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"Women. You're entirely too weak. I mean just look at you. You have no endurance ... you anger too easily ... and you're always menstruating! Stop it!'
Berserk dub outtakes
Can a woman really be mayor? Or will she just bleed all over the city?
Family Guy (original line from "It Takes A Village Idiot...And I Married One"; the edited line replaces "bleed" with "menstruate")

Here's a riddle for you.

It is something that polite people do not discuss. It is something that most television shows do not dare to mention. It is something that half the world can never know or experience. It is something that more than half of the writers in the world can never truly understand. In Speculative Fiction, it creates the Monster of the Week and brings about The End of the World as We Know It. What is it?

If you guessed "an Eldritch Abomination from beyond the stars", correct wrong. The correct answer, as you know if you cheated and checked the potholed links or just read the title of this article, is...menstruation.

In most fiction, periods are rarely mentioned. Speculative Fiction does likewise. But on the rare occasions that Speculative Fiction does mention menstrual periods, the characters should tremble. SF periods serve as the trigger for every supernatural menace you can think of. Gruesome Body Horror is the favorite, but a period can also serve as a source of great power (and great insanity), a magnet for The Fair Folk, a gateway to a hell dimension, or even a semi-sentient Reality Warper. Periods cause all sorts of supernatural evil, and never cause supernatural good (aside from the occasional Puberty Superpower, or attunement to magic).

The Menstrual Menace is particularly popular as a Monster of the Aesop. Any monster evolving out of a girl's period will serve as an object lesson of how to deal with the pain of puberty. If the moral is that Growing Up Sucks, the whole cast will be dead or insane by the end. At the more idealistic end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, defeating the Menstrual Menace will be an Anvilicious moral about the importance of abandoning childish things.

Menstruation in Speculative Fiction also causes mundane misery and angst, which tend to lead to stupid mistakes that create all of the previous supernatural problems.

Incidentally, the overwhelming majority of the examples below are by male writers. This is probably because Most Writers Are Male, but some of these stories go so far with the horror of periods that Freud would have a field day.

The belief systems of some cultures have often incorporated a strong positive or negative supernatural significance to the phenomenon of menstruation.

This trope is for supernatural horrors only; for trouble caused by mundane periods, see No Periods, Period. Compare Women's Mysteries. See also Hysterical Woman and All Women Are Lustful, two beliefs brought on by this very trope.

Examples of Menstrual Menace include:

Advertising

  • Reversed in almost any commercial for sanitary towels, which have the magical power to make women happy and somehow erase the colour red from the world.
    • Although, inexplicably, their effectiveness is usually demonstrated by absorbing blue colored liquid. As though the human body were full of windshield wiper fluid.

Anime and Manga

  • In Paranoia Agent, the problems are all due to a monster created from Sagi Tsukiko's guilt over a mistake she made while distracted by her first period.
  • In the first season of Slayers, Lina Inverse has her powers of magic reduced by 99.9999999% for a few days due to her "Time of the Month", and this happens to all female magic wielders. It is never mentioned again. (The show turned out to have a larger female audience than expected, and the writers didn't want to offend them).
  • In Karin, the eponymous character has a monthly release of blood...from her nose (unless, of course, she injects it into a human). The similarity to a menstrual cycle is frequently lampshaded, especially in the beginning.
  • In a Goblin Slayer side story GS goes on a goblin killing quest but leaves Priestess behind. The reason, though never outright stated, is because she was having her period and the goblins would have smelled the blood.

Comics

  • Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol has Dorothy Spinner, a mutant who creates imaginary friends with her powers. Due to trauma, she acts like she's a little girl. A period is enough to bring back her horrible memories, and the Candlemaker -- a gruesome monster that only children and lunatics can see.
    • Artist Richard Case also made sure to draw Dorothy with red shoes, a longtime symbol for menstruation and a woman's maturation (see Wizard of Oz).
  • Back in the 80's there was a black and white comic called 'MS. PSM'. A woman is infected by an alien device that locks her into a permanent state of PMS; frazzled hair, bad attitude, super-human strength. The aliens were present too, wearing their environmental armor called P.A.N.T.I.E shields. This comic lasted about two issues. Yeah.
  • Alan Moore's Swamp Thing story, "The Curse," draws parallels between menstruation and the traditional lunar-cycle-based activity of werewolves.


