-oderish kind of smell, just like panties do, and in combination, those two smells can be powerful. I don’t know if a Diva Cup changes this much or not.

    I have no shame about menstruation, but, when I’m at work and have to get blood on my hands in the toilet stall, find a way to clean them so I can pull up my pants without blood fingerprints, and then get to the sink hoping no one notices there’s blood on my fingernails…yeah. Not my favorite activity. I’m more annoyed than ashamed, frankly. Maybe in an enlightened world they’d put wipes in women’s stalls so they could avoid these issues. I’m a heavy bleeder, often have to wear a maxipad WITH my tampon (pantyliners don’t do it), usually end up throwing out a least one pair of panties a month because the blood still gets everywhere. It’s a pain in the ass, whatever I do.

    I use OBs because it’s less waste, but honestly? I miss my cardboard flushable applicators, because I don’t like the hassle. I have hesitated to try cups if only because I worry about a giant bloody accident when my fingers slip.

  76. August 8, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    My husband is a fainter. Blood: his, mine, the kids’, sometimes even dinner’s will make him squeamish and pale. His or mine in any quantity lays him right out. Since I am seriously snarly during my period, no sex is fine.

    There is a smell to menstrual blood that is not there for regular blood (yes, regular blood has a smell too). It’s more akin to the post-partum lochia smell, with a meatier undertone, than regular blood.

    Menstrual art? not my thing, seriously. But I have extremely boring art taste.

  77. August 8, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Any body fluids gross me out. Blood, pee, poop, etc. Even my own. But I’m a germaphobe, so yeah.

  78. August 8, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    I would think that the Diva Cup would be a great idea to those whom are squeamish about exclusively feminine bodily functions. There’s so much less chance for leakage than with most other forms!

    Since I don’t get PMS, I generally like “that time of the month.” My husband and I have a general feeling about which is best summarized as “WOOT! Free lube!”

  79. thebluelotus
    August 8, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    I’m sort of jealous of those bragging about how great it is to use a Diva cup. I got one a few months ago and could *not* get it to seal. I tried repeatedly, following the instructions exactly, even looking online for tips to follow, until I was sore and was not able to anymore. I tried again later, and still never succeeded. I don’t know if there’s something wrong with my vagina or what, but it must be at least a little odd if I can’t get the cup to turn and pop open no matter what and others talk about how easy it is.

    On the other hand, tampons did take a while to get used to when I first started using them (and I remember being uncomfortable with having to put my fingers In There as the reason I didn’t at first), but that was mostly an issue of them being in at a bad angle rather than failing to go in at all.

    And I’m certainly glad that period sex is not just a NY thing. All the men I have been involved with except for one have been fine with period sex… usually the only problem is that they’re not okay with giving oral during that time. I think I’d be fine giving it during someone’s period, but have not had a chance to test that yet.

  80. August 9, 2009 at 12:26 am

    bluelotus, it’s possible that it’s sealing without you realizing. It took me a few tries to realize that it was sealing, mostly because of the sound I noticed when I was pulling it out. For me at least, it’s only barely noticeable. I tested it while wearing a pad just to make sure, and since there was quite a bit of blood in the cup but it didn’t leak, it confirmed for me that I did it right.

    So I’d say make sure you’re relaxed, give it another try, wear a pad for insurance, and keep doing it til it works. I’m sure you could ask your ob/gyn too in case it is something more.

  81. beka
    August 9, 2009 at 1:24 am

    I do have to wash blood out my panties, because my pads shift about quite a lot when I move. I feel squicked; but not really because it’s menstrual, just because it’s a bodily fluid and, gross, y’know? Hygienically, I mean; I get freaked out thinking about germs. I hate the smell, too, but I think it’s just me; I find that all blood smells very strong, and it’s off-turning, whether I’m on my period or dissecting animals in class. Have never had sex yet, but I don’t think I would when I’m having a period, for the reasons mentioned above.

