It is a common misconception that when a girl gets her period for the first time she automatically becomes a woman.
Becoming a woman is a journey that goes beyond biology. It requires an understanding of the self on both physical and emotional levels.
As you might know (considering it’s almost all I talk about) my partner and I got married a little over two weeks ago. Coming to terms with the idea, and the desire to get married took me several years of processing and working through. It wasn’t something I was sure I wanted to do. I didn’t fully understand my need (if any) for it. I didn’t want to enter something just because it was the social norm. And I really wanted to make sure I had solid reasons (other than love) behind it. Marriage isn’t just something to do, a party to plan and host. Marriage is a whole new state of living with someone else. It’s an archetypical change. It’s an energetic shift into a new way of being (like being a woman is…)
In my pre-engagement research, I was reading a marketing book. This book talked about rites of passage. It talked about the Latin American quinceanera, about the Jewish Bat/Bar Mitzvah, about death, and about Marriage. As much as I am into rituals and ceremonies, I didn’t see marriage that way until I read about it in terms of a rite of passage.
A rite of passage gives us a point of transition. In each rite of passage, there is a loss and a gain. Something is changed within us. We shift. And by creating ceremony or ritual around it, we’re giving that shift recognition, and honoring the parts of ourselves that we’re saying goodbye to, as well as the parts of ourselves we’re welcoming in.
So one of the reasons I decided to marry my already partner in life, was to honor the different aspects of ourselves, to go through the process of loss and gain. To create ritual and ceremony around the intention we were both already living.
How does this relate to periods? how does it relate to sex?
When I came off the pill two and a half years ago, I started reading so many books about being female. One of them was Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup. There was one sentence in there that really stood out for me: “Today’s teenage girls are ‘fertile time bombs’ because they have no knowledge of their own cycles and use sexuality and intercourse as a rite of passage”. This sentence revealed so much of my teenage years. As a child, I wanted to grow up. I wanted to catch up to my older siblings and felt like the entire world was older than me. I wanted to speed up the process and arrive somewhere already… Sex was one of the ways of doing so. TV was a big part of my life growing up. And the stuff I watched on TV was sexual. People didn’t date, get to know each other by talking, kiss for hours, get flowers, etc. They had a strong emotion and then took off each other’s clothes and had sex.
And so, as a 16-year-old, I didn’t think of whether or not I was mature enough, or connected enough to have sex, I thought that having sex would create that maturity and that connection for me.
“A rite of passage is a ceremony of the passage which occurs when an individual leaves one group to enter another. It involves a significant change of status in society [identity]… Rites of passage have three phases: separation, liminality, and incorporation.” (Wikipedia)
Getting a period for the first time is a rite of passage, however unless we clarify our intentions around it, it can have too many meanings, and leave us (or our little girls) feeling lost and confused about our/their identity and place in the world.
Same goes for sex. What would putting sex in the rite of passage category look and feel like? Where do we go on the other side of having it?
Although it might be obvious in terms of losing our virginity, it might not be so obvious in terms of intercourse with different partners. And I wonder, can intercourse be a rite of passage each time? Even with the same partner? Does looking at sex in this way give it more meaning?
Looking at both our period & sex in this way might allow us to have a more beautiful, intimate and purposeful perspective of these important, on-going parts of our lives.
So here are 4 simple questions to ask about your period & your sex life… you can apply it to your current and future menstrual cycles and current and future sex life, or do some internal house cleaning and ask these about your past. In terms of mensturation, I look at these questions in regards to the first time I remember getting my period, as well as from cycle to cycle… as for sex, I do it by listing all of my previous partners and then ask these questions about each of them.
How have I changed?
How was I altered or transformed?
What did I give up?
What did I gain?
Once you journal through these, you might discover some gems about yourself you didn’t know exist. You might discover gems about your relationships. Sure, you might discover things that are not so great or comfortable, but bringing it to light always helps. It heals and you’re able to move forward with clarity about what your needs are and what you want for yourself.