The most integral cornerstone of early socialization, next to the family, is the institution of education. Our education system has a responsibility to properly educate our youth, preparing them for the world ahead with the necessary knowledge for life. The questions are, however, what has defined our societal parameters of what this “necessary knowledge” constitutes, and have we truly been comprehensive in the education of all children? The answer is quite simple - no. Cis men have received a severe lack of proper education regarding menstruation that is void of cencorship, shame and misinformation within their upbringing. Both quantitative and qualitative research that points towards the sexual and menstrual education received by young cisgender boys is so little that it is essentially uncharted territory - this is a huge problem, with major implications. Cis men are generally uncomfortable about the topic of periods simply because they were never forced to be educated on matters that don’t directly impact them and their bodies. The sexual and reproductive education system is horrendously one-sided, and the result tends to wound up with a huge community of cisgender men who refuse to engage in, accept, and tolerate conversations about periods.
Ah, the classic “this does not seem to affect me, so why should I care?” argument. Unfortunately, this is a commonly held belief that is largely responsible for how misinformed cis men tend to be on the subject. Surprise! It actually adversely affects everyone, not just menstruators. Let’s look at this as a trickle down effect. Cis men hold the highest degree of social privilege in society, so if they go unaddressed, those with the influential power to actively change the status quo won’t have the resources they need to do so. With a lack of understanding and an increased censorship surrounding periods, young cis boys turn into cis men, who will continually perpetuate stigmas associated with menstruation. With the right education from an early age, this does not have to be the case. Knowledge is power.
Cisgender men are the community of people who most commonly encourage the use of harmful euphemisms and who project shame onto menstruators for their natural bodily function. This has been proven to result in the harmful implications of cisgender men’s treatment of women in heterosexual relationships, their treatment and acceptance of transgender men who menstruate, and overall the degree of respect and humanity they give to all of those who menstruate. Transgender men and non-binary individuals struggle immensely within society in terms of feeling accepted, safe in their bodies, and in the idea that their bodily functions do not determine their gender identity. The frustration from cis men regarding periods and the current rhetoric that surrounds it makes menstruation seem as though it is only a woman’s experience, (Not to mention, periods have routinely been used as a way to oppress, disadvantage and shame women in the past and in the present). Trans men and non-binary people have an incredibly hard time placing themselves in this world so long as these stigmas and misinformation exists. It is the responsibility of everyone to be properly educated and to expand our understanding on menstruation as a whole.
There are a plethora of ways as to how we can fix this issue, but each approach would need it’s own article to outline as this is nothing short of a complex conversation. Don’t treat periods like a point of shame, treat them like a necessary function of the human body. Get young cis boys involved in sexual education in the same way that everyone else is made to be. Teach them that this world exists far beyond themselves, and that the knowledge of what doesn’t impact their own bodies is still knowledge worth having. Nevertheless, the answer is quite clear - it’s time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, point, blank, period.