Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

How uncomfortable do the words "menstrual cycle" make you?

Asked by nikipedia (27481points) March 12th, 2010

I have to give my first academic talk in a few weeks. I’ll be talking about some cognitive changes that take place across the menstrual cycle.

When I talk about this in casual conversation (especially with men), I tend to skirt around the words “menstrual cycle” and say something like “endogenous changes in sex hormones.” This avoids making people feel uncomfortable, but “menstrual cycle” is more attention-grabbing.

So how would you react if you went to a talk on the topic? Is it a total non-issue and I’m overthinking it? Or should I be judicious in the use of the actual term “menstrual”?

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71 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

You’re right in that some people are uncomfortable with such mysterious things as a female reproductive system and its wondrous workings – but that’s their problem. You are the presenter and you set the precedent. Therefore, because there is nothing wrong with saying ‘menstrual cycle’ then just say it.

mrentropy's avatar

For me it would be a non-issue. Also, I know what a menstrual cycle is but would be kind of lost with “endogenous changes in sex hormones.”

How many wheels does a menstrual cycle have again?

JLeslie's avatar

I have a suggestion, you might use menstrual cycle intially, but then switch to just the word “cycle” once it is understood what you are talking about.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I think you’re over thinking it. Ant one who turns up to a lecture on the cognitive changes that take place across the menstrual cycle is going to care.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

Don’t make it more mysterious by skirting around it – just say what it is. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable… Prince Albert makes me much more uncomfortable to be honest.

OperativeQ's avatar

As a guy, the only thing that really bothers me about that sort of devil-talk is when the graphic details come out. For example, blood clots, or heavy flows, ect.

So the words menstrual cycle are just fine.

nikipedia's avatar

@Lightlyseared: I’m trying to figure out how to title it, which I think will affect who shows up. I’m kind of worried that if I use the words “menstrual cycle” only women will show up. (Nearly every faculty member in my department is male.)

Shae's avatar

Use it often. Use it more than you have to.

Stop letting the world be uncomfortable with female health issues.
Women are not freaks, we are half the frakking population of the world and we BLEED!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@nikipedia but no matter how you title it the talk is still about that so why would the men ever show up (if you assume they won’t)?

nikipedia's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: I guess my assumption is that the decision to come or not come isn’t going to be extremely well thought out.

JLeslie's avatar

@nikipedia I think you make a good point, it might be best to be careful how you title it.

susanc's avatar

“Clots, Chemistry and Cycles”. Don’t hold back. Fuck em if they can’t take a joke.

nikipedia's avatar

I love you Susan.

gailcalled's avatar

…“and Cramps.”

OperativeQ's avatar

Call it, “How to figure out women”. You’d be sure to get some men in the audience.

CMaz's avatar

I always picture a man in black face singing.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@nikipedia Not a bad assumption to make – sadly the problem isn’t you or your titles, it’s people. Good luck.

gailcalled's avatar

@nikipedia; If you were giving a lecture on prostate cancer or ED, would you mince words? Of course not. Half the population gets a period. Treat it as thought it were a rhinovirus, which all the population contracts.

Non-issue gets my vote.

(Growing up, we used to call it the “curse.” Even thought it begins with “c,” it does have now a pejorative context. )

maudie's avatar

From a poetic standpoint, the annoying thing about “menstrual cycle” is that the word “menstrual” just sounds ugly. Ya know, “menstrual.” Rhymes with “men’s drool.”

Couldn’t the medical establishment pick a nicer word or phrase, like “menorrhal cycle” (rhymes with “menorah cycle”)?

Need some doctors to back me up here.

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled But, prostate cancer is different than menstrual cycle I think, because it happens to men, the prostate cancer that is. No one wants to talk about HPV related to tongue cancer and rectal cancer (do people really understand that Farrah died from an STD basically, probably had anal sex in her lifetime) it is pretty much ignored. Prostate cancer (which I personally think has a relationship to STD’s) is scene as a non-sexual thing like breast cancer is now. Pretty much our breasts are out there for everyone to see nowadays. I think if we were still in shirts buttoned up to our necks all of the time, even that would be hard for people to talk about. I think as soon as something is related to sex, or something mysterious about women, people shut down.

But, I would assume the audience for the lecture is science and medical minded, and so then they might be more open minded?

ucme's avatar

Bloody bikes.Very uncomfortable saddles on some.Makes for an uneasy ride.

gailcalled's avatar

Farrah Fawcett did not publicly equate her rectal cancer to any sexual activities, but she was very open about the cancer itself.

