What If Men Menstruated?

A visit from Aunt Flo

A visit from Aunt Flo

Society has taught us that a girl on her period is weak, bitchy and occasionally psychotic… That time of the month is basically a pissed-off uterus.

Stacey, a student of mine, made that observation. She continued to talk about her shame-filled sister: 

 I remember going with my sister to buy her first pack of tampons. She was so embarrassed that she hid them all the way to the check stand, and blushed on her way out the door.

I’ve felt embarrassed when tampons have fallen from my purse. Or once, when I was on vacation with my dad and stepmom, my period came early and I didn’t want to tell anyone I needed supplies.

Modess... because

Modess… because

Years ago, Modess sanitary napkins were hush-hush marketed as, “Modess…because.” Back then, a woman might say, “I got a visit from Aunt Flo.”

But after all, it was called, “the curse.”

In some societies menstruating women were — or are — seen as polluted. A Hindu woman cannot enter a temple. Years ago she could not eat at the dinner table with everyone else. In some villages today women and girls live in sheds for the duration.

Or, an Ultra Orthodox Jewish woman must take a ritual bath when her period ends to wash away her impurity.

But what if men could menstruate? asked feminist, Gloria Steinem.

We value traits of the powerful. So if men menstruated, would getting your period be a good thing?

Other traits of the powerful are valued:

In most cultures lighter skin is preferred. But then, high status jobs are typically indoors and not in unshaded fields. Colonial powers also tend to be of European descent.

Meanwhile, America’s founders were mostly British, and their Anglo features — along with lighter skin, hair and eyes — are more valued even today. So Jewish women may get a nose job, African-Americans may straighten their hair, and East Asians may want rounder eyes – all creating a more Anglo look.

So, what if men menstruated, instead of women?

Mine's bigger

Mine’s bigger

Surely it would become an enviable, masculine event, suggests Steinem. Instead of shame and whispering, guys would be bragging at this proof of manhood. Bravado would ring out, “I’m on the rag!” Stag parties and boasts over whose periods were heavier would follow:

I’m a three-pad guy!

And:

  • The military would forbid women from serving: “You must give blood to take blood.”
  • Women could not be rabbis since they lack that monthly loss of impurities.
  • Women could not be priests, having no experience with symbolic death and resurrection.

Throughout, guys would bluster about their ability to withstand the pain of cramping.

And while guys today may find sex during menstruation, “utterly disgusting… Only in the shower if it’s the only choice” — as a guy named Sam did, if men menstruated it would be nature’s best lubricant.

Thanks to my student, Stacy Villegas, for the observations that helped inspire this post — including that last one.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 10, 2014, in feminism, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Great…I fully agree….it’s humorous as well as logical…

  2. Very interesting topic. I’ve often wondered this myself. Some points:

    1. I do not believe Sam’s feelings about period sex are typical. My lover doesn’t care (in fact he said he’d be willing to do oral on me during that time if I had a dam). The majority of my friends in high school said it wouldn’t be an issue for them, and the ones who did say they wouldn’t were under the impression that it would hurt their partner.

    2. I first started my menses at age 10…and it upset me a lot. It was an unavoidable, undeniable aspect of myself that was decidedly feminine. As you know, I have gender dysphoria, so while I never viewed menstruation as bad or gross it was/is something that kicks my dissonance into high gear. I recently learned that men also have hormonal cycles though, so with that knowledge it’s not so bad.

    3. Luckily, I have also never had problems with it other than temporary water weight. I’ve no mood swings, cramps, bloated feelings, headaches, nausea, or cravings, and mine are extremely light 9/10 times, only lasting 3-4 days. Compare this to literally every other female in my family, some of whom need birth control just to not throw up, and I can see just how much I lucked out.

    4. I’ve actually discovered that if I meditate while thinking about not bleeding, I can prevent my period from occurring that month (the most I’ve done is 2 months in a row, since I’m unsure if more would be healthy). In the same way, I’ve been able to sync my personal cycle to that of the moon. Interestingly, if I stop doing said meditations for more than 3 days, my cycle reverts back to it’s previous schedule. Has anyone else tried this?

