In college, I had a male friend who once asked me if menstrual cycles had anything to do with the moon.
He asked it half-seriously, with a sheepish tone that implied he didn’t really believe that the moon’s gravitational pull caused blood to ebb and flow like the tides, but, well, just making sure, there was definitely no connection there, right?
A lot of my female friends have stories like these. One of them knows a guy who thought women could choose to begin bleeding the way people choose when to go to the bathroom. One time, when she mentioned something about needing to find a tampon, he asked her why she couldn’t just hold it in.
Another friend met a man at a bar who, after spotting a pad in her open purse, asked her if it was hard for women to poop during their periods. Not a great opening line for multiple reasons, but one of them is: Over the course of their very brief conversation, it became apparent that he believed women menstruated out of their butts.
Harry Finley believes none of these things.
Finley, 73, is the founder of the now-defunct Museum of Menstruation, or MUM. For nearly 20 years, he’s operated the museum’s website, a collection of thousands of pages of menstrual memorabilia from reusable pads to old magazine advertisements. Before that, he was the proprietor of the brick-and-mortar MUM, which he ran out of his basement in New Carrollton, Maryland, from 1994 until 1998. Through it all, he believes, he’s also been a beleaguered soldier, a one-man war against the taboos surrounding menstruation.