How could a menstrual period be seen as something mysterious about women these days? It would be akin to calling piano legs “limbs.”

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled I was not accusing Farrah of not being open, it was a comment on the media, the medical establishment, and the general public not wanting to hear about how women and men can get HPV in more places than just their cervix. Most people did not know HPV caused cervical cancer, even though we have known the connection for over 20 years, until a pharm company could make some money off of a vaccine. But, I digress. I think menstraution and a woman’s cycle is still mysterious to a lot of people these days. I think men would prefer to stay in the dark and let women handle it, and I think if you asked 1000 30 year old women about their cycle, they would get a bunch of answers wrong. My friends in Catholic school learned nothing about their cycles, nothing. It was just something that happened. Mysterious. Not sure if that has changed in the last 30 years. They grew up thinking if they had sex they would get pregnant, with no real clue about when in the cycle you can really get pregnant, or what hormones were at work.

davidbetterman's avatar

Menstrual Cycle is far less threatening to me than Unicycle!...

DominicX's avatar

As a gay guy, my reaction is: ewww!!!!

But seriously, it’s the most accurate term and it’s the one everyone knows. Just use it. People really shouldn’t care that much. It’s a completely natural thing and the more people accept that, the more they’ll stop thinking it’s “gross”.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DominicX Does you being a ‘gay guy’ necessitate more disgust at something natural?

JLeslie's avatar

There it is gross Dominic said it. That’s the thing. Since @nikipedia is really talking about hormonal fluctuations and not the actual physical process of menstraution, that is if I understand correctly, it might be better to name the lecture regarding hormonal changes so no one is thinking blood and tampons. Just sayin’.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I doubt it has anything to do with @DominicX being gay, just that he is a guy.

DominicX's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I was just joking…

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JLeslie Well I doubt it as well, but I just wanted a clarification for the qualification at the beginning of his statement.
And I don’t get what ‘being a guy’ has to do with getting disgusted about periods. I never got this.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

It depends, I suppose. if you were going to ask me to get on one and ride it for awhile, then that sounds pretty uncomfortable. And messy.

DominicX's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

I think it’s just because guys do not experience it (I said the gay guy thing because a gay guy would have even less to do with it since they are not involved with women sexually). From the outside, the idea of the menstrual “discharge” of blood and all that does not seem very appealing. :\

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DominicX Well it’s not like it’s appealing or unappealing to us who experience it – it just is like anything else. And the profound disgust always voiced by men or assumed on their behalf is sexist, don’t you think?

DominicX's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

Yes, I think it is sexist. Especially when you tie it in with ancient views of it being “unclean”. It’s just another way of viewing women as below men, especially since there isn’t a male equivalent of menstruation.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DominicX This is why I support artists that work with menstrual blood. It is such a release (no pun intended) for them. And my mother is absolutely terrified that my diva cup and tampons are there for everyone to see (not full of blood, mind you) next to razors and soaps and towels.

Sarcasm's avatar

The idea of ejecting blood and tissue? Makes me squirm in my seat.
Just plain gross.

Take up your anger with evolution and your gods, not at me.

However, I’m not your target audience. I don’t plan on experiencing academic talks regardless of their content in the forseeable future.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Sarcasm Yes, yes, we are so removed from our animality that we must reject anything that comes out of our bodies, I get it. I don’t think the profound disgust with menstrual blood, specifically, has only to do with evolution. There are plenty of bloody events/sports/rituals (mostly including men) that are loved and watched and supported worldwide.

nikipedia's avatar

@Sarcasm: That’s what I’m afraid of. There’s no blood or tissue in the talk; just hormones. My target audience is just like everyone else, really.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

I have a healthy attitude towards menstruation.

JLeslie's avatar

Use “hormone cycle” maybe?

hug_of_war's avatar

They don’t and if it makes someone uncomfortable than they are pretty immature. I hate using euphenisms, call it what it actually is.

wilma's avatar

I’m all for not “avoiding the terms”, but for many women having a period is a big pain literally and figuratively.
Cramps, clots, bloating, and the all and mess and bother of it all, I don’t blame guys for not wanting to think about it. I wouldn’t think about it either if I didn’t have to, or I wasn’t interested in reproduction.
Medically speaking it needs to be discussed, and I can see where @nikipedia is coming from, she wants a good attendance at her talk.
The only time I ever was happy to see my menstrual flow was when I was hoping I wasn’t pregnant.
On those days I would often celebrate with a Bloody Mary!

coogan's avatar

red tide’s a-comin’

JLeslie's avatar

Maybe we should do a thread for all of the different names LOL. Curse, red tide, friend, period…JK.