Film

  • In the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy gets cramps whenever a vampire is around. Buffy's response on finding this out: "my secret weapon is PMS?"
    • The television series also has Willow tell her new (werewolf) boyfriend Oz "Yeah, okay, werewolf. But three days out of the month I'm not much fun to be around either."
      • Which was a bit of a shock moment, considering how shy and soft-spoken Willow normally is.
    • Spike in School Hard: "Fe fi fo fum. I smell the blood of a nice ripe girl." Always took that to mean that Buffy was menstruating at the time...
  • Dog Soldiers. The sole female character quips "It's the wrong time of the month" as she turns into a werewolf.
  • During the superhero "tryouts" in the movie Mystery Men, a woman calls herself the PMS Avenger, and "can only work 4 days a month". Her outfit is of course red in color.

  "You gotta problem with that?!"

  • In I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, a henchman tries to kidnap the heroine, and she turns into a demon on him. He thinks she's possessed by the devil, but she says, "No! Cramps!"
  • Ginger Snaps also makes the menstruation/werewolf connection.
  • In The Reaping, a little girl pretty much brings about the end of the world by getting her period. Or so it seems for awhile.
  • Ron White, in his show Behavioral Problems, says that the reason it is harmful for women to undergo their periods in space is because "in a zero-gravity environment the psycho bitches CAN FLY!"
  • In Pitch Black, one character, puts everyone in mortal peril when her blood attracts The Horde from Beneath the Earth.
  • In the 1993 remake of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, a doctor speculates that Nancy's condition is caused by a hormonal imbalance. Her husband's response is "Congratulations, doctor. You've just discovered a new form of PMS."

Fanfic

  • A few Harry Potter fics have Remus afraid of starting a relationship with Tonks, and telling her that he's not safe to be around, becoming a bloodthirsty monster once a month. Tonks simply remarks the exact same thing applies to her.

Literature

  • In Suzy McKee Charnas' short story Boobs, the narrator, when she reaches puberty, changes into a werewolf for several nights per month instead of having periods.
  • In the book Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin, every month before her period the main character, Jill, turns into a boy.
  • In Piers Anthony's Xanth books, Chameleon changes according to her cycle. At one point in her cycle she is beautiful but dumb, at the opposite point, she is ugly but very smart and clever.
  • Justine Larabestier's Liar also connects menstrual cycles and lycanthropy. There is a excellent scene in the book when the reader is certain that the parents are locking up their daughter for having her period.
  • The title character of Stephen King's Carrie theretofore mild telekinetic powers become much stronger after her first period starts.

Live Action Television

  • Parodied in Thirty Rock, first with the show-within-a-show's sketches about powerful women making bad decisions due to menstruation. Then cool, collected Avery (who has been using a hormonal form of birth control that means she should only get her period once a year, but its a doozy when it comes) snaps at Jack for no reason, calling him "you douche! Oh God, it's starting."
  • Parodied in the second episode of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. The sole female character has a psychotic break, then goes on a telekinetic rampage that kills several people. In the end, all is forgiven because she couldn't help herself -- it was her inevitable female foolishness and hormones (as Thornton Reed puts it, "I think it's her time."). The point, of course, is that Marenghi is a sexist hack who thinks nothing of stealing the plot of Carrie and making it about how women's issues lead to death.
  • In Star Trek, pon farr in Vulcans can be compared to this, with the added drama of having to Mate or Die. Notable in that both males and females are affected.
    • Fridge Logic would dictate that this means all of the Slash Fic writers are comparing Captain Kirk to a tampon.
  • In a bit sketch on The Young Ones, a young woman is sent to hell and threatened with all sorts of horrific punishments by a (female) devil. Then their dialogue shifts, as the scene is revealed to be a pain-reliever commercial on TV. The young woman goes on about "that strange washed-out feeling you just can't explain", but the devil confides that she's talking about period pains. Er, so PMS is so agonizing that it's comparable to being tortured in hell?
  • Played for laughs in The IT Crowd, where Jen's very angry period sees her literally turn into some kind of hell-demon at some points. This results in the image of a red-and-white skinned woman in a business suit screaming things like "I CAN NEVER FIND A BLOODY PEN AROUND HERE!"
  • In the Married... with Children episode "The Camping Show" Al's worst nightmare comes to pass when Peg, Marcy and Kelly accompany him on a camping trip to a small cabin where they all get their periods at the same time. This compels them to act like PMS-crazed mini-Godzillas until just before the trip ends, when they become serene and calm once more.

