Tag Archives: sex difference

The Modern Period: Menstruation and the History of Sexuality

“Having sex on your period is absolutely safe,” reassures OB-GYN and talk-show regular Dr. Laura Berman. Like most sex experts in the past half-century, Berman is ready to demolish old menstrual taboos and usher in a modern period. And like many educators, physicians, and cultural critics who have written about menstruation, she frames her recommendations within a historical narrative: in the old days, religious proscriptions and folk traditions labeled menstruating women as “dirty” or “unclean” and therefore unfit for intercourse; now, in the light of modern science, we know better.

When it comes to menstruation, this sweeping narrative arc can feel persuasive, since ancient attitudes have in fact been strikingly persistent. And yet, the leap from the biblical book of Leviticus to the twenty-first century obscures as much history as it reveals. It turns out, when we listen to a range of voices, from natural philosophers to medical writers, to ordinary women and men discussing their experiences, the history of menstruation and sex is more complex. All of these parties gingerly navigated the shift to the modern period, with results that are perhaps less fully liberatory than advocates like Berman might acknowledge…

Read the rest at Notches blog

Should We #FreeTheNipple? Maybe Male and Female Aren’t That Different After All

When I was little, I copied my dad and took off my shirt on hot summer days. He would be doing yard work, and I would be running around doing something or other that was sweaty and active. It felt great. A cool breeze works much better when it hits your skin directly. He encouraged me to ditch the shirt, and my sister and brother followed suit.

One time, my mother pulled him aside and asked, “are you sure the girls should do that?” Perhaps we were at a public park, or perhaps the neighbors were out in the adjacent yard. I can’t remember. But I distinctly recall my dad’s impatient, dismissive response: “Oh, what’s the difference?” And no more was said. I looked at myself, my sister and my brother. Darn right, there was no difference. This was clearly one of those irrational, easily falsifiable things that people sometimes said about girls – that we were bad at math, or we didn’t like blocks. And it was equally annoying: another way to try to keep me from doing something fun just because I was a girl. I gleefully ignored it.

Just a few years later, I would have been mortified to be topless in public…

Read the rest at Nursing Clio