Sex during menstruation: Race, sexual identity, and women’s accounts of pleasure and disgust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

While much research has addressed negativity surrounding women’s menstruation, surprisingly little research has interrogated the relationship between menstruation and sexuality. This study used inductive thematic analysis of qualitative interviews with 40 women across a range of age, race and sexual orientation backgrounds to examine women’s experiences with sex during menstruation. Results showed that, while 25 women described negative reactions — and two described neutral reactions — 13 women described positive reactions to menstrual sex. Negative responses cohered around four themes: women’s discomfort and physical labor to clean ‘messes’, overt partner discomfort, negative self-perception and emotional labor to manage partner’s disgust. Positive responses cohered around two themes: physical and emotional pleasure from sex while menstruating, and rebellion against anti-menstrual attitudes. Notable race and sexual identity differences appeared, as white women and bisexual or lesbian-identified women described positive feelings about menstrual sex more than women of color or heterosexual women. Bisexual women with male partners described more positive reactions to menstrual sex than did heterosexual women with male partners, implying that heterosexual identity related to negative menstrual sex attitudes more than heterosexual behavior. Those with positive menstrual sex attitudes also enjoyed masturbation more than others. Implications for sexual identity and racial identity informing body practices, partner choice affecting women’s body affirmation, and women’s resistance against common cultural ideas about women’s bodies as ‘disgusting’ were addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-178
Number of pages24
JournalFeminism and Psychology
Volume21
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

Keywords

  • body image
  • body norms
  • masturbation
  • menstruation
  • racial identity
  • sexual identity
  • sexuality
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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