Myth and Legend

  • Werewolf stories often have a Menstrual Menace, due to the days in a lunar cycle and a menstrual cycle.
    • In the Ginger Snaps films, werewolf transformations serve as a metaphor for not just periods, but every unpleasant body change that comes with puberty. The first film sees Brigitte watching in horror as her sister goes through mood swings, hair on her body in all the wrong places...
    • Peter S. Beagle wrote a short story titled Lila the Werewolf which purposely plays with the similarities between menstruation and lycanthropy.
    • Angua is both the first woman and the first werewolf in the Ankh-Morpork Watch, which leads to a misunderstanding early on ("Is it because I'm a w...") Boyfriend Carrot mentions that he tends to stay out of the way around full moon.
    • "Wolf" backwards is "flow".
  • In Norse Mythology, Gjalp attempted to drown Thor in a torrent of her menstrual blood
    • Though in later versions, it's not menstrual blood, but urine. In both versions, however, Thor stops the torrent by throwing a rock at her and plugging up... well, yes.
  • In many interpretations of The Book of Genesis in The Bible, Eve is the cause of menstruation along with the pain of childbirth. Both are curses brought upon her for eating the fruit from "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil". (Genesis, Chapter 3, verse 16: Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.) While this specifically refers to childbirth, most interpretatinos extend it to menstruation as well. See the Carrie listing in Literature, above.

Music

  • Stephen Lynch has a song called "Down to the Old Pub Instead" that has to do with this

Video Games

Web Comics

  • In SSDD, Anna's period is enough to scare even the 7-foot-tall, gorilla-muscled anarchist thug Norman Gates witless. Her boyfriend, of course, was smart enough to make sure he was somewhere far away before it happened. It's explained that, since she's a fox, she's only 'in heat' once a year - and as a result, only has one period per year. Making her mind-state basically what you'd get if you took every case of PMS a human woman would experience over the course of a year, and stacked them all together in one day.
    • Which is ridiculous, because biology does not work that way. Having a long cycle that leads to fewer total periods is just an advantage. Unless you're trying to have kids.
  • The Wotch lampshades this after Katie McBride gets turned into a werecat:

 Katie: Yeah, fine. I get to look forward to two fantastic monthly events now. One which turns me into a vicious monster and the other into a werecat.

  • In Unicorn Jelly, the native creatures of Tryslmaistan can smell and are attracted to the minerals in human blood. Female monster hunters use this to their advantage a few days every month.
  • Punintended's Rah character looks quite frightening (see for yourself) in the comic PMS, in which it is pointed out that the P could stand for pre, post, present, or perpetual.

Web Original

  • In the Whateley Universe, superpowered mage Fey has her first case of PMS in her first few weeks at Super-Hero School Whateley Academy. This leads to thunderstorms, lightning bolts and rain. In the dorm hallways.
    • For bonus points, all the magical fun also triggers menstrual discharge in every other girl in the dorm. Including the ones who had just finished with this month's visitor.
  • Inverted in a couple of instances in the Paradise setting, in which humans are being changed into Funny Animals. Men who are Changed into forms that have a mating season in the fall, such as moose, elk, etc., display extreme irritability and possessiveness during that time of the year, and are prone to losing their temper over the slightest provocation (especially regarding what appear to be advances toward their Significant Other).

Western Animation

  • And let's not forget Katie Ka-Boom from Animaniacs, who, even though they couldn't say it, was pretty obviously having some major PMS.
  • Half-demon Callie in Ugly Americans undergoes "Painful Mortal Shedding", a process in which a female demon periodically molts her toxic flesh. The agony can only be minimized by near-constant sex with her boyfriend/human sex slave Mark. In the background of another episode, a calendar in Mark's apartment has two weeks marked as "Callie's Period", so apparently that's a bit different for demons, as well.
  • One Robot Chicken sketch involved She Ra on her period. There was a good bit of carnage when an assortment of other characters requested her help.
  • There's a joke in the King of Fighters Fanon that the only time Leona transforms into her Riot of Blood form is during that time of the month.
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