In our last post, “Can a Woman’s Cycle Affect Her Relationships with Men?” we looked at how a woman’s cycle impacts her most intimate relationships. It’s clear that a woman’s menstrual cycle does affect her male partner. But are men really interested in understanding how a woman’s cycle works? What do they already know? And at the end of the day, does a guy’s knowledge of the menstrual cycle affect a couple’s relationship?
We had to do some digging to come up with answers.
MEN WANT TO KNOW
After reviewing surveys and conducting our own interviews, we have been pleasantly surprised to learn that many men believe they should be knowledgeable about a woman’s cycle regardless of what family planning option they use. They believe such knowledge would lead to better communication with their female partner and to a more “harmonious” relationship. We were surprised to hear this. One man we interviewed said, “It is very important. Men should know about the whole cycle.”
"OTHER MEN" DON'T WANT TO KNOW
But it turns out men also think that “other men” are generally not interested in learning about a woman’s cycle and do not usually take the time to do so. “Most men probably think it’s not their problem,” was a frequent response. “A guy figures, if he’s got condoms, he doesn’t need [to know] anything else,” said another interviewee. Of course its interesting that most of the respondents said that they themselves were interested, it was just “other men” who wouldn’t be. Indeed, whether they are interested in learning about it or not, studies show that men usually have incomplete and inaccurate knowledge about a woman’s menstrual cycle.
A lot of men also have a negative attitude about the menstrual cycle. Women are probably partially to blame for this as most men learn about women’s cycles from their girlfriends and wives. There may be a tendency in those conversations to complain and focus on menstruation and the negatives. One respondent summed up in a single word, a common attitude among men when they hear “menstrual cycle”… “Eww.”
MEN WANT PEACE…AND SEX
So why do men want to know about women’s cycles? Two reasons – peace and sex. On the peace front, men feel that if they understand their partners’ cycles, they’ll be able to better cope with some of the emotional turmoil that they associate (accurately or not) with the menstrual cycle. One man quipped “men need a support group for dealing with their partner’s PMS and learning strategies for working around the woman’s irritability…or at least to know when to leave the house!”. As for sex being a reason that men wanted to know about women’s cycles, one male respondent put it most succinctly, “Her Period = No Sex”.
FANTASY VS. REALITY
A dubious solution, and perhaps a fantastical one, is to eliminate the cycle all together. In a recent interview with The Sexist Blog, a young woman described her boyfriend’s glee when she explained to him that she takes her birth control pills continuously without the normal 4th week break. He told her, “I was thinking you were just magical … a cool chick with no period drama that has sex all month long.”
Of course, most men do not have “magical” partners and the reality is that conflict arises when a couple is not on the same wavelength sexually. An interviewee put it this way, “When a man wants to have sex and the woman says no, he doesn’t understand why she’s not sexual. It can cause tension.”
Happily, many studies show when women communicate information about their cycles to their partners, it can have a positive affect on relationships. The men we interviewed seemed to intuitively understand this even though their reasons for wanting to know might be different from their partners’ reasons for telling them. This type of communication could help a man feel more in tune with his partner and also address a belief expressed by an interviewee, “The man knows he is not in control of anything [in regard to her cycle], but understanding it makes it seem less precarious and mysterious.”
No doubt, it takes the willingness of both sides to communicate and do so effectively, but if both partners are in tune with the cycle and able to plan together for their sexual expectations, it could well diminish a source of stress in the relationship.
Cycle Technologies interviews with men in Des Moines, IA, and Washington, DC, 11/10/10
“Understanding men’s attitudes about the menstrual cycle, Mitchell Gardner, PhD, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, 2008. – http://gradworks.umi.com/33/31/3331298.html
2005 PremCal MAP Survey (Men’s Attitudes of PMS Survey) – http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/19302.php
Standard Days Method research: Male Involvement and Couple Communication, The Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University. – http://www.irh.org/?q=SDM_male_couple