Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Cosmopolitan, the Sex Magazine That Won’t Talk About (Period) Sex

October 21st, 2011 by David Linton

Guest Post by Saniya Ghanoui

Cosmopolitan is open about its coverage of sex. It is curious then that the coverage of period sex is limited and not as open or adventurous as other sex ideas found in the magazine. The message regarding period sex is simple: men must be protected from menstrual blood.

The idea that a male will touch blood stirs the ideas of castration, a battle, or even death and thus must be avoided. This is ironic, given that many women actually have a heightened sexual arousal while on their periods. And since Cosmopolitan is directed towards women it is odd that it does not put women’s issues on the forefront but rather still caters to the taboo, despite hiding behind its catchphrase of “Fun Fearless Female.”

In the Cosmo Sex Challenge, one Cosmopolitan writer and her boyfriend attempt to try 77 sex positions in 77 days. Typically the writer’s period should come up approximately twice in 77 days, yet is only mentioned once. She mentions that her boyfriend isn’t “into it,” in reference to period sex, but convinces him to do it. After one hot and heavy night, in the boyfriend’s bed, she notices red handprints on the sheets so she throws a pillow over them and makes a “mental note to change his sheets tomorrow morning.” This is a physical act of apologizing.

The changing, and it can be assumed the subsequent washing of the sheets, not only works as an implicit apology but also reemphasizes the stereotype that women must perform this idea of a proper feminine role in a relationship. Also, she is changing the sheets so her boyfriend does not find out about the handprint, meaning she does not want him to see the blood. For what reason? Is she ashamed that she bleeds? Embarrassed?

In addition, when she first sees the handprint her reaction is “Oh. My. God.” Obviously this is an expression of shock that is emphasized by the separation of each word with a period. So after doing these complex sex positions (and many more to come), this is what makes her express shock? Yet, she doesn’t seem to be shocked that her period only came once in 77 days.

4 responses to “Cosmopolitan, the Sex Magazine That Won’t Talk About (Period) Sex”

  1. Laura Wershler says:

    I was hoping the story would end with her boyfriend being turned on by the sight of his bloody hand prints. She should have let him see them. And one period in 77 days? I think that might have been a case of editorial time compression. If not, she needs to check that out.

  2. Andrea B. says:

    Chiming in to say I myself have 36-38 day cycles. I usually ovulate twice before another menses occurs. Always have and I am healthy. So technically if I started this 77 days of sex right after a menses, went through one whole cycle & quit right before another menses happened, it’s quite possible that I would only have 1 period. Just sayin’

  3. It is physiologically impossible to ovulate 2x in one menstrual cycle, though it is possible experience “events” with in one cycle indicative of an approaching ovulation, such as 1 or more episodes of cervical mucus. There is no scientific research that supports the notion of two ovulations in one cycle. See the Jutisse User’s Guide to learn more.

  4. Increased interest in sex during menstruation, for the record, is also unusual. In at least one study of women using barrier methods and in stable relationships, women were most sex-interested at mid-cycle. Of course, if women are on combined hormonal contraceptives (The Pill), then sexual interest could peak as our own hormones surge after stopping the 21 days of Pill hormonal suppression.

    Interest in sex during flow suggests that there was an estrogen peak (and the increased androgens that are simultaneous) around flow. If stretchy mucus occurs before flow it is pretty strong evidence that the cycle was not ovulatory since estrogen stimulates stretchy mucus and progesterone inhibits it (causing dry days).

    An ovulation that happens around the time of flow (and could be the second in a cycle) has been described to occur about a third of the time in in perimenopausal women with irregular or skipped cycles. When it does it is called a “Luteal Out of Phase Event” or LOOP (Hale Menopause 2009).

    Finally, if cycles are chronically long (which is usually taken to be 36 days or longer), it suggests an increased time of low estrogen levels following flow in the early part of the cycle. Such cycles (officially called “oligomenorrhea”) are associated with some bone loss, especially if ovulation is not occuring. If I were Andrea B I would go to the CeMCOR website and look under “Help Yourself” to find the Menstrual Cycle Diary that you can download for free–it has a spot for recording your first morning temperature. Below that you can find out how to assess ovulation and the length of the time that progesterone is high using the quantitative basal temperature method we have now twice validated.

    All that being said–cycles are amazingly robust and normal considering that each one is created by a different egg. That egg and its surrounding hormone-producing granulosa cells have been waiting since we were in the womb. That way of making hormones is unique–every other gland in the body makes hormones as a whole gland or ongoing cells. But for the ovary, hormones are created by one egg that is either fertilized or dissolved.

Readers should note that statements published in Menstruation Matters are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.