Menstruation: Not a Fit Subject for Tender Male Eyes

Debbie says:


Outfront Media, which places ads in the New York City subways for the Metropolitan Transit Authority, thinks this ad “seem[s] to have a bit too much skin.” As Christina Cauterucci points out at Slate, “The ads that plaster New York City’s subway system have shown women in the throes of passion, showing off most of their breasts, and wearing just a skimpy bikini—or nothing at all.”

I never gave a thought to blood-absorbing underwear until I saw Cauterucci’s article. Now I wish I had been able to try it when I needed it. If it works, it would be amazing. And if it doesn’t work, it’s probably the forerunner of something that will–if Thinx and their competitors can get enough exposure and customers to keep experimenting.

So if Outfront Media claims that woman is showing too much skin, what do they think of this ad?


“Regardless of the context,” Outfront wrote about this ad and one with an egg dripping out of its shell, “they “[seem] inappropriate.” Sure they do. We all know Outfront wouldn’t have an issue with an image that looked like a penis, as long as it wasn’t an actual, human-skin penis.

“Regardless of context,” is a big lie. Cauterucci relays from Thinx CEO Miki Agrawal that

the rep also asked what a 9-year-old boy might think if he saw the ads and how his mother could explain them to him. One imagines that a 9-year-old boy who rides the New York City subway has seen more objectionable images and heard crasser language, both in ads—such as one for the Museum of Sex that depicted fleshy, intertwined body parts inside the words “Hard Core”—and from fellow subway patrons.

Note that it’s a 9-year-old boy and his mother, which exposes some assumptions. And I bet the Outfront rep isn’t a parent, because parents quickly get good at dodging questions they don’t want to answer. Not to mention the huge benefit some parents might see in *gasp* answering the question.

Outfront Media, a company with predominantly male leadership and a completely male sales staff, isn’t reacting to the visuals of the ads, all of which they would accept without question for another product.  They say “regardless of context,” yet context is the only issue in play here. They just plain don’t want to imagine menstruation, and they don’t think subway riders do either. Of course, more than 50% of subway riders are women, and a very substantial proportion of those women don’t have to imagine menstruation; they think about the subject approximately four days out of every 28. But that doesn’t matter to the dudebros at Outfront.

Underlying the general (male/commodified/corporate) perception that sex is okay but menstruation is disgusting is this underlying dogma:

Women’s bodies are interesting and important when the context is looking and handling.  The same women’s bodies are not fit for public consumption when the context is lived experience. The power structure that can keep these ads out of the New York City subway  is dangerously close to the power structure that closes abortion clinics and tries to defund Planned Parenthood.

The same women’s bodies that adorn the sexiest posters, the most enticing porn videos, the most lust-inducing wet dreams are the bodies that drip blood once a month for forty years or so. And after thousands of years of letting men turn away from this information, maybe it’s centuries past time to have menstruation ads be at least as common as Viagra ads.