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Men and Menstruation

A Social Transaction


David Linton

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.

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Chapter Four: The Literary Period: Sightings, Sex, and Dystopian Visions


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The Literary Period

Sightings, Sex, and Dystopian Visions


Perhaps the most significant single decade in the history of menstrual transactions appearing in published fiction was the 1970s. Beginning with Judy Blume’s path breaking novel Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret (1970) and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye in the same year through Erika Jong’s Fear of Flying (1973), Stephen King’s Carrie (1974), Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1976), and Scott Spencer’s Endless Love (1979) writers recognized that menstruation played an important role in people’s lives, and they included its presence in the stories they told. I have written an in depth look of the decade’s literary menstrual cycle in a previously published chapter titled “The Decade Gets Its Period,” and readers are directed to that source for the full discussion: American Literature in Transition, 1970–1980. Curnutt, K., (Ed.) (2018), New York: Cambridge University Press.

Due to the nature of publication practices it is not possible to create a comprehensive catalog of menstrual transactions in novels. Such moments are often fleeting and of little consequence. Furthermore, novels, unlike nonfiction, never come equipped with an index so that particular references can be easily identified. But in order to offer a sense of the variety of such incidents that do occur, the chapter concludes with a randomly gathered catalog of menstrual sightings. Though the list is admittedly idiosyncratic, it reflects the variety of...

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