Let me begin with my mother, because - I begin with my mother. Had she not menstruated, I would not be here.
When I asked my mother what her period meant to her, she laughed.
"Not a whole lot now," she said, referring to the hysterectomy she had in her early 50's.
(At the time, she hosted a "Farewell to My Uterus Party". I asked the hospital to release her uterus in a jar for me - I wanted to have it on display at home in my apartment! When my mother requested a uterus doggie bag (bitch bag?) at the hospital, the surgeon balked. "But that's a biohazard!" he sputtered. That cracked us up.)
"What did your period mean to you, back when you were still a woman?" I teased my mother. "Fertility!" my mother answered.
To address this most functional side of menstruation for a moment - fertility is one of the last things I think about when I think about my period. It must be connected to the fact that, though I occasionally feel a sort of abstract longing for motherhood - to mother and care for someone - I have never desired to be pregnant. Some women I know feel an acute, almost physical, longing to become pregnant, carry a child through to delivery, give birth. I've never had this wish. I would like to be a mother to someone someday, but in my mind motherhood has never been intrinsically linked to biological origins - I've always wanted to adopt.
My mother prepared me well for getting my period. Frank conversations, an educational visit to the doctor, various books (Judy Blume, "Our Bodies, Our Selves", etc.), diagrams, and even a live demonstration by my mother on how to insert a tampon (she stood in our bathroom, naked from the waist down, one leg up on the toilet seat, and repeatedly inserted a tampon with applicator) all contributed to my vast theoretical knowledge. (Parents of my friends complained to my mother that I was too "advanced", since I knew too much and explained everything to their children, interfering with their child-rearing philosophy. I lost some playmates that way.)
My first period came in the sixth grade, shortly after I had turned 11. I was a tall girl, developed early, and so it was natural for me to start menstruating first among the girls I knew - and I did feel somewhat proud at the time. I had fantasized about crimson blood staining my panties, but the reality was quite anti-climactic - brown spotting. Very un-dramatic and not so pretty as in my mind.
I told my mother, did a panty check with her to make sure it was the real thing, which she confirmed. That night my mother, her sister and I ate steak and toasted in red wine: "To womanhood!" And to my having joined their ranks. (In retrospect, I wouldn't mind having waited another four years to get my period; I'd happily wait until 16. Regardless of its glory and power as I write about here, there is also a side to menstruating that is really fucking annoying - sometimes it's simply inconvenient. My body was "ready" (biologically, for childbearing - and in our society's eyes, for projections of male sexual desire) before the rest of me was, and a greater congruity might have helped me avoid much confusion... but I'll never know.)
As an adult, I experience my period as a time of cleansing. With my blood comes a deep honesty, a profound connection with the current emotional truth of my experience here on Earth. The blood rushes through with such force and resonance that the dam breaks - and if there has been any emotional build-up throughout the cycle, rest assured that it will be unleashed. Anything that I may have left unsaid, any reactions I may have suppressed, intuition I have ignored - imbalances in my relationships (both personal and professional) - will be addressed. You know the term "verbal diarrhea"? Well, in my case - the blood is like a truth serum that calls me on my shit, forces me to be honest - first and foremost in the matters in which I have been lying to myself in the name of behaving like a "good girl" with everyone else. I strive to be honest in my daily life, but sometimes I sweep emotions aside - when I judge myself and don't take myself seriously, all in the name of being "rational and mature" - really a "good girl" symptom, seeking approval and love. (My inner child shadow self: I want Daddy to love me. Daddy doesn't like it when I'm mad at him or sad or not nice. When I express emotion Daddy yells at me or makes fun of me or ignores me. I will suppress my emotions and always be sweet and understanding with Daddy, then maybe he'll love me. Oh that pesky patriarchy... But I digress.) Fortunately, when I'm throwing clots I don't give a shit about being the good girl or pleasing anyone - I (re)connect with deep self-love through my bloody cunt, and my uterus demands purity and has a bullshit radar like nobody's business.
In my relationships, it has invariably been the case that it was while I was menstruating that I'd realize fundamental truths about the nature of the relationship. For example, "this is not working," followed by the insight that it was necessary to break it off. I like to get a good night's sleep before finalizing a big decision, and for good measure, I usually wait until after the bleeding has stopped to execute a break. But the clarity, realization and decision all come with the blood.