CMaz's avatar

Does Red Winging count?

susanc's avatar

The truth is that it IS a curse. It’s a huge pain. Oh ya ya ya, you get to have a baby. How many babies do you get in return for 35 years of pain and mess and expense and cowardly men saying you’re disgusting?
I wish I’d had my tubes tied when I was 9 and not when I was 57.
Special note for @sarcasm: “not planning on attending any academic lectures regardless of their content in the foreseeable future”? no surprise there.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@susanc that last bit is uncalled for, no? when was the last time you went to a scientific lecture?

JLeslie's avatar

@susanc You had your tubes tied at 57?

escapedone7's avatar

I would be interested in hearing this lecture! I would think most of us who have a cycle are not shocked about hearing the most of rest of the female population has a cycle too.

Men live with women, and our cognitive and hormonal changes. If they have lived with a woman long enough they aren’t ignorant about it. I can guarantee you some of my boyfriends would have attended the seminar wholeheartedly, and met you after to ask questions. They had to live with me, after all!

If you want it to sound less about blood and tampons and more about physiology, then you might refer to it as the female hormone cycle or female reproductive cycle or something. Since you are giving a scientific lecture though, if those terms are not accurate then do not use them.

TooBlue's avatar

I agree with you @susanc 110%.

TooBlue's avatar

Not only menstruation , but sexism, discrimination, child bearing, sexualisation, disrespect, having to deal with dominating men who think they are gods gift to women, treated as less intelligent, weaker, crazy, dumb, kitchen bound, raped, etc. Then the moment we stand up for ourselves, men cry “feminism”. Fuck, being female is a death sentence in this life. No kidding.

susanc's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, my beloved fave – you got me. It must have been at least a month ago. I stand shamed and partially corrected before the community.

@JLeslie – I had fibroids. Resisted surgery for a LOOONG time; tried to fix it with Evening Primrose, acupuncture, Chinese herbal soups, etc. Eventually had to be taken to the ER fainting,
loss of blood. ER doc: You will die in the next two days if you keep bleeding like this. You will never have menopause, if that’s what you’re waiting for, because your little blood vessels have been bleeding so long and so hard that they can’t close up.

Oh. Well okay then.

The best part: Percocet.

The next best part: Now I know what it’s like to be a man and just take your health more or less for granted. Wonderful. Heavenly. I’m happy for you guys.

escapedone7's avatar

I stumbled across this site once and it was therapeutic for me. Like some people I once had negative feelings about menstruation. I wish I had been exposed to a more positive view of it sooner. I started thinking about how some cultures celebrate it. I just decided to look at it as a part of my femininity. It changed my view of my body and myself.

aprilsimnel's avatar

They don’t make me feel uncomfortable at all. And I can’t think of any men who are made uncomfortable by it.You’ll be OK with that usage, I think.

davidbetterman's avatar

Auntie Flo is coming for a visit.

gailcalled's avatar

“Falling off the roof.” I have no idea where that came from but we used it in the 1950’s.

And for those who are “ew“ing and “yuck“ing and “oh, gross“ing about menstrual blood, sperm and its carrying fluid is not so objectively charming either. Our interiors are simply packaged better than road kill.

JLeslie's avatar

@susanc I still don’t get it. Tubes tied just stops the sperm from getting to the egg. You are talking about bleeding from fibroids, so either you had a hysterectomy or had a procedure to cut off blood supply to the fibroids, something along those lines.

Sarcasm's avatar

@gailcalled Greetings, ewer and yucker and oh, grosser about menstrual blood here. I don’t think sperm is pretty either. And while we’re at it, I don’t think any blood is pretty. nor vomit, urine, fecal matter. Here are some other perfectly natural things I do not find attractive: Slime mould. Corpses. Embryos. Blobfish. Camels.

Shae's avatar

@Sarcasm Nice you compare my body’s readying itself to create life, to vomit, urine, fecal matter, slime, mold, and corpses. It’s no wonder that as a young girl I was afraid and ashamed to tell anyone I had started my period.

gailcalled's avatar

@Sarcasm: Make sure that no one skins you.

Sarcasm's avatar

@Shae They are all natural things.
And the comparison would have not been brought up if Gail hadn’t brought up a completely different process that occurs in the male body.
Huh. Interesting, isn’t it?

Shae's avatar

@Sarcasm Oh that excuses it.

