Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Periods: A Reasonable Guy's Perspective

When reading about how Kiran Gandhi decided to run the marathon in 2015 while on her period and bleed on herself, her point that "girls are quiet about periods when other boys are nearby, even though it should be something to be ashamed of," really struck a chord with me. We grow up with the idea that girls, women and other people who menstruate should hide their periods from boys and men, because they're disgusting and gross, and not something guys want to know about, and it makes me so angry! As Gandhi said, periods are nothing to be ashamed of, and we shouldn't have to pretend we don't have them.

And then it occurred to me that, when it comes to my best friend, I don't. My best friend is a guy, but it's never occurred to me that I shouldn't talk to him about my period. I've complained about my period more times than I can count, and never once has he batted an eyelid - that I was aware of. As a guy who seems to not have a problem, I asked my best mate Adam Page, a care worker in Northern Ireland, if he would answer some questions about his views on periods, and why so many guys do.

Our friendship is such that I have never really thought twice about talking to you about my periods, whether it’s about how I’m suffering with period pain or how it’s uncomfortable to ride on the back of a motorbike while using a tampon. Have you ever been bothered by me being so open about my periods?

Well, the short answer is no. The long answer is nooooooooooooo. I’ve known periods were a normal, healthy part of a girl’s life ever since I was quite young. It came with being a geek who wanted to know everything; all those hours in the library. People have spoken to me about their periods before and it never once made me think, “Gross, ewwie, disgusting.”

We all know menstruation is a natural and healthy process that comes with having a uterus. So why are most guys so averse to hearing about or acknowledging women’s periods? Why is it such a taboo subject?

Because these people are clearly morons. It’s that simple. They have been brought up to believe that it’s horrible, filthy. How many period jokes are out there? And it gets into their consciousness. “Eww, she bleeds from WHERE? That’s revolting.” And it goes from there. Girls too, how many have been told it’s a dirty little secret, not to be spoken about? That is a real problem over here, where the overriding Irish response to something ever so slightly unpleasant is to not talk about it, sweep it under the carpet, pretend it isn’t happening.

The taboo is breaking a little; a few times during the Olympic Games, a female competitor’s mentioned being on their period, to the instant discomfort of the presenters. And there followed days of, “Hmm..should she really have mentioned that?” In radio, print and television.

Things will change, I’m sure, but not for a generation I don’t think.

How do you feel about heading to the chemist to pick up sanitary towels or tampons for a girlfriend or female friend that’s having a bad time with cramps?

I don’t feel anything about it. It’s happened a few times and I put them in the basket and move on to get whatever else I need. On occasion I’ve had to go in specially for them, and the only thing I’m concerned about is getting the right ones. I walk up to the counter, pay, and walk out. And that’s it. I’m not going to go up, shuffling my feet, unable to look the cashier in the eye and thrust the box of tampons at them. That would be ridiculous.

I’ve also bought condoms, hair gel, deodorant etc. and with the same lack of reaction. You need something, you buy it, and that’s that.

You’ve lived with both female housemates and with girlfriends. During those times, have feminine hygiene products ever been visible in the bathroom? If they were, did it bother you to see those constant reminders that the women you lived with had periods?

Of course products were visible in the bathroom. It was their house too. Just as my hygiene products were visible. And no, not once did it ever bother me. Again, why the hell would it? Imagine living with your girlfriend, “Yeah I know we have sex but EWWW a tampon in the bathroom?” I would have been slapped, and rightly so. Same when I lived with [my ex-housemate] Gina, we had a big bathroom we shared and she kept hers in the cabinet. It wasn’t exactly a revelation; girl has periods. Well, stop the press. It would be like them being freaked out seeing my razor in the bathroom or whatever.

What do you know about PMS?

Depends on who it was, really. Some [friends and girlfriends] never had it, others I had to keep out of the way for a day or so. And everything in-between. When you know the person, it's fine. If they wanted a bit of peace and to be left alone, that was fine.

Society teaches women that periods are something they should keep hidden from men, almost that they’re something to be ashamed of. What are your thoughts on women trying to act like they’re fine, when they’re anything but, because periods are a “dirty little secret”?

I think they should stop. I know that’s a glib answer but I believe it. You said it, periods are taught as a “dirty little secret”. Especially over here where women and children are still seen as chattels.

This would be hard to do, as it is a deeply ingrained belief, but women really should be more open about them. I don’t mean yell it from the rooftops every month but if someone asks how they are, and they’re having discomfort because of their period, [they should] just say that. None of the “Oh, nothing, I’m okay.” The more you normalise it, the faster people accept it. Then there won’t be a need for questions like this.

What are your thoughts on having sex with a woman while she’s on her period?

This is a hard one. I have done it on more than one occasion. A girl I was with, it made her incredibly horny and she didn’t have a problem with it. I won’t go into full details, but it can be very messy. The sheets have to go in for a cold soak and a wash. And putting a towel down, well that would just kill the mood. So if I am totally honest, on her period, I can wait. For reasons of cutting down on washing. And yes I know how ridiculous that sounds. Still true though. Trying to get that out of a white bedsheet…. It never really goes. Leaves a stain.

When with a woman who doesn’t want to have sex when she’s on her period, do you view it as an inconvenience?

Nope. It’s the same as her not wanting sex because she feels ill, or she’s tired. That’s fine with me. I’ve said no because I’ve been shattered or had a killer headache. Girls seem to view that a little differently, but that’s another discussion.

The vagina has its own method of keeping itself clean by producing a discharge to keep it healthy and free of bacteria. When going to have sex with a woman, has it ever been an issue if you’ve noticed vaginal discharge on her knickers/panty liner?

Nope, never been a problem. If you’re going to stick your face in there, a little vaginal discharge on the knickers is hardly going to be a problem.

The only time I have really noticed it, is if it’s been an odd colour or very strong smell. The job I do, you get to notice what UTIs etc. smell like. And it could be a symptom of an underlying problem. Other than that, not an issue.

Isn't it refreshing to hear from a guy who doesn't have an issue with you bleeding from your vagina every month? I know, I have the best best friend! Thank you, Adam, for stopping by the blog and answering my questions!

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