Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Great New Article about How Boys and Men Learn about Menstruation

January 17th, 2011 by Heather Dillaway

Since we’re often talking about the lack of attention to men’s attitudes about menstruation, I thought I’d post the abstract of a great new piece in the Journal of Family Issues, due out in February 2011! Kudos to Katherine Allen, Christine Kaestle, and Abbie Goldberg, for getting their great work published! Here’s the title and abstract for their work:

Title: “More than just a punctuation mark: How boys and young men learn about menstruation”

Parents, peers, schools, and the media are the primary contexts for educating young people about sexuality. Yet girls receive more sex education than boys, particularly in terms of menstruation. Lack of attention to how and what boys learn about menstruation has consequences for their private understanding about the biology of reproduction and also for social and cultural ideologies of gendered relationships. In this qualitative study, 23 written narratives from male undergraduates (aged 18-24 years) were analyzed using grounded theory methodology to explore how young men perceive their past and present learning about this uniquely female experience. Findings suggest that most boys first learned about menstruation in their families, primarily through their sisters’ menarche; menstruation is experienced—in boyhood at least—as a gender wedge; and most men described a developmental process of moving from a childish attitude of menstruation as “gross” to seeing themselves as maturing through the experience of an intimate relationship.

Where to find this piece: Journal of Family Issues, vol 32 (Feb 2011), pp. 129-56.

Here’s the link to the abstract page:

Happy reading!

8 responses to “Great New Article about How Boys and Men Learn about Menstruation”

  1. Thanks for posting this – love the two words juxtaposed, “gender wedge.”

    I’m compiling bits and pieces for a book of poetry, about witches – love the way one-word “Genderwedge” can be used to update the Hansel and Gretel tale – in a forest, two children encounter a “Genderwedge House” [gingerbread house], belonging to an old wizard…

    Also, would make a great name for a reusable menstrual cup brand, since you kinda gotta wedge it up in there…

  2. Maman A Droit says:

    How interesting. I wonder if it varies at all between families who do things like NFP and see menstruation as healthy & normal & such & families where the mom may be on bc that means she rarely even has a period. And what about boys without sisters?

  3. Heather D says:

    I agree, there’s a lot more to know. Maybe I can get the authors to chime in here.

  4. Heather D says:

    You’re right, it’s a powerful phrase! Brings with it both the physical sense of the separation of the genders as well as the more ideological separations…

  5. Yara says:

    This is very interesting indeed; once we tackle the issue of how men perceive menstruation from an early age, we can start applying the ways in which we can educate them properly about the whole process.

  6. Heather D says:

    Well, and the fact that the authors found that boys’ attitudes change over time means that they are ready to learn alternative (more positive) perspectives on the menstrual cycle.

  7. Prexus says:

    I would actually say more that boys’ attitudes changing over time tends to veer towards the negative perspective, particularly when they begin exposure to hearsay from other boys who have a negative perception (or rather, sometimes uneducated) of menstruation. I have to admit that I tend to have more male friends who have a negative perception on menstruation, rather than positive. When boys begin to see other role models like their fathers, uncles or whoever (sometimes even females) speak/act negatively towards menstruation, that’s where they get most of the false information/feelings from. ACK!

  8. Heather D says:

    Absolutely, Prexus, I completely agree. I think we could all say the same thing, which means that the normal way to socialize boys to menstruation is to teach them negative things. But, the fact that their attitudes change over time means that they could be taught positive things if those around them changed their tune….not that this will happen any time soon, but it could.

Readers should note that statements published in Menstruation Matters are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.