I asked my husband the other day where he learned about women and their periods. He said with a puzzled look (and notice the quotation marks) “I don’t know? The trashcan in my house?” He then paused and exclaimed “No! It was mostly from sex ed at school”. Then he settled back into what he was doing. This got me thinking, though – where DO men learn about menstruation? I grew up in a family of all women, so we never had to deal with it. Dad was decidedly on the outside of that whole discussion. So, I did a little digging on ye olde internet and found out some interesting stuff. Get out the popcorn, because this is a frightening yet interesting look at how men learn about menstruation.
Bros and TV Shows
It turns out that most men learn about periods through – you’ve probably guessed it – TV. Rarely is it a subject broached by families. There are also friends that may have an older sister, and let’s not forget those trusty tampon commercials on television. Personally, if men learn most of what they know through how it’s presented on TV, no wonder they’re so scared of it. Because at no point during my period am I wearing a white sundress on a beach and twirling around in delight. You can find me most days with a bag of potato chips, a glass of wine and a heating pad.
In other words, the things our guys were learning are probably full of half-truths, straight up myths and innuendos. And sex education is probably no better. I did a little Facebook poll and my male friends who responded told me that what they got in sex education class was little more than a story about an unfertilized egg, if the subject was really even broached at all.
So, do boys and men really have to know about periods? YES! If they view women’s bodies as mysterious it only contributes to their gap in knowledge of women’s bodies and this can have an impact later in life. They view girls’ body negatively or think of menstruation as disgusting and horrific. They view women on their periods as crazy, demanding or emotional – or even worse as a twirly white-dressed beach goer.
All of this, I think, translates to a power gap in relationships later in life. Sometimes it may be in favor of the girl with a particularly squeamish boy, but often menstruation is seen as a way to attack women. It’s shameful, a sign of weakness or an argument to keep them out of positions of power. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard that woman can’t be President because she’ll have PMS and push the nuclear button – we’ve all heard that ridiculous excuse. And if you think it’s not something that happens today, look at Sonia Sotomayor’s appointment to the Supreme Court. It was actually suggested that her period would impair her judgement! As if…that woman rocks.
How You Can Help Men Be Menstrually Mature
Most of the time, men do reach a point where the female body becomes demystified. It probably happens around the same time that they’re asked to buy a box of tampons for the first time. But there are a lot of men out there that don’t, so that’s why I think we need to help young men and boys understand women and their bodies better. If you are raising young boys, talk to them about it just as you would your daughter. Make it a normal part of life. Making it a part of everyday dialogue is the only way we’re ever going to make a difference.
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