Women Of Horror: Jessica McHugh

Bleed for Five Days and Rule the World

by Jessica McHugh

Horror can’t be caged. By design, it’s stronger and stealthier than us, sometimes even smarter and better at getting inside of us. We can avoid horror fiction, but it still rears its grotesque head in sci-fi. It threatens us with loneliness in romance, evil curses in fantasy. As for my own young adult series, horror sheds the main character’s uterine lining for the first time while she’s performing in front of a crowd.

After writing Darla Decker’s first period, I needed to run her through the gauntlet of feminine hygiene products to find her preferred method. But there was an option I hadn’t tried in my own life, so in the name of research, I decided to buy a menstrual cup.

(Are you still reading? Because it’s about to get gorier.)

First off, some depressing news: a lot of people aren’t familiar with the concept of a menstrual cup or, as it turns out, the concept of menstruation. It took way too long and too much explanation to find what I needed…but that’s a post for another time. After some research, I went with the Diva Cup brand—a larger size, of course, for ladies who’ve given birth or have vaginas over thirty.

I don’t know what I was expecting—certainly not this revelation.

My menstrual cycle started over twenty years ago, and my love of horror began even earlier, but I didn’t connect them until the first time I filled my cup to the brim. Holding it steadily aloft and gawking at this goblet of menstrual merlot, I thought, “Now this is a finely-crafted horror story.”

Like periods and their accouterments, horror can be patterned and predictable—day after day, month after month, the same routine, the same cliches—or it can show up two days early to make ax-wound soup in your favorite jeans. It can turn your insides out and curl you up in bed, unable to face a world filled with such misery.

But there’s pleasure too. As it turns out, horror and menstruation have built-in lubricants and painkillers, which come (heh) in the form of intimacy. Sex during menstruation is a wonderful way to combat cramps, and let’s face it, when your lover’s willing to get his or her hands dirty and don the Lord’s Lipstick, it shows an enormous amount of trust and respect on both sides, and that’s pretty damn sexy.

It’s also curative, much like a well-written horror story. We’ve all read books that dig into the rawest parts of us, those places where suffering mingles with therapy, and imagination drags you beneath surface, where the characters’ stories become yours, maybe even deeper that that, to the story behind the story, to the author crying on her keyboard, unaware that these tears will eventually heal you both.

These cycles of biology and horror storytelling connect us all, and women are at the heart of both. These visceral, transformative, raw, emotional, devastating, painful, and magical parts of life are why we should celebrate women in the horror genre all year long. Though some consider us the “gentle sex,” there’s nothing gentle about good horror or proud women. We know what is to bleed for five days and rule the world, and there are a lot of up-and-coming queens in this genre looking to paint their thrones blood red.

Darla Decker, on the other hand, is just trying to survive 9th grade without free-bleeding in front of her classmates.

About Jessica

Jessica McHugh is a novelist, poet, and internationally produced playwright running amok in the fields of horror, sci-fi, young adult, and wherever else her peculiar mind leads. She’s had eighteen books published in seven years, including her bizarro romp, “The Green Kangaroos,” her Post Mortem Press bestseller, “Rabbits in the Garden,” and her edgy YA series, “The Darla Decker Diaries.” More information on her published and forthcoming fiction can be found at JessicaMcHughBooks.com.