Blood Moon: We don’t want a heat pillow. We need sex!

 

“Bleeding is normal. We women are normal. Blood is who and what we are. Love a woman, then you must learn to love the bleeding too.”

Women bleed.

It sucks. You can dress it up however you like, and call it our “special sacred time”, and do ritual, and preach on about what a gift our bodies are.

But for me, and for many others, bleeding sucks.

I hate the way our periods are something shameful that we don’t talk about, and I hate the way I feel so godamn awful – sick and bloated and crampy.

Now I’m getting older, I also hate the way my cycle is becoming increasingly unpredictable. At present, my current thing seems to be that I bleed for a morning, then nothing for a few days, then it’s full on heavy heavy let’s turn the bathroom into a scene from “Criminal Minds” time for more than a week.

It’s tiring, it’s stressful, and I’m forever struggling to keep my iron levels up with copious amounts of vitamins and floradix. My doctor, to add insult to injury, has the indecency to call my cycle “normal…for a woman of my age.”

The worst thing of all, though, is the impact it’s having on my sex life. And how men just don’t understand.

Goddess_Venus____by_Villenueve

Yes, I’ve got a partner who thoughtfully gets me heat pillows for my aching back. He’ll even give me back rubs, when I ask for them. But sex during this thing that is rapidly turning into half my life?

No. Never.

I shouldn’t complain. I’ve been raised to never complain of course, because I’m female and god forbid we should ever complain about the lack of satisfaction in our relationships. We don’t complain: we just let it get worse, until we leave.

The rejection was even worse with my previous partner. I remember once when I bled on the sheets at night. He was horrified when he saw it: It was like I’d committed the most heinous crime. He wasn’t content until the sheets had been sterilised and I’d been given a top to toe shower. At 3 am in the morning.

Even then, when I returned to bed (feeling pretty bloody awful) he looked at me sideways. He didn’t want to touch me. He rolled over to the other side of the bed, as far away from me as he could get.

Hug me? Hell no. I was on my own.

That was probably the beginning of the end of our relationship: when I realised that my body and its normal functioning was abhorrent to him.

My current partner, as I said, is a bit better. A bit. He even went down on me – once – when I was bleeding. I was amazed by that.

But now that I seem to be bleeding more days than not, the sex is dwindling, and once again, I feel like a monster. An untouchable monster.

A female untouchable. Just like it’s always been.

What I want to say here, amongst all these reminiscences and all this very personal pain, is that bleeding is normal. We women are normal. Blood is who and what we are. Love a woman, then you must learn to love the bleeding too.

Our bodies are messy and wonderful and painful and we hurt. We feel pain and we suffer through this Goddess-given mess that is our femininity. It’s horrible, and lonely, and it is at this time of the month, above all other times, that we need to be told by those that profess to love us that we are beautiful.

It is at this time of the month, when we’re bleeding, that we need to know that we’re desirable, and sexy, and wanted. Because it’s at this point that we feel vulnerable, and weak, and sore, and in need of love and support.

Yet so often it is when we bleed that our men turn away. This is the time that we need them most, only to find they’re not there.

We don’t need a heat pillow. We need sex.

Men wax lyrical about our loveliness, but we need to know we’re desirable when we feel our ugliest. We need to know we’re wanted right at that point that society has deemed us most undesirable and untouchable.

This is something that I don’t think men, as a whole, will ever quite understand. But we women understand it very, very well.

When my partner gives me a heat pillow but refuses sex with me, he’s saying a lot about what he thinks of my body. He might not realise it, but he’s saying that I’m acceptable to him only when I’m neat and tidy in masculine, not feminine, terms.

He’s saying that he loves me only when he can have neat, porn-quality sex with me. But when I have my period, I’m dirty and unwanted and so it’s out with the heat pillow and on with his right hand instead.

I’ve told him I don’t feel like sex the first day I bleed heavily. And I don’t, mainly because it’s crime-scene central (I bleed really heavily). It’s so bad I don’t think he’d cope, and I wouldn’t enjoy it as a result.

But the rest of my period I get very horny. Yet by taking what I say about my first day and applying it to the rest of my bleed as an excuse not to have sex with me, he’s telling me that I’m not desirable when I bleed. At all. And that affects how I feel about our relationship the rest of the time, whether he realises it or not.

I don’t know what my body will do as I move into menopause. But it’s common for women at my age to bleed more days than not. Does this mean that I’ll be relegated to a “cuddle-only” partner?

I don’t know the answer, but I do know this: women bleed. That is what we are, what we do, what we will always do. Bleeding is the definition of what women are: it is our experience of life.

I just wish that experience could be a better one.

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The contraception conversation

When I was 16, my mother found my contraceptive pills in my top drawer.

She brought them and held them out in front of me, like something dead and dirty, accusing:

“What are these, and where did you get them?”

“They’re my pills,” I said. “I didn’t want to get pregnant.”

“Are you having sex?” she demanded, her face angry.

