Today I came across this post on Thought Catalog. The post is called “7 Things A Good Boyfriend Needs To Know About The Menstrual Cycle”.
In this post I’m going to be using the gender neutral pronouns “ze, hir, hirs, hirself” because people of many genders can menstruate. On that note, this article might be better called “7 things partners of menstruating people…”
Most of the “7 things” aren’t so bad. Really, none of them are bad. But there are a few things I’d like to add.
1. This is a good thing. It means your girlfriend isn’t pregnant or so overworked and/or undernourished that she can’t go through a very normal bodily process. These scenarios probably require a little follow-up on your part, and both are thankfully above my pay grade.
Okay, yeah, it could mean those things and this is a positive way of looking at menstruation. But just remember, just because ze’s not pregnant (assuming ze doesn’t want to be) and not malnourished doesn’t mean ze has to enjoy having hir period.
2. This isn’t really going to impact you for a significant percentage of your intimate life. Usually, there’s going to be five to nine days per 28 day cycle where your girlfriend will be directly impacted by cramps, her flow, and bodily discomfort.
And in fact, it doesn’t have to impact you 100% of your life because there is nothing a menstruating person can’t do if they want to.
3. This isn’t a big deal. As in, if you don’t live together or haven’t been dating for longer than a couple months, don’t panic if you have or haven’t been updated on the progress of her cycle. If she seems otherwise excited to get to know you and you’ve started to have sex or are planning to start imminently and says that she can’t hang out on a particular day, don’t push it. Just offer to go out later.
Common sense. It’s not a big deal. If ze doesn’t want to hand out with you, you generally don’t need to know why. You can just hang out with hir later (if ze wants to).
4. Leave tampons in your bathroom if she stays at your place often enough to leave a toothbrush. This is also a generally thoughtful thing to do for that 35% of the population that might come visit your apartment. If she’s already brought some over, keep a mental note on the brand and type, or just ask what she prefers.
I guess this is a nice thing to do but it feels overly “nice guy” to me. There’s no reason to go out of your way to buy hir tampons. Why are you assuming ze uses tampons anyway, have you ever even heard of a menstrual cup? I don’t think it’s necessary to keep tampons at your house if you don’t menstruate or know for a fact a menstruating friend would appreciate them being there. If I didn’t sometimes use tampons I wouldn’t have them around just in case a friend needed them.
Instead, if you have a person who you know menstruates over “often enough to leave a toothbrush” you can ask if ze would like to keep whatever menstrual products ze uses in your bathroom. They might want to, they might not. I think it’s important to ask before you assume.
5. If your girlfriend says she’s sore, hurts, or just asks for Advil, offer her Advil. You would do this if she had a headache, wouldn’t you?
This one’s pretty solid. Pain is pain, no matter the cause.
6. Period sex. Seriously, if she’s complaining that cramps are killing her, offer to have sex and suggest it might help her cramps go away. Cramps result from pelvic muscles pushing ova and uterine linings out; sex and the correlated thrusting, penetration, and orgasm(?) stretch those muscles out the other way and clear out debris. It’s like a warm-down. If height allows, have sex in the shower. Otherwise, put a towel down, have her on top, and shower after. If this squicks you out, think of it as extra lubricant.
First of all, what is that question mark near “orgasm”? Does this author not believe in orgasms?
More importantly “offer to have sex and suggest it might help her cramps go away” sounds creepy as heck to me! Chances are ze’s already heard that having an orgasm can help with cramps, but PIV sex is not the only way to do that. Some people also have sore breasts and vulvas during their period or just don’t want to have sex. So don’t try the “oh but baby I just want to help your cramps” route to try and have sex with hir.
I also don’t like the idea that the only way to have period sex (PIV) is with hir on top with a towel down. If you’re putting a towel (or two or three or anything else or nothing) on the surface you’re having sex on you can pretty much do everything how you would if one (or both or all) of you weren’t menstruating (so safely and consensually).
7. Chocolate chocolate chip cookies. Women on their periods craving chocolate aren’t hysterical; they’re trying to replace a lot of nutrients and energy regularly flushed out. Framed positively, learning how to bake things with chocolate and doing so on a regular, semi-frequent occasion is a really easy way to do something nice for your girlfriend and get credit and praise very disproportionate from the effort you put in.
Overall I would have said this was a pretty okay article and then it went here. Not all menstruating people crave chocolate, or crave anything. Making assumptions like this are stupid and all they say to your partner is “I don’t actually know what you like so I’m basing how I treat you on stereotypes”. Unless ze actually likes chocolate (or you like chocolate) don’t bother stocking up.
Also, doing anything for “credit and praise” in a relationship and not just because you care about that person seems silly.
Final word, I think the best thing a partner can do for their menstruating partner is take cues from them on how ze feels about it. Ze might want some extra attention, particular foods, alone time, or nothing different than any other time. Like a lot of things, menstruation doesn’t need to be ignored, but it doesn’t need to be a big deal either. So if your partner doesn’t make a big deal, you don’t need to either. But never, ever, ever, devalue someone’s feelings because they are “on their period” or you know or suspect they have PMS. Because that is the worst.