More than just a Punctuation Mark:

How Boys and Young Men Learn about Menstruation.

About:

This qualitative study explores how young men percieve menstruation from childhood into adulthood.

Title


More than just a Punctuation Mark: How Boys and Young Men Learn about Menstruation.

Authors

Allen, Katherine, Christine Kaestle, and Abbie Goldberg

Year

2011

Citation

Allen, Katherine, Christine Kaestle, and Abbie Goldberg. 2011. “More than just a Punctuation Mark: How Boys and Young Men Learn about Menstruation.” Journal of Family Issues 32 (2): 129-156.

Study Location

USA

Key Words

boys, family life education, gender, menstruation, puberty, sex education, young men

Type of Research

Peer-reviewed, Qualitative research

Major Take-Aways

• The negative menstruation ideologies revealed in these narratives are fuelled by the knowledge or lack of it provided to boys by families, peers, schools, and the media. Previous research has shown that regardless of the context—family, friend, school, media—females are the primary targets of sex education. Parents  play a stronger role among preadolescents and younger adolescents, with peers becoming more influential as teens get older, particularly in relaying a positive attitude about sexuality.

• The negative menstruation ideologies revealed in these narratives are fuelled by the knowledge or lack of it provided to boys by families, peers, schools, and the media. Previous research has shown that regardless of the context—family, friend, school, media—females are the primary targets of sex education. Parents  play a stronger role among preadolescents and younger adolescents, with peers becoming more influential as teens get older, particularly in relaying a positive attitude about sexuality.

•In the current study, most boys first found out about menstruation in their families, primarily at the onset of their sister’s menarche. A substantial number, however, reported feeling confused and ignorant, having to figure it out for themselves in the absence of continuous and carefully delivered information over the course of their elementary and secondary schooling. As with other types of sex-related information, schools were cited as an important source of the factual and biological information related to menstruation for boys. However, many boys did not have access to adequate education in the schools, and many of their questions about the realities of menstruation—its purpose, how it feels, and what it looks like—went unanswered. In the absence of parental and educational resources, both male and female peers were described as an alternative source of information, causing substantial accuracy problems. Boys had to wade through myths and mysteries over the duration of their childhoods until they came to a place on their own where they felt that they finally understood what a period was.

• Boys know that they can never fully understand menstruation and may feel this puts them at a disadvantage when the topic comes up. Perhaps in response to this discomfort, a prevalent theme in the narratives was that menstruation is gross and should be hidden—and that believing that menstruation is gross and should be kept hidden is a normal and acceptable male response. The acceptance of these menstruation taboos and social enforcement of menstruation etiquette serve to support the hegemonic use of menstruation to devalue and limit women. By indicating that it is not their problem and that they do not want to hear or see anything about menstruation, men frame the female body as a problem to be contained; they devalue an essential part of womanhood to something ugly that should be denied and concealed.

• In this study, boys who had sisters found their way into a knowledge source that provided their first window of understanding. The role of personal experience is exceptionally important, but adults—mothers, fathers, teachers, and others—are necessary to provide the ongoing education about being a responsible man in our society. Adults are remiss when they shirk their responsibility to provide appropriate knowledge to both boys and girls

Identified Research Gaps

Sound Bite

  • Boys had to wade through myths and mysteries over the duration of their childhoods until they came to a place on their own where they felt that they finally understood what a period was.
  • Many existing studies concerning menstrual management interventions are highly biased, according to a recent systematic review published in 2016.
  • Larger, randomised trials are needed to determine the impact of MHM interventions.