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Words by Sally Griffith
"I can smell your period from here!" is what a boy at Sarah's school shouted at her from across the assembly hall.
Sarah is now 34 and still remembers the moment vividly. "I knew he couldn't actually smell my period and he was just being horrible, but at 14 years old it added to the fear and shame I felt about my period."
Things haven't changed much since Sarah was at school.
We recently reported that
than 90 per cent of girls worry about attending lessons on their period
because they're scared of being teased about it - or leaking and then being teased about that. That equates to 350,000 girls missing school when they are on their period: 2.1 million hours of education.
That's why we should all welcome the news that period education that is now going to be compulsory in schools in England from 2020 - and perhaps be slightly horrified it hasn't come sooner.
While girls will no doubt benefit from the practical facts in these lessons - it's teaching the boys about periods that will create the change we really need to see.
Do you remember the teenage boy who went viral for saying a woman should "hold in her period until she gets to a toilet"? He might have benefited from the new lessons. But this boy's ignorance is just the tip of the iceberg.
For most girls, the period experience is sketchy at best, traumatic at worst. The mysterious existence of menstruation remains an easy way to insult girls and women.
Opening up the facts and removing the stigma will help - the more boys and girls know about periods, the less powerful a weapon it becomes. And most importantly, everyone will be aware that you can't actually 'hold it until you get to a toilet.' Rolling eyes emoji, much.
Teaching boys about a biological function (kind of a big one at that) is a no-brainer. These lessons could have saved a lot girls (some now fully grown women) a lot of heartache and horrible memories.
You're onboard with the new legislation too. On our Pretty 52 Facebook page, Stephanie says: "My 7 year old son knows about periods because I told him he needs to understand not just how his own body works but that of a woman's too, there's no shame in boys learning about periods!"
Lorna agrees. "They should know about the other half of the world's population. Women bleed. We all know it so why can't we talk about it?"
These compulsory lessons are not just a welcome first step but a fundamental one. Imagine a generation of boys that understands how periods work and treat it as just another lesson about the body. Something as fundamental as, say, ejaculating.
Let's hope for a new era in which periods aren't a shameful thing and a girl isn't afraid to go to school because of it. That boys, knowing the facts, no longer speak the language of ignorance to make a girl feel ashamed of her body, just for doing what it's meant to do.
And maybe, just maybe, it will see the end to the most infuriating question on earth: "Is it that time of the month?" We can but hope.
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