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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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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....

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