How I Learned to Love My Period
This post is part of a weekly Her.meneutics series called The Sex We Don’t Talk About, designed to feature female perspectives on aspects of sex and sexuality that can go overlooked in the church.
Thoughts of menstruation take me back to that fated day when I first bled. I can still feel my anger and confusion. It was not a long-awaited sign of adulthood for me; rather, it felt dirty, shameful, and unwelcome.
I deeply disliked the bodily experience that I would share with women everywhere, that would punctuate so much of my life, bringing with it the possibility of pregnancy. I’m sure it was addressed in health class, but ashamed and nervous, I remembered nothing.
In her book Sexuality and Holy Longing, sociologist Lisa Graham McMinn indicates that, historically speaking, I was not alone in my disgust over my period. She writes:
The collective shame and hate of menstruation that women share has emerged partly out of a long-running history of considering femaleness inferior to maleness. Many cultures considered female sexuality not only as being dangerous but as causing women to be frail, irrational, and illogical. By the time humanity reached the Victorian era, Western women had long accepted femaleness as a curse to be borne but not celebrated.
But it turns out, there’s not a biblical basis for such a “curse.” A closer look at Genesis 3 shows that God did not curse the man or the woman, but rather cursed the serpent and the ground (3:14-19). Women’s pain in childbirth came as a result of the fall, not as a curse from God.
Especially as we have become more equipped than ever to learn about our bodies, hormones, and cycles, it’s time for this unfortunate “curse” nickname to end. Wouldn’t it be better to bless our bodies rather than curse them, to celebrate the unique power of our female physique?
God equipped women with the capacity to carry life and to give birth. But the gift of menstruation extends for years before and after childbirth, and to women who may not ever have children. This cycle serves us beyond reproduction. Menstruation offers us our body’s own calendar, a physical reminder of the need to push ourselves and work and also to rest and reflect.
Despite what we hear about a 28-day-cycle, the timing naturally ranges from 21 to 36 days in most women. Those of us who chart our cycles (something I began doing once I got married, but wish I had started back in the early years when I dreaded, hated, and misunderstood my body) come to recognize our body’s rhythms throughout.
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