I think this story is apocryphal, like the tale of the monk running from Brie to Camembert and took the secret of cheesemaking with him. I like the idea of Young Louis Pasteur…a bit like Young Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps he could hunt vampires in his spare time.
A few days ago an Instagrammer called rapikaur_ uploaded a series of photos on Instagram on the theme of her menstrual cycle. Instagram took them down. She put them up again. They removed them again. Internet outrage ensued, and Instagram finally relented with an apology.
During this there was also a large amount of outrage against the photos, most of which seemed to be some version of “ooh, yuk.”
I believe that this is a learned societal taboo, and we can change this attitude. Menstruation is something that one-half of the population has to deal with on a near-monthly basis. For a lot of guys in relationships, the menstrual cycle is A Thing That Happens To Her. Anything more than this, and guys run off with their fingers in their ears singing “Ta-La-La.”
Far be it from me to lecture other men about knowing someone’s fertility cycle, I instead want to present a challenge. And it’s all about information and communication.
When I was younger, I was vaguely aware of what girls around me were going through during ‘their period’, but only just. The first lot of sex ed at school was when I was twelve, and consisted of a general FAQ told to the whole class, followed by splitting girls and guys into two separate groups so that we can watch videos about specific (and secret) things happening to our discrete gender.
(This was a Catholic education. It included the dichotomy of “Yes, God says that condoms are evil, but please use a condom.” The Authority Of The Church was rendered toothless by puberty.)
To tell the truth, there was plenty we thought we knew as teenaged boys at school; making jokes about it being so-and-so’s time of the month, and the time we made a huge deal out of finding a tampon in the boy’s toilets.
I was well into my twenties and the menstrual cycle was still a complete mystery to me. And I’m sure it is to many guys out there.
To demystify it, I have a challenge for every guy who is in a committed relationship: learn her cycle.
Step one: get permission. Please don’t start collecting information about her body without her knowledge. So at least start a conversation. “I want to learn more about your cycle,” is a good start.
Second: if you don’t have a diary, get one. If you do have a diary or online calendar or something, then make a mark or entry on the first day of her period, which is to say, the first day the bleeding starts. Be discreet with this mark. The last thing you want to be doing is writing in big bold red lettering “THE FIRST DAY OF HER PERIOD”. In my experience, diaries tend not to be the bastions of privacy that we might like to think they are, so emblazoning it so that other people can read it at a distance is the height of misusing the information given to you in confidence. All you need is a mark, something that you know the meaning of. An asterix, smiley face, the letter p. Whatever works for you.
And that’s all it is. Make a mark in your diary for first day of the every period.
The rest you can figure out from this information: Firstly, just how long your beloved’s cycle actually is. Most average out at about 28 to 30 days. Some might be longer, like 35 days. Others might be much shorter, around 25 days. Remember, deviating from the societal mean is to be expected; every body is different!
Now you can also determining ovulation. The rule of thumb is about halfway between periods, but again it’s different for different people. For a few days she experiences lots of great hormones that can make sex is intensely desirable. It is also when she is at her most fertile, so this is the time to be trying for babies, or being really careful with your own emissions. If you don’t want to get her pregnant, then use a condom (remember, they’re only 98% effective.) Also be aware that your sperm can survive for some time inside her. I have read sources that say sperm can live up to five days inside the female body. I’ve read other sources that say ten. The short of it is that unprotected sex before ovulation can lead to pregnancy. This is both you and your partner’s responsibility, and being aware of her cycle is a great way to start that conversation.
I’ve always thought that both people should own the sexual health of a partnership, and that’s includes the crampy, difficult times. In my experience, women experience different levels of pain. Some women just take few pain killers and walk out into the day. Others are struck hard with gut-wrenching agony. As guys, there is nothing biologically equivalent that we experience. Be at the ready with hotwater bottles, cuddles, a warm hand on her belly, and compassion.
And yes, you can have sex during this time. There’s some research (and plenty of anecdotal evidence) that says that period pain is lessened by orgasms and vaginal stimulation. If you’re squeamish about the blood, remember there’s plenty of other fluids involved in sex; this is just one more. Put down a towel. You can have a shower later.
Information and communication. This mix isn’t going to work for all couples, but do start a conversation. Find out what works for you. At very least, don’t be deliberately ignorant of her cycle.