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MenStruation and the code of silence

Silas Mutuku nearly had a meltdown when his wife asked him to buy her tampons. They have been married for 10 years and according to him: “She had never so openly told him about her monthly problems.”

“I was disgusted and ashamed that she had the courage to ask me to buy her tampons. I don’t even know how they look like,” he says. Mutuku says consciously I know her ‘unclean’ days so we do not have to discuss it. Are men really interested in knowing how a woman’s menstrual cycle works?

Random interviews by People Daily showed that men barely comprehend how the menstrual cycle works. Most generally refer to it as ‘that time of the month’ and frown upon being asked about it or if they shop for sanitary towels.

And as Dr Wango Geoffrey, a psychologist and senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi puts it, a careful understanding of what a woman is going through makes a responsible brother, son and husband, rather than the carefree attitude displayed by many men.

“The secrecy and mystery surrounding the menstrual cycle is unfortunate because it leaves many issues unattended, yet it is important that men should take interest,” says Dr Wango. He suggests that from the onset, a husband and wife should discuss the menstrual cycle.

“A woman may experience discomfort, painful cramps, and psychologically she needs the necessary support. In several instances, many women are tuned off because of either the hormones or the social inclinations of menstrual period. This requires much understanding,” he says.

Men who do not know this would rather disappear when their partners are having their monthly flow. “As much as I would love to hug her every time she cramps, I figured it is best for me to stay away from her because it always seems like my presence or anything I say agitates her even more,” says Martin Kirui, who does not resurface until her cycle is over.

Few men understand how a woman’s body works
Few men understand how a woman’s body works

Unlike Martin who wouldn’t mind soothing his girlfriend through the pain that comes with menstruation, other men find monthly periods disgusting. Thus, this topic remains a hushed one. “I do not mean to be rude, but I find the whole period thing nauseating.

I know it is something that women can’t help, but I still find it gross. Don’t even ask me about shopping for pads or tampons because I can’t,” says Dennis Muli, a businessman.

Muli also intimates that his girlfriend went on the pill to stop the monthly flow and in his own words they have ‘sex without any interference whenever he wants’.

Then again the issue of menstrual sex is a personal choice. All women will not say no to sex or ask for it while rolling simply because they fear rejection. However, scientific research shows that menstrual sex is therapeutic especially for those who experience cramping.

The fact that women do not talk about periods with their partners or fathers does not mean they do not want to. Society has taught them it is dirty, shameful and inappropriate.

Amina Musa, a sociology student at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, shies away when asked if she talks about her periods cycle with her boyfriend. “Never has it occurred to me that it is something both of us need to discuss.

It would be embarrassing to talk to him about something that I well know does not involve men,” she says. Steven Maina is a lawyer and father to teenage twin girls. He says he does everything for them including shopping for their sanitary pads.

Being a widower, I have witnessed their every milestone in life so far. “When my first twin girl had her first period, she was scared of telling me so she confided in her aunt who in turn told me,” he says. Steven admits that he was not prepared to for it, but he had to play his part as a parent.

“After weeks of careful thinking and researching on the issue, I sat my girls down for the ‘talk’. They were reluctant and embarrassed at first, but I tried to make the situation as comfortable as possible,” he says. It took time for Maina to break the awkwardness on such an intimate issue but they eventually warmed up to him.

When men are not properly educated about menstruation cycle, a lot of misinformation goes on. They pick up information from wrong sources.

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