Men and Menstruation

A Social Transaction

by David Linton (Author)
©2019 Textbook XII, 194 Pages
Series: Visual Communication, Volume 8


What’s with the men in menstruation? This is the question Men in Menstruation: A Social Transaction sets out to answer. From earliest times men have been puzzled and perplexed by the menstrual cycle and have constructed elaborate taboos, superstitions, and practices attempting to explain why women have a periodical emission of a fluid that resembles blood but is not the result of an injury or affliction. In other words, men want to know why it is possible to bleed and not die. In order to understand what goes on between men and women in the presence of menstruation, this book examines a variety of encounters, referred to as "menstrual transactions." From the three women in the Bible who are identified as menstruating to contemporary films, advertising, TV programs and literature, the book explores a wide range of transactions, even including Prince Charles’s close encounter of a menstrual kind. The book will appeal to anyone interested in gaining insights into the mystery of menstruation as well as students of gender and women’s studies or media theory and history.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Men and Menstruation: A Social Transaction
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Menses and Me
  • Part I: Men and the Menstrual Landscape
  • Chapter One: The Menstrual Transaction
  • Chapter Two: Blood in the Bible, Torah, and Quran and How Jesus Became a Menstrual Hero
  • Chapter Three: A Royal Menstrual Pain: Prince Charles and the Tampon Scandal
  • Chapter Four: The Literary Period: Sightings, Sex, and Dystopian Visions
  • Part II: Mediating the Menstrual Landscape
  • Chapter Five: Seeing Red on TV: Archie Bunker’s Dilemma
  • Chapter Six: Blood on the Screen: Menstrual Features
  • Chapter Seven: Selling the Product: Men in Menstrual Marketing
  • Chapter Eight: Making Menstrual Music: Singing the Menstrual Blues
  • Chapter Nine: Menstrual Mischief and Transgressions
  • Chapter Ten: Random Menstrual Moments
  • Conclusion: Men in the Emerging Menstrual Ecology
  • Index
  • Series Index

← vi | vii →




This book would not have been possible were it not for women. Without knowing it initially, I needed the permission and encouragement of women in order to write about a topic that is thought to be off limits to men. But once I made it clear that I had no intention to presume to speak for women or even about women but only about how women and men related to one another around the unique phenomenon of the menstrual cycle and how the interaction that I came to call “the menstrual transaction” was constructed across time and cultures and through media of communications, I was gratified to discover that women were willing to share their stories and their insights. Those sharings have been indispensable in doing the research and framing the analysis that have resulted in this book as well as many other aspects of my academic and creative endeavors.

I was first inspired to think seriously about the social construction and literary representation of menstruation by the path-breaking work of Dana Medoro which then led to my participation in a conference at the University of Liverpool titled “Menstruation: Blood, Body, Brand.” This was my first exposure to others who were studying the subject and it resulted in the formation of a long-lasting friendship with another scholar, Jutta Ahlbeck, who was conducting research on menstrual education in Finland and who later hosted a conference in Turku, Finland where I had the honor of speaking. Soon I discovered the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research (SMCR), the premier professional association dedicated ← vii | viii → to examining every possible facet of the cycle. Since first attending the group’s conference in 2003, members of the SMCR have become the primary source of guidance for my studies and, in fact, for the direction my career has taken.

Chief among the individuals I have to thank within the SMCR are the leaders who have invited me to speak at conferences and who have included me in the Society’s endeavors, including appointing me to edit the newsletter, serve on conference planning committees, contribute to its journal and blog, and co-host one of its conferences. Those leaders include Peggy Stubbs, Chris Bobel, Ingrid Johnston-Robledo, Elizabeth Kissling, Jerrilynn Prior, Laura Werschler, Tomi-Ann Roberts, Joan Chrisler, and Evelina Sterling. The SMCR conferences are among the most stimulating events I have ever attended and I thank the many attendees and presenters who have inspired my thinking, and in particular that includes Josefin Persdotter who arranged for my stint at the University of Gothenberg in Sweden and the opportunity to engage with my host, Professor Cathrin Wasshede, and the other Swedish scholars there.

My training in the Media Ecology Department at New York University accomplished what a good education is supposed to do: it taught me how to think more clearly and provided a set of lenses through which to view every aspect of communications and media experiences, even though I wasn’t studying menstruation at the time. For this I owe a debt of gratitude to Neil Postman and Christine Nystrom, my mentors and role models, as well as to the many classmates who contributed to my growth.

