So your girlfriend or wife is on her period. You’re wondering if you should a) abstain from sex all week, or b) convincingly make an argument that this week should be all about blow jobs. But why be that guy — especially when good old-fashioned PIV sex is still on the table? We are, of course, referring to period sex, which can be awesome and fun for everyone involved. While some guys are grossed out by the idea, others love it. As Miles Klee of MEL Magazine succinctly puts it: “”You like sex. Period sex is sex. Try not to overthink this.”
Still not convinced? It’s also worth noting that menstrual blood doesn’t actually contain that much blood at all: for the most part, it’s tissue from the uterine lining, which a woman’s body sheds when she doesn’t get pregnant, explains Jessica Shepherd, MD, an OB/GYN. Ultimately, the decision to have period sex is between you and your partner. But if both of you are in the mood, then you shouldn’t miss out on out on an entire week of sex just because there’s another bodily fluid present. Here are some doctor-approved answers for 9 of the most common questions men have about period sex.
IS PERIOD SEX GROSS?
Think of some of the best sexual experiences of your life. Does the word “tidy” come to mind? Nah. It’s probably more along the lines of “hot,” “sweaty,” or “filthy.” That’s because the best sex usually is a little bit messy, and period sex is no exception: after all, if you’re already covered in your lover’s sweat, vaginal fluids, and saliva, why be scared of a little blood?
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Plus, it’s worth noting that a little extra discharge has its advantages. “[Period sex] can be messy, but that can be great, because there’s already natural lubrication there,” says sex therapist Holly Richmond, PhD.
CAN SHE GET PREGNANT WHEN SHE’S ON HER PERIOD?
This one is a little bit complicated, but the short answer is yes, she can. Dr. Shepherd says that technically, women should not be able to get pregnant during their period, because menstruation usually indicates that they’ve already ovulated. “The egg isn’t fertilized, so therefore the lining is shedding,” Dr. Shepherd says. (For what it’s worth, the easiest time to get pregnant is during ovulation, which takes place 14 days after day one of menstruation.)
But — and this is a big but — not all women’s cycles run exactly on time, and an irregular cycle makes it more difficult to track ovulation. If your partner has a shorter cycle and ovulates closer to her period, it’s unlikely, but possible for her to get pregnant if you have sex toward the end of her period. It’s also important to note that women often experiencing spotting or bleeding between menstrual cycles, so blood doesn’t always indicate an actual period. That’s why it’s important to still use birth control during period sex — sure, pregnancy is unlikely, but is it really worth the risk?
IS SHE HORNIER ON HER PERIOD?
There isn’t a ton of research to back this up, but according to some women, yup, period horniness is a thing. One theory is that the hormone progesterone, which can lower libido, drops during menstruation. However, Dr. Shepherd says that women are usually horniest during ovulation, so about two weeks prior to her menstrual cycle: “Your hormones are changing during that time to increase your desire to have sex in order to get pregnant,” she explains. Either way, if your girlfriend is turned on, and so are you, take advantage of it, regardless of where she is in her cycle.
WILL PERIOD SEX RUIN MY SHEETS?
IS PERIOD SEX SAFE?
No sex is ever truly “safe,” even with STI testing and proper condom application: as your sex ed teacher probably told you, the only 100% effective method of birth control is abstinence (which is, ahem, an unrealistic option for most). But period sex is just as safe as non-period sex, Dr. Shepherd says. There is, however, one caveat: during their periods, women experience changes in their pH balance, which can lead to increased risk for bacterial vaginosis or yeast infection (which can be sexually transmitted to men). Additionally, there’s a small and outdated study that says HIV risk may go up during heterosexual penetrative sex when the female partner is on her period, because HIV is transmissible via bodily fluids. But Dr. Shepherd says there’s no reliable research that says period sex puts you at increased risk for the most common STIs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, so don’t let that discourage you from getting down.
CAN I GO DOWN ON HER DURING HER PERIOD?
Yes. Some people even enjoy the taste of a woman when she’s on her period. That said, if you want to avoid blood, just keep your tongue on the clitoris rather than on the vulva. If it still stresses you out, just politely explain to your partner that you’d rather stick with PIVPS (penis in vagina period sex), or use your fingers to stimulate her clitoris.
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IS IT NORMAL TO BE TURNED ON BY PERIOD SEX?
Absolutely. There’s even a terms for guys who get off on period sex: “bloodhounds.” Dr. Richmond says the primal nature of having sex with a menstruating woman has something to do with it: “When a woman’s having her period, she’s all woman, and it really just turns some men on.” That said, every guy is different. Some guys crave period sex, others hate it, and some could take it or leave it. Do what you’re comfortable with and what’s best for your relationship — and make sure to communicate that with your partner, because she’s likely to have thoughts on the matter as well.
DO WOMEN ENJOY HAVING PERIOD SEX?
Some women are uncomfortable having sex when they’re also dealing with cramps and bloating; others are super turned-on by the prospect of having sex while they’re menstruating. The best way to find out your partner’s thoughts on period sex is to ask her. Just remember never to make her feel gross or uncomfortable about it, because there’s nothing disgusting about her having a healthy, functioning menstrual cycle.
WILL HER ORGASMS BE STRONGER WHEN SHE’S ON HER PERIOD?
Oh, yeah. For many women, particularly those with cramps or PMS, an orgasm can be just what the doctor ordered. “The clitoris may be more engorged during a cycle, so a woman may have more sensation,” Dr. Shepherd says. Additionally, orgasms release endorphins, which can act as natural painkillers, so if you make your partner come, not only are you giving her the gift of great sex, but you’re also relieving her pain. So take that towel you placed on the bed and wear it as a cape, Superman.
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health