Mansplaining menstruation
Ysbrand Cosijn

Mansplaining menstruation

Can you control your periods by controlling your bladder? … Do you chase down hot men once a month? … Does bleeding ignorance kill? … These news flashes and more in this week’s Sex in the Press.


Mansplaining is ‘what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does,’ according to the dictionary.

Mansplaining is especially hilarious – or tragic, depending on your mood – when men try to explain menstruation to women.

An excellent recent example involves a young man who decided to lecture anti-tampon tax campaigners on social media.

‘The photography student, who has a girlfriend, believes tampons are a “luxury item” and said if a woman “cannot hold in her period until she gets to a toilet” then it is her problem, not the taxpayers,’ according to ‘Teenage “meninist” sparks fury with anti-tampon rant as he tells women to “just control their bladders“‘.

‘If they are going to bleed then they should wait until they get to the toilet. It’s all about self-control,” he mansplained. “I don’t urinate everywhere and expect free nappies.’

This guy has a girlfriend?

The false positives of periods

‘Tall tales linger where periods are concerned,’ according to ‘Do women sync up? No, but we can’t resist menstruation myths.’

One such myth says that women seek out men with better genes when they are menstruating.

‘But something smells a bit fishy here. Are women really evolutionarily hard-wired to cuckold their partners? Or might the attraction of a salacious hypothesis – with slightly sexist overtones – be shaping some of this research?’


While women generally ‘prefer men with dominant, masculine, healthy traits, and more symmetrical faces’, there’s no actual evidence that they prefer such men more when they’re menstruating.

‘So why have we been telling this sexy story for so long? The team found that while early tests of this hypothesis found strong effects, more recent studies have been detecting smaller effects or no association at all. This kind of trend is typical when an original finding is a false positive, and subsequent studies struggle to replicate the result in more rigorous, carefully controlled experiments.’

Researchers are now uncovering ways in which menstruation brings even higher costs that may affect the course of a young girls life.

Another myth that continues to generate headlines: that women’s periods sync up when they live together.


‘If we imagine two women with cycles of 28 days, the maximum amount of time they could be out of synch would be 14 days. On average, we would expect them to be only seven days apart, with a 50 per cent likelihood that they are even more closely aligned, just through chance alone. If we assume menstruation lasts five days, it’s hardly surprising that in a group of close friends, there will be some overlap.’

So why are these false stories so popular? One reason may be related to the male desire to understand females based on ‘the oversimplified notion that if you study women’s menstrual cycles, you learn something directly important about their social judgments.’

But alas: ‘It turns out to be much more complicated than that.’

Costs of ignorance

‘It’s only been in the last few years that researchers have finally begun delving into the subject of menstruation, and the impact it has on the lives of young girls and women in low-income countries,’ according to ‘We don’t know enough about menstruation and girls are paying a price’.

‘For millions of them, a universal lack of clear information and education makes menstruation a source of shame and embarrassment. And in some cases, researchers are now uncovering ways in which menstruation brings even higher costs that may affect the course of a young girls life.’

Some of these costs include: engaging in transactional sex to pay for tampons; missing up to 20 per cent of one’s education out of fear of being teased for wearing stained clothing; being beaten by dear old dad because he believes that menstruation only begins after the loss of virginity.

How do you mansplain your way out of that?

Have you believed certain ‘facts’ about periods that turned out to be untrue? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Facebook. If you have any questions, visit our discussion board.

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