Menstrual Status & Sexuality
The Influence of Irregular Menstrual Status on Negative Attitudes towards Sexuality - Flora Oswald, Kailie Brown, Kari Walton, & Cory L. Pedersen
Women’s menstruation and other reproductive processes have historically been and continue to be heavily stigmatized (Chrisler, 2011, 2013). Menstruation is often considered disgusting, shameful, and taboo (Chrisler, 2013; Thornton, 2013). Despite growing public acceptance of sexual and reproductive topics, as well as some attention in feminist psychology (e.g., Sherman, 1971; Torrey, 1987), there is a dearth of psychological literature relating menstruation to psychological components of human sexuality. Some evidence does suggest that inconsistent and/or severe menstruation appears to be linked with greater menstrual shame as well as greater distress surrounding menstruation (Kitzinger & Willmott, 2002). Further, women tend to associate regular periods with femininity, while irregular menstruation is perceived as ‘abnormal’, ‘different’, and ‘less feminine’ (Kitzinger & Willmott, 2002). Given these and other findings that discomfort surrounding menstruation is linked to discomfort surrounding sexuality and sexual behaviour (Rempel & Baumgartner, 2003), we investigated whether inconsistent and/or severe menstruation impacts attitudes toward sex and sexuality.
Female participants were directed to an online questionnaire to complete a measure regarding the severity, regularity, and life-quality impact of their menstrual symptoms. In addition, participants responded to a series of questionnaires assessing genital self-esteem, attitudes towards sex and sexuality, quality of sex life, and sexual behaviour.
Findings revealed that most women were uncomfortable engaging in sexual behavior during menstruation and that those who reported a greater negative impact of menstruation on their sex life reported lower sexual comfort overall. Interestingly, women with irregular periods were more comfortable receiving oral sex during menstruation; non-heterosexual women were more comfortable engaging in both penetrative and oral sex during menstruation.
Oral presentation delivered at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Denver, CO, 2019.