    5. Your faux religious reasoning up there has actually been used by some Pagan groups to explain why the High Priestess is of a superior level to that of the High Priest (though not by too much…balance is still important). I’m a solitary Wiccan, so I practice alone but one of the covens near me actually hold “moonblood gatherings” for girls on their first menses to reassure them that it’s a good reminder of the Goddess and her constant rejuvenation. For boys, it’s when their voice changes and it’s a acknowledgment of the strength they will receive that is reminiscent of the Horned God. Just thought you might like to know that there *are* religions that appreciate both sexes. 🙂

    • The Pagans reflect the earliest religions, a time when women were revered for their ability to give birth to life. See my comment to Andrew, above.

      I’d like to see a scientific survey on men’s attitudes about sex and menstruation. But thanks for sharing your experience. Not everyone’s like Sam, clearly.

  3. In some societies menstruating women were — or are — seen as polluted.

    When I read that from your post, the book of Leviticus came to mind. There are some strange notions there… at least strange to me:

    19When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. 20‘Everything also on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean, and everything on which she sits shall be unclean. 21‘Anyone who touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.…

    http://biblehub.com/leviticus/15-20.htm

    There’s more stuff like that scattered throughout Leviticus if I recall correctly.

    As for the rest of your post, I’ll agree that the world would be a much different place if men menstruated.

    • I guess the ultra orthodox tradition came from that.

      Before patriarchy, menstruating women were sometimes avoided because they were thought so powerful. Holding the power of life. I’ll write about that later.

    • Every piece of medical science I have read state menstrual periods are healthy for a woman’s body. One of the purposes is to eliminate harmful bacteria in a woman’s body. So, why is this impurity viewed so harshly?

      Yes, I consider myself to be more religious than most American. So, this is how God created woman. I accept this as a matter of my faith as truth.

      Just because a woman’s menstrual cycle is considered impure does not mean a woman is impure.

      I am not sure what all the fuss is about here.

      • Yeah, pretty weird.

        In non-patriarchal cultures menstruation is not thought a bad thing, and can be seen as a source of power emanating from the life-bringer.

      • huggy bear, I think we essentially agree.

        I am not sure what all the fuss is about here.

        No fuss was intended by me.

        In her post, Georgia pointed out how menstruation is viewed by some religions and other cultures. My intent was simply to add a little to the discussion from something I remembered reading in the Bible. I indicated I found those rules strange, meaning… I guess I don’t agree with the rules toward women God spoke of in Leviticus. I do agree with you that God made women a certain way, menstruation is natural, healthy and cleansing (based on what I’ve read or heard before). I don’t think it makes a woman “impure.” That would be like saying a man peeing makes him impure.

      • “Just because a woman’s menstrual cycle is considered impure does not mean a woman is impure.”

        How come so many things to do with women are “impure” but there’s not the same concern for males in the Bible? On one hand, how can a woman’s bleeding be impure at all when it serves a basic biological function and is a natural part of reproduction? It’s not like she can stop it from happening, and if she tries to she has to do something unhealthy and destructive for that to happen. If the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, then doing something destructive to it to prevent it from doing something it’s designed to do would be sinful and idiotic.

        On the other hand, nature is fallen and all humans according to the Bible are impure and that’s why they need a Savior in the first place. That includes all men. The act of existing makes you impure in this world according to the Bible. Should we all go hide in huts and never come out because we’re shamed of our existence?

  4. For those interested in normalizing menstruation (after all, if it didn’t happen we’d none of us be here) might like to take a look at Tampon Run – http://www.tamponrun.com/ – for two girls’ take on this topic. But the gist of the article is correct – female behaviors are devalued to avoid men feeling threatened.

  5. What about trans-identified men? They would be able to menstruate, but to them it would feel as if their body was betraying them because they were biologically female.

  6. All the “powers” that get activated when one is bleeding would actually be acknowledged rather than ignored if men bled, I’d bet. That time of the month would be considered a period of greater intuition, the ability to shed more than blood, and more easily articulate one’s raw, sometimes angry truths.

