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Marcus Wood



Menstruation remains a male Taboo. Many non 'Western' societies still consider menstruating women to be unclean and dangerous.  

They must be separated, their influence 

contained. The  European and American male now often pretends to be au fait and all knowing about what is still mystically posed as the female 'Period'.  Yet in practice the Western White Male is anything but integrated into an understanding of the profound beauties and complexities of the cycles of uterine expulsion.  Few religions have fully embraced menstruation as a glorious semiotic space for the celebration of female fertility.  Many of India's Tantric cults did so.  One of the greatest sets of ancient expository Tantric paintings meditating the role of sexuality in the cycles of life and death is bespattered throughout its illuminated pages with menstrual blood.  The blood spots bless and authenticate this holy text. Modern India however has turned its back on the insights of Tantrica and maintains a brutally reactionary patriarchal response to Menstruation.

The laconic Breanne Fahs in Out For Blood  tells us many things about menstrual blood and cycles.  She stresses how many a preening Alpha Male simply can't cope in the face of all that liquid female power: 'Trump suggested that Fox News pundit Megyn Kelly asked him difficult questions because of her menstrual status (You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes…Blood coming out of her wherever.”) during the Republican debate on August 6, 2015.  Rreactions were swift and full of feisty menstrual rebellions...Sarah Levy, an artist from Portland, made a menstrual painting of Donald Trump’s face entitled Whatever. This incident reminded me of the power of menstrual activism in its many forms.

Cyclic Gendered Blood

The miniature paintings reproduced here also counter the continuing vow of silence or antiquated hostility with which men, globally, still contain their fear and reticence when it comes to bleeding female genitalia.  The following texts give a glimpse into many of the atavistic and ongoing male fantasies focused upon a horror of menstruation.  Most are extracted from Captain J. G. Bourke's Scatalogic Rights of All Nations (1891) a very fine read.  

The Horror, The Horror

All who taste catamenial matter go mad.  

Hailstorms, whirlpools, lightnings are powerless against such stuff and are immediately shut off, snuffed out like a candle in a hurricane." 

"If touched by the blood-orange pastes and jellies polished copper goes spongy green, iron will rust, scabbing up in an instant like the bubbling crust of a fired up crème brûlée."  

"The edge of a razor dulls if a menstruating virgin gives it a glance."

"The thick tar that is found in the lake of Judea known as Asphaltites – a substance which latches onto everything it touches – can only be divided by a thread dipped in the virulent, scarlet matter."


"A swarm of bees if looked upon by a menstruating woman will just drop out of the sky, and fall to earth like light, dry, sooty hail." 

"The menstruating women of the Cappodocian hill-tops were sent out to circum-ambulate the fields.  Their virulent odors destroyed all vermin and caterpillars in an instant, a biblical pestilence breath…" 

"On the approach of a menstruating woman all creatures become sterile, from bovine grazers to mayflies and mosquitoes. Grasses wither, gardens are parched, and the barren fruit will fall from the tree beneath which she sits." 

"The menstrual glance takes the quick silver out of a mirror, and the next person who looks into it is bewitched and cracked." 

"A black-fellow in Australia who found his menstruating wife had lain beside him killed her on the spot and dropped down dead of terror himself."  

"Women of the Navajo soaked up the menses with an arse clout or ‘chogan’ made of lambskin.  After use they went and hid the blood soiled hide privately in the fork of a yew tree.  During a windstorm several of these chogans blew loose.  One of them hit an infant boy in the face, like a slap from a wet flannel.  He went frantic with terror and for three days sang in an unknown tongue and sat in an overflowing barrel of his own sweat.  Then he perished wearing an unbelievable face-mask composed of pure funk."

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