Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

In Search of The Perfect Vagina

February 28th, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling

“If you’d told me three months ago that I’d let a plastic surgeon examine my froufrou, that I’d show it to another woman (who wasn’t a doctor) and then allow an artist to take a cast of my Mary, I’d have laughed you out of the house. But it’s extraordinary how documentary-making changes your mind about even the most concrete of things . . . “

–Lisa Rogers, presenter of Channel 4 documentary “The Perfect Vagina”

Rogers’ film is a poignant exploration of why young women in the UK seek labiaplasty and hymenoplasty.

Weekend Links

February 26th, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling

Snow on the ground and subzero temperatures this week, so I’m doing nothing but reading:

Newsflash: Women threaten men

February 22nd, 2011 by Chris Hitchcock

The NYT article title reads The threatening scent of fertile women. I’ve felt it for years, and I still haven’t quite figured out why I react this way to this kind of article. Certainly it echos the age-old misogynistic discomfort of learned men for their own sexual urges, projected onto women. I’m trained in evolutionary biology, I believe that humans, like other animals, are subject to natural selection, and I believe that there are things that affect our behaviour that are not processed by our consciousness. But, for some reason, I feel a visceral reaction when I read discussions about the sex-related behaviours of women and men around ovulation.

Some of it is that I’m still annoyed that Nancy Burley’s American Naturalist article has been pretty much ignored. Yes, it’s well cited, but the fundamental conclusions seem to have been lost. In 1979, Burley proposed that so-called “concealed ovulation” is a mystery not just because it is concealed from men, but because it is also concealed from the ovulating woman. And she argued that the leading male-centred hypotheses did not account for this. Burley proposed that ovulation is unmarked because humans are smart and can count, and if they had a choice, many women would choose not to go through childbirth, or do so less often. She argued that natural selection acted to make it harder for women to know when to abstain from sex to avoid pregnancy. In other words, maybe concealed ovulation is not all about men, maybe it’s all about smart women.

Advertising Wars: Tampax vs. Kotex

February 22nd, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling

It looks like Kotex is winning. Explicit comparison to the competitor’s product is an advertising strategy of 30-40 years ago. Under the new rules, the competitor’s product doesn’t even exist, and certainly isn’t deserving of mention in a promotion for your own.


This ad for Tampax appeared in the March, 2011, issue of Marie Claire

Weekend Links

February 20th, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling

A study of women with bipolar disorders indicates that premenstrual mood exacerbation may be a clinical marker predicting more depressive episodes and more severe symptoms.

Provoked by the approval of the Pence Amendment to cut off ALL funding to Planned Parenthood, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California) told the story of her own abortion on the floor of the House of Representatives Friday.

Menstruation as Modern Art?

February 18th, 2011 by Chris Hitchcock

There’s an article in the Guardian describing Hiromi Ozaki’s upcoming art installation, simulating menstruation for those who lack the first hand experience. Interesting, as we previously discussed here at re:Cycling.

It’s unfortunate that artist’s rationale is framed along the lines of Is menstruation obsolete?, that is, taking the pill is normal, bleeding on the pill is optional, soon no one will be menstruating, and that’s probably a good thing and a positive cultural change. With a bit of nostalgia for those old-fashioned bleeding experiences, and their cultural significance.

As a female designer I had one big problem I wanted to solve. “It’s 2010, so why are humans still menstruating?”

The pill free, bleeding interval was devised when the contraceptive pill first came out, only because it was felt by doctors that women would find having no periods too unacceptable (Since 1960s, taking the pill continuously could have removed periods all together!) The doctors may think that women are attached to their periods, but only humans, apes and bats out of all mammals need to bleed monthly for their reproductive cycle. What does Menstruation mean to humans? Who might choose to have it, and how might they have it?

Still, it’s interesting to see mainstream media asking questions about what menstruation means when it is no longer a biological necessity, but rather a choice.

Cheerleader: “P-E-R-I-O-D”

February 17th, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling

Last spring, Kotex introduced U by Kotex, a.k.a. You Buy Kotex, small tampons with bright neon applicators and a forward-thinking “Break the Cycle” advertising campaign announcing that Tampon Ads Are Ridiculous. Apparently tampon ads are STILL ridiculous. Here’s the new installment, developed by New York ad agency Ogilvy:

Menstrual Pain Hurts because It’s Cyclic

February 16th, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling
Photo by Abbey Hambright under Creative Commons 2.0

Photo by Abbey Hambright under Creative Commons 2.0

A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology reports that menstrual pain — like annoying noises and tedious computer tasks — hurts more in retrospect, if we anticipate experiencing it again:

In the culminating field study of 180 women (average age 29), those whose menstrual periods had ended fewer than three days earlier or who expected their periods within three days remembered their last period as significantly more painful than women in the middle of their cycle (none were currently menstruating).

Oddly enough, I found this information about the study in article in Computers, Networks and Communication. They report that “[i]n a series of eight studies exposing people to annoying noise, subjecting them to tedious computer tasks, or asking them about menstrual pain, participants recalled such events as being significantly more negative if they expected them to happen again soon.”

The researchers suspect that this is an adaptive reaction; that is, people use the memory to steel themselves against future pain.

Golly! Molly is growing up.

February 14th, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling

Molly Grows Up _ screenshotPreparing for class discussions this week about sex education policy in the U.S. found me flipping through the Prelinger Archives, where I found this gem: Molly Grows Up. It’s a menstrual education film apparently intended for girls in about the sixth grade, made in 1953. Along with a basic explanation of the physiology of menstruation and puberty, the school nurse assures the girls that no one can tell when they are menstruating. But then she offers them this advice visible in this screen shot — and recommends the girls wear their best dresses and take extra care with “hygiene”.

You can view the film here.

Weekend Links

February 13th, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling
Readers should note that statements published in re: Cycling are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.