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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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Introduction: Menses and Me


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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.”

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