I have had the privilege of working for nearly 30 years at Marymount Manhattan College, a school where curiosity was respected and rewarded. The rewards included research support, opportunities to teach course on this unusual topic, students who challenged my ideas and contributed to my understanding, colleagues who validated my interests and suggested new ways to look at the subject. Three Academic Deans—Dawn Weber, Paula Mayhew, and Ann Jablon—supported my teaching and scholarship. Special thanks are offered to present and former members of the Communication Arts Department; Katie LeBesco, Laura Tropp, Jenny Dixon, Giovanna Chessler, Peter Schaefer, Alistir Sanderson, and especially MJ Robinson, a long-time office mate and bulwark against folly and pretension.

Sadly, space and the limits of memory to not allow the identification of the long list of students who have influenced my thinking with their insights and willingness to share personal stories that shed light on the subject we studied together. In some cases I have had the opportunity to extend the teacher-student relationship beyond graduation into ongoing friendships and further efforts to better understanding the endlessly fascinating topic of the social construction of menstruation. We have become colleagues and co-learners. Among those wonderful ← viii | ix → ex-students are Kelly Renn, Sarah Peterson, Robyn Percyz, Emily Swann, Carly Schneider, and Julia Matarazzo. Saniya Ghanoui has transitioned from student to co-author, co-presenter, co-planner and good friend.

Thanks for their patience and support is due to Susan Barnes, Series Editor, and Kathryn Harrison and Erika Hendrix, Acquisitions Editors, at Peter Lang Publishing. They make an author feel one is in good hands.

Finally, this book could not have been conceived of, let alone written, without the presence of Simi Linton in my life. She has deeply enriched my understanding of what it means to be a woman and, by sharing her life with me and inviting me to share my life with her, has broadened my understanding of myself as a man as well as my understanding of being human. ← ix | x →

← x | 1 →



Menses and Me


This book is about men and menstruation, about how men and women relate to each other around the presence of the period. (Note: Though some transgender individuals who have transitioned from female to male continue to menstruate, for purposes of social and cultural analysis, the term “women” will be used to refer to people who have, have had, or will have menstrual cycles.) Drawing upon personal experience, interviews, and an examination of how the period is presented in film, TV, advertising, literature, song lyrics, and humor, the following pages reveal that the meaning of menstruation is something that men and women invent together through an endless series of “menstrual transactions.”

My own earliest memory of anything menstrual occurred when I was about ten years old. It was just before my father’s birthday; I’d gotten him a bulky sweater but had nothing to wrap it in. One day as I was leaving the bathroom I noticed a pale blue and white box on the top of the trash basket; I picked it up, carrying it into the dining room as my mother came by. “What are you going to do with that?” she asked.

“I’m going to use it to wrap Dad’s sweater in. It’s just the right size.”

“No, you can’t use that,” she said.

“Why not? I don’t have anything else.”

“You can’t use that,” she insisted. “Find something else.” ← 1 | 2 →

Now my antennae were quivering. Something was going on here. “Why not? What is this?”

We parried back and forth a few more times, and then she said some magic words, an incantation that brought the conversation to a halt, “It’s something I use.”

There was power and mystery in her words and the way she said them. I sensed that the pale blue box with the words feminine napkins on it had to do with being a woman, something that I was not allowed to know, not just because I was a kid but because there were things about all women that all men, whether boys or grown men, were forbidden to know. I returned the box to the trash basket and dropped the subject. As I recall that moment, I wish I’d wrapped Dad’s sweater in the box without Mom knowing, that I’d wrapped it with “Happy Birthday!” tissue. If only I could have seen Dad’s reaction upon encountering the box. Would he have been amused? Would he or Mom have been embarrassed? Would they have covered the awkwardness with laughter or blushes? To my recollection, the subject never again came up and I remember nothing more about the presence of the period in my home.


XII, 194
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XII, 194 pp.

Biographical notes

David Linton (Author)

David Linton (Ph.D., New York University) is Professor Emeritus at Marymount Manhattan College. He has published research on topics as diverse as the Luddite movement, the reading behavior of the Virgin Mary, Shakespeare as a media theorist, and media education. He serves on the Board of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research as well as having formerly been president of the New York State Conference of the American Association of University Professors. In addition, he is a cast member and the resident poet of the podcast Fireside Mystery Theatre.


Title: Men and Menstruation
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208 pages