I May Destroy You: why fans are praising this period sex scene

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This is how episode three of I May Destroy You has helped break taboos around period sex. Beware: spoilers ahead. 

We are currently obsessing over Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You for many reasons. The fearless, frank and provocative drama series explores the question of sexual consent in contemporary life. It somehow manages to tackle and explore such tough issues with beats of dark humour. And the performances from Coel and her co-stars – Weruche Opia, Paapa Essiedu – are compelling watches. No wonder people can’t stop praising it. 

To quickly recap the story so far: Arabella (Coel) – easily distracted, non-committal and carefree – finds herself feted as the ‘voice of her generation,’ with an agent, a book commission and a lot of pressure. But after being sexually assaulted in a nightclub, her life changes irreversibly and Arabella struggles to put the pieces together and come to terms with what has happened. 

The plot is inspired by Coel’s own real experience of sexual assault. In 2018, she called for the media industry to do more to protect young writers, after sharing the story of how she faced pressure to deliver scripts after being sexually assaulted by a stranger.

The series has been applauded by fans and critics alike for its honest and nuanced exploration of assault in the “hook up” era. And the latest episode, aired on Monday 15 June, is being commended for its refreshing real portrayal of sex. 

In episode three, the series flashes back three months to when Terry (Opia) visits Arabella in Italy, where she is trying to write her book. The pair head on a big night out and take a cocktail of drugs. By the end of the night, both women have sex back at their apartment.

Terry has a threesome with two local men. Meanwhile, Arabella sleeps with the drug dealer she met earlier that day. But just after they get started, she tells him she is on her period – and he is completely unfazed by it. In fact, he has no problem with taking out her soaked tampon and is fascinated by the huge blood clot he picks up with his fingers. We also see the used sanitary towel when Arabella takes off her underwear. 

Although it shouldn’t be considered bold to show period sex in 2020, the fact is that we barely – if ever – see it on our screens. Finally: this show is helping to normalise it.

One fan wrote: “I May Destroy You has given us the realest period sex scene I’ve seen. This is the modern day SATC no one else has been able to make (don’t @ me with that Four More Shots Please, it doesn’t deserve the reference), with sexual consent at its core. Only Michaela [Coel].”     

Another observed: “Fuck me. I May Destroy You may be the smartest, nuanced, funny, devastating exploration of sex and consent… ever??!! I am in awe. A level of specificity and astuteness I’ve never seen on tele, never mind AN ACTUAL PERIOD INDUCED BLOOD CLOT IN THE MIDDLE OF A SEX SCENE.”

“As if this show couldn’t get any better,” said another Twitter user. “I now absolutely adore Michaela Coel for showing what sex and periods are like together in I May Destroy you.”

“Episode 3 of I May Destroy You. WOW.” added another viewer. “What a fantastic piece of TV – that will stay with me for a long time. A healthy depiction of men who can maturely handle menstruation combined with the all too frequent way some men behave after intimacy with women. @MichaelaCoel take a bow.”

And this fan put it succinctly: “I May Destroy You is fucking great TV, normalising period sex and mmf threesomes all in one go… love it.”

You can catch up with I May Destroy You on BBC iPlayer.

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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