    I’ve never thought of it as a particularly feminist thing, or something specific to menses. Just a result of good old conditioning to avoid any untreated biological substances. That’s where the EWW comes from.

    But there are artists who have used urine and stuff, so obviously it’s a cultural/personal taboo, and everyone will have their different boundaries about this.

  82. beka
    August 9, 2009 at 1:35 am


    I also remember back to being a teenager and pointing out to my guy friends who were having a discussion about how gross menstruation is that if periods last one week out of the month odds are that one in four of the women around you (that is able to menstruaute) is doing so. I remember them being astounded and almost frightened. These were the same guys that frequently discussed masturbation and ejaculation, and you can’t tell me blood is inherently more “gross” than semen.

    I discuss this quite frequently with the guys I know, being a teenager myself, and I think that – maybe it’s a personal us thing, maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe it’s a we’re-all-virgins with only intellectual understanding thing, maybe it’s a sociocultural thing cuz I’m assuming you’re American? – but firstly it ain’t true that people don’t get squicked by semen. It’s messy and organic, it is kinda squicky. And at least with semen and vaginal fluid one has a leetle more control, rather than it being pre-programmed into the uterus?

    Maybe it’s cuz we as a society have totally bought into the “everything is clean and controllable” mindset.

  83. beth
    August 9, 2009 at 4:55 am

    with regards to the sex during periods thing the guys i’ve been with haven’t minded, though i always make sure to ask first, except one time i thought it was over and i was with a new guy. Glad he didn’t freak, cause i could understand that could be worrying.
    I don’t get major cramps or bloating etc, so i still enjoy it when i have sex though the quality of the lubrication feels different.
    Currently in a long distance relationship, and on the pill, so me and my current guy had a long time before we had the sex during period thing. I mentioned it before stuff started getting heated, and he said he was ok with it. Somewhere along the line he asked if he could go down on me. I was completely shocked. For the record, that was totally hot. It felt so accepting and loving. (And no, its not a blood fetish or anything, he just wanted to give some oral).
    For me personally, I wouldn’t go out with anyone who wasn’t comfortable with my body including my period.

  84. August 9, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Yeah, in my experience menstrual blood is tangier, more metallic, and meatier tasting than other blood.

  85. August 9, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    My menstrual blood smells like pennies. Just sayin’.

  86. Nomie
    August 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I have my period right now, and I also have a ridiculously bad head cold. And I am waaaay more grossed out by the stuff that is coming out of my nose than the stuff that is coming out of my crotch. I don’t plan to make art with either, though.

  87. August 9, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    I just saw this so I’m responding to 70-odd comments back, but: odor is objective. Your reaction to it is learned.

    Heh. I earned red wings through sheer indifference (the other half of male privilege vis-a-vis menstruation, but at least I don’t think it smells).

  88. August 9, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Wow. 9-odd comments back, then.

  89. August 9, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    I had to laugh at the second comment, I don’t find menstrual blood particularly “smelly”. I mean, yes, it has a smell, but it doesn’t smell bad. But we ARE taught over and over and over that our vaginas and everything that comes out of them smells bad. That’s got to have an effect on the way many women experience their periods, doesn’t it?

    As for the reactions to Diva Cups, interestingly I haven’t gotten that many squicked out responses. Most women I’ve talked about them with are a combination of curious and a bit fearful of the unknown (exactly as I was when I first read about them). But the curiosity has always overrode whatever discomfort they thought they should have about discussing the topic. Of course, I always lead with “OMG THIS IS THE GREATEST THING SINCE I DON’T KNOW WHAT” so perhaps that takes some of the guard down? I dunno.

