Menstruation Through The Eyes of a Typical Male
This weekend, I had the opportunity to get in touch with many of my guy friends. Oddly enough, most of my girls live close to me and it’s only on holidays where I get to see my closer male friends who come back into town. Though we keep in-touch over messaging and phone, it still doesn’t replace that face-to-face contact. More to this, is that I wanted to run some things over discreetly with them, such that I also needed to be able to see their facial reactions and gauge changes in body posture and voice intonation. Now suffice to say, it’s not like I’m some psychology expert, but anyone who communicates regularly with people know that being able to see those factors enhances our ability to detect and sense otherwise undetectable things through other forms of communication.
This weekend, having 4 days off (today’s the last day, BOO) – my goal was to collect some ideas from the guy’s about their perceptions of menstruation, or rather, perhaps demystify some of the things guys think or say about menstruation or surrounding topics. Mind you, this isn’t a collection of every “view” of menstruation of all males, but only through contact with a few of my guy friends who “dared” to speak to me about such subjects. To be honest, when I gave them feedback on their statements, it was probably more detail than they were ever hoping for. However, having an opportunity for open dialogue is the start to end the taboo on menstruation, for males and females. If we can’t talk about it, then menstrual negativity is going to perpetuate for years to come. The following is a few of the dialogues I had between my various friends.
“Girls use tampons on their period”
Yes and no. Yes, some girls DO use tampons for their periods. However, ‘tampon’ is not an interchangeable word and only describes one, of the many forms of feminine hygiene products. A tampon is usually a cylindrical piece of cotton or other synthetic materials which is inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual flow. Other notable menstrual protection include disposable pads, cloth pads, menstrual cups, sea sponges, etc. Furthermore, there ARE also women who enjoy free-bleeding and as long as that works with their lifestyle and is considerate of sanitation to those around them, then that’s great!
“She’s angry, it must be that-time-of-month”
I have to say, that’s a pretty nasty statement to make and if you’ve tried that with a less-than-humoured girl, it might result in some kicks to the nuts. Though there are times that PMS may lead to irritability, anger or emotional state changes in a woman, it does not mean her period is around the corner. I believe in 2 things regarding this. 1) Women should not be able to use their period/PMS as an excuse for inappropriate behaviour, 2) Men should not use periods/PMS as a means of attacking a woman’s behaviour. With that said, there have been many articles written by men that essentially says, “PMS is not a valid excuse” and since that would otherwise ruin my point that it’s not coming from the viewpoint of a woman – you can reference an article written by a lady here concerning the topic: PMS is no excuse for acting like a bitch – we should recognize that hormonal fluctuations during a menstrual cycle may be a factor of sharply changing behaviour, but not allow it to justify disrespect. Hell, even if it really is PMS or menstrual temper I can almost guarantee you’d be better off not to point it out, unless you can do it in fashion without throwing oil in the fire.
“The only time that I like knowing she got her period is when I’m worried she’s pregnant”
Well, the sigh of relief may be for both parties I suppose in this case. Menstruation however, is something to love and appreciate. Though I know some of my girls have waited in angst for their period to arrive when they had some “oopsies” – as guys, we should consider that normal menstrual cycle means our partner’s body is functioning well (most of the time). What’s better than your loved ones being healthy? Also, while periods are known to wreak havoc, there are also women out there who experienced heightened libidos are really want their sex! Which leads me onto the next point…
“I hate when her period comes! Means no sex for a week”
Menstrual sex is a personal choice and between the involved participants. Not all girls reject sex during her period. In fact, there are many couples who enjoy menstrual sex. Menstrual sex can be pretty cool, think of all the free lube! As long as you are practicing safe-sex or your partner is healthy, menstrual sex doesn’t pose any significant risks. For those who may be less adventurous with penetrative sex, oral sex or just some sensual time together can just be as fulfilling. After all, they didn’t make sex toys for no reason :P
“I’m always afraid she’s hurt”
It took me a while figuring this one out because I thought he was talking about cramps. But it turns out that for us guys, we associate “bleeding” (or blood) with pain or injury. True enough, if any part of my body began to bleed, I’d probably freak out. Menstruation though is a normal biological function, so “bleeding” for women isn’t necessarily a sign of injury or pain. Sexual stimulation in/around her vagina during this time isn’t going to hurt her unless she has other complexities. Even if she’s feeling some pain from cramps, a good ol’ orgasm can actually wisp that away pretty quickly!
