I May Destroy You: Period Sex and Blood Clots on the BBC

**This blog contains spoilers for episode three: Don’t Forget the Sea**

Like the rest of the internet, I’ve been totally blown away by Michaela Coel’s ground-breaking new BBC drama, I May Destroy You. The show deals with sex and consent in a nuanced and multifaceted way. In particular, episode three explores period sex and brings this often-taboo subject front and centre.

I May Destroy You is centred around writer Arabella (played by Coel) as she deals with a drug-facilitated sexual assault. Masterfully written, the show explores consent from so many different angles, bringing the grey areas to the fore with honesty, humour, and an unflinching look at sex and rape. Coel’s script and performance takes us to places that I never thought I’d see on TV, let alone the BBC.

Which brings me to episode three: Don’t Forget the Sea.

This half hour episode provides the most honest depiction of period sex I have ever seen on TV. In a world in which period product adverts only started using red blood to indicate a period in 2017, and many depictions of periods are used to shame or horrify audiences (I’m looking at you Carrie), it’s amazing to see a period treated so normally on TV.

Without spoiling too much, the episode takes us back to Italy, where Arabella is writing and her friend Terry is visiting. In an upturned classic *girls getting ready in the bathroom before going out scene* we see Arabella putting in a clean pad on the toilet: with no fanfare, no “can I wear this short dress while menstruating” – she just does it. Puts the pad in and goes.

Later, following a drug and alcohol filled night out, Arabella ends up towel down on the duvet, preparing to have period sex with a guy she had met that day. This in itself was perfect. To see a woman enjoy herself, be escorted home by a guy that is respectful and non-judgmental, and to have period sex presented without horror, feels amazing.

But, again, this is not the peak! Coel keeps pushing boundaries and brings us a scene that was cut from the 50 Shades of Gray films for being too taboo, seeing her tampon removed by the guy who subsequently picks up a rogue blood clot that’s now on the towel.

This kind of period representation is so important as it normalises the actions of literally millions of people all around the world. We menstruate, we go out, we exercise, we have sex, we eat and we continue to live our lives while bleeding.

It is also the first time that I have seen period sex presented as something other than a moment of horror, or fetish, or shame. And let’s be real, have you ever seen a blood clot on the BBC? Let alone one in the hands of a man who does not recoil but asks questions and shows genuine fascination about this aspect of the human body that few people get to talk about?

Often conversations around periods focus on the people having them. Coel throws this on its head, bringing a man into the centre and shedding light on the lack of education and exposure to the realities of having a period that many men face.

The reality is we need all people to feel more comfortable talking about periods in order to de-stigmatise menstruation fully. If more men knew about period products, blood clots and all the other things we deal with each month, this would go a long way to foster understanding and tackle shame.

So, I want to join the chorus of people praising Michaela Coel right now and for bringing us essential period visibility and for bringing blood clots onto the BBC.

Men and Menstruation: Periods 101

This is a series of posts for men out there that have questions about menstruation and aren’t sure where to turn. You could say, we’re putting the MEN in Menstruation

After some frank conversations with the men in my life about periods and my ambitions for this blog, it’s become clear that many men are in the dark when it comes to menstruation.


From gender separated education in which girls learn about their cycles (if at all!) and boys, well, don’t, to persistent myths surrounding menstruation in our culture, many men are missing out on the fundamental facts about periods and our bodies.

As we know, periods are a vital part of human reproduction and for many people form a central part of our (roughly) monthly rhythms and flows. Through better period education, men/ people that don’t bleed could foster a greater level of empathy for menstruators and understand how to become better allies in these conversations.

So, let’s start with the basics! This first post will talk you through what happens to the body during a menstrual cycle. Later in the series I will be explaining key terms, answering questions and providing more fact-based learning on periods for those that want to know.

Thanks to The Vagina Museum Twitter feed for introducing me to this 1946 Walt Disney produced ‘The Story of Menstruation’. I’ve chosen this as the first video as it’s not only good, it has interesting cultural and historical value. Made in partnership with period product maker Kotex, this video is believed to be the first film to explicitly say the word vagina in it and offers an interesting resource for learning the basics.

Whilst the second half of the video that encourages women to smile and wear make-up on their periods is pretty dated, the main section does a really good job of explaining the monthly cycle in a clear and non-judgemental way.

For the time period I was totally impressed with this video. Aiming to give factual information about menstruation in a time when periods were taboo, it’s a wonder that Disney made such a video!

If you want something a little more modern there’s a few options. This video from Always, a period product company, is quite good. Although it advertises products at regular intervals, which is distracting, it’s only three minutes and explains the basics clearly without the 40’s gender stereotyping of the Disney version above!

