Putting The Men In Menstruation

Stock image showing the moon in all her phases through some sort of long-exposure photography, including a normal full moon on the left hand side and a reddish full moon on the right. The moons are displayed over a city with many lit-up buildings, but the sky itself is pitch black.

This post is my contribution to the Menstruation Matters meme, an excellent project started by Sub-Bee with the intention of encouraging frank discussions about all sorts of periods from all sorts of people. Naturally, it contains references to menstruation and blood, and also discusses my experiences of dysphoria as a nonbinary human with a womb. If that’s hard for you, come back next week, for a post I haven’t planned yet more scintillating content!

I have infuriatingly textbook periods.

They were a touch erratic throughout puberty (especially when I wasn’t eating), but as soon as I started using hormonal birth control at age 17 they became so regular you could set your watch by them. Every fourth week, on a Sunday evening or (if I’m stressed or run down) Monday morning, I start to bleed. I have annoying-but-not-debilitating cramps for the first two days, when my flow is heaviest, which vanish by a Thursday morning at the latest, and then the bleeding tapers off and ends on the Friday afternoon.

I don’t bleed spectacular amounts, I don’t have life-ruining PMS, I don’t even break out unless I’m also stressed and not caring for my skin.

And yet I still fucking hate my periods.

Actually, it’s not that simple. My periods themselves are fine. I like the tangible evidence that I’m not pregnant or experiencing organ failure, they’re so predictable and chill that they’re not even a nuisance, and I find menstrual blood fascinating, rather than gross, so it doesn’t even unnerve me in that regard. By all accounts, I’m one of the luckiest period-havers I know.

But I’m also nonbinary.

Leading up to a period, the body retains water and its weight increases. You might find that your breasts feel heavier and more tender, appear larger and spill out of your bra. You might also find that 99% of all period products are marketed in such an aggressively gendered manner that walking down the “feminine hygiene” aisle makes you want to cry. Additionally, PMS-related hypersensitivity means you’re more likely to notice gendered terminology like “womanhood”, “Aunt Flo” and other instances of menstruation being conflated unequivocally with femininity. This might make you feel somewhat murderous.

My periods would be fine if they didn’t bloat me and gender me and force me into the feminine hygiene aisle of Tesco. The latter issue is one I’ve mostly mitigated by investing in an armful of menstrual cups (an armful because if I have just one, I can and will misplace it every single month). Even the ones whose websites are pink and flowery are more comfortable than using pads and tampons, since the cups themselves aren’t big enough to display any patriarchal bullshit on them; they just have 7 and 15 millilitre markings on them, to encourage my fascination with the blood and gunk that they collect. (They’re also a blessing because, unlike pads and tampons, they aren’t scented and they don’t produce any plastic crinkling sounds, which means that they don’t set off any Autistic Rage™ inside my hormonal soul.)

Menstrual cups can’t fix our cisnormative society, though. (Even if you throw them at people.)

Once a month, a nagging pain in my abdomen reminds me that people think I’m a woman. Washing blood from under my fingernails after emptying a menstrual cup reminds me that people think I’m celebrating a feminine, womanly experience when in reality, it’s just another bodily inconvenience, like my knee hurting, or needing to pee in the middle of an important video game boss battle that I don’t want to pause. My boobs being fuller and more sensitive makes me convinced other people are looking at them, and if they’re looking at them, I know they’re assuming that they’re girl boobs. And to top it all off, my moderate flow and easily-ignored cramps make feel guilty for hating my periods with the passion that I do. I’ve read in depth about PCOS, endometriosis and diagnosis-less nightmare periods and I know full well how lucky I am, but I also know full well that dysphoria is a hideous experience that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

And I know that other nonbinary and transmasculine folks will benefit from hearing about my very ordinary, very detestable menstrual cycle. They don’t have to be the typical Periods From Hell to make you feel hellish. I want other transmasculine people to feel seen and to have space for their anguish even if it doesn’t look like typical menstrual anguish. I also want to point out that there can be something deeply masculine and primal about tipping the contents of a menstrual cup slowly into a toilet bowl and admiring the crimson aftermath, and few things sound more manly than walking around, continuing your day whilst one of your organs sheds half its contents into your clothing and nobody is any the wiser.

Menstruation Matters

Sensory Sensitivities, Sex and S&M

In my latest Smut Saturdays piece, I mentioned that I’d had to complete a task for my Daddy wherein I outlined as many things as I could think of that would help me to take more pain as an impact bottom. This (unlike the rest of the story) was directly lifted from my real life. The list (reproduced with my Daddy’s permission, of course) is as follows:

  • Something to bite into/scream into, like a bit gag or ballgag, pillow over face etc.
  • Blindfold to reduce sensory overwhelm
  • Tied up – the more restrained I am, (generally) the more safe I feel
  • Reminders to breathe & untense my muscles
  • Breaks and/or switching between multiple body parts
  • Encouragement & dirty talk (“You look so good with your ass all pink like that!”, “It turns Daddy on to see you enduring so much for me,” etc.)
  • Kisses!
  • Rewards – orgasms, getting to play with Daddy’s ass, confectionery, playing Kingdom Hearts together

Two themes emerged. The first is that I am evidently a spoiled brat and I respond very well to being showered with praise. The second, which is the focus of this post, is that I struggle a lot with overwhelm while I’m bottoming.