  90. August 10, 2009 at 1:23 am

    I have a question for you guys, I have a copper IUD (Paraguard) and I ADORE the convienence it offers, but my periods are insanely heavy and I’m not sure they would work for me, so are they just for “normal” flow periods or would they work for a heavy flow as well? I also hear they are great when you wanna get busy with your hubby while on your period so the two of you don’t get covered in gore. :P

  91. August 10, 2009 at 3:17 am

    I tend not to meet too many of the oh-yuck-bodily-functions! sort of people, so when I first told someone about the Diva Cup, not only did she think it was awesome, she also wanted one which made jungle noises when it’s time to change it just so you don’t forget. Loud jungle noises. I wonder if she would have a randomizer pick the noise or you could buy a cup with your favorite noise? “I am woman, hear my Diva Cup roar.”

  92. August 10, 2009 at 9:26 am

    “I have a question for you guys, I have a copper IUD (Paraguard) and I ADORE the convienence it offers, but my periods are insanely heavy and I’m not sure they would work for me, so are they just for “normal” flow periods or would they work for a heavy flow as well?”

    I have a pretty heavy flow as well. As long as it’s sealed properly, you shouldn’t really have any problem.

    “also hear they are great when you wanna get busy with your hubby while on your period so the two of you don’t get covered in gore. :P”

    Er…I’m really not seeing how that could be reasonably possible. You’re talking about having a plastic cup that’s literally sealing off the mouth of your vagina. The man would just ram right into the cup. A cup which also happens to have a small pointy end, I might add. I don’t think any man is going to appreciate ramming the tip of his penis into something hard and pointy.

  93. August 10, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Re: smell–
    I think there’s something in the “extra thin” synthetic pads that reacts with the blood which then, yes, stinks. The blood by itself smells relatively neutral. But after switching to cotton I did notice the the smell from before was gone.

  94. Mel
    August 10, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I’m with B–orgasms make my menstrual cramps briefly more excruciating, and can (in a very unpleasant way) bring on my period a bit earlier. PIV sex on my period? Not a problem for any of the men I’ve dated, but a painful prospect for me, so I prefer to avoid it. I don’t know a lot of women whose response to feeling crampy and bleh is wanting to have sex, and I don’t think it’s disgust at the blood, more a preference for curling up with a heating pad and a book. My period exhausts me at best and lays me out at worst.

    As far as the smell goes–it’s pretty damn common, as I can attest from having lived in an all-girl dorm in college (and WHO smears BLOOD or anything else on the STALLS?!), and I personally find the smell pretty unpleasant (and I do wear cotton pads, both disposable and washable; it hasn’t made a difference). I don’t find the blood repellent, and it doesn’t make me woozy as the sight of other people bleeding from injuries does, but I’m not just interested in art made from any kind of blood.

    Wish I could use a DivaCup, but it’s unlikely for the same reasons PIV sex on my period is painful. And I do find semen kind of gross, because it’s slimy (also not an uncommon reaction, I think).

    I do think that people are socialized to be grossed out by menstruation to some extent, but a lot of people also don’t see it as a big deal (I have actually yet to encounter a straight man who’s grossed out by periods, but I also didn’t have much contact with teenage boys when I was a teenager). And I do think there are non-societal reasons a lot of women dislike our periods–I know my cramps are not psychological, thankyouverymuch. They’re affected by allergies and diet, among other things, and I can reduce them but have yet to entirely get rid of them or the exhausted feeling having low-grade cramps for a week give me. Nor do I have any psychological aversion to period sex that would make it (and inserting tampons) painful.

  95. debbie
    August 10, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    I think the smell thing becomes more of an issue for some people when menstrual blood has been exposed to oxygen for hours. I haven’t had any issues with odor using my Diva Cup or tampons, but have noticed it when I’ve been wearing a disposable pad combined with moderately heavy flow, and not changing the pad for a while. Most of the disposable pads seem to involve a lot of plastic, combined with a warm, moist environment – seems like a recipe for body odors of all kinds.

    That being said, I don’t think the odor was ever noticeable to anyone other than me, and I only noticed it when I went to the bathroom anyway. I didn’t find it particularly unpleasant – certainly no more unpleasant than any other body odor.

