Women Were Isolated When Menstruating

Women Were Isolated When Menstruating

The female ‘time of the month’ remained a mystery for thousands of years and this ignorance led to poor treatment of women during their period. Indeed, physicians had no idea that menstruation was linked to ovulation until the 19th century. Before then, it was assumed that women had to bleed in order to cool their hysterical natures. According to Pliny the Elder, the famous Roman philosopher, milk would become sour if you approached a woman in the menstruating state. He also wrote that women on their period could stop lightning and whirlwinds while killing bees just by looking at them.

In one sense, the ancient Egyptians were ahead of their time because they used papyrus as tampons. However, they also treated women poorly during their menstrual cycles and placed them in special buildings where men were not allowed entry. In Israel, women were not touched during their period nor would anyone touch anything that the unfortunate female had also touched. According to the Israelis, “everything on which she sits, shall be unclean.” In Hawaii, men who dared enter the special hut for menstruating women could receive the death penalty.

Most of us have heard about the ‘lusty Frenchman’ stereotype but their desires were stopped dead in their tracks by menstruating women. Back in Medieval France, if you had sex with a woman during her menstrual cycle, it was believed that they would give birth to something “puny, languid, and moribund, subject to an infinity of fetid maladies, foul and stinking.” In other words, sex during this time would result in the birth of a ‘period monster’. Just as well we live in more enlightened times.

It would be incorrect to suggest that the menstrual cycle was greeted with nothing but hostility. In Medieval Europe, some people believed period blood was a cure for leprosy. A nun named Hildegard von Bingen came up with this bright idea. Another school of thought suggested that sex with a woman during her period would corrode your penis. There are still some cultures around the world that believe period blood is an aphrodisiac. According to ‘Hoodoo’, a form of African folk magic, putting menstrual cycle blood in a man’s coffee will make him fall in love with you. On behalf of men around the world, I can assure you that it will not.

Originally published on History Collection