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How Do Periods Affect Sex Work?

Having your period (and everything that comes along with it: cramps, bloating, heavy ~flows~) can mean that there’s a couple of days a month that might make work extra difficult, whatever your industry. Today, we chat with three women who work in different areas of the sex industry, and each of them give us the lowdown on just how hard it really is to be bleedin’ while workin’!

First up, Stoya, who you might know from, well, just about everywhere. She’s a writer, actress (you can catch her NYC stage debut right now), great sex advice giver, and pornography superstar.

If you’re going on set to have sex in front of a bunch of people with cameras, having your period might complicate things, so we asked Stoya how she manages having her period while working in porn.

“The first thing you want to do is try to schedule around it,” she said, “which works only if your period is really schedulable, and mine is not.”

As we learned, the reason that periods are kept out of porn is not because people don’t want to watch period porn (because, you know, people wanna watch everything!), but because of the preference of credit card processors (if you want to sell something on the internet, like jeans or greeting cards or porn, you need a way to process electronic payment). Big companies like Visa and Mastercard place heavy restrictions and fees on anyone processing credit cards on “high risk” sites. So, as a result, smaller third party companies that do process these payments for porn websites have strict guidelines in their user agreements that ban porn that depicts excessive violence, incest, and bodily fluids — including blood.

So, in reality, Stoya explains: "we’ve also effectively erased all trace of menstruation from the depictions of sex that we have. And it’s not something that a porn company is going to take on because you risk losing your payment processor and ability to take credit cards."

Next up, Jacqueline Frances aka Jacq the Stripper, who is — you guessed it — a badass stripper, stand up comedian, and author of the books Striptastic and The Beaver Show. Other than writing books, and making people laugh as she tours across the country, Jacq strips, and we wanted to know what it’s like getting your period when it’s your business to get your business all up in … some dude’s business.  

“If I’m having a bad period I don’t go in,” Jacq told me, which we totally feel. “Sometimes I’m a lot less patient and I feel more powerful — I tolerate less bullshit, so it can also go the other way.”

I asked Jacq about how strippers deal with the fact that their work outfits are usually thongs (or less) — not the most conducive to bulky menstrual hygiene product wearing. But then Jacq told me probably my favorite fact I’ve ever learned about strip clubs ever: “Usually, I just cut the string of the tampon. But there are always scissors chained to the wall of the bathroom in a strip club. There’s actually a tampon string cutting area in strip club bathrooms.” (!!!!) Yesssss.

And does your flow change how up close and personal you wanna get? Well, not really, explained Jacq: “Guys can smell it on you and they love it!” It’s all a preference, some girls go heavy on the Victoria’s Secret body spray and some prefer it au naturel — “some girls wanna smell like candy, some girls wanna smell like pussy.” Plus, as Jacq puts it really clearly in her really, really great insta-illustration (check out her feed for all things funny, empowering, and strip-tastic): Period boobs pay the rent!

On the whole though, Jacq said that having her period at work “makes me enforce my boundaries a lot more, I’m strict about my boundaries [while stripping]. If you’re not strict about your boundaries you will not survive.”

I asked Jacq whether her experience in sex work has allowed her to break down the stigma surrounding sexuality and, of course, her period: “Having periods when you’re a teenager, you were dreading that you were leaking. There are so many memories of paranoia, but, then your period is actually a beautiful thing. When you’re ovulating your mood changes...Sex work made me more comfortable with my body. Periods are a thing that most sex workers experience, nothing is taboo in sex work — well, at least, periods aren't’!”

Cidney Green owns a phone sex and web cam training company, Total Lip Service, and gave us the lowdown on having your period while being a phone sex operator.

“Everybody should be a phone sex operator [while they’re on their period]! Because it’s a lot easier to run around on the phone with a heating pad on.” We agree, it is much harder to strap one to your stomach when you have to leave your bedroom to take the subway to work.

Cidney acknowledged that the taboos around menstruation run deep: “I used to hear all the time ignorant men, adult men, saying, ‘I don’t trust nothing that can bleed for seven days and not die.’ But that makes me incredibly magical!”

Cidney adds: “There can be a lot of ignorance around it, and I don’t think a lot of women know this is a special time to be intuitive, and be with yourself. There should be more compassion and less scrutiny around it, especially when you’re younger.”

Talking to people about sex all day has also helped really normalize menstruation and period sex for Cidney, as she told us, “because there’s a lot of period fetishes out there,” and anyway “it’s a sexual time!”

But even though there is something very appealing about posting up on the phone during your period, Cidney agrees that it can sometimes make it more difficult: “When I’m on my period sometimes I don’t even want to do sex work. No surprise! I know I'm just on the phone but, I don’t want to talk to any of you right now.”

And I think that’s something we can all relate to.

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