  96. August 10, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Another Diva Cup lover here – @FetishFatale – if I have my numbers right, the volume of a Diva Cup could in theory contain an entire average period, except that leaving it in that long would be yucky. So leaking shouldn’t be a problem unless your periods are srsly mighty. On the other hand, I’ve read that it’s not recommended to use a Diva Cup with an IUD because the suction when you pull out the cup can be bad for the IUD.

    The cup that supposedly can be worn during intercourse is called Instead. It has a soft bottom and sits high up in the vagina, so intercourse is theoretically possible. As long as it’s not full of blood during the intercourse, in which case the penis bumping against the soft bottom collapses it and causes it to dump the blood out all in a big gush. Guess how I know this?

  97. iiii
    August 10, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I find menstual blood not so icky as tiresome. It’s just one more goddamn thing I, as a woman, get stuck cleaning up.

  98. Gembird
    August 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    My period smells like raw steak. I have a feeling that it’s because the blood is… lumpy. Lucky me, with my clots. I don’t get grossed out by them though, sometimes I poke them (sorry, can’t help it, I just finished a biology degree and I’m overly curious about bodily fluids). The only time I find menstrual blood unpleasant is when I go to get off the toilet and there’s a huge string of the stuff all mixed up with mucus. Ick. It reminds me of children with runny noses, and I am not fond of children at all. Also, that is messy.

    I agree with some posters from a while back in that i don’t understand how menstrual blood is any worse than other stuff that comes out of holes in your body. I have IBS which gets worse just before my period, and let me tell you, shit is much worse in terms of texture, smell and hygiene than period. I have more poo horror stories than period ones.

    Debbie- just a comment on other people not noticing a smell during your period. I can tell that I smell different after using a pad just like you did, and I’ve only ever come across one person who can tell when I’m on. My boyfriend has a stupidly good sense of smell, and although he does notice, apparently menstruation smells kind of warm and metallic to him rather than being a bad smell. So I think my boyfriend and I both agree with you that it smells kind of different but not really nasty.

  99. Cecca
    August 10, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Menstrual blood bugs me in the same way regular blood bugs me – it’s not particularly gross, but liable to carry pathogens. A huge part of this comes from growing up in a world cognizant of AIDS and being taught that all blood = biohazard (for me, AIDS education started in elementary school and the focus was much more on blood than bodily fluids exchanged through sex, for obvious reasons). Now that I clerk in a health department that view is even more strongly enforced. I’m not going to freak out about my own menstrual blood, but I’m going to avoid coming into contact with that of others and I’ll go to reasonable lengths to avoid having them come into contact with mine.

    Re: sex during periods – I hate hate hate hate hate bloodstains and find shower sex to be a bit too dangerous for a klutz like me, so that’s right out.

