Yesterday someone commented on an earlier post called Making menstruation personal again.  Here is what she (or he) said:

I find the “medicalization” of menstruation abhorrent, but I disagree that “menstruation is one of the first parts of teaching young women about sex and sexuality.” Of course sex ed is really important, but I think explanations about periods should be separate from it. I understand that menarche is part of puberty, but menstruation is not a sexual event and is not part of one’s sexuality. Getting your period is a normal bodily function and I think it does people a disservice to link it to sex.

Before I say anything else, I want to be clear that getting your period is absolutely a normal bodily function.  As is sex.

Now, I realized as I was responding to the comment that I feel very strongly that menstruation must be an explicit part of sexuality education.  I didn’t want to start raving in my own comments section, so instead decided to write a whole post on it.  So here are my reasons why menstruation must be included in a good sexuality education program for individuals of all ages:

  1. Many people have times in their lives when they are trying to have – or not have – children.  At these times in their lives, people’s fertility is closely tied to their sex lives.  They need to understand their own fertility and their partner’s fertility – including menstruation – in order to make choices about their sexual actions that supports their pregnancy (or non-pregnancy) goals.
  2. As is alluded to in 1, family planning choices affect sex.  However, menstruation also often affects when and how women want to engage in sexual activities (for example: distaining sexual activity during their period or really enjoying it).  Moreover, the hormonal changes around women’s fertility cycles often affect their interest in sex.  Therefore, menstruation can be a sexual event, and is part of many women’s sexuality – even if they have not explicitly acknowledged it as such.

Now, this is not to suggest in any way that when a young girl is approaching puberty, it’s the right time to give her a full rundown of the connections between menstruation and sexual intercourse or even an in-depth talk about reproduction and what role sexual intercourse plays in that.  The age when a girl starts to menstruate has a huge impact on how much information needs to be included in those pre-menstrual and menarche conversations.

Over time, however, those connections do need to be made in age-appropriate ways.  My college students still have questions for me about the connections between fertility cycles and sexuality – and they are good, important questions that are often born out of their own experiences, and I can’t think of another place where they might have the opportunity to ask them.