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TitleA Psychological and Cultural Study of Menstruation as Lived and Experienced by Women
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                            Duquesne University
Duquesne Scholarship Collection
	Spring 2007
The Bloody Truth: A Psychological and Cultural Study of Menstruation as Lived and Experienced by Women
	Carolyn DeForest
		Recommended Citation
Document Text Contents
Page 1

Duquesne University
Duquesne Scholarship Collection

Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Spring 2007

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Recommended Citation
DeForest, C. (2007). The Bloody Truth: A Psychological and Cultural Study of Menstruation as Lived and Experienced by Women
(Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from
mailto:[email protected]

Page 2


The Bloody Truth:

A Psychological and Cultural

Study of Menstruation

As Lived and Experienced by Women

A Dissertation

Presented to the Faculty

of the Department of Psychology

McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Duquesne University

in partial fulfillment of

the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology


Carolyn A. DeForest

March 23, 2007

Director: Eva Simms, Ph.D.

Reader: Michael Sipiora, Ph.D.

Reader: Anthony Barton, Ph.D.

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The Bloody Truth 248

physiological experience must also be understood and taken up by the girl into her

personal existence before it marks her genuine transition into puberty.

Thus, puberty, as a stage in human development, marks the pairing of the

anonymous development of a girl=s body (menstruation) with an emotional acceptance or

psychic understanding as to how the phenomena of periodic bleeding fits into her

everyday existence. For Merleau-Ponty, Adevelopment is neither causal nor final,@ and Ait

is always in a certain corporeal field that the individual accomplishes the decisive act of

[email protected] (pp. 61-62).

Overall, Merleau-Ponty in The Phenomenology of Perception (1995) proposes a

philosophy of human being which avoids the Cartesian dualism of mind and body.

Within his understanding, the body is more than mere object secondary to the mind, and

the mind is not the primary mode of existence with physical attributes and phenomena

tacked on. Merleau-Ponty strives for a different conception of human being altogether,

one which calls for a different languaging. And, this language includes specifically new

existential terms like: body-subject, anonymous-prepersonal-body, appropriation and

personalization of physiology, etc. As Merleau-Ponty and other existential

phenomenologists have moved toward that special language which speaks of existence

beyond the splits of Cartesian Dualisms, so the present research aims at a language

which can express more amply the realm of female being expressed in and through the

appropriation of menstruation as a woman=s experience.

De Beauvoir

In her voluminous work, The Second Sex (1989) Simone de Beauvoir asks the

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The Bloody Truth 249

question, >Why is woman the Other ?.= She addresses the question of female being

through two primary lenses: Part I, >Facts and Myths= and Part II, >Woman=s Life Today.=

In >Facts and Myths,= she begins to answer the question by tackling the argument that it

is woman=s destiny to be the sex which is forever defined and importantly in relation to

the primary, male sex.

First, she looks at the data of biology, i.e., reproduction, in lower animals,

mammals, and then in humans, to uncover the scientific knowledge which has

historically been used to differentiate the sexes, and to characterize them as active or

passive, male or female, and then to ascribe importance based on perceived activity or

passivity (pp.1-24). Historically, females and female reproduction have been perceived

and portrayed as passive and secondary to males and male reproduction. In her review,

de Beauvoir demonstrates that differentiating between the sexes has never been as clear-

cut as purported and that attributing roles of activity or passivity or change and

permanence to sperm and ova is too facile a characterization. In sum A...the two sexes

represent two diverse aspects of the life of the [email protected] (p.24). Therefore, she rejects the

notion that difference in biology is a sufficient argument for woman as Other.

Additionally, de Beauvoir compares the growth and sexual development of male

and female human being, and declares that AWoman=s story is much more [email protected]

(p.26). While males develop rather straightforwardly, i.e., A... in desire and coition his

transcendence toward the species is at one with his subjectivity- he is his body,@ for

females at puberty, Athe species reasserts its [email protected] and A...this whole occurrence has the

aspect of a [email protected] (p.26). She depicts the female as being taken over by her changing

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The Bloody Truth 505

Original Consent Form was printed on Duquesne University,
Department of Psychology Letterhead.

Consent to Participate in Research

Researcher: Carolyn A Work, doctoral candidate for Clinical Psychology in the
Psychology Department of Duquesne University.
Director: Dr. Eva Simms

Participant’s Name: ______________________________________________

 I do hereby consent to participate in a qualitative research project to investigate
what it means to menstruate.

 I understand that this research is to fulfill partial requirements for a Ph.D. in
Clinical Psychology and that the information I provide may be included in a
dissertation and/or publications.

 I am aware that my participation will require me to provide written and spoken
descriptions of how I have and do experience menstruation and the spoken
descriptions of how I have and do experience menstruation and that the spoken
descriptions will be audio-taped. I am aware that I will be contacted for a follow-
up interview to answer questions the researcher may ask in order to clarify issues
pertinent to the research questions.

 I am aware that all personal data will remain confidential: only my age, ethnicity,
and my general past and current social information will be included in the written
study. I understand that the descriptions I provide will become the property of the
researcher but that care will be taken their security and my confidentiality by
removing all identifying information. The follow-up interview will be audio-
taped and later transcribed, and to further protect my confidentiality, audiotapes
will be kept in a locked drawer by the researcher, and all identifying information
in the transcriptions will be deleted. After the completion of the research,
audiotape will be destroyed by the researcher.

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The Bloody Truth 506

 Whereas some women may find it beneficial and interesting to discuss their own
experiences and to contribute to research, some women may find themselves a bit
disconcerted by recalling their relationship with menstruation. I am aware that if I
experience distress at any time due to my participation in this study, and want
help, appropriate steps will be taken to assure that I am referred for therapeutic

 I also understand that if I have further questions regarding the nature of the
research or methods of data collection, I am free to contact the researcher,
Carolyn A. Work (412-551-0534), her advisor, Dr. Eva Simms (412-396-6515)
or the Institutional Review Board Director, Dr. Paul Richer (412-396-6326)

 I am aware that I may withdraw my consent to participate at any time. A request
indicating my desire to discontinue participation will lead to the removal of any
data that I have provided from this or any other future studies.

 I am aware that in exchange for participation in this research a $25.00 donation
will be made to a woman’s charity of my choice (one of three offered), in my
name if I desire. Receipt will be provided.

____________________________ ________________________________
Date Participant’s Signature

____________________________ _________________________________
Date Researcher’s Signature

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