  100. NuRag
    August 10, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    To say that I don’t understand why people get so ‘icky’ about blood, including menstrual blood would be a statement leaning on ignorance to a certain degree on my behalf. I understand that western and/or westernising societies have women under their thumbs. Fear of blood is usually closely linked to fear of death, I can explain this further if anyone needs more clarity but women are manipulated into consuming products to ‘keep us nice and clean’. It’s so obvious when we observe the words used to describe the products available to soak up cunt blood when you bleed from there such as ‘hygiene’ and ‘sanitary’ like our bodies are morbidly unclean and produce this potentially dangerous secretions. We are not disgusting. We are taught that we are because these companies and corporations that are owned almost entirely by men can then in turn sell more products to us. In Australia menstrual products are taxed. We pay tax to be women. I am tired of people calling me somewhat radical because I don’t give into these beliefs. I love my cunt and identifying as queer, I love other women’s cunts and I love it when they are menstruating. I love that I can share something as intimate as cunt blood, with them and help them to feel comfortable and accepted as they are and as they should be. By sharing I don’t mean that i sit there with a straw and drink the stuff down but we need to change our socialised ideas and perceptions about cunt blood and let the stuff just flow out of our bodies like it’s meant to. I’m sorry if this all sounds a little crass but noone is going to change the way we think about menstrual blood unless we do it ourselves, collectively as biological women. We need to be aware that we are sucked into a vacuum of manipulation and we rub it on to eachother (whilst we should be rubbing our blood over eachother). I understand that this is not relevant to everyone. I am a queer woman who has just as safe sex as any other perceptive person, blood or no blood. I strongly recommend that anybody who hasn’t already, read “cunt’ by Inga Muscio and ‘The Beauty Myth’ by Naomi Wolf, do so. They are both incredible. ‘Cunt’ talks alot about using other methods like the mooncup to soak up our blood such as sea sponges. They are actually work quite well and instructions to keep yourself ‘sanitised’ in the process are included in the book. I have also heard that rayon and other elements in tampons somehow keep us bleeding for longer and are potentially dangerous and can cause TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) but I haven’t the time this minute to do further research to further concrete this as evidence, but I am just trying to propose that there is a fundamental force in play to convince us to consume more and more hygene products. We can see this with the emergence of panty liners that have recently hit the market that soak up discharge when we aren’t mentstruating. This is getting beyond ridiculous! If it wasn’t for alternative methods/products I’d be spending close to $100 per year on sanitary products. Thats $1000/10 women per year (for menstruating women that is), just keep counting ladies.. We are animals, we smell, taste, bleed, eat, shit and fuck like the creatures we are. Why are we in such denial of this? I hate the smell of most unnatural odours, and am attracted much so to human smell and other humanly things but obviously i have my boundaries too. There are some things that ‘ick’ me too but I try to be as perceptive as possible.

  101. bekka
    August 11, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    I don’t know why people find menstration so disgusting. Personally, it doesn’t bother me, I intend to buy a diva cup soon. Cheaper in the long run and better for the enviroment? Win! my partner thinks it’s disgusting. When discussing it with friends they looked at me with horror. I asked them how this is any worse than shoving a cotton and rayon cork in my vag, or allowing myself to bleed on a pad that *always* slips or bunches causing leaks and ruined panties. They told me that it just is, at least I dispose of the evidence with a tampon, with a cup, it’s always there. I guess I should be ashamed of being a woman?

    I don’t know. Menstrual blood is the nastiest thing in the world to some people. My own partner won’t touch me until I’m done menstrating. I’ll jokingly chide him that one day he’ll earn his red wings.

    ah well. some people.

  102. TamponMaven
    August 19, 2009 at 8:43 am

    The Diva Cup is definitely a great alternative to tampons bleached with chlorine dioxide, but if you’d rather avoid the mess, organic cotton tampons like those made by Seventh Generation come with a recycled cardboard applicator and are much safer than regular tampons. You can find them at Amazon.com and at natural food stores.

  103. Sal
    August 22, 2009 at 4:13 am

    You’re gonna get aids having unprotected sex BLOOD OR NO BLOOD
    My ex never wanted to have sex during the period cus he was scared to get AIDS in case I would have it, but he wasn’t scared to have sex without a condom whenever I wasn’t bleeding.
    having unprotected sex when you are not having your period is as risky as if you would have it during menstruation.

    Some people are really stupid.
    There’s nothing wrong with having sex during the period, if it disgusts you then wash up afterwards

  104. Chelsea
    September 8, 2009 at 12:11 am

    I honestly don’t like it, mainly cuz it stains everything it touches! Gr. But I went to the beach with my boyfriend and only had a tampon in. The tampon was full and so i got blood all over my bottoms and shorts. My boyfriend was really nice about it though (way more okay than me) and let me go wash off in the lake when we got there (bit of a long walk), then told me it wasn’t a bad thing. Made me feel better. =)

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