August 27, 2016

Why I had Myself Photographed covered in Menstrual Blood. {Graphic Nudity}


I had myself photographed naked, while menstrual blood was dripping down my legs and covering my hand.

When we say someone has blood on their hands, it is usually perceived as dirty, something to be afraid or ashamed of. I had blood on my hands and I owned it.

But it wasn’t always like this.

My journey toward period-positivity and body literacy started after years of loathing and suppressing my body and all of its functions—especially my monthly bleeding.

When my menarche arrived, I observed my blood and was absolutely fascinated by it. But then the kids in my class said it was gross. I didn’t understand why, but I did not want to be an outsider. So I shifted my ideas, so they would fit what was “normal.” Years later, I observed again, trying to understand what exactly was so gross about it. After peeling down the layers of what I had been taught—the stories I had heard, the commercials I had seen, the “good advice” I was given—I came to understand that everyone who labels period blood as “dirty” is most likely just afraid of the power that lies within it.

This was the only conclusion I could come up with.


As women who bleed, we have been suppressed. We have been shamed, humiliated, hurt, wronged. We have had to explain ourselves when we are emotional, and are even ridiculed because of it. We have been viewed as less capable to function in the world. If you did not feel or experience this personally, I invite you to ask around. Listen to the stories. Are they filled with empowerment? Or rather, shame? From my experience, however, I know that positive stories are actually rare.

This is what I would like to see changed.

Knowing that blood is one of the oldest tools to make art with, took this project to an ancient level of human experience.

Inner and outer body uniting, blending into a masterpiece. Our ancestors honored blood, saw the value of it and understood that blood means life and death all at once. Menstrual blood is a sign of health, but also a sign of no baby, so in a way—death.

Modern life distractions make us sometimes forget how beautiful our body and its processes are. How sacred, even. For me, my menstrual cycle is my portal to the blessedness of life.

The menstrual cycle is like a micro-cosmos in women’s bodies, representing the bigger cosmos that we are in. We don’t have to do anything about it, menstruation just happens, like the beating of our hearts.

It’s like magic.


When we as human beings don’t know anything about something, we usually start with what we can perceive with our senses—we look, we hear, we see, we smell, we touch.

I dare you.

Go sit down with your blood during one of the first days of bleeding. Meditate on it. Smell it. Feel it. Why is it gross or scary? Look at me. Look me in the eyes and tell me why.

It’s powerful. Can you comprehend how powerful this blood is? This blood can create life. This blood can nourish a fetus to grow. A fetus, yes. That’s a baby. That’s a brand new human being. That is how powerful it is.

I am not saying you should have yourself photographed naked with warm blood dripping from your legs. It’s absolutely okay if you don’t do that. But it is also absolutely okay if someone does.

This is exactly where the problem lies—we think doing one thing is right and the other is wrong. We are culturally conditioned to have the strangest ideas about menstruation. And for what, really?

Why on Earth would we ever agree to feel uncomfortable in our bodies.

Why would we allow ourselves to believe that the blood that flows from our wombs is gross?

Why would we teach our daughters to feel alienated in their own gorgeous sacred and beautiful bodies?

Why would we tell our sons to fear the blood of their mothers and girlfriends?


I believe generations of shaming have led us to serious alienation and disconnection from our bodies. Shame exists in my bloodline. I am sure shame exists in yours as well. I am trying to break this line of shame and make sure that my daughters and sons feel absolutely comfortable in their own bodies. So they can learn how to set their own boundaries and not have other people or society do it for them—leaving them unsatisfied with who they truly are.

And it goes way further than this.

I believe that when a woman is ashamed about her menstrual blood, she will take this shame with her into pregnancy and she may increase her chances of feeling ashamed of or uncomfortable with all the fluids that flow from her womb and vagina during and after childbirth. And chances are, she will—unconsciously—pass this on to her children.

Luckily, we are human. And luckily we can make necessary changes. We can choose what we believe.

I dare you to peel off all the layers of belief systems that have covered your beautiful mind. Look at what is underneath them all. And then formulate your own ideas. Don’t follow the herd. Don’t follow the commercials. Follow your own gut feeling. Follow your cycle. It has so much to tell you. Listen.

Here are my powerful medicinal sacred photos. You are welcome to look at me. I allow you to look at me. And I am asking you to see you when you look at me. I invite you to look at the blood. I invite you to see it as something sacred. Please, do not sexualize my body or see it as an object.



Remember: without this blood and without healthy menstrual cycles, you would not be sitting here reading my words. It’s time we start realizing what we have destroyed with generations of ideas that suggested we hate our menstrual blood. Let’s reverse that curse.



Relephant Reads:

Claiming our Power to End the Shame of Bleeding. Period. {Photography Series & the Picture Instagram Wouldn’t Allow}

How the Menstrual Cup Changed my Period.

Bonus: 5 Mindful Things to do Each Morning.

Author: Iris Josephina Verstappen

Images: courtesy of Jade Beall

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

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Lisa Sommerhuber May 10, 2018 3:03pm

Wow, I'm amazed. So beautiful and so touching, as I'm on my own journey to reclaim my body fluids and letting go of shame. Thank you for daring to challenge this taboo for all of us!

Amar Akbar Anthony May 4, 2018 2:17am

Next people must also be covered and photographed in their Nose Goop, Vomit, Urine, Sweat, Shit etc because society has long looked down upon these natural processes of life, which are like a micro-cosmos in people's bodies Go sit down with your Nose Goop, Vomit, Urine, Sweat, Shit etc when even it happens. Meditate on it. Smell it. Feel it. Why is it gross or scary? Look at me. Look me in the eyes and tell me why. There is a reason why these body fluids are called excretions and why they smell and taste horrible... If they were not so, homo sapiens being like any other animal would be lapping up all the shit, and other exrettions!!!

Manuël Vd Weijer Apr 30, 2018 1:41pm


Ilyssa Silfen Sep 9, 2016 5:43am

I love, love, love these photos. They are so powerful. I've been on a long journey (15 years!) of reclaiming my cycle and honoring its magick and its ability to connect me with the cycles of nature, the moon, etc. As you said, our cycles are a microcosm of the cycles that exist all around us. Our bodies ebb and flow just like the seasons and the moon. It's hard not to see that connection once you've noticed it! When I first started bleeding at the age of 12, I was also excited for it to finally be there, but that excitedness, that deep knowing, got suppressed for many years thanks to the shame of friends, family, and society as a whole. I was 19/20 when I really started delving into reclaiming and reconnecting with my blood and performing Red Tent ceremonies each month. Funnily enough, I used my blood to paint my face and my body the last time around, the first time I had ever done so, and when I looked in the mirror I felt like I was seeing my true reflection for the first time in my life.

Jorge Muñiz Perez Sep 4, 2016 12:30pm

Alicia Smith Sep 3, 2016 5:09am

So beautiful.

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Iris Josephina Verstappen

Iris Josephina Verstappen is a cycle awareness educator, doula, anthropologist, writer and an endlessly creative soul. She has inspired many women all over the globe to choose healthy and body friendly options for menstrual management. As a doula, she has successfully guided women and their partners on the most intimate journey of pregnancy and birth and is praised for her intuition and ability to know exactly what mamas need. She resides in the Netherlands but often travels the globe and is currently working on her book Menstrual Revolution. Catch up with Iris on her website, her personal Facebook page, professional Facebook page and Instagram.