  7. This was such a fun reading.

  8. Ha I love this! Gave me a wry smile. 😉 The men I know would freak out if they started having periods! x

  9. As a Christian Orthodox, since i was little i was taught i was not allowed back in the temple of the church. I tried to ask why multiple times but I never got a satisfactory answer. The told me because i am a woman, because women are not clean, because women did the first sin and thats how we humans left heaven and ended up on earth. I have learned since 12 when i got my period that i am not allowed to receive liturgy (it includes wine and bread symbolising the blood and body of Jesus Christ). All of that made me angry from a very young age, that didnt make me respect my faith, a faith guided by male priests that made me feel inferior of being a woman. I was always wondering why women couldnt be priests? Why women couldnt be the people that god speaks to them? Even though i was young I knew inside me that god doesnt discriminate, and in order not to grow old bitter i decided to love god in my own ways.

    • I can really. That’s why I left the religion I grew up in. It’s amazing to me how some people have no problem telling other people that they aren’t good enough/worthy enough or whatever.

    • The way my mom thinks (and she was a nun for 10 years) is that nothing bad happened when Eve ate the fruit in the garden. No one was cast out, God didn’t have a hissy fit. NOTHING. It was when ADAM ate that fruit that all hell broke loose. Therefore, it was Adam’s sin that caused the shitstorm. Adam is the one who sucks.

  10. If men menstruated, I personally think it would be a miracle. Maybe men would then understand our pain… A quote from this article, ” Instead of shame and whispering, guys would be bragging at this proof of manhood.”
    I completely agree with this statement because everything that men do already seems masculine and gallant, so if they were to menstruate, then THAT would be considered to be a good thing. Why is this so shameful for women and not for men? It’s horrible how society portrays the image that when women menstruate, it is considered a weak trait for females, but when roles are reversed for men, it will be considered a macho and manly trait. How is this right? Now, that’s something to think about.

  11. Yajaira Gutierrez

    I think that its nature for us and there is nothing to be ashamed of i use to be shy when i went to the store to buy feminine products i really like this reading its very interesting.

  12. I was just wondering, if women’s bodies are seen as much more attractive and sexy than men’s, why are women’s bodily processes such as menstruation viewed as taboo and disgusting? And why do men say our vaginas smell like fish??? I don’t understand how men can ogle and fetishize our bodies like they’re the greatest thing they’ve ever seen and at the same time think our bodies gross? What kind of nonsense logic is at work here?

    • Kind of crazy, isn’t it?

      Back before patriarchy, menstruation was thought to make women very powerful — you needed to keep your distance because she might hurt you. But after patriarchy the reason to avoid a menstruating Woman was pollution.

      Meanwhile, most men remain sexually attracted to women, and become objectified.

      The fish thing can be contradictory. Some guys brag that they like tuna. And maybe they see it as something positive in that way? But I think that it can lead to a loss of sexual interest in women to think that guys see them that way. I find it a turn off, anyway.

  13. Victoria Butterfield

    The funny thing with guys and periods is they are absolutely terrified of them, they fear what they don’t know. When I got my period as a 12 year old my mom was on a business trip so it was me and my dad and brothers, I couldn’t go get pads or tampons by myself because I was too young to drive to the store so I begged my dad to go get some for me. Him being male, he wouldn’t ask for help at the grocery store and ended up buying one of each size and brand…because one of them had to right…and then proceeded to use self check out to avoid being in a line with about 10 boxes of pads and tampons….

  14. I think some of the thoughts of what men would actually do should they theoretically be on a period is interesting because it really shows the impact that putting of the male on a higher pedestal has had on our contemporary society. What I would also like to imagine would be a society like that when the period and the female was actually looked highly upon like you mentioned in class way back in history.

    In essence the little that we educate the male part of our society also seems to be a problem. Once one of the females in my family was on their period, I forget who exactly, but I remember my older sister coming over and when my nephew when to go to the bathroom he came back yelling for his mom because someone was bleeding in the bathroom. Of course we all laughing it off, but sadly this misunderstanding doesn’t address itself sometimes well into Highschool. Or sadly, like you mentioned in your blog in cultures like India, it’s never taught to the men and is not supposed to at all.

Thoughts? (Comments will appear after moderation)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: