This article originally appeared on VICE France
Our school nurse, Mrs. Alleau,was a rather loud woman with short hair and thick glasses. It was her office that I would run to every time my period pains had me crouched over in agony – a fact that I found highly embarrassing and was scared to death of boys finding out. Mrs. Alleau certainly didn't see the embarrassment in it, though.
"You have your period, scream it loud and proud," she'd tell me.
I was mortified. Of course she was right but her unique brand of feminism was lost on the 15-year-old me.
It's more than a decade later and not much has changed in the world of menstruation. All my friends still feel dirty, undesirable and completely wrecked for that one week each month. And, to this day, men still don't understand the trials of crippling stomach cramps or the fact that our breasts feel as if they're on the verge of imploding. The intricacies of the female body are still complete gibberish to them.
But you can't really blame them. They aren't particularly well informed. One friend of mine spent the best part of his teenage years under the impression that menstrual blood was blue, because of some ad he saw.
That doesn't mean every guy is completely lost when it comes to periods though – some folks are actually really into them. I'm not talking about the guys who are okay with having sex while a girl's on her period. No – I'm talking about the kind of fella who's so keen on Aunt Flow he buys used tampons off the internet.
In fact, there's quite a market for this sort of thing. Collate Sale is a good example of a website dealing in bloodstained underwear and, apparently, their used tampons are selling by the kilo. Their customer service forum is a testament to just how broad this interest has become – boasting queries about things like "odour intensity" and "soakage factor".
After posting on a sex health forum saying that I was interested in talking to a member of the Red Brigade, I received a message from a man named Eric (that's not at all his real name). The man – who currently works in retail and leads a significant team of staff – agreed to hop on the phone and having a chat about his rather particular interest.
VICE: So, how does one find out they're into menstrual blood?
Eric: I first heard about periods through a sanitary towel ad when I was really young. When I hit puberty is when I became really interested in the matter. I'd rummage through the toilet bin at home to try to find my mother and sister's towels. Honestly, I was hooked immediately. There was just something so exclusively feminine and intimate about it all.
I didn't say a word to anyone. Not because I thought it was dirty or anything but I could tell that it wouldn't be perceived as being a "good thing", so to speak.
How about your first girlfriend — did she know?
My first girlfriend – who I was together with for just over seven years – was completely aware of my fetish. Our relationship was the most intense relationship I've ever had. Even more so than the relationship I currently have with my wife. We were young when we met and both virgins at the time so we basically became each other's sex education. We were constantly pushing our own boundaries. Thankfully, she was actually quite comfortable with her period so menstrual blood quickly became a real aphrodisiac for us.
After her, I had a flirt of sorts but I only told her that I didn't mind having sex while she was on her period. She never knew.
You said you are married now. What does your wife have to say about it?
I broached the subject pretty gradually with her. I started dropping jokes about being a bloodthirsty vampire, just to gauge her reaction. Actually, one day I found a good opening to lay it all out there, so I did.
She was constantly getting these vaginal infections and having to go to the gynaecologist all the time. She was really tired of it, so I sat her down and told her that she should stop using tampons, that they were probably the cause of it. She was curious as to why I would know about that sort of thing so I just said it straight out: I was into menstruation. She didn't seem bothered at all – more surprised. I think she really liked the fact that I felt comfortable enough with her to open up completely.
Is this something you talk to your mates about?
No, I've never spoken to another guy about it – not even my best friend. Despite what you'd think, guys tend to be a lot less descriptive of their sex lives than girls. Luckily, I've met plenty of like-minded people on the internet and been able to chat about it without all that social prejudice.
Why do you reckon people think it's a bit strange?
It's hard to say because there's no debate about the matter. If you brought it up in conversation, people would think you were a complete freak. It irritates me that people don't see where the fascination comes from: the complexity of the female body, the fact that menstruation is a sign of good health and a cornerstone of life. A period is the very essence of femininity.
So how do you indulge your fetish? Have you ever purchased used tampons?
I love sniffing used towels – that's my drug. I still haven't gotten around to buying any online, but maybe one day. I'm sure that business like that disgusts some people but I can't see the problem with it. Everyone involved benefits in one way or another.
What about when your wife starts going through menopause? Have you thought about that?
It's crossed my mind but I've actually thought a lot more about when she gets pregnant. When we discuss having kids, I can't help but think about the fact that she won't have her period for nine whole months. But at the end of the day, I know it'll come back. When she stops having her period altogether, I guess we will lose one of the key elements of our sex life but I'm sure we'll find ways to adapt to the situation.
How does your sex actually play out? Sounds like it could get a bit gory.
We lay towels over the sheets to protect the bed. Sometimes she can bleed through but cleaning is part of the ritual for me. I find going down on her really exciting – she's still a bit uncomfortable about it but it's heaven for me. My wife often ends things by masturbating me with a used towel. Believe it or not, I have preferences when it comes to towel brands.
You don't say.
Yeah. I have a real soft spot for both Nana and Vania night towels. They're a bit larger, you know? I can't stand Always – they stink of perfume.
Thanks for that.