“No, no,” I denied, lying to her face. “I just want them…just in case…you know…” My voice drifted away into nothing.

That was how the brief conversation went, all those years ago, but I remember it clearly.

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Pressure from all sides…

What I didn’t tell my mother was the fact that those pills were like gold to me. Three months earlier, I’d started having sex. We’d used condoms that time, but then my boyfriend had asked me to go on the Pill.

Of course, it was the woman’s job to get contraceptives and sort all that out. It still is mostly, here, nearly thirty years later from back then.

But I did what I had to do. The sexual health clinic was nearly two hours away by bus, and I didn’t have a car. I was 16. I arrived way too early for my appointment, and walked around the block near the clinic about three or four times before I summoned up the nerve to go inside.

I felt like a criminal. All I wanted was to not get pregnant. You wouldn’t think it would be so difficult to avoid that. Yet it was, for me. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I’d been taught to think of sex that way.

The people in the clinic were friendly, and put me on a low dose pill, but it was really expensive. I wasn’t earning much at that point, and it used up all the money I had just to get three months’ supply. But what else was I supposed to do?

I remember wondering if my boyfriend, who had a lot more money than me, would chip in for some of the cost, then threw that idea right out. Guys didn’t pay for this sort of stuff. Sex was free for them.

My mother held my pills in her hand. “I’m throwing these out. You shouldn’t be having sex yet. You’re too young.”

And she took them away.

I looked in the bins to see if I could find them, and even went through the garbage cans outside, but no luck. They were gone. And I started bleeding a couple of days later, because I’d stopped in the middle of taking them.

The next day, I rang the sexual health clinic again the moment my parents were out of the house. They couldn’t get me in until the following week, and I asked if I could pay for just one month of pills, not three. I couldn’t. They were sorry about that.

I said I’d see what I could do and made the appointment anyway.

That was the only thing I ever stole money from anyone for: I took the money I needed from my mother’s purse.

I don’t think she missed it.

Next time I got hold of my pills, I made sure Mum wouldn’t find them – I hid them in my secret hiding spot that even she didn’t know about, under the bottom of my wardrobe at the back. If she found them, she never said anything.

From then on, whenever I needed more money for more pills, I just stole it from my mother.

I think that was the point at which I began to grow up: when I stopped trusting my parents. When I realised they would steal my things and they weren’t on my side.

I stopped trusting them when they stopped trusting me.

Sluts and whores

Looking back, there is so much wrong with my experience that I don’t know where to begin.

The fact that contraception was, and still commonly is, solely a woman’s responsibility.
The fact that I had to deal with all this alone, even though I was hardly still a woman.
The fact that my boyfriend was absent from the conversation and from responsibility.
The fact that my mother felt she had control both over my body and my property.
The fact that my mother judged me, and felt she had the right to judge.
The fact that caring for my body was seen as a shameful thing by my mother, as was sex.
The fact that, even at 16, my mother had still never talked about sex with me, even though I desperately needed her support and help.

Most of all, looking back, I’m amazed that my mother was angry that I took care and responsibility for my own body.

If I had a daughter do that, and go get pills all by herself, no matter what age, I’d be proud of her actions and initiative. I’d be glad she was keeping herself safe from pregnancy.

I’d be sorry I didn’t get a chance to help her first, but glad she respected her body enough to care for it and plan ahead.

But maybe I don’t see sex as something we should be ashamed of.

For my mother, women who had sex before marriage were sluts and whores. I don’t know whether she was silly enough to believe that taking my pills away would stop me having sex, but if she was, she was wrong. All it did was make me steal from her, lie to her, and not trust her.

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The contraception conversation

Contraception – and sex generally – is the conversation we desperately need to have with our children.

And it’s the one conversation we’re not having.

When we judge our kids, this is what happens.
When we judge our kids, this is what happens.

Over and over, I hear parents say that they want to talk to their kids about sex, but “just not yet”.

If not now, then when?
When they steal from you for their contraception?
When they get pregnant, or get someone else pregnant?
Or maybe when they get an STI?

“Tomorrow” is too late.
We need to talk today.

It is our responsibility to keep our children safe, until they’re able to do that for themselves. That’s what parenting is.

Our kids need to be able to trust us, and in order to earn that, we need to start the conversation by trusting them.

We need to talk.

When girls are too strong

I left my home town when I was in my early 20s. I’m surprised it took me that long to leave.

Since then, I’ve lived in a different city in the same country, and in two other cities in other countries. But the crux of it all is I couldn’t stay in my home town. I was the cuckoo that had to leave the nest.

Our parents expectations of who we are and who we will be don’t stop when we become adults.

My parents wanted a daughter who would be pretty, feminine, traditional – and go on in life to do pretty, feminine, traditional things.

I was the exact opposite.

Born that way…

When a child arrives and they’re not who – and what – we expect and desperately want them to be, things get difficult. Especially for the child, if the parents insist on trying to mould them into becoming something they can never be.