“Menstrual blood is dangerous”
Menstrual blood is only as dangerous as normal blood contact would be. An otherwise healthy individual without transmittable diseases would not have any major dangers. However, certainly menstrual flow that is expelled from the body is still considered bio-hazardous and may contain bacteria or other forms of germs, but it probably won’t kill you or anything if you come in regular contact with it. If the blood is dried, that’s even a lesser concern as exposure to open air for a period of time already cause major bacterial forms to die. If you’re in a monogamous and know thoroughly the healthiness of your partner, the likelihood of dying in a fiery car crash is probably much higher than a deadly illness arriving from sexual contact from menstrual flow.
“I love being able to ejaculate in my girlfriend when she’s on her period because it’s safe”
I had to ask him what he meant by “safe” – he meant that he’s safe from getting his girlfriend knocked up. I had to break it to him that while conceiving while menstruating is low, it’s also not impossible as conceiving during menstruation has been known to happen. It is quite possible for sperm to stay alive within an optimal environment within the vagina, meaning that pregnancy can occur just before/after active menstruation. Also bleeding may potentially be mistaken as full out menses which may mean fertilization is still possible. If conceiving a child isn’t in your line of responsibilities at the moment (or never), then practicing safe-sex at ANY time is necessary.
“I don’t get it. How can she lose so much blood regularly without dying?”
With the number of pads and tampons that are used and the way they appear when they’re saturated, it may appear there’s a lot of blood loss. The reality is that the amount of menstrual flow per period is not that great (sans medical conditions). At an “upper estimate” of 9 tbsp of menstrual flow per period, it’s not exactly cause for concern of massive blood loss. According to my very quick research, the body begins to have adverse medical reaction at 15% of total blood loss. Given that the human body contains about 5 litres of blood, 9 tbsp is about 0.133 litres of blood – or about 2.66% per period. What is necessary to note is that during menstruation, “flow” that is lost is not entirely composed of blood alone. Barring any medical conditions, a normal menstrual cycle isn’t going to drain your girlfriend’s blood supply low!
“Does she have to change her tampon every time she pees?”
Nope, not unless she wants to or needs to. The urethra and vagina are two different holes (I’d be impressed if you could get your penis in her urethra) and furthermore, most girls usually will hold/tuck the string while peeing to avoid it getting wet. Others just simply let nature take its course and then using some toilet paper to mop up the tampon string dry in case it gets wet. Some girls just don’t care at all, because that’s what underwear is for anyway! It’s like magic to guys, but just with a bit of a tug, a girl can check whether her tampon needs to be changed. If it comes out easily, then it’s all saturated and needs to be changed. If there is resistance, then the tampon is still usable, with the exception that her: 1) period is over, 2) she wants to change products, or 3) her tampon has been in for/nearing 8 hours.
“She doesn’t talk to me about her period”
Let’s face it, most guys don’t really want to hear about girls periods, so therefore, girls have been programmed not to divulge anything about it. Right from Wikipedia sources, “Studies have shown nearly all girls in the USA believe that girls should not talk about menstruation with boys, and more than one-third of the girls did not believe that it was appropriate to discuss menstruation with their fathers. The basis of many conduct norms and communication about menstruation in western industrial societies is the belief that menstruation should remain hidden.” That’s not to say I’ve never met girls who’ve approached the topic of menstruation with me openly (without knowledge of my interest), but in general, I really have to be the one to broach on the topic and show that I’m “accepting” to converse about it before they come comfortable with speaking about it. Unless the girl is particularly open with her bodily functions or that the relationship has progressed to an intimate level, it’s likely you will have to be proactive and show her that she can speak to you about such ‘private’ matters. It might not even be that she doesn’t want you to know, but that menstruation is generally regarded with shame and is indecent to talk about, particularly with a male. If you two ever plan on moving forward with a successful relationship, talking about menstruation is probably to least of challenges.
“I’m so grossed out by periods”
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Honestly, I find semen much more repulsive if anything. The menstrual cycle and the female anatomy is so beautiful. I can only hope to educate you about menstruation to help you change your mind about it, but I’m not going to try to turn a stone into gold.
“Why does she like to ask me to buy her pads/tampons?”
I don’t think most girls “like” asking you to buy it, in fact, most do it only when they really need to, like when they’re clumped over on the couch. Because pads/tampons are very personal choices, most women like to shop for it themselves. However, there are also guys I know who get it as part of their grocery list, but I don’t it’s a really ‘unique’ thing. She has every right to ask you if you guys are involved in a committed relationship and if she has ever bought anything for you in your life, then she can expect you to buy this for her. As long as she equips you with enough information to buy it, it should be fair game. For some women, it can be used as a ‘test’ to see if you’re man enough to do it or they don’t really think anything of it. You’re out getting those apples anyway, why not a box of tampons or a pack of pads?