Flowers, waterfalls, a starry night are all natural things but you compare what I have to live through ever month to things that are untouchables. You are saying I and all women are unclean when you do this. You may not feel that your words have effects but they do. I am a grown woman that is strong in my confidence but there are younger girls that are impressionable that will read your words and take them to heart.

Sarcasm's avatar

@Shae You’re putting so many words into my mouth.
Gailcalled compared menstruation (a natural process) to ejaculation (another natural process). I told her I found both processes unattractive.
I also mentioned MORE natural processes that are not “pretty”.
I am not saying that menstruation is exactly like shitting. I am saying they are both natural processes which I would rather not talk about, hear about, or see.

Flowers and waterfalls and starry nights are natural as well. But they are pretty. I do not share these feelings with the menstrual cycle. THUS I did not include them.

I am not saying women are unclean for this menstruation. I am saying it’s a process to which I am not attracted.

You may not feel that your words have effects but they do… there are younger girls that are impressionable that will read your words and take them to heart.
This question is about how people feel about menstruation. You have to realize that there are opposing views. You don’t go into a question about “How do you feel about religions X, Y, and Z?” and feel insulted because someone says they don’t believe in Xtianity, Yianity or Zology.

And never in my life have I ever brought up menstruation and my thoughts on it, unless someone asked for it intentionally. I did not go around middle school telling girls that their monthly cycle is filthy and they should be ashamed.
You know why? aside from me (surprisingly) not being a giant asshole in real life?
Because I don’t have any interest in the process. So I don’t think about it at all. Unless someone brings it up.

wilma's avatar

@Sarcasm join me in a Bloody Mary?
celebrating that fact that I’m not pregnant
I don’t blame you for not wanting to think about it.
I’ve had years of thinking about it, I don’t like thinking about it either. (I prefer starry nights)
I’m a mother, and thankful that a healthy menstrual cycle made that possible

@nikipedia say whatever you need to, it’s a clinical setting.

funkdaddy's avatar

After reading all that I’m not sure if I want to jump in here, but it seems the actual question is how to write a one liner so colleagues want to attend your talk? So you’re looking for broad appeal while remaining accurate, correct?

I’d go with “hormonal cycle” for the one-liner, hormones are on the whole more interesting than menstruation for both men and women. Everybody loves them some hormones.

When people hear “Menstrual” they tend to think of the products of the cycle (blood or pregnancy), hormones on the other hand get associated with growth, sex, and change. So if you’re looking for something to pull folks in, go with the hormones.

As far as the talk itself, go with whatever term or phrase is most accurate. The advertising is over.

Also, congrats on your first talk. Are you excited? Is it a big deal? Good luck with it.

nikipedia's avatar

Thanks @funkdaddy. Really, I was interested in the broad question of how other people react to those words. In the lab, we all talk about gonads and ovaries and hormones and menstrual cycles constantly so we’re totally immune to any discomfort. So I don’t want to scare people away who don’t have the same comfort level with it.

At the same time, my mentor (who pioneered the kind of work I’m doing) has said that he intentionally includes the words “menstrual cycle” because it piques a lot of people’s interest. So I think based on what he said and what I’ve read here, it has a sort of push-pull effect: people are kind of uncomfortable/grossed out, but also really curious because it’s such a mystery.

I am excited, but mostly just nervous. Every student in the department is required to give a talk in this lecture series and they’re tough acts to follow. Last week this kid very casually presented his data showing neural stem cell therapy reversing some components of a mouse model of Alzheimers. Like it was no big deal.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Okay, to answer the question seriously in a way that I didn’t with my first, flip answer (when I answered the “subject question” instead of the text of your serious question), I wouldn’t skirt the topic a bit “in the talk”.

In your “advertising” for the talk you can avoid mention of “menses” and “menstruation” and “menstrual cycle” if you think that will keep people from attending, but once they’re in the seats, be very plain. After all, you’re there to give an academic talk about a serious (and completely normal and natural) topic that affects half of the world’s population directly, and the other half indirectly. It’s worth talking about if you have something to add to that discussion! I would attend.

And congratulations; I hope you keep them… um… glued to their seats.

aprilsimnel's avatar

If all else fails, present your talk to Dave Foley. Apparently, he has a good attitude toward menstruation.

jo_with_no_space's avatar

Since I have a womb and its accompanying cycles, I’m pretty much comfortable with the thought of it by now, after having had one every month for nearly 14 years.

jo_with_no_space's avatar

@Shae Wish I could give more than one GA for your first answer! ;)

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