Thursday, May 20, 2010

Periods in books...and I ain't talking time

Last time I was here on the island I talked about butt cracks (just when you thought I couldn’t go lower) this time I am going to talk about periods. No I am not talking about time periods, I am talking about (yeah you guessed it, I’m totally going there) menstruation in books. So if you’re stopping by DIK during your lunch hour you may want to come back later- it’s gonna get messy.

My first book that talked about women’s periods was “Are you there God? It’s me Margaret” by Judy Blume. I think a lot of girls read this one. No big surprises there, just a story about a girl growing up, going through puberty and dealing with family life. Sweet.

The next time I was exposed to periods in books was Zebra historical romance books (when I was about eleven years old or so). These stories didn’t elaborate and almost always were about the woman being pregnant and missing her period or having it and not producing an heir.

Then when I was about 14 or 16 I read a book that scarred me for life as I believe it did all the young readers (and there were dozens of us in my high school alone). This book was not a romance per se, but it did evolve around a teen romance gone wrong. The book included a long and graphic sex scene where the teen boy goes down on his girlfriend during her period-during her very heavy period. It’s a bloody mess but he loves it and so does she.

Anyone who’s read the book has already guessed it by now. The book is “Endless Love” by Scott Spencer, which in the 1980’s was made into a movie starring Brooke Shields (I’ve never seen the movie but I assume the bloody muff diving scene was not in it).

Not until the past two years have I again encountered menstruation in fiction books. Most recently I read an erotic ménage a trios book “Surrender” by Kimberly Zant that included the heroine having her period – near the end of her period she and the hero have sex. The story includes them washing and cleaning the slight mess after the sex scene.

Even more recently I’ve found it in urban fantasy/paranormal books. And this is the area that has (to my knowledge, which I grant isn’t that extensive) largely been ignored. In both the Night Huntress series by Jeanine Frost and the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series it is mentioned a few times that the male vampires can ‘scent’ the human beings crotches (does that make them Crotch Connoisseurs?), know and get turned on by them during the woman’s period (vampire Bill in the Sookie Stackhouse series, fangs ran out of his mouth the moment he scented her period- protruding fangs mean a vampire is horny in this series- or they want to feed- in this case it was both at the same time!).

If vampires were real this would be a given right? Once a month women would be Happy Meals on legs. Eww gross I know, but never the less in the world of vampires you know it would drive them stark raving mad. So why isn’t it mentioned more in paranormal books? Too gross? Too much information? Is it a line that shouldn’t be crossed? Are authors or publishers afraid of it? Readers repelled by it? Are all things menstruation still a huge taboo in society, even in paranormal fiction?

Why the hell did I write all that about periods? Because I am curious how other readers feel about the subject. It’s like the ‘condom-in-romance’ issue I think. Some people want the romance to be realistic and the author to take a moment and make sure the couple (or more) are having safe sex so they want the detail of a condom in the story. Sometimes merely putting on the condom adds to the sexual tension of the sex scene.

What about women’s periods? Do we need that mentioned in the story for authenticity? Do we want to know when our heroine has her period? Do we want to know if she’s having cramps and bloating? Is that all TMI? Do we want to see our hero running to the store for some tampons for his lady love the way we read about him stocking up on condoms?

I’ve got mixed feelings on the issue. I was sort of glad when authors Jeanine Frost and Charlaine Harris mentioned the vampires taking distinct note of the heroine’s menstruation cycles. It fit with the story and I can’t be the only one to wonder how vampires and menstruation might combine in a paranormal story (or am I??).

That said, I can honestly say I wish author Scott Spencer had yanked that bloody muff diving scene out of his book. To date that is still the most graphic, turn me green sex scene I’ve ever read and I don’t feel it was that important to the story, but I do know others who say it was. The sex scene (in their opinion) proved how far obsessed the ‘hero’ was with the heroine and that the hero was mentally unstable- but that’s another discussion.

So what are your thoughts on books depicting or merely mentioning menstruation? TMI?

**all photos from GOOGLE IMAGES**


J.A. Saare / Aline Hunter said...

The bloodier the better? Say it ain't so.

By the way, I love that photo by Lesta (the Bloody Kisses one). I haven't seen it anywhere else (it's on my website) and I wanted to say excellent taste in images.

I haven't read Endless Love but all things considered, I think I'll continue to survive in the dark on that one.

Anonymous said...

JA Saare: "The bloodier the better? Say it ain't so."

LOL And thank you about the images, they were hard to find for this post. Usually the photos are the easiest part of the post for me.