There is also this next video from Ted-Ex that provides a more scientific approach. It explains more around how menstruation has evolved and why we menstruate as we do. If you are a more scientifically minded person this could be for you!

Many of these resources tend to down-play period pains and Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), I share them as an introduction to the basics of our cycles and will be covering more around the variations and problems that menstruation can throw at you later on in the series.

For now, here is your first Periods 101! For further information try checking out the NHS website. I chose videos today as a quick introduction on this post but of course there are plenty of other resources out there!

Tell me, what questions do you have around periods? What resources have you found helpful? Comment below to join the conversation.

Popular Myths About Menstruation and How to Bust Them!

Period myths can be pervasive in our culture. Spanning from the somewhat logical to the downright outrageous, there are many strange ideas that continue to circulate around menstruation.

These rumours, myths and ideas contribute to the misinformation, stigma and shame we experience around periods.

Some of these myths are easily busted, with many of the ideas we had as children around what happens when you start on your blob being dispelled when it actually happens.

But what about those funny little myths that never seem to quite go away?

Well, I’ve picked out the top five common myths about periods that I’ve encountered and found the facts on each so that, together, we can bust those myths!

1. You can’t get pregnant on your period

I hate to break the news to you but YOU CAN GET PREGNANT ON YOUR PERIOD! I’d love this to be true so we can all enjoy some free-loving at that time of the month but alas, it is still possible.

Due to the variations in our cycles and the fact that sperm can live in the womb for up to seven days, there is no window during our periods when you can guarantee that you cannot get pregnant. And while it is less likely that you would conceive on your blob, it is not impossible.

So, make sure you use protection even when the risk of pregnancy is lower. If only we could expel unwanted semen like Zebras do… life would be so much easier.

2. You can’t exercise while menstruating

I remember hearing this when I was a teen – luckily a friend (and known clever person) told me the opposite and I decided to believe her instead of the rumour. Exercising while on your period is totally safe and there is no reason why you can’t continue to exercise while menstruating, in fact it’s recommended!

Exercise can help you beat bloating, may relieve period pains and will boost your energy and mood more than that extra chocolate(*s*) will.

However, it is also totally normal that you might have less energy, coordination or strength during your period. This is due to hormonal fluctuations throughout the month and it’s fine to adjust your routine to focus on gentler, restorative workouts, or to take a break if you need to.

3. Your period stops in water  

Ok so, this one is my favourite because I secretly want to believe that it’s true… But unfortunately, it’s actually false.

Your period doesn’t stop in water, but the pressure of the water does stem the flow meaning it is unlikely you will see a trail of blood in the pool behind you unless you sneeze or have a particularly heavy flow. If you want to go swimming on your period a tampon is enough protection against leaks and safe to use, just make sure to change it afterwards.

4. Bears and sharks are attracted by period blood

I get it, they are predator animals and it’s not absurd to think that they would be attracted to blood, right? Well actually wrong! Let’s tackle these one at a time:

  • The myth that your period attracts Bears is thought to have originated in Glacier National Park in the US in 1967, when two women were killed by bears, one of whom was on her period. Rumours began to swirl that the reason was due to their ‘menstrual odours’, and despite there being no scientific evidence backing up this claim, it persisted.
  • Sharks on the other hand is a rumour probably born from another common myth that sharks can smell blood from a mile away, which is untrue. Sharks sense of smell is similar to that of many bony fish and varies between species, and while they do use smell for hunting, a drop of period blood diluted in the ocean is not enough to get attention.

5. Men can’t get periods

This is not a trick question and the most important on the list of myths to busted.

Trans men can and do get periods – for anyone unfamiliar with the term, trans men refers to people that were born female but identify as male. They may make the gender transition through the way they present their gender (eg. Clothes), the name or pronouns they prefer to use (ie. he/him or they), and for some people (but not all) through hormone or further physical changes. To learn more, campaigning organisations GLAAD and Stonewall both have loads of helpful information to help you get informed.

For trans men, getting a period can be a varied and sometimes difficult experience, particularly if you experience gender dysphoria, a condition where a person experiences distress due to the mismatch between their biological sex and their gender.

While there are ways that periods can be stopped, whether through hormones or surgery, not everybody will want to choose these options and it is important to recognise that there are many trans men that are still managing periods in a world in which people don’t recognise or talk about this experience.

So, there we have it, my top five period myths and the truth we seek! While some of these myths are a bit funny once you know the truth, others can be harmful and perpetuate information that contributes to period shame.

By knowing the facts around menstruation, we can help to boost wellbeing and take care of ourselves better when it’s that time of the month, as well as supporting others. So why not join me in spreading some #PeriodTruths and sharing these myth-busting facts far and wide?

What myths have you encountered over the years? Tell us in the comments below!