15 Memorable Menstruation Moments In Pop Culture

I originally planned to make this a list of the best menstruation moments in pop culture, but quickly discovered that Hollywood in particular does not have a very positive track record when it comes to tackling the crimson wave in movies and TV. Books and music have done a little better, but for the most part, periods have been portrayed either as something to be revolted by or feared, or for over-the-top comedic effect. So, instead this list evolved in the most memorable menstruation moments in movies, music, books and on TV, for better or worse. I know that there are others I didn’t include, so share any additional memorable period references in pop culture in the comments!

1. “Carrie”

In the classic film based on Stephen King’s book, Carrie (played by Sissy Spacek) discovers that getting your period kind of sucks — not because of the cramps and the bloating, but because your classmates will throw menstrual products at you in the shower and your mom will lock you in a closet for hours! Thankfully, my first period was a breeze compared to this.

2. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Most girls learn about their menstruation before they get their first period, thanks to an awkward heart-to-heart with mom and this classic young adult novel by Judy Blume. Like Margaret, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my first period. I was sure it would make me cool.

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3. “My Girl”

Young Veda is a hypochondriac who has been raised by her single dad, a funeral director, so when she gets her first period, her initial reaction is one of horror. “I’m hemorrhaging!”

4. “Mad Men”

In this scene, Don Draper’s precocious daughter Sally — who has snuck out of her dad’s apartment for the day to go on a secret date to the museum with creepy ex neighbor boy Glenn — suddenly gets her period. Suddenly Sally wants nothing to do with her dad or Glenn, and hitches a cab straight home to the ‘burbs to cry in her mom Betty’s arms. Puberty is so confusing.

5. “Blood In The Boardroom” by Ani DiFranco

“I didn’t really have much to say the whole time I was there/So I just left a big brown bloodstain/On their white chair.”

I really appreciate Ani’s attention to detail. Guys probably don’t realize this, but period blood is often brownish, not bright red. Which is decidedly less pretty as a stain, FYI. Oh, and for the record, this is not the only Ani DiFranco song about menses. I had many to choose from.

6. “Superbad”

On the one hand, this well-known scene from the hilarious Judd Apawtow comedy annoys me, as it’s got a typical “eww, gross!” mentality when it comes to periods. But, really, the teenage boy reaction to periods would be that typical right? In the scene, Jonah Hill’s character, Seth, has just finished dirty dancing with a fellow student at a party when another partygoer points out a weird stain on his pants and, well, it’s you know. 

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7. “Roseanne”

In this classic “Roseanne” clip, wildly sarcastic daughter Darlene is not so upset about her period itself, as much as she’s worried it means she has to start behaving like a typical girl instead of the tomboy she’s always been.

8. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Probably my favorite novel by Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye tells the heartbreaking story of Pecola, an 11-year-old black girl who is constantly told she is ugly and therefore wishes to be white with blue eyes. Told from the perspective of her neighbor Claudia, the arrival of Pecola’s first period at such a young age is the precursor to a string of tragic events.

9. “Purple Stain” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Considering how squeamish most of pop culture is about periods, it’s kind of refreshing that Anthony Kiedis and company found that time of the month kind of sexy, no?

10. “Californication”

This scene from “Californication” is, hands down, one of my favorite period scenes ever, probably because it depicts how a girl and her father deal with the surprising arrival of a first period and subsequent need to purchase tampons, STAT.  Hank (David Duchovny) has shared custody of his daughter Becca and is the parent in charge the day Aunt Flow arrived for the first time. He is unprepared, but determined to come through.

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11. “Dirty Love”

You probably have never seen this terrible Jenny McCarthy comedy and you haven’t been missing much. This scene is definitely one of the more … over-the-top depictions of female menstruation since “Carrie.” Jenny’s character goes to the drug store to buy tampons but starts leaking, leaving a bloody mess in her wake.

12. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

In this great book, Anita Diamant tells the story of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph in the Bible; Diamant expands upon Dinah’s story from her perspective. The book’s title refers to the tent in which women of Jacob’s tribe must, according to the ancient law, take refuge while menstruating or giving birth. There these women seek comfort and support from each other as they tell their stories.

13. “The Virgin Suicides”

Well, this is grim. Soon after the arrival of Cecilia’s first period, she kills herself. Then her sisters do the same. Yikes.

14. “Raining Blood” by Tori Amos

“Raining blood/From a lacerated sky/Bleeding its horror/Creating my structure/Now I shall reign in blood.”

Fact: This is Tori’s take on a Slayer song called “Reign In Blood.” Something tells me that the metal band probably did not appreciate her turning their song into a feminist menstrual war cry. Oh wellz!

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15. “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

When a Girl Scout comes to Larry’s door to sell him cookies, she suddenly gets her period and has to use Larry’s bathroom. Awkward hilarity ensues as Larry instructs her, through the door, on how to use her first tampon.

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