There’s a reason why so many gay kids leave their home town, moving far away. I’m not gay, but in the same way as gay kids often do in traditional families, I didn’t meet expectations.

I was too strong to change who I was. The only way I could be true to who I am was to leave.

When a home is not a home

The best thing I ever did was leaving home. Looking back, I only wish I could have left before I even became an adult, had that been possible. My parents are good people, but my home was fiercely patriarchal.

Even now, when I go home to visit, I’m very much at the bottom of the pecking order. It’s expected that I’ll help with the household chores (together with my mother and brother’s wife), while my father and brother sit and drink whisky.

This isn’t a home in which I feel wanted, welcome or equal. I don’t feel loved there, or accepted for who and what I am. I feel like my parents try really hard, but that’s it – they’re just trying to love me.

My failure to accept my patriarchal roots was an expression of my own inner strength and who I truly am, which was only given a chance to develop once I left home and was no longer stifled.

Once I left home, I went on to become a community leader, a mentor to other women, an internationally-performed composer, a competitive athlete. A woman of strength. A person with purpose.

Why women are not equal yet

Again and again, I see articles in the media querying why women haven’t risen to equality across the board in society. After all, the articles argue, we achieved theoretical equality in the 1970s – surely it has been long enough since then?

Surely one generation should easily be able to erase the inequality of thousands of years of entrenched abuse and inequality? That’s not much! It can’t be that hard!

I know the answer: we’re still dealing with the legacy of inequality. We’re still unequal. We’re teaching what we knew ourselves to our daughters and sons.

I see it in the women who are spoken over in conversation, I see it in the absence of movies and media about women, I see it even in the programming club where I volunteer, and among the 9-12 year olds I teach only 1 of 15 is a girl, because it doesn’t occur to local parents that their daughters might like to learn how to program. Or be good at it.

We’re passing on a legacy of misogyny. It cuts to the core.

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Why strong girls leave home

Girls leave home when it ceases to support them. They don’t come back because there’s nothing to come back for. I moved cities because, away from home, I could finally be myself without my parents criticising everything I did. It felt like a breath of fresh air.

When I return home for visits, every two years or so, yet again I feel that stifling, patriarchal, controlling weight holding me down and crushing my spirit.

Family dynamics can be difficult, especially when you don’t fit in with your family’s expectations. In anyone else’s world I’d be a success: I’m a professional woman, I’ve achieved in my career and in my hobbies, I’ve made a positive difference for so many people.

But what I wanted to do and be just didn’t fit in with what my family wanted. I was never going to be subservient and feminine. I was never going to be the pretty girl. I was never going to be the perfect daughter – an exact copy of my mother, minus all her mistakes. I was always going to be my own person. I think that came as a shock.

Raising girls is just raising little humans

Our society has a real problem in raising girls, especially non-traditional girls. We’re fine with girls who want to follow traditional paths, and who are beautiful in traditional ways, but we struggle with women who want to be soldiers, or bodybuilders, or engineers, or programmers.

Or even with women who just want to speak their minds.

We do our best to push and shove our girls into a tiny box labelled “acceptable” and anything else we don’t know what to do with. It’s time we started accepting our daughters – especially our strong, unique, powerful daughters – as amazing human beings in their own right.

It’s time we honoured their strength.

It’s time we welcomed them home.

You Don’t Have to Hate Anybody to be a Bigot

“Bigotry is not the same as hate. Bigotry just means believing that certain groups of people do not deserve the same kind of consideration you want for yourself. ”

And now, as then, the bigots are wrong.

The Weekly Sift

Throughout American history, most bigots have been nice folks who had sincere religious reasons for treating other people badly.


Social conservatives were all over the airwaves and print media this week, explaining how and why the battle over marriage equality is not over. The Supreme Court may have spoken, but the other branches of government, they promised, could still step in somehow, if we elect the right people. Or county clerks could just refuse to issue licenses. Or ordinary people could practice civil disobedience in some unspecified way. There are, Glenn Beck has promised us, ten thousand pastors willing to “go to prison or to death” over this issue (though exactly what charges will brought against them or who might try to kill them is a bit vague).

To me, the most revealing moment of this Alamo-like refusal to surrender came when Texas Senator Ted Cruz was interviewed…

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Bring on the Solstice Darkness

Family Yields

I was recently sent the link to a beautiful article published in The New York Times about how the introduction of man-made light has had an enormous impact on our levels of consumption.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

“In the modern world, petroleum may drive our engines but our consciousness is driven by light. And what it drives us to is excess, in every imaginable form.

Beginning in the late 19th century, the availability of cheap, effective lighting extended the range of waking human consciousness, effectively adding more hours onto the day — for work, for entertainment, for discovery, for consumption; for every activity except sleep, that nightly act of renunciation. Darkness was the only power that has ever put the human agenda on hold.

In centuries past, the hours of darkness were a time when no productive work could be done. Which is to say, at night…

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