Donna said...

What an interesting topic! As far as vampires go, menstrual blood and direct arterial blood have different odors. Having intercourse during menstruation helps alleviate cramps and certainly helps with mood elevation, so you would think men and women would both be more open to talking and writing about it to spread the word. :)

Lea said...

And who was it that said she couldn't think of anything to talk about during her visit to DIK?? lol

As to your question Ms.M. I don't mind menstruation being mentioned in a romance as long as it is in context. It is after all part of the female reproductive cycle. That said I don't really care to hear about all the symptoms many women suffer as a result of their periods, been there done that. Secondly, I mean really, how many woman feel like having sex when suffering said side effects anyway? And then there is, the whole mess and the ick factor.

As for vampires and the scent thing - makes sense I guess, again as long as there is no graphic "chewing on the muff" during the heroine's period. Ack... That for me would be TMI.

Bottom line, if it is woven into the narrative in a tasteful way that fits in the plot of the story I'm comfortable. I don't see it as a 'taboo' subject at all.

Great post Ms. M.!!

Patti (@TheLoveJunkee) said...

I think Anne Rice touched on this one as well. I can't remember the book but there was one scene where I got the impression it was a treat for the vampire, not in a sexual way (for Lestat at least). Of course I read it years ago and I may be confused...Does anyone else remember this or am I hallucinating? (It may have been Memnoch the Devil?)

Lea said...

I've read all Rice's vampire books Patti and I think your right, but I can't remember which book it was either. Now I'm going to have to a search after work because it will bug me.. lololol

Let me know if you remember!

Anonymous said...

Lea: 'As for vampires and the scent thing - makes sense I guess, again as long as there is no graphic "chewing on the muff" during the heroine's period.'

*chokes* LOL! Then you really, really do NOT want to read "Endless Love" by Scott Spencer! There's definately "chewing on the muff" in that one!

You kill me Lea! LOL



Anonymous said...

Thanks Donna. It's a topic I've had floating around in my head for about a year now. I finally decided to go for it and see what happens!



Anonymous said...

Hi Patti I am interested in which Anne Rice book you are thinking of. I've about 4 of her books in my TBR pile.


Cecile Smutty Hussy said...

I always wondered about this one too. I mean we talk about safe sex and putting condoms on and things like that. I kinda agree with Lea... not wanting to hear about it in a graphic way... But if done right can actually make the story "a real one". I mean, yea been there done that... still having that crap.. But it is a fact of life. Like if the heroine is acting bitchy... she is pmsing.. okay.. so that is a good line in a story.

Now as far as the muff driving or dining... Ummm... no.. But agreeing with Donna on this one... Scientifically proven, it is one of the best times. **shrugs shoulders**
Get post honey!

Anonymous said...

Hi there Cecile!

I agree "if done right can actually make the story a real one".


Michelle Greathouse said...

I remember the Anne Rice scene as well....but not the particular book.

It was when Lestat went all nuts about being a vampire - went to Heaven and Hell and had a long talk in each place. He was prone in the church for a long time and when he finally got up - he needed blood. A woman was there to help (I'm thinking she was a nun - or at least a virgin) and Lestat did not want to 'harm' her by taking blood - so he took it that way.

I thought - ewww, then and still think ewww now. LOL

But for vampires - it does make sense. For regular folks - it doesn't.



Jessica said...

TMI!!! If the period fits the story is one thing, but if not necessary to the story, then loose it. YUK! I'll never read Endless Love. That's just over the line, obession or not!

Tracy said...

I don't mind sex during the period but it doesn't happen in books very often. Wait, let me qualify - sex during period but NO going down on the heroine, thank you very much.

Sometimes when the h/h are having sex daily for a month or two and there's been no mention of the visit from Aunt Flo it makes me wonder what's up. Is the author ignoring it? Or I expect the heroine to show up pregnant but that doesn't happen either. Weird.

That Spencer books would have freaked me out for life, I'm so glad I never read it. ewww!

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...


I read Endless Love and if that doesn't put you off teenage sex, I don't know what will!!! Traumatized and grossed out.

As much as I love vampires, I'm not at all interested in reading about dining on the.... ewwwww... And I don't care if it's supposed to reveal cramping, that's what Ibuprofen is for, I'd take it by the handfuls rather than clean the mess...again ewwww....

I've read Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Series, and when she talked about Sookie being on her period, it added to story. That didn't bother me at all, it kind of made sense.

I don't necessarily mind reading that some woman involved in the story is having her period, it's a fact of life, it happens. I just don't want to read about the nasty part.