“It’s amazing, how does she even keep track of how often to change or when it gets full?”
With pads it’s fairly simple, because a visual inspection will allow a girl to know whether her pad is getting full or not. Also, as pads get saturated, the pad will usually become heavier and there may be a damp feeling. With tampons, as I explained above, usually a quick “tug test” will already reveal whether changing is required. For most girls though, it’s just a matter of timed washroom breaks to do a check-up. Some girls may change ahead of time if they’re planning travel which does not give them accessibility to washrooms. I know with most of my girls, they opt to change later when they’re at home as they can get to a washroom any time. However, if they’re heading for a several hour road trip they change before they leave the house or double-up protection. Despite a girl being an expert on her body and diligent on her feminine hygiene needs, leaks may sometimes still happen and that’s ok. It’s like sneezing. Try as you might, but doesn’t stop it from coming out!
“Girls can’t swim on their periods”
Whether the girl ‘can’ swim is subjective on her own skill, not whether she has her period or not. However, if you’re talking about methods to control menstrual flow, they can opt to use internal forms of feminine hygiene, as pads would be out of the question. Feminine products worn within the vagina will offer a chance for the girl to swim while maintaining hygiene for herself and other swimmers. If a girl knows how to swim and doesn’t have debilitating menstrual pains, swimming is great exercise which may help alleviate cramps and maintain a healthy body overall. I do know however, that Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM] usually frowns upon swimming while menstruating (because the body is considered ‘weak’ during that time).
“Girls get their period every 28 days”
This is something I admit that I was pretty ignorant about until I started learning about menstruation from female experiences and stories. To me, the “books” tell you that menstrual cycles are 28 days in length, however, that is not true for many women as bodies aren’t clockworks. Many of the girls I’ve dated before just happened to have a fairly regular cycle every month, but even tracking with bebe for the past 2 years I’ve known her, I can say for sure almost every month she has a different monthly cycle. While she’s perfectly healthy, it does come down to the fact that women do not always have exact 28-day cycles, but rather, vary between 21-35 days and whether or not a woman falls within a 28-day cycle doesn’t necessarily represent overall health. Because I happened to date girls who fell in the 26-29 day ranges, it was awkward for me to start tracking bebe’s to find that hers was much longer (lucky her, unlucky me… LOL). I know a few of my girls don’t really track at all and tell me they just “feel it” when it’s about to come! That’s really cool :)
“The washroom stinks when she’s on her period”
I suppose it’s something you really need to bring up with her. Dried menstrual flow does have an odour but is not easily detectable. I know girls who use “open” trash bins who visibly have wrapped tampons and pads in it and the smell is hardly obvious. Unless the girl has very rancid menstrual flow odour, it should not be very strong and only detectable if you plan on sticking your nose in the trash. What makes menstrual flow smell is actually when it comes in contact with open air and begins to fester bacteria. When the bacteria is trying living/decomposing the menstrual flow and pad, that is what emits the stench, not so much the actual flow itself. Proper sanitary practices should already be sufficient to stem the smell. I’ve been to my girl’s house before who hadn’t emptied the trash for 3 weeks and she had pads piled to the top and still the air was pretty clean. I’d broach lightly on the topic with her since it’s rather insulting to be told her menstrual flow smells, but rather, talk about maintaining welcoming environment for guests who use the bathroom as a softer approach.
It has definitely been a while since I’ve had the time to write this much! Hope this helps shed some light on what your typical (which I’m not) guys think about periods. I’m glad they offered me an opportunity to trade what I know about menstruation for their personal growth and also that I could share it with the world-at-large here. It’ll also help the girls see things through our eyes and that sometimes we just don’t know any better. Furthermore, I grew up in a conservative family meaning menstruation wasn’t talked about much. Lucky for me I didn’t run into a bunch of misinformation communicated to me from my peers, but certainly I can see why it happens when boys aren’t educated properly about menstruation. They begin to pick up things from their friends and see/hear negativity about periods from other sources. Best to teach them at an age-appropriate level so they develop respect for the female anatomy and a beautiful & natural bodily process!
Posted on April 9, 2012, in Periodtastic and tagged Blog, Education, Educational, Feminine Hygiene, Girls, Health, Maxi Pads, Menstruation, Periods, PMS, Sex, Taboo, Tampons, Women's Health. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.