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While those born with a vagina, fallopian tubes, and ovaries have been menstruating since the dawn of time, there are still so many misconceptions around the topic.
Even worse, there are those who are dead-set on spreading those misconceptions — mainly cisgender, heterosexual male politicians. These blatant lies lead to an increased stigma around menstruation as well as dangerous legislation surrounding reproductive health, who has access to it, and what kind of care people have access to.
So, it’s time to clear up these fallacies. Below, let’s talk about some of the biggest things that people don’t understand about menstruation. Of course, some of these may seem obvious to you. Unfortunately, that’s not true for everyone. Read on to learn more about some misconceptions and how we can correct them.
1. Women Aren’t the Only Ones Who Menstruate, And Not All Women Menstruate
Let’s start with the first half of this statement: women aren’t the only ones who menstruate. And what we mean by this is cisgender women aren’t the only ones who menstruate. There are plenty of people who identify as transgender, gender queer, or otherwise, who have vaginas and menstruate. So, instead of referring to menstruation as a “female problem” or something that happens to “women only,” remember that people of all genders get their periods.
Ok, now the back half of that statement: not all women menstruate. There are two things to consider here. The first is that transgender women usually do not menstruate, but they are still very much women! So, claiming that all women menstruate is exclusionary and incorrect.
On top of that, there are plenty of cisgender women who don’t menstruate for a variety of health reasons. Perhaps they had a hysterectomy. Or maybe they were born with an underdeveloped reproductive system. For example, those born with MRKH Syndrome, a rare congenital disorder that affects the female reproductive, may have a shortened vagina and a small or absent uterus.
2. Tampons Don’t Affect Your Virginity
Many people are afraid that using tampons “won’t make them a virgin anymore.” This is completely and utterly not true.
Many people definite virginity differently, whether it’s penile-vaginal penetration or the absence of a hymen, but regardless of your definition, tampons do not affect someone’s virginity.
While tampons can cause the hymen to stretch, it’s rare that it would tear it apart completely. And, even if it did, that still would not affect virginity status. Many things can cause a person’s hymen to tear — riding a horse, riding a bike, playing various sports, or just living your life! Some people are born with tears in their vaginas already. Some are born without hymens completely. There is no “one way” for your hymen to look like a virgin and inserting a tampon will not affect your virginity status if that’s something that concerns you.
It’s also worth noting that virginity is a social construct, but that’s a whole other conversation we don’t have time to get into.
3. You Can’t ‘Hold In’ Your Period
Unfortunately, this is one that is perpetuated by both menstruators and non-menstruators alike. So, let’s get this straight right now: those with female reproductive systems do not have control over their period flow. There are no pelvic muscles that allow you to “hold in” your period blood.
To read more on this topic, check out our article here that goes more in-depth.
4. The Pain Can Be Extreme
Periods can come with a lot of unwanted side effects — bloating, mood swings, and pain. A lot of it.
While some experience mild cramps, others experience intense and searing pain that can interfere with their lives. It can prevent people from going to work and/or school.
So, while many people joke about periods “being a bitch”, sometimes they are that and more. So, make sure you take extra care to help your loved ones if they suffer from severe menstrual cramps. This can mean making sure they’re supplied with Advil and heating pads. Or keeping them company as they wake and bake (if that’s their thing).
Lastly, if you or someone you know is suffering from severe cramps on a monthly basis, make sure that a doctor is consulted. Painful menstrual cramps can be a symptom of a larger issue like endometriosis.