The Body Grotesque
FYI, ‘body grotesque’ is actually a literary term for literature which describes bodily functions in realistic detail. (For example, see Angela Carter’s Wise Children, the studying of which is where I learned the term.) I’m not using it in its true form, but I think as you read on it will become fairly clear how it might apply here.
Last weekend I had a date. Last weekend I also had my period. The date went very well and I found myself back at his place. Before we met up, I was a little upset: I love vaginal intercourse, and the idea that because of this one bodily function, I might not be fucked the way I love to be fucked, was frustrating. So I told him that it was that time of the month, and we both made it clear that although menstruation isn’t a big deal, it is a little annoying, and neither of us would count sex during menstruation amongst our favourite things. This made me feel a little better, if not overly excited about the situation. Back at his place, we had sex, but not vaginal intercourse. Neither of us pushed it, and the truth is that once I was there, I didn’t really feel like it.
I am a big believer that vaginal intercourse during menstruation is absolutely fine. It is! Aside from a little clean-up, it really doesn’t make that much difference, and I hate that we have a culture of shame around those five (or so) pesky days a month. In the spirit of being okay with it, I would like to say I regularly have vaginal intercourse during my period, that I am actively advocating for the fact that there is no shame in it. But I’m not. I don’t. I actually don’t like it that much. I don’t want to have to worry about bloodstains, and showering, and fresh sheets right after I have, or even during!, sex. That’s not what I want in my head. On the other hand, I feel a little shame about the fact that I do, to some extent, avoid it; because that kind of makes me part of the shame culture; part of the problem. But my dislike really is just down to the logistical annoyance of it.
(Actually, that isn’t entirely true: I used to actively enjoy sex during menstruation, but due to memories of it with a partner who turned out to be a truly nasty piece of work, in my head it is also associated with him, which makes it less pleasurable for me. Now that some time and healing has occurred, I can see past him and enjoy it, but it does add a little extra baggage. But that is, perhaps, a story for another day.)
At the same time, I can at least say that I am a loud and proud and active advocate for sexual activity during your period. There are all sorts of wonderful things you can do during menstruation that don’t include any clean-up, and I will do all of them! So I can at least say I am not part of the group who feel the need to desexualise women just because they’re menstruating.
But this slight discomfort, or annoyance, around the place where bodily functions meet sex, is not limited to menstruation. I am one of those people who is acutely aware of her own body and what it is doing. For example, when I’m ovulating, I can feel it. I also carry almost all my emotions and tension in my gut. So when I am stressed, or upset, or nervous, or feeling feelings of any kind, it primarily effects my digestive system. For obvious reasons, this can sometimes have an effect on anal sex. Now, I love anal sex. Anal play makes my clitoris more sensitive, it makes me feel used and much fuller than vaginal sex, and it generally heightens the intensity of my sexual experience. But let’s face it, it’s a special coprophile who really enjoys the sometime result of anal sex. For most of us, fecal traces are something we put up with, rather than something we enjoy. However, whilst the shit-factor can sometimes bother me in the moment, it isn’t what makes anal sex a sticky subject for me. It’s those damn feelings. Like I said, my gut is sensitive, and having something in my arse can make me feel a little queasy. Again, I don’t want to be one of those people who won’t have anal sex because I think it’s icky; and I’m not. I do have anal sex! But I don’t always jump to it… because my body isn’t always as up for it as my filthy little mind is.
So that’s the rub: my body has its own personal reasons for not fully embracing things like sex during menstruation, and anal sex. And they are still things I enjoy! But finding that balance between respecting my body’s boundaries and not succumbing to shame or embarrassment is no easy task; particularly when my body is against me.
Overall I want to advocate for vaginal intercourse during menstruation, and for anal sex. But at the same time, I want to advocate for listening to your own body. Because at the end of the day, I am going to feel just as crap for having sex to prove a point, as I am for not having sex because I’m ashamed.