Sex educator/musician/comedian Lucy Peach has landed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with her show My Greatest Period Ever. Known for her gentle folk stylings, Peach’s latest show is an ode to life cycles, blood and getting to know your own body. She chatted to Sam Jones about that whole menstruation thing.
Do you feel that attitudes towards menstruation are moving in a better direction these days, or do you still feel that we have a very long way to go?
Absolutely yes – there is so much work and amazing art being made to ameliorate hundreds of years worth of women being shamed for menstruating – which is fantastic. However, depending on who you talk to and where they live/their cultural background, many people still feel shamed. Even on a micro level – they just wouldn’t feel comfortable to be open about HOW THEY ACTUALLY FEEL. Sorry for shouting. But all of that shame and taboo and stigma gets internalised and we’ve carried it for so long. It’s not easy to throw it off because the world is geared to testosterone and masculine energy by default. But the fluidity of women is absolutely a power – not an inadequacy and it’s bloody well time to go with the flow.
Menstruation is obviously something that’s a punchline for a lot of truly terrible jokes, did you find it difficult to create a comedy around the topic without punching down?
When I first wrote the show – I wasn’t intending to lead with humour – but I discovered that when you talk about something normally considered taboo (to some extent) – people laugh because it feels so good to laugh in the face of tension! There is so much material around living with the ebbs and flows of a cycle – how it affects relationships/sex/work/creativity – I wouldn’t touch a terrible period joke with a ten foot pole – no need!
As a sex educator in high schools, what did you find was the prevalent attitude towards periods from teenage boys?
Compared to when I was at school? Like a ray of light. Boys now are so much more switched on (well the ones that I worked with) to understanding girls and women – I sense relief about letting go some of the macho hangover that Australia is known for. Also – it’s in the delivery – when you explain menstruation/sex/anything in a completely open, human, unapologetic way – people get the hint and think, “I can do this too.” And then they do and then – peace on earth! Well that’s the plan anyway.
If you could impart a single message to high schoolers of today about menstruation, what would it be? And would you want to send a different message to adults?
Please listen to your body. It knows. Take note. Literally, if you made a note of how you felt every day for three months and correlated this with your menstrual cycle you would have THE most rich data about your body, how you feel and what you need. Then – the game changer is being able to predict your energy spikes and your bumpy bits. Knowledge is power and using this information is like having your own super power. You have the power! Adults, high-schoolers – we all need the same thing – to treat ourselves and each other with more love and understanding.
What’s your opinion on the tampon tax and the women who are arguing that we should use it as a push to convert to menstrual cups?
Tampon tax = fecken stupid. I do not insert a tampon and think of luxury one iota. I also haven’t inserted one for over a year! The menstrual cup as well as reusable pads are my choice to manage my blood and although the cup took a while for me to get used to, it is magic. But not everyone is comfortable yet and we don’t need another thing to shame women and girls about. Not everyone is going to want to use one and then empty it on their tomatoes and that’s ok. But the more it becomes mainstream – the more people will cotton on. To avoid paying money for disposables and the negative impact on the environment is a very good thing. Fill your cups! (And if you do empty it on your tomatoes dilute it first).
You are obviously passionate about the power of the natural cycle for women, how do you feel about the impact that hormonal contraception can have on that?
I would never advise anyone on this – again – if something works for you – you know best. And sometimes hormonal contraception is the least crap option and you may feel you have no choice but to use it. You still have a cycle that you can tune into but there’s no doubt that it’s affected. Along with many other symptoms – for me it was always too much to bear. Hormonal contraception was very effective partially because it made me feel so unsexy! I’ve had many women say to me – I’m going off the pill – I want to feel what it’s like to have my own cycle back. I’d be lying if I didn’t say this thrilled me know end but I always encourage people to speak to their doctor about finding the best plan for them. One woman was 42 and said she hadn’t bled for 8 years and that she realised she may be running out of time to know her own cycle. She had her Mirena out the next day. Women know their own bodies best.
As a sexual health education consultant, what’s your opinion on the “Natural Cycles” app and women using the ‘’Fertility Awareness Method” of contraception given that it has a failure rate equal to the pull out method.
It requires careful consideration and sober judgements! However – we should be given the choice and the information necessary to make that choice. We have to stop treating people like they are stupid. We really need to teach people better and so much of it comes down to communication. Ps the pull out method is very effective IF done properly!
You famously had one of your show ads banned for breaching community standards, even though it was simply a picture of a grapefruit. Where do you think social media should draw the line between body positivity and erotica when it comes to naked bodies (and grapefruits)?
My children remarked to me recently that I am much more inclined to let them see images or footage of a sexual than violence and it’s true. I don’t know what the line is – it’s different for every body but I do know that trying to keep sex and sexuality a secret is so dumb and ineffective. I’d rather see a nipple/pussy/grapefruit than a gun!
Many Australians aren’t given adequate sex education through schooling, what resources do you suggest for people who want to get to know their sexual and reproductive health better?
Some great books and sites are:
When you have your period, and you’re in the Winter phase of your cycle, what do you turn to for comfort and reassurance?
Great question! The bath, my velvet dressing gown, trees, dark chocolate, whiskey, avocadoes, hot water bottles, my guitar, warm socks, rubbing sandalwood oil on my belly, sex, classical music, not necessarily in that order!
Lucy Peach is performing
My Greatest Period Ever at 8:30pm at the Butterfly Club until 22 April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets, show details and accessibility information can be found via the MICF website.