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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 Six: Blood on the Screen: Menstrual Features


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Blood on the Screen

Menstrual Features


A credible argument can be made that many incidents of bleeding in film, literature, art and other modes of fictive or imagistic expression are actually symbolic references to menstruation, whether the creator or the audience is conscious of their presence or not. Several times in this book I have made that argument, for example concerning male novelists. Such occurrences have been called “vicarious menstruation” (Delaney, Lupton, & Toth, 1976) or even “menstrual envy” and I find such analyses frequently persuasive. However, in order to limit the scope of this chapter, which would become endless were it to attempt to cover all kinds of cinematic blood-letting, I have chosen to focus, for the most part, on those films with scenes that make specific menstrual references and that include male involvement in some sort of transaction concerning the presence of menstrual blood, paraphernalia or simply spoken references. Exceptions to this limitation occur when the symbolic implications are unavoidable. I have also limited the discussion to English language films and a very few others that have received wide distribution.

Only 30 films that include menstrual elements are discussed in any detail. That is a small, selective sample of those that exist. The intention is to create a framework for thinking about the complexity of the topic.

At the distance of more than 50 years after its release, it is...

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