Well, That’s Garbage

Male ‘period-phobia’: the oldest joke in the book

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

“Okay. Too much information.”

This was the response I got from a male friend, turning his head away in disgust as though a waft of air from a garbage heap had just floated by his face.

Had I just described a particularly graphic scene of vomiting, defecation or gruesome murder?

I told him how I got a great deal on a big box of tampons from Rexall: $1.99 for 40. 

This friend, by the way, is in his 40s, not, as it sounds, 14.

“Oh haw haw, men are freaked out by periods, that’s original. Were you a writer on Friends or something?”

You’re right, it does sound like a joke. But it’s a joke that astonishingly didn’t end after junior high. I’m still hearing it as a grown-ass woman.

I had a friend who for years plugged his ears with his fingers and sang “La la la la la!”
whenever he heard the word “period.”

I know women whose male partners couldn’t accurately explain exactly what happens in the process of menstruation and couldn’t describe where a tampon actually goes.

Call me a stickler, but if you’re going to enjoy certain functions in that area, shouldn’t you understand some of the other ones?

The language really gets to me, too.



“Stop talking about that.”

It’s shaming. It’s judgment. But judgment about what, exactly? A completely normal bodily function that cannot be helped? 

I do recognize that menstruation is a bodily function, and I don’t generally regale people with the details of my last bowel movement or urination. 

But these reactions occur with the most casual of mentions.

“I’m weirdly hungry today. I must be getting my period.”

*Man turns into turtle and hides in shell*

And how is simply referencing menstruation any different than standing up to inform your friend “Be right back, gotta pee.”

WHOA, buddy! Save me the medical journal on your bladder!

Why then is the woman’s natural function unspeakably gross? Is this an ancient, inherited form of misogyny? Keep that original sin-covered woman away from the temple and the food lest she poison them with her moon magic!

Does it go all the way back to the rejection of the Sacred Feminine and the vilification of Eve? (Sorry, I just re-watched The Da Vinci Code recently).

Or is it just ignorance? Maybe Coach McLaughlin didn’t do a great job teaching sex education in Grade 4, and now you’re scared, mystified and angry about what’s going on … in there.

And so now it’s the longest running joke in history. It’s a script, a commandment.

“Men shalt be grossed out by menstruation.”

Well, the joke is over now. It’s not cute. It’s not expected of you to abhor a female bodily function.

You don’t have to love periods. Few women are enamored with the process. I’m only asking for neutrality.

No, that’s not true. I’m asking you to Google what a uterus is and how it works.

And once you’re done that …

Get some new material.

Published in Volume 71, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 26, 2017)

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