Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, there's a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to periods. And though you might expect that men would be the only ones that are sometimes misinformed, women can also believe in period myths, particularly if they were passed down from old sisters, moms, aunts, or grandmothers who learned them before them. Still, there are some surprising things men think about periods, potentially because, all too often, they're never really taught about periods, as a 2010 study published in the Journal of Family Issues found. They just pick information up wherever they can find it, be it from siblings, parents, friends, or romantic partners. So it's not always their fault when they don't understand every little detail. But some also probably should know more than they do, and part of that is setting the record straight on some of the more pervasive period myths, especially ones that men, in particular, seem to believe to be true.
If you're a man with close relationships with someone who gets a period, whether that be a sibling, best friend, romantic partner, roommate, or coworker, you may have, in the past, said something about periods to that person that wasn't exactly right (or was something that seemed a bit outlandish to the person hearing it). And if they corrected you or reacted strongly, you may have felt a bit embarrassed. But it's still important for everyone to separate period fact from fiction. And some of the things that men seem to ardently believe about periods falls firmly into the fiction category.
1. That You Can Somehow Control Your Period Blood
Some men seem to believe that women can somehow control the flow of their period, saying things like, 'can't you just hold it?' Many people who get periods will have experienced that particular conversation at least once before. I've had this kind of conversation on more than one occasion, myself, in which they didn't understand why it was so urgent to track down a tampon or get to the bathroom to make a change. The fact of the matter is, that's just not how periods work, unfortunately. People who experience a tampon (or other) leak or spotting on their pants don't want that to happen — in fact, it can be sort of embarrassing, just as when you stain any other part of your clothes for any reason. It's not something they can control.
2. That Period Blood Can Attract Wild Animals
Some people also believe that periods can attract wild animals like bears and sharks. In a post that she penned for Scientific American, Dr. Kate Clancy, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, wrote that she received a question about periods and wildlife when she was a guest on the podcast Skeptically Speaking, so she decided to look into it more. It's also an idea that I've heard thrown around and debated by men and women in the past. The National Parks Service has concluded that there's not actually any evidence that a bear might be attracted to the scent of period blood.
Plus, Clancy concluded that part of this debate might stem from the way society sees and explains menstruation and some cultural issues more generally — if wildlife is attracted to periods, that's why women weren't the hunters in the past. It likely isn't something that you need to be overly concerned about. But if you're worried, using tampons is just one way that you can potentially help avoid any potential for a situation like that.
3. That You're PMS-Ing & On Your Period At The Same Time
Some men think that PMS and periods are sort of one in the same, so that you're bleeding and PMS-ing at the same time. That's not exactly how it works. Teen Vogue asked Dr. Kameelah A. Phillips, MD, an OB-GYN, about the difference between PMS and actually being on your period since that's a question that men sometimes have, according to the publication. Phillips explained that since PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome, it actually comes before your period — typically about a week or two before. Once you have your period, it's not PMS anymore.
4. That Menstrual Cycles Are Tied To The Moon
In a piece she wrote for The Atlantic, writer Cari Romm noted that someone in college asked her if menstrual cycles are tied to the moon, which, as it turns out, is something that more than just that one guy think. I've also been asked that. It's not a dumb question, however, because the length of these cycles are about the same, so it's easy to understand why people (men and women) might think this. But, as a blog post on Clue's website noted, when you look at the data, there's not actually an association between lunar phases and when your period starts.
5. That There's A Lot Of Gushing Blood
Maybe it's because of how tampons look, but some men think that they function, essentially, as a stopper would in a bath tub, as a Buzzfeed Community user shared with the site. That's just not the case. Your flow can change over the course of your period, sometimes being heavier, and sometimes super light.
6. That Unprotected Sex During Your Period Won't Get You Pregnant
Some people think that you can have unprotected sex while you're on your period without getting pregnant, but that's actually a common misconception. It's something that I've heard repeated by people before and a period-related question that men asked Vice UK. Dr. Nathaniel DeNicola, MD, an OB-GYN, told Men's Health that some people have menstrual cycles of different lengths. So, it's possible that ovulation will happen quickly enough you have sex that sperm will still be around, and that can result in a pregnancy.
7. That Everyone Gets A Period In Exactly The Same Way
Some men also seem to think that everyone who gets a period experiences the same symptoms — and deals with them in the same way — which is definitely not true. Just because your older sister never seemed to experience cramps doesn't mean that your partner curled up on the couch in agony is exaggerating. I've heard guys express surprise at one period symptom or another or the severity of symptoms because they hadn't heard about or seen that kind of period experience before. Period symptoms can even change over time, as Redbook reported. One month you might notice that you're dealing with back pain or breast tenderness, but when you were younger, cramps were a bigger deal.
It's OK if men don't understand all the ins and outs of periods automatically, but knowing what's true and what's not can help you understand what people who get periods are going through each month and also just be better informed in general.
Editor's note: This article has been updated from it's original version.