You’ve probably seen the tweet from the guy who thinks that you can hold your period in like you can your wee. Or listened to a boy telling some fantastical story of their period sexcapade in which blood covered them, from torso to toe, like a lava flow.
So, don’t get me wrong, sometimes cis-men like to talk about periods. However, what seems to result from these conversations is misinformed ignorance, and a lot of shaming towards the menstruating female.
If we want to eradicate period taboos and stigma, we’ve really got to get boys (and men) involved in the conversation. As a menstrual cup user and advocate, living in a house-share of mostly guys, I’ve really learnt how to navigate discussions on my favourite subject – menstruation. So I now present to you my 5 stages of de-grossing those non-menstruating males in your life:
1. Talk about your periods all the time
And I mean ALL the time. This may be the most difficult step for any menstruator out there. After all, we’ve been conditioned never to discuss periods. But I promise, once you get over the first conversation hurdle, it’s not so bad.
The major point here is to be as honest and explicit as possible. Really, don’t hold back. It is strange how open and direct we are when talking to female friends, but immediately close up when talking to men. Take that bluntness and direct it at your male friends!
Talk about all the things that normally embarrass you: leaking, brown discharge, accidental period sex. These are all natural processes and nothing to be ashamed of. You’ll realise that once you start talking about them all the time, that clammy hand, anxious tummy feeling disappears altogether.
2. Educate, educate, educate
Once you’ve broken down that initial period-chat barrier, it is important to eradicate any ignorance. Cis-males often have this amazing ability to be self-assured about almost everything, including bodily functions they do not have.
However, thanks to most schooling systems viewing periods as a ‘woman’s issue’, boys are very rarely educated about a woman’s cycle.
If you’re not confident about how your downstairs works – school up. You want to be as knowledgeable as possible, so that you can answer any question thrown at you. Once you become a menstruation knowledge queen, try dropping drop some fun facts into conversation. ‘Did you know that a menstrual cup can last ten years?’ is one that always baffles, leaving guys asking questions and getting involved.
3. Don’t hide your pain or PMS
My whole life I was told ‘keep calm and carry on’ in terms of period pain and PMS. Grab a hot-water bottle and some ibuprofen, and act as though your uterus lining is not shedding from your vagina.
Letting people know about the pain I had been suffering was the most empowering step for me. Granted, whining about it every 5 seconds is not going to make you feel better, but I could finally stop having to pretend everything was OK.
Informing the males in my life of my physical and emotional pain reduced the monthly stress of having to paint on a smile. It allowed me to cry and rage without feeling judged. “Boys I’m on my period, so give me some space”, works a lot better than, “THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH ME, I just want to cry at videos of puppies”.
4. Give periods some comedic value
Last Christmas, my group of friends were all set challenges. A male friend’s task was to deliver an engaging twenty minute presentation about menstrual cups (thanks to stage 2, he absolutely smashed it). What’s interesting is that he can still remember all of these amazing facts about menstruation, even candidly talking about them at the pub on a Saturday afternoon. It was the ability to make jokes about periods which engaged him with the issue.
Now, I’m not talking about the rage-inducing ‘joke’ uttered by many: “oh she must be on her period”. That’s not funny, we can all agree on that. But educated and informed jokes are a way to engage a male audience. Periods don’t have to be all doom and gloom after all. They can be funny (unless you’re on your period).
5. Pull your sanitary products out and shake the all about
For those who menstruate, the logistics of shoving a tampon/pad up your sleeve while you slide to the toilet will be entirely too relatable. We all have that sneaky way of hiding that we’re on our period. But guess what…we shouldn’t have to! Next time you’re menstruating, don’t hide your sanitary items. Be proud and loud that you’re menstruating.
Once we’re comfortable speaking about periods with and around boys, periods become normalised. When they’re normalised, taboo and stigma cease to exist. Girls no longer feel dirty, ashamed, or embarrassed. Now doesn’t that sound nice?