It is Wednesday night. All is silent. I am watching but not really paying attention to Tess of the D’Urbervilles. My flatmate has bought me a badge from a sex shop in Soho that says ‘fancy a tit wank?’ and I am internally debating how I feel about it, watching Eddie Redmayne’s head bobbing across the screen like a tetchy, full-lipped cobra. The man I’m currently seeing texts me: Friday?
We have a good time. Nice chat, usually in a pub. It’s very easy, very comfortable. A part of me feels that this Friday would be just dandy, considering the SHAME of last week when my sister and I got very drunk, had a heated debate about the pros and cons of the Candy Crush ‘Saga’ and ended up necking an entire bottle of Caesar salad dressing. So it’s all systems go. But then I got to thinking, as the vapid Carrie Bradshaw so often professes to, with a slight tilt of the head and a confused sigh, about My Period.
Now, much like its owner my period is a moody, unreliable little bugger. I even, feeling smug, installed the app on my phone - Period Diary, Journal des Règles, Menstruatie Agenda - call it what you will. It’s dead handy, if a bit screechy. YOUR PERIOD IS FIVE DAYS LATE, it panics every month. It’s like the NHS website that tells you to call an ambulance if you say your throat’s a bit tickly. Sometimes the poor thing gets so worked up it tips itself over into the following month, breezily informing me I’m back in my ‘fertile window’. I know it is lying, it knows it is lying, but it’s thrown floral arms into the air with a despairing WHEVS! I CANNOT, WILL NOT COPE WITH YOUR SHIT ANY MORE! The mendacious app can’t take the stress of waiting any longer, and I don’t know how to tame it. But hey, whatever it tells me, there’s a handy GUM clinic opposite my flat which will provide all the answers should I need them, and so usually I ignore it. [I should add here at the risk of sounding blasé that I do have a copper IUD – which is AWESOME - so as far as pregnancy goes at least, I’m pretty covered. I got junk in mah trunk.]
This time, however, I notice that an advert for worker donkeys in Ethiopia sent me into histrionics on the tube today, and that having bought posh hot chocolate I’m intermittently slurping and crying on the sofa as sad, doomed Tess tries to navigate the bullshit patriarchy. The next day, like something out of a Judy Blume novel, all hell breaks loose.
Some of the men I’ve slept with have liked a bit of the old Red Slide. I might even go so far as to say they dug it, and feel bad saying that this has ‘spoiled’ me. Instead I’ll merely ask, how do I now approach the situation when it rears its head again, as doubtless it will every month for the next thirty or so years? Is there a generally-accepted consensus on this? I have friends who themselves don’t much want to have sex when they’re on, friends who love to and equally friends whose partners won’t. So when I’m out for a bit of hormonal bump’n’grind there’s no telling what might go down. My prospective lothario might lap it up; he might channel Claire Danes’ perpetually stricken Homeland face.
Now, I’m tempted to text my handy pal to inform him of this. But what to say? It’s a dilemma because for me, period sex is the absolute cat’s pyjamas. I am, shall we say - and excuse the mare-ish metaphor - a woman who likes to be rode hard and put away wet. Given that some of the best sexual experiences are untidy, sweat-drenched affairs - the kind where your chests make that fantastic farting noise - I’m sort of fascinated by women who say they don’t like it. At the very great risk of sounding pretentious, there’s nothing that so wonderfully encapsulates human vitality than a bed covered in all manner of bodily fluids, nicely coagulating together.
Maybe I’ll not make an issue of it; I’m sure as hell not apologising for it. All the same, when you’re sleeping with somebody casually they probably don’t expect it, or they assume you might have rearranged. Part of me feels that
- I have a womb
- sometimes, it likes to get a bit jiggy
- everyone should just get the fuck over it.
But! Another part dictates that it may be common courtesy for me, the mess of stringy haemoglobin, to at least let him know. Not all men will be comfortable with it, after all, and that’s not something I can or particularly want to quibble with: it’s a harsh, complicated truth but a truth nonetheless. If we’re to beat ‘rape’ banter and casual objectification, or men who slag off women who refuse X/Y/Z in bed, we can’t very well say that anyone who wont sleep with us when we’re on the blob is a wuss or a tosser. Sex isn’t ever about pressurising people to do what they don’t want to. The way to resolve this is not by forcing menstrual blood where it’s not desired. I am not about to unleash The Shining on my mans, or take him to a prom only to cover him in the blood of a slaughtered pig. Not my style.
Let us for a moment place the shoe on the other foot, the gin-soaked tampon up the bum, so to say. If a man were to spend approximately five days a month bleeding and wanted us to have sex with them, would we? It’s a tricky one because we’re not, y’know, conditioned to the idea of a sanguine willy. I’m pretty relaxed with blood but then why wouldn’t I be: since the age of 12 I’ve been covered in it every four weeks; woken up with it satisfyingly coating my thighs (there’s nothing like a really bloody pair of pyjama bottoms, tbh, is there); bought stupidly-packaged products to stem it.
All these thoughts of blood eventually made me hungry and in a smorgasbord of pesto and cheese I – very innocently – forgot to say a single thing about the potential battlefield to this unsuspecting chap. Considering, also, that I’d not been seeing him long [second date, cough], I wasn’t certain that we’d necessarily find ourselves in flagrante, like Bridget Jones with her godawful stomach-holding-in-pants.
I realised this weekend why it’s so important to me, after discussing childbirth with my mum and some of her friends round an appropriately-named ‘fire pit’ at the Hay Festival. If/when I decide to have children, I’d hope my partner would want to be down the business end, watching it all unfold. No matter how gloriously high on gas’n’air I am, I want to know that my body, in all its grizzle and gore, doesn’t disgust him.
Friday ticked around and reader, I bled on him. Waking up completely Godiva’d, I surveyed the damage and smiled at him half-ruefully, half-triumphantly. I was waiting for his reaction. This isn’t very aloof, I thought, trying to regain mystique by shrugging when he asked if we have any orange juice. Who knows the contents of that fridge, man, I’m just too enigmatic.
He looked down at his skirmish-scarred legs and roared with laughter. If he’d blanched, we’d have had a conversation about it, I suppose, and gone our separate ways. But, it turns out, I don’t give two flying monkeys for period squeamishness. I have daubed the front lintels of my house with blood; I am unsmotable.