I find it both amusing and infuriating that women are challenged on the validity of decisions made while menstruating. (We also all too often challenge our own deep menstrual intuition.) "Maybe you should rethink it because you were on your period, after all." To this I say: "Fuck you. It's because I was on my period that I know it's the truth." "Women go crazy once a month" - well, once a month I know for certain that I am clear in my intention, because my channel is clear - there will be blood, and there will be truth, for with blood comes the truth. Similarly, the religious association of a menstruating woman as dirty or tainted is utter bullshit to me. In ways mentioned in this post, I'm never cleaner than when I'm menstruating. The "dirty" label is solely for religious control of sexuality and reproduction.
Another more concrete physical cleansing is exemplified by an issue I once had with a boyfriend. My cunt was unable to tolerate his semen - every time he ejaculated inside me, I would get burning and itching symptoms for days, sometimes weeks. Reminiscent of a yeast infection and yet not an actual yeast infection, and not a STD either. Sometimes I'd even get a fever. My cunt simply rejected him / his semen - we were incompatible. (In retrospect, she knew what was up long before I did, but that's another story.) It was only my period that could re-calibrate my cunt's compass. The blood came and cleansed, relieved and restored vaginal equilibrium.
Details: I have a copper IUD, which I love. (Betty, I know you're not crazy about it, but it serves me well.) It has increased the intensity of my cramps somewhat, but it's worth it. Sometimes my cramps are nothing more than a nuisance, especially the stabbing insistence of the lower-back variety. But sometimes I genuinely enjoy feeling the pain - the sensation of my cervix pulsating, my uterus expunging bloody tissue. It grounds me, I feel connected. I like to go out dancing while bleeding, rocking my pelvis on the dance floor, squeezing and releasing my PC muscle and sputtering blood while gyrating my hips and shaking my booty, imagining my fierce pungent pussy conquering the club with her menstrual pheromones...
I don't like to use tampons, but the Keeper (now called the Diva Cup?) is great for some of the heavy days, and otherwise I prefer pads. I like having the blood flow out freely.
Right before my period, my cunt starts to taste more and more intense, as if summoning her strength for the coming bloodshed. Then comes the menstrual cunt, with her bloody posturing, power (dis)plays, pumping iron. Afterwards, she's fresh and clean as ever, a fragrance and taste of renewal, the post-menstrual-cunt equivalent of the scent of a baby's skin.
And, of course, I love fucking on my period. Sometimes if my period is a few days late and I'm getting annoyed because of the prolonged bloating, cramps and other premenstrual symptoms, I use orgasm (alone or with a partner) to induce the bleeding. Sex while bleeding is powerful. My senses are more acute, and I'm usually horny as hell. I love a man to fuck me while I'm bleeding, a man who sucks my clit and feasts on my menstruating pussy. (Alternately, men who will not fuck a menstruating woman or are repulsed by menstruation are quite the turn-off.) When he looks up at me from between my legs with a ring of my blood around his mouth, it is such a turn-on. It communicates total acceptance, goddess worship - and the unerring power of his desire for me as a whole being, a woman in any and all my phases. I love to push his head down, burying his face in between my bloody thighs, so his face is smothered in my iron scent and he gets bloody-sticky on his cheeks and nose and chin...
I love seeing my blood on his cock - it feels very dominant to me, my menstrual blood is branding his hard cock, owning it, even lovingly anointing it. When it is with a partner I have strong feelings for, menstrual sex can be especially intimate, bringing with it an emotional resonance of sharing the sacred. Vaginal intercourse, deep slow penetration, my blood coloring us both... I love to stop and suck his cock, tasting and licking up my own blood, then kissing him deeply, so that both our faces are bloodied and sticky. Like hungry little vampires we drink from the fountain of blood between my legs.
I find that blood makes an excellent anal lube, and combined with the body-fluid turn on of cum and blood and sweat, and the asshole, I really enjoy menstrual anal sex. A menstrual-anal-cum-in-my-ass combo is so hot, and combined with clitoral action makes for some particularly intense deep orgasms.
One last thing. I once spent almost a year traveling around, backpacking, living in my tent, more often than not in the forest, on the beach, or in the mountains - in nature. During this time, a wonderful woman taught me to use moss to line my panties - the best menstrual pads I've ever tried! Living so closely in tune with the Earth, sleeping outdoors in the wilderness, my menstrual cycle synchronized perfectly with the phases of the moon - I ovulated on the full moon and bled on the new moon. It was a magical time.
Ah, the blood, the blood - the perfect fusion of MATTER and EMOTION; when mind and body are fully aligned, and the undeniable physicality of this gushing substance rules my every breath. With the blood comes balancing, connection, consciousness, honesty, intention, truth... And some damn fine orgasms.