Illustration by Debasmita Das
I have made fun of romantic fairy tales and forever promises all my life. To be quite honest, I still do. But there’s one thing that still intrigues me; the ‘it feels right’ emotion. I experienced it the day K and I spent an entire night just talking, during a train journey. Never had I felt more comfortable in a person’s company. From that day that I knew: this man had an energy that I’d craved all my life.
But relationships aren’t just about a charming man looking at your dreamy-eyed self on the beach as you drink wine off of each other’s lips, right? Relationships need rational thinking and conscious decision making, no? But, to my surprise, not so much, in this case. K lived up to way more than just a few of my expectations. Well-behaved, respectful to women, insanely funny and a genuine-eyed sensitive and empathetic human being, he’d been ticking everything in my list of desirable traits in a man I’d want to spend my life with.
And then came that bloody night.
We’d been sexually involved for some time and had begun living together about two weeks before. We had been victims of Mumbai’s space-crunch and judgemental hotel staff. Now, released into glorious privacy, our bed witnessed more movement and moaning, than still, sound sleep. It was going great. Our endeavours in bed were getting more experimental and exploratory. Then, fuck! The menstrual cycle.
As a young girl I saw sanitary-pad packets being covered with an opaque black bag, my cousin sisters telling their fathers “I’m not feeling too well” when they were on their period, menstruating women denied entry in temples and so on. So my mind was always fed the notion that periods were dirty. Forever terrified of blood stains on my sheets and pants, I have always detested my menstrual cycle. Women (especially ones with a waist size more than 28) are anyway made to feel like shit about their bodies. So being naked in front of a man I wanted to look attractive for, WHILE my period was on, did not seem an option, nope, not at all.
We climbed into bed and got into our favourite cuddling position with the aim to doze off soon. Rationalizing the lack of sexual activity in bed that night, I tried to focus on an early morning class the next day. But the human mind is a funny place. Articles that I’d read about how sex can be more pleasurable for women during periods, started parading through my brain. Could it be? But yuck, wouldn’t it be gross? I was just beginning to think of how it would be when I felt his hand under my t-shirt, sniffing my hair and caressing my waist as we spooned. Classic move! Any other day and I’d be convinced that he wants it. But…today I was “down”.
I turned towards him and asked him what’s up. He kissed me passionately and held me close against his body. I kissed him back. That sweet and familiar taste of his lips always sends electric currents down my spine! I craved him. Before I knew it, our shirts were off and I was on top of him, top-naked. The make out was getting wild. It was evident that we couldn’t keep our bodies off each other’s. Just when I leaned in to kiss his ear, to see him go berserk with all the stimulation, he stopped me. He stopped me, gently put his hand on my cheek, put a strand of my hair behind my ear, looked into my eyes and said “Do you want me inside you?”
I was speechless. I wasn’t prepared for this. I didn’t know how to react. My reflex reaction was “What? No!” He asked me “why not?” and I honestly didn’t have an answer. Nobody had really questioned that no? Why not?
“I don’t know”, I said. “It’s gross!”
“It really isn’t babe. It’s just blood”.
“You won’t be comfortable, love. It’s dirty”.
“It isn’t. I want to. Do you?”
“WHY? Everything will get dirty. The sheets, the condom….just no ya”
“You said it’ll be more pleasurable for you when you’re menstruating right? I want you to feel it. Trust me I want to. It’s not gross”
Oh. He remembered when I’d made a fleeting mention of the articles I was thinking about earlier.
“Listen, are you sure? I have a pad on. My bum’s also going to be dirty. It really isn’t the right time”
“Babe, I like dirty okay? Plus I don’t want to look at the calendar when I feel like making love to you!”
My heart skipped a beat. What, again?! I was convinced this man was out of his mind. He didn’t know what he was saying. But…I wanted to too. I just never thought it was possible for me. You know how you read progressive articles and attend open minded discussions and yet feel like those instances are and always will be far from you? So many times I’ve been part of ‘liberating’ and ‘empowering’ discussions around sex and how the woman’s pleasure is of equal importance. Yet today, I was hesitant in realizing my own right to sex and pleasure despite being offered it. How often do you find men who truly appreciate you for what you are? It’s sad but there’s only a handful. And even though I had this man who fell into that minority caressing my body and craving to be in me, why the fuck was I reluctant?
Periods, for most women in India, are a taboo subject. But more than being avoided in public conversation, menstruation is equated with impurity and filth. It’s as if there’s nothing more disgusting than a prominently visible blood stain on my bed sheet. These beliefs are so ingrained in our socialisation and so internalised by us that we, who menstruate ourselves, often succumb to believing in them. If your period is not crazy painful, sex during your period may be messy, but it’s not dirty-dirty, except in a good way. In fact orgasms during your period can relieve your cramps and headaches, the blood is a natural lubricant. It’s lovely, what loving can do!
I’ve been thankful to find a partner who helps me question these internalized notions. But I’m not saying I feel “blessed”, “obliged” or “undeserving” of this. Rather, I feel happy, unapologetic and at ease with myself, my body. Bodies need and deserve to be loved at all times. So please don’t let go if you’re with someone who feels that – just let go that weird-ass conditioning instead! And if you aren’t, just please don’t ever settle for less than you desire. Bloody hell! No!
Ananya is a 25 year old cis-het feminist woman who studies social work and likes to think critically and question norms. She’s also a hopeless romantic who cries when happy and/or angry and is super proud of it.