What I Learned and What the Boys Didn't

Kay Link
Posted May 14, 2019 from United States
The worst advertising: blue liquid representing menstruation.

Besides the ubiquitous pad and tampon commercials featuring blue liquid poured onto a pad and very happy women frolicking around like they were definitely not on their periods, my first time hearing menstruation talked about openly was in a classroom when I was eleven. All the girls were ushered into a room, a TV was wheeled out, and we watched a very cheesy video about a girl who gets her period while at a sleepover. Her friend's mother promptly explained the female reproductive system by making pancakes in the shape of a uterus. I remember my friends and I were incredibly grossed out by pancakes for quite a long time.

Looking back, I wish the boys had been included. Why did they not think menstruation was something boys should know about when half the world deals with it for what amounts to years of their total life? How are men to understand menstruation when they have never been taught and have only have ever heard jokes about women being emotional or crazy because they were on their period? How are they to conceptualize menstruation when women feel they cannot talk about it and ads shown on TV depicting menstruation show drops of blue water poured on white pads and happy women dancing?

Perhaps this is why women's health is so neglected across the world. Society tends to see a women's pain as something for her alone to deal with on her own, quietly or silently. Women bear the burden of all the symptoms of menstruation and our social, economic, and health systems often ignore or actively deny any reprieve.

Despite a woman's reproductive system bringing every person into this world, it was not deemed important in my school for boys to learn about. Or even, really, for the girls. The reproductive system was completely glossed over in most of my biology classes. Somehow dissecting frogs was seen as more crucial to a students knowledge than discussing our own bodies.

But we have to talk about it. Openly, unabashedly, and with males as well as females. Sons need to be taught as well as daughters, at home and in schools. To remove the stigma and advance women's health, menstruation can't be seen as just a women's issue.

What about you, dear sisters? Were you taught about menstruation in school?  Were the boys taught, too? Do you still struggle to talk openly about it? Are you teaching your children, your students, or the men in your life about menstruation?

This story was submitted in response to Menstruation Matters.

Comments 11

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May 14, 2019
May 14, 2019

Haha, they think they are men meanwhile they are boys. I think its with the upbringing. Some boys know menses at the finger tips. To others its like a dark glasses ha.
Yes I was thought in school but it was after I made mockery of myself first haha. Thanks for sharing

Dawn Arteaga
May 15, 2019
May 15, 2019

I remember the TV in the classroom and the cheesy video too. In mine the mom said to the daughter, “You’re a woman now, let’s get ice cream!” I thought that was so cheesy my mom and I decided our code word for when I got my period would be me telling her, “let’s get ice cream.” When it finally happened- I remember feeling like all my friends got their periods before I did - I met my mom after school and said, “let’s get ice cream.” My mom just looked at me strangely and said, “not today.” I had to repeat myself several times, with meaning, before she got it! The next thing I remember my mom had gone to the grocery store and bought every pad and tampon in the store and a huge bunch of flowers. I thought that was really embarrassing but looking back it seems very sweet.

I love your point that all kids need to watch those cheesy videos together so we can laugh together at the bad acting and not feel like it’s something to be ashamed of.

Thanks for sharing your story Kay!

Jill Langhus
May 16, 2019
May 16, 2019

Hi Kay,

How are you? This made me laugh, but it shouldn't have. You are too right. This is exactly the experience I had. Boys going off in one direction, knowing much more than I did already, and the girls in the "video" room. And, yes, the boys absolutely should be in that room, and this should also be taught in Biology. I hoped that younger generations that me had received better menstruation education after me. Shocking really. What also occurred to me is how the my male co-workers don't want to talk about it either, even ones that have families already. Also shocking. I had a boss that stopped me from talking about my OB-GYN appointment because "a female co-worker had told him too much before." And another co-worker previous to that trying to tell me the men's bathroom was cleanlier than the woman's because "of all of that going on down there!" Wow! Yeah, those two instances really stuck out in my mind. So much shame surrounding this natural, and quite beautiful process. So much needs to change around this topic, in so many areas of the world.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

Hope you're having a great day and week!

Beth Lacey
May 16, 2019
May 16, 2019

Hi, Kay. You make an excellent point.
PS- I don't think I'll be having pancakes for a while either :-)

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
May 30, 2019
May 30, 2019

Hello, dear Kay,

I laughed at loud while reading this sentence, "I remember my friends and I were incredibly grossed out by pancakes for quite a long time". I would be, too. You made an important point here. Thank you for writing this. It's a confirmation of what I plan to do to my two sons ( ages 5 and 1). But I guess I am already education them somehow because I talk about menstruation at home like a normal topic of a conversation.

I believe it's important for boys and men to know about this because whether they like it or not, they will be dealing with women. In school, I think it's being taught to everyone. My husband could tell if my period is coming because he notices my irritability on the smallest things. He then extends his patience with me knowing it's biology, it's part of the symptoms. He also gives a little bit of a special treatment during my first two days of the flow because menstrual cramps. That's why I agree that boys and men should know about this stuff, too.

Thank you for sharing!

Dec 17, 2019
Dec 17, 2019

Your article made me smile Kay. Because I didn't even know what it was until I got it in secondary school when I was 14; much later than most of my friends.
But I didn't know how unfortunate I was until my daughter experienced her first period 8 years ago and I had absolutely no idea what to tell her.
I never had any formal introduction to menstruation or my own sexuality, not even in school. I just learned how to stick on or pad or roll a tissue paper or a piece of cloth from my friends.
Today, over 3 decades later, little or nothing has changed.
It was then I knew of how deficient I was, and how I need to change a lot of things about my life and what I was doing then.
Its been 8 years of trying to grow and the seed is just beginning to germinate.
So we must continue to strive and work on the things we believe in.
In sisterhood,


Anita Shrestha
Dec 17, 2019
Dec 17, 2019

Thank you

Sinyuy Geraldine
Jan 07
Jan 07

Hello Kay,
many people take menstruation as a taboo, but I do teach in my students about it when the boys are in class. they all need to be involved. i want to break the barrier, the shame about menstruation that should not be. thanks for sharing.

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi

Hi Kay
Thank you for your post on menstruation. I remember in primary I think around P5 the girls were taken aside and a female teacher talked about it. She was so rude like she was forced to talk to us. I didn't understand a thing and thought it was not for me.
The day I received a letter from a boy, I remember crying and telling my dad. He sat me down and we talked about boys and he tactfully talked and explained about menstruation. So I was ready and very anxious for them to come.
Thanks for your post. Have a great 2020

Chinyere Kalu
Feb 01
Feb 01

Thanks Kay for this beautiful piece! We were thought menstruation in school boys inclusive. And timely too as most of us were turning twelve .Its saved many of us the confusion and embarrasements that we would have experienced without those classroom lectures.
I was thought in school. and when i began, my mum added her voice.
I agree with you that boys too should know about it as it helps them better understand us as they grow.

Feb 20
Feb 20

Dear Kay link,this message is very interesting.i share the same opinion with you boys/men should be exposed to the same topic so as to share women pains.

with love
Jane Kalu