Once a month blood trickles from my vagina. I do beg your pardon for this – I know I should hide my monthly shame from you, because this is a sex blog and menstruation is grotesque, so I should really only talk about it in whispers. But it’s worth mentioning because a new product has arrived on the market that could mean I never have to show evidence of menstruation ever again – even when I am shagging the guy I am closest to in the whole wide world! Joy! Celebration! Let’s all pretend that periods don’t happen because if we think about it too much we’ll never fuck again!
Flex – the menstrual product that thinks menstruation is gross
Meet The Flex. It’s a soft, circular, disposable alternative to the tampon. You wear it at the entrance to your cervix, and it catches all the blood and bits of flesh that come out while you’re on the rag.
As an alternative to tampons, it may well be more environmentally friendly, comfortable, or whatever. I doubt it’s as environmentally friendly as the Mooncup, for instance, because it’s still disposable, but for the purpose of this piece let’s file that under ‘I don’t give a shit.’
What I’m interested in is the fact that Flex’s PR strategy seems to be ‘let’s get people talking about period sex!’ They have done some research that shows 30% of people want to have more period sex, and yet 45% of women have had a male partner turn down sex because they’re on their period. So: they roll out the wagons, with loudhailers gaffer-taped to the sides, and they parade through the streets shouting “You can now have period sex, people!! Our magical tampon-replacement product means you can now do this thing! Hooray! Aren’t we brilliant?! Let your joy flow as freely as your period blood doesn’t!”
And then, of course, they have to assure us that period blood is perfectly natural and not in any way ‘disgusting.’
Weird, huh? To assure us that this thing which happens to our bodies is not gross, yet simultaneously offer us a solution that will keep it hidden from sight.
Of course menstruation is OK! It is fine and normal and healthy! But by the way here’s how to make sure no one ever knows that it happens to you.
It would be like me saying ‘of course your spunk is OK, but would you mind popping into the next room and finish yourself off into a rag so I never have to see or smell it?’ Like FemFresh trying to tell us that vaginas are lovely, while selling us products that rely on the belief that they’re disgusting and they smell. Or maybe like telling someone that eating is perfectly natural and healthy, but insisting you go and do it in the toilet because it’s distasteful to make other people watch. OH WAIT we do that, as long as the person eating is a baby and the person feeding it is doing so via their breasts.
YAY for body positivity!
Period sex pros and cons
I understand that not everyone is comfortable with period sex. I would likely, with a new partner, let him know that I’m menstruating before we start fucking, so he can make an informed choice about whether he wants to do it – at the very least I’d want to give him the opportunity to put some sheets down. I also understand that even if you’re comfortable with the fact that your own body bleeds once a month, you may still not be comfortable fucking on your period. That’s OK. It’s a complicated issue, and one which has been so steeped in shame for so many years, these attitudes can be hard to shake off.
Not everyone is, like me, super-horny when they’re on their periods, and happy to make a mess. Not everyone has special sheets you can put down to protect all your John Lewis cotton. I get it, I promise I do.
But if you are a company that makes products designed to save people from what they (and, presumably, YOU) think is a distasteful dribble of human waste, don’t fucking bullshit us by simultaneously telling us that you’re totally body-positive and cool with it. If Flex thought period blood was OK, and period sex was natural, then why are they selling this product off the assumption that it is not? Why is ‘preventing mess during period sex’ the cornerstone of their PR strategy?
I am categorically not saying that ‘Flex’ is a bad product. It’s a circle of stuff that sits at the entrance to your cervix and catches menstrual blood: there are many things it can do for you that are good! If you’re a porn performer who needs to be able to shag without blood, for instance, this might be great for you! Equally if you can’t get on with tampons, towels, or any of the other products on the market, this one might work really well for you. My issue isn’t with the product itself, it’s with the seemingly two-faced marketing.
I like having period sex, and I am not bothered about the mess. These things make sense. There is no cognitive dissonance in holding them to be true at the same time. Flex, on the other hand, simultaneously celebrates period sex while also treating it as a ‘problem’ that requires a solution in the form of its product. The company does this, understandably, because society has a bunch of assumptions about menstruation being ‘gross’, so there’s a market for products that minimise the perceived grossness. But if you think society’s assumptions about menstrual blood are wrong, marketing your product off the back of those assumptions is a cynical and shitty thing to do.
By all means make your product if you think there’s a need for it, but don’t try to have your cake, eat it, then ask your customers to swallow a portion too.