Young men should be forced to learn about periods just as much as women are

Menstruation is one of the most natural things in the world, but if half the population is disgusted by it then how can we move forward as a society?

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The Independent Online

Periods are a divisive topic. There are generally two schools of reaction to them. There's interest, intrigue and general okayness. But then there's also utter disgust and repulsion. We should all be aiming for the first one. Actually, even better than that, we should be aiming for acceptance.

Earlier this week V.Point News launched their #JustATampon campaign, aiming to defeat the stigma of menstruation, and raise awareness of women living in the Third World who have to deal with their “time of the month” without access to the sanitary protection we have.

It’s a good campaign, seeing the likes of news heavyweight Jon Snow and comedian Jenny Éclair take selfies with strategically placed tampons. However, as with most things on Twitter, it was met with ignorance from the male population. One user replied to Eclair’s selfie with: “I appreciate I'm old fashioned, but we must protect children from adulthood. And us men don't want to know about such things!” Obviously, there’s still work to be done to educate men on menstruation.

While it's all a natural part of life for most women, and something we're told about  in our early teens, boys are almost entirely uninvolved in this part of education. In year six, when my class was told about the big bad period, the boys in our class were sent outside to play. In the Government's official Sex Ed guide, it mentions preparing girls for menstruation, but makes no specifics on including boys apart from general "reproduction" lessons in secondary school. So it’s kind of inevitable that they’ll be unaware and squeamish right?

It’s about time that changed. Prejudice against periods has a real affect. Periods are one of the most natural things in the world, and if half the population doesn’t understand them, or is disgusted by them, then moving forward as an equal society is going to be nigh on impossible.

And if we're going to move forward, then men need to get over their shock and horror. This means being involved in the sex education that takes place in school for girls. They need to be taught about the menstrual cycle, about how tampons are used. They need to be taught that period pains are very real and very debilitating. (I once fainted in my early teens due to the pain of them.)

Boys also need to be taught that blood will not gush from a woman like a proverbial waterfall, and that a “period” is actually the shedding of the womb lining, it’s technically “dead blood”. Instead, “jam rag” was a term that got banded around in the classroom at my secondary school. Jam rag. How vile is that?

Perhaps if men had the chance to grow up in a society which discussed periods openly, they wouldn’t be seen as such a gross novelty. They're a simple reality of womanhood, and like the rest of our bodies and experiences, they cannot continue to be disregarded.