Tampon section of a feminine hygiene aisle at Target. Relates to several tampon questions from the survey and is a common aisle menstruators go to to get period products. Photo by Ava Anderson.

Disclaimer: This article is based on a survey of 24 students and a few individual conversations with Franklin non-menstruators. While this may not be a full representation of all Franklin’s non-menstruators’ knowledge of periods, it provides an example of the lack of knowledge shared among these groups. 

Menstruation, commonly called a period, but also referred to as “Shark Week,” “Aunt Flo,” or “Hell,” is a biological occurrence experienced by a large percent of the global population. Everyone, that is if they don’t live under a rock, knows of the existence of periods. Lately however, especially according to the internet, it seems that many “non-menstruators” have very little actual knowledge about periods. Videos such as “I Asked My Guy Friends About Periods” or “How Much Do Men Know About Women’s Bodies,” are circulating the internet. These videos result mainly in disappointing responses highlighting the lack of widespread knowledge of menstruation. Now, in the same spirit, I have decided to find out just how much Franklin’s non-menstruators know about periods. Though it isn’t necessary for “non-menstruators” to be knowledgeable on periods, historical period taboo has caused misinformation and confusion to spread like wildfire. Words such as “dirty” or “gross” surround menstruation, and many women tend to hide their sanitary products when checking out at the grocery stores or going to the restroom because of this. Misinformation only increases this stigma and without adequate knowledge of periods, this taboo causes society to overcharge for necessary sanitary products and discriminate against women due to their periods. 

As periods are not limited to women, I will be using the term menstruators to refer to those who have had a period, and as gender is not binary, the term “non-menstruators” refers to those who don’t have a menstrual cycle. This piece is meant to be both funny and informative, for people who don’t menstruate to learn, and those who do to laugh and sigh about how the world has failed to inform so many about this basic human occurrence. 

How long does a period last?

The first question I asked Franklin’s non-menstruators was how long they thought a period lasted. The majority of people got this question correct, stating some version of a week or around 4-7 days. The correct answer is not too far off; periods last 3-7 days according to Planned Parenthood. Not everyone was correct though, with some saying ten days, which though possible, can raise some concern, and some responses saying one day or “12 hours to 2 days” which— I wish. 

What is the average cost of a box of tampons?

Franklin’s Period Club has brought enough awareness to period poverty that the majority of respondents actually overestimated the price of tampons. The most common answers given were between $15 to $20, which is higher than the real answer: $8 per box. Most people, including those who do menstruate, surprisingly didn’t know the exact answer to this question. Still, while $8 per box is much better than $20, it is far too expensive as having a period isn’t a choice. Period poverty is a huge issue and many people with periods are unable to get the period products they need. 

Can people “hold” their period blood like people “hold it” when they need to use the restroom?

Next, I asked if it was possible to “hold” period blood like people “hold it” when they need to use the restroom. Thankfully, the majority of answers were correct: no. One person did say “[of course],” which I sincerely hope they weren’t serious about. It is impossible to hold your period like you can “hold it” when you need to go to the restroom. The misinformation around this however has caused some people to be told to “just hold it” when they start their period and say they need to use the restroom, inferring that it isn’t necessary to have sanitary products immediately. Unfortunately, this belief isn’t true and anyone who starts their period will bleed without a choice, and many will stain their clothes if they are forced to wait. 

How bad are cramps?

The amount of pain someone experiences during their period varies from person to person. As a result, this question could have many correct answers, but I was mainly looking to confirm that no one thought cramps “really aren’t that bad.” However, most people responded correctly and some even accurately said that “it depends.” The other most common answer was a version of “a lot.” A standout response was, “worse than a kick in the balls” from an anonymous respondent. Thankfully, there was no respondent who believed that cramps were never actually bad. 

How do you insert a tampon?

This question received a variety of answers, ranging from full-out confusion to correct, but vague responses. Most surveyed respondents didn’t know the answer to this, or how to answer it, which does make sense as many have never had to insert a tampon. Some gave hilariously vague answers though such as “Poke it out the thing and into the thing,” which I mean— technically is correct, but avoiding any sort of terminology; a common occurrence as the taboo around periods makes many avoid using any technical words relating to periods and menstruators. According to Tampax, a well-known tampon brand, the brief description of how to insert a tampon is to gently insert it into your vaginal opening (string side down), push the tampon part up at the right angle, and pull the applicator out. 

How do you apply a pad?

“Like a bandaid,” one person said. Others agreed with this when asked to elaborate on their answers. Another person said, “I really don’t know, best guess is like a band-aid.” Several replies were a version of  “no clue.” This has the same explanation as the question above about tampons; most people without periods have never applied a pad, but the amount of people who thought pads worked “like a bandaid” is shocking. Your period doesn’t suddenly make your vagina a “cut” and wearing a pad like a bandaid would probably be very uncomfortable. Pads are applied to your underwear, and thankfully, though not many, some people did get this correct. 

How long is a whole period cycle?

According to Planned Parenthood, “The average menstrual cycle is about 25-30 days, but it can be as short as 21 days or longer than 35— it’s different from person to person.” This question was mainly answered correctly, though some may have been confused by the phrasing of this question. When asking this question, I was referring to the whole menstrual cycle, from the first day you start your period to the first day of your next period. It is most commonly said to be a month with a common phrase being “it’s my time of the month.”

How old are people normally when they get their period?

This question received a variety of responses, but overall they were correct. “Most people get their first period between ages 12 and 14, but some people get them earlier or later than that,” Planned Parenthood reports. This survey’s respondents answered between 10 to 15, but their average response, 13, fits just in those lines. 

What are these? (Menstrual Cups)

Providing a photo of a variety of menstrual cups, I asked if Franklin’s non-menstruators could identify what they were. Overall, they could. A majority of people identified either that it was some sort of period cup, or responded what it was used for, one person saying “don’t know [the] exact name but used like tampons to stop bleeding.” The technical name is Menstrual Cups, though they are often called Diva Cups, as this is a common brand name for them. And as was correctly reported, they are used very similarly to tampons, however, they are reusable and hold the blood rather than absorb it. 

What are these? (IUD)

I then asked the same question but this time with a photo of two IUDs. One, a hormonal and the other copper. I’m not sure if having both a copper and hormonal IUD helped or hindered the amount of correct results, but someone did reply that the copper one “tripped them up” and the hormonal one, which is just white, looked like a “fancy tampon.” In the end, though, many people did get this question correct or at least identified the use; a form of birth control. One person though, which surely was a joke, answered “Tesla Inspiration.”

How do people pee with tampons in? Can they?

Finally, after seeing so many disappointing answers to this question from videos online, I asked how people pee with tampons in. Franklin’s “non-menstruators” exceeded expectations though, with only a spare few unfortunately saying you couldn’t. Though about a third did say they didn’t know, the rest correctly responded that they pee through “a different hole.”

Overall, Franklin’s “non-menstruators” did better than expected. Though there were several concerning responses, the majority of answers were correct or not far off; a significantly higher average than from people online. Still, the amount of sadly wrong or clueless answers was unfortunate and one person, in reference to health and sexual education, even reported, “I’m [not going to lie]; they separated boys and girls at my school,” which proves how this misinformation and stigma around periods form and spread. Hopefully, these questions and answers can clear up some of this confusion, misinformation, or taboo on the topic. Periods aren’t gross, weird, or something to hide, and though some of these questions refer to things “non-menstruators” don’t need to know, periods and information about them should be common knowledge for everyone.

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