“Ew, why would you talk about that in front of us?”
“OK, I don’t need to know about that.”
Sound familiar? It’s thoroughly unfortunate that men make such negative associations with something that is a) out of our own control and b) more important, literally the mechanism by which human life itself comes about.
Even more unfortunate is that as a result of hearing these negative connotations from men, women become ashamed of their own bodily mechanisms and biological makeup. A survey conducted by Clue revealed that most women, regardless of what country they lived in, felt uncomfortable talking to a male peer or family member about periods. This can come as a result of hearing these jabs in passing. It can be even more detrimental to a woman’s sexual confidence when it comes from someone she cares about.
Hearing it from your own boyfriend
I’ve dealt with this quite a few times in my own experience. The one that comes to mind right away is the time my own boyfriend told me that “periods are gross.”
We were spending the weekend in New York City and while we were getting ready at the hotel, things somehow turned sexual at some point and he was making advances toward the big S-E-X word.
I hadn’t seen him in a week, and I was right on the end of my monthly at the time. I totally respect that many people, male and female, don’t necessarily feel comfortable with the idea of having sex during that time of the month. So, I kindly let him know that I was on the tail-end of my period just out of respect.
His demeanor changed, and he got up and started changing, appearing to be somewhat agitated. I don’t really remember what I said after that to be honest. I was confused by his attitude; I hadn’t been dating him for too long and this was our first big trip staying together. I guess I had to find out he was a jerk eventually.
At some point during the whole exchange, he ended up saying to me, “I wouldn’t ever want to do that [sex] while you’re… like that [on my period?]. Periods are gross.”
It kind of floored me because up until that point, I had thought he seemed like a pretty nice guy. I didn’t really say much at the time, and we moved along and saw our show. Might I add that he requested oral sex when we got back to the hotel later, but had no interest whatsoever in touching me anymore.
This might seem like no big deal to many, but to me it was everything. I did unfortunately continue to date him for a little bit after that, and it really affected me. Every time I got my period, I suddenly felt like I didn’t even want to be around him, knowing how he felt about something that was out of my control.
Sure, not all people want to have sex during that time of the month. But that doesn’t mean that it’s “gross.” Messy, perhaps? Messy might have been a better word choice at the time… definitely a less offensive one.
I did end up breaking up with him eventually, as his early signs of piggishness turned into full-fledged terrible-boyfriend mode. However, I never forgot that experience, and it took me quite a bit of time to fully convince myself that he was wrong about my own body.
Why it matters & what we can do
The dangerous thing that happens when our society encourages this kind of discussion or lets it slide, even in a light or humorous way, is that young girls and women alike become less sexually confident. Seeing themselves as gross or “other” to men, as separate or knocked down a peg by this one biological trait, women can overtime begin to see themselves as less sexual, less beautiful and less clean, on or off their periods.
Periods are a natural part of life, and they need to start being discussed as such. Men need to respect their menstruating partners enough to stop characterizing this biological process as some kind of voodoo subject.
From this experience, I learned that I need to start sticking up for myself. Shutting those negative associations down when I hear them is important. I learned my lesson, and I can say from experience that since I’ve started to accept my female form, speak up about women’s sexual health and confidence and respect myself enough to only date and befriend decent gentlemen, I’ve become infinitely more liberated.
It’s great to see that the discussion around this subject is beginning to open up more. Women are starting to become more comfortable discussing it — there’s even an app that tracks women’s moods, sex drives, energy levels, and physical symptoms during their monthly cycle. The goal of the app is to help women become more comfortable with thinking about and discussing their periods, while also giving them a clear overview of their health.
Looking through the male side of these online discussions can be both pleasantly surprising and predictably disappointing. While there are clearly still some dudes out there who need a reality check, the amount of men who actually sympathize with and respect women on the subject of menstruation actually seems to be higher than you’d expect.
Many men today even say that they are comfortable enough in their masculinity (what a thoroughly unusual concept!) to go pick up feminine products for their ladies, even if the results can be humorous. Maybe chivalry isn’t dead, but even if it is, keep standing up for yourselves and your bodies, ladies. Your sexual confidence and health doesn’t have to be determined by anyone besides you.