Period & The Man - An Unchartered Relationship
Ever had an extensive chat with a male friend, family member or mentor about Periods generally or your personal period experiences? Older readers, perhaps you have with a romantic partner but only after some time and knowing just about everything else about each other?
The majority of menstruators identify as women so there has been little focus on the relationship between boys, men and periods.
The problem is stigma around periods (whether than be the blood, the emotions, the physical changes, period products or words) can only be lifted when all people, menstruators or not, have no hesitation in learning and talking about it.
What attitudes and what experiences have the boys and men around you had with menstruation? How did they gain information - formally or informally?
The topic is often dismissed as 'women's business' and of no concern to non-menstruators. But is it?
For one thing, menstruation is a pathway to human life. It is an integral part of our reproductive system. Seems like a pretty good reason to know and understand it.
Second, menstruation can affect education, work and mental health outcomes of your loved ones and their loved ones. Another bloody good reason to listen up and ask questions.
Men don’t always have the language to talk about menstruation as period education is usually primed towards girls, leaving boys them ill-equipped from an early age.
A survey of 300 Australian boys and young men by Plan International Australia gathered the following perspectives:
“I feel uncomfortable talking about something that I do not fully understand,” said an 18-year-old boy from South Australia, while a 19-year old boy from Victoria said he was uncomfortable “because I am not a woman and male involvement with this topic is usually seen as perverted and unnecessary.”
“It’s hardly talked about… it’s taboo and I haven’t been taught much,” added an 18-year-old from NSW.
“I go to an all-boys school – it is not a topic that is brought up,” said a 16-year-old from NSW.
They used words like ‘messy’, ‘embarrassing’, ‘dirty’, ‘should be kept secret’. The boys felt “awkward”, “uneasy”, “weird”, “anxious” and “gross” about the topic.
There is good news though as the polling also revealed that 70% of those who described their school education on periods as ‘good’ said they felt very comfortable discussing periods. These boys associated periods with the words 'natural' and 'healthy'.
This is a clear marker that education and talk normalises and destigmatises periods from a young age. This dissolves the embarrassment and fear of bullying young menstruators are suffering as revealed in a study by Kimberly Clark (2021) which found almost a third of Australian girls aged 10-14 are missing school due to period anxieties.
Ways Boys or non-menstruators can create a relationship with periods;
- campaign to be taught more at school
- ask friends who menstruate if they are comfortable explaining what its like
- move away from negative or slang language and non-factual beliefs about the menstrual cycle
Ways Men or non-menstruators can create a relationship with periods;
- budget for period products and allow choice
- include period products in emergency kits
- be empathetic towards emotions, physical changes and discomfort during menses
- talk about periods in a direct matter, avoiding slang or negative terms
- push back on cultural stigmas
- become an advocate for period poverty, donate to period charities
Let's talk so we can learn. Let's learn so we can live.