Being autistic means that all my sensory experiences are more intense than those a neurotypical person might have. Sometimes, that’s fucking awesome – I get some intense joy from self-stimulating behaviours (stimming) like looking through coloured glass, chewing on certain things, smelling anything containing citrus, and putting my entire goddamn hand in bags of flour. Sometimes things are unexpectedly stimmy or otherwise soothing, including kink stuff: some of my favourites include being restrained with my arms by my sides, getting to scrape wax off my skin once it’s cooled down, and the noise that canes and similar thin impact toys make as they swoop through the air.

Sometimes, though, the opposite is true.

It’s usually not the kink stuff itself that’s sensory hell. I love getting beaten up on so many levels (the catharsis! The grounding! The intense pride in myself and my Daddy!), but it takes up a lot of my sensory “processing power” – it’s a huge sensory experience in itself, which leaves very little room for any other sensory input.

It took me a while to identify that when I was getting “tired” of being beaten, it was more a psychological tiredness than a physical one. I definitely had it within me to take more pain, but I felt like I was done, like if I was hit or pinched or even touched one more time I’d have to safeword and lie down in a darkened room for a few hours. I couldn’t distinguish between psychological and physical overwhelm because there was so much overlap, so for a while I just assumed that I had quite a low threshold for beatings. But that didn’t quite add up: I’d be hungry for pain again only hours later, and it seemed to be the length of the scene, not the intensity of it, that was the deciding factor in me calling it a day.

It hadn’t occurred to me that it was an autism thing until my Daddy got me to outline ways to improve my endurance, but then it all fell into place: I was getting overwhelmed, not by the beating, but by other sensory input that my already-occupied brain was having to manage.

My longest, most intense, and generally most satisfying bottoming sessions have been ones where the sensory input was limited to the beating itself and the sound of my Daddy’s voice (which is stimmy in its tone, and deeply grounding besides). I can just about process the sounds of impact toys on my flesh, because they connect to the pain I’m enjoying, but my bottoming benefits hugely from blindfolds, restraints, minimal background noise and minimal clothing. It also helps me to lie face-down, because then I’m breathing in the familiar, fairly neutral scent of my Daddy’s or my own pillowcases, and because it’s simply the comfiest position for me to stay in for a long time. I like to be tied up and stay put, not be moved about from place to place or pose to pose, at least during impact play – and generally, the less I have to worry about moving my dyspraxic limbs around without elbowing my partner(s) in the face, the better.

Not all of these things will work for everyone, obviously. Sensory sensitivities are as unique to each person as preferred sensory inputs are (like favourite foods or smells). Mostly, I’m sharing this information about myself as a reminder to other kinky autistic folk out there to check in with yourself before, during and after scenes, not just about the stuff you’re typically told to check in about (like nerve impingement during rope scenes, or how far into subspace or domspace you feel), but about Autistic Stuff™ like whether your clothes or sheets feel okay, or whether the room is too noisy or too quiet. It’s easy to forget that being autistic affects every one of your sensory experiences, including sex and kink.

It’s also easy to forget, sometimes (especially if you were socialised as female), that you have the right to assert boundaries, however arbitrary they seem. In the past, I’ve kept quiet while partners have played music, assuming that asking them to turn it off because I’m autistic would be seen as weird and rude. I’ve avoided mentioning to partners that rubbing my bits through my clothes creates a weird wet friction that makes me recoil internally. I’ve been passive and withdrawn during foreplay and sex and kink because I don’t want to prioritise my needs over their wants.

It’s fucked up, but I’m sure it’s also relatable.

Autistic people, and neurodivergent people in general, deserve to enjoy themselves. I won’t say we deserve good sex, because that presumes an entitlement to other people’s bodies, but we certainly deserve for the sexual experiences we do have to be as awesome as possible. We deserve to take some time to examine our own sensory experiences and to deduce what’s pleasant and what’s super fucking unpleasant, and we deserve to then avoid the unpleasant things both within our sex lives and in day-to-day life.

I would highly recommend listing what helps you to have fulfilling, enjoyable scenes (for me: blindfolds, no clothes, reminders to breathe) and listing what makes scenes harder than they should be (for me: music, strong smells, anything itching or tickling), whether you’re neurodivergent or not; but I would especially recommend it if you’re autistic and you sometimes struggle to identify sources of distress in the moment. A seven-item list has already improved my bottoming experiences immeasurably, and I hope it has the same effect for you.

You deserve it.