Putting Men Back in the Menstrual Cycle: A Qualitative Study Investigating Men's Perceptions of Menstruation

Front Cover
Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 2014 - 172 pages
Although menstruation is typically regarded as an indication of health (Kissling, 1996), strong cultural messages about menstruation perpetuate the belief that it is dirty, disgusting and a state that must be managed (Ussher, 2006). Many women internalize this belief and go to great lengths to hide their menstrual status (Chrisler, 2007). Negative attitudes toward menstruation have been linked to decreased body satisfaction (Schooler, Ward, Meriwether, & Caruthers, 2005), perceptions of decreased competence and likability (Roberts, Goldenberg, Power, & Pyszynski, 2002), and the belief that menstruating women are more emotional, less attractive, and more irritable than non-menstruating women (Forbes, Adams-Curtis, White, & Holmgren, 2003). Whereas there is a relatively large body of literature regarding the significance of women and girls' experiences of menstruation, comparatively little is known about the development of men's attitudes towards menstruation. The lack of focus on how men learn and think about menstruation may have important implications on their attitudes toward women, particularly in their gendered relationships. Therefore, a grounded theory approach using semi-structured group interviews was used in this qualitative investigation. The purpose of the study was to better understand how perceive menstruation, where these ideas come from, and how their perceptions about menstruation may inform their view of women. Two group-interviews were performed and comprised of men in two different student-interest groups. During the interview process, participants described their childhood and present-day experiences with menstruation, including how they learned about menstruation, the messages they received, and how they think about menstruation in the present day. In addition, participants were each asked to create and describe an image depicting the way that they think about menstruation. A Grounded Theory approach was used to analyze the data. The emergent themes from this study were characterized by participant's feelings that they were too young to learn about menstruation in early adolescence and the internalization of dominant cultural messages that menstruation is not something that men should know or talk about. Participants were found to still hold these beliefs as adults, and also revealed they perceive menstruation to be associated with the display of heightened emotions and physical pain. Thus, menstruation was perceived as an overall negative event. Their negative associations with and feelings of disgust toward the presence of blood led to the development of means of avoiding menstruation (e.g. not talking about it and avoiding sexual encounters with menstruating partners). Overall, the participants indicated that they internalized three main beliefs about menstruation: (a) menstruation is associated with affective changes in women, (b) menstruation is irrelevant to men's lives, and (c), menstruation is disgusting because of its association with blood. The implications of the internalization of these beliefs for women, men and practitioners were discussed, and future directions were identified.

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