Increasing our understanding of women’s natural cycles is essential

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University of York’s Student Website

May 19, 2010 | ONLINE ONLY
Janey Stephenson

This week, when I’ve mentioned the word ‘menstruation’, people have subconsciously winced. A tiny flicker of discomfort appears in their eyes. This isn’t feminism gone mad, I’m not going to smear my menstrual blood onto my mouth and take a photo whilst encouraging my friends to do the same (check out Ingrid Berthon-Moine if you’re into that). Yet, why shouldn’t I? Why are periods so revolting? Deemed literally as a bloody nuisance, periods are treated as an inconvenience to the women who suffer the cramps, and the men who feel they can’t have sex with them. Even sanitary manufacturers cannot bear to use red liquid to advertise the absorption qualities of their products, using water with blue food dye in it instead. Nothing could be more absurd, or less realistic.

Our dislike of menstruation could be attributed to some primal association with injuries and danger, but really it’s because we don’t know enough about it. Most of us have attended a half-an-hour session in PSHE at the age of ten to equip us with everything we will need to know about menstruation for the rest of our lives. If you’re male, you probably didn’t even have this. Periods are unfamiliar and mysterious. However, women have to deal with them for approximately 38 years of their lives, and if men are in a close relationship with a woman, they’ll have to start understanding them too.

Biologically, periods are a sign of health and fertility. They’re an indicator of pregnancy and they help women to calculate when they are ovulating; when planning (or avoiding) a family they are essential. They are normal. Despite this when a woman at work, in a restaurant or in any kind of mixed company is also on her period, she takes her bag to the toilets with her to vaguely conceal her menstruation. It would be much easier just to take out the tampon. Both the bag and the tampon signify that she is on her period, so why most women choose the former is a social mystery. Are women ashamed of their fertility?

Fertility is actually pretty sexy. According to numerous experiments, women appear more attractive when they’re ovulating. The evolutionary psychologist, Geoffrey Miller, found that ovulating lap dancers made approximately $20 more per hour than their non-ovulating co-workers and $30 more than those who were menstruating. Companies worldwide are capitalizing on the role that natural pheromones play during ovulation by offering synthetic substitutes for women to wear as perfumes throughout their cycle (see: www.pheromones-one.com). Furthermore, researchers offer proof that ovulation increases libido. Menstruation is essential for ovulation, so why do we shun the former and only celebrate the latter when it benefits us?

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.