I don't mind about reading about condoms used in sex scenes, it's more realistic and responsible. As a mother of two boys and one girl, I want to promote condom use, lol, not that any of my little angels will ever have pre-martial sex (I'm keeping them chained in their bedrooms as I type, phones disconnected, windows blocked and blacked out). LOLOLOL (yeah, right!)

Sometimes, I think the act of putting on the condom adds sexiness and the sensuality of the story, depending on how's it told. It can be fun and sexy or deadpan dull, I vote for fun and sexy, LOL!

Dottie :)

Anonymous said...

LOL Dottie another "Endless Love" reader who was scarred for life!

That book was passed around during Biology class and the spine was cracked in all the sex scene parts!

I remember some of us dumb girls whispering "Do guys LIKE to do that when girls have their periods?"

And the guys (with horrified looks on their faces) "Do girls expect us to do that?"




Unknown said...

LOLOLOL "Do girls expect us to do that?" with horrified looks (this is not an understatement!)

Yes, I remember those conversations well, lol. Both the guys and the girls were horrified. I mean, here you are, your body doing all this weird crap, and then you read something like Endless Love, and think WHAT THE F**K! I didn't even want to be there during my period, lol.

Heather D said...

Ms. M you really know how to make my skin crawl. I am happy to say that I did not read Endless Love.

I have really never thought about it. I would have to agree with Lea and Cecile... relevance to the story without icky details.

I really don't want to read about someone earning their Red Wings.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

LOL Heather!

I wondered when I wrote this post if I'd get anyone to respond to such a topic at all. I also wondered if I'd get tossed off the island (er...again- this time without Jack Sparrow to blame!).

Thanks to everyone for commenting, I appreciate it. This was an iffy topic for me to run with here on DIK.

I hope I didn't creep anyone out too much.



Sullivan McPig said...

Seeing as how it's not just blood that leaves a woman's body when she has her period I must say the thought of a vampire liking it, just seems sort of icky.
Like drinking hot chocolat made from instant powder with lumps still in it. *shudders*

That image burned into my brain for eternity I have to say that I don't mind a period being mentioned when it fits the story, but otherwise I don't need it. just as I don't need descriptions of the heroine's visits to the toilet or the hero spanking his monkey.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear Sullivan McPig hero's spanking their monkey are actually very common in a lot of the books I read- and I don't mind that a bit! Most especially M/M romance.



Cecile Smutty Hussy said...

I was thinking that too Ms M... Sorry Sullivan.. Monkey spanking is quiet hot though... at the right time in the right place.... And in those books!

Jill Sorenson said...

Um, gross. But a unique topic that I've never commented on! So kudos.

The Witches of Eastwick has a period sex scene but I don't think oral is invovled. I also remember the heroine in Rachel's Holiday mentioning her period, and her boyfriend says, "Yay, a week without condoms!"

Other than that, I've got nothing. And I'm glad. Don't need period details (har) or on-the-toilet scenes in my reading.

Kris said...

"bloody muff diving"

Thank God I never read this when I first woke up this morning. It's quite possible that I would have thrown up. Icky.

When menstruation is relevant to the story, I think, like all things, it's perfectly fine.

I've also read some sex scenes in which women have had their period at the same time of the scene. Some have worked more than others, but there have definitely never been any scenes that have included a guy going down on a girl.

Again. Icky.

Martha Lawson said...

Very entertaining post!!

Sullivan McPig said...

@MsM and Cecile: to each his/her own. I myself rather have the interaction than the solo explorations.

Katie Reus said...

I've never read Endless Love but I'm definitely not going to now, lol. I've never really thought about the whole period thing (or lack of it) in books...Wouldn't bug me reading it unless there was any sort of oral stuff going on during that time.

And where did you find that last picture (cartoon vamp w/ the woman)? Hilarious!

Donna said...

In real life, with consenting adults...whatever floats your boat!

In books, showing how a male responds to menstruation, or to his partner having cramps would give interesting insight into his character. It could certainly add some funny lines and situations.

I also think a female's reaction to menstruation, whether accepting it as a natural part of life or using it as an excuse to be a drama queen, would give a glimpse into how that character would handle other situations, too.

Mary G said...

Hi MsM
Forgot to come back for this one.
You crack me up. What an interesting post. Except for vampire stories, periods are TMI beyond:

-heroine gets her period therefore she's not pregnant or the opposite.
-they can't have sex because of it
-she's PMSing because of it & it affects her behavior

Don't need any flow info at all!

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