Since it debuted in 2011, the U by Kotex brand of pads and tampons (aimed at pre-teens) has made its mark with funny commercials and frank talk about periods. But recently, Kotex has decided to launch a part of their site that addresses period myths and the general lack of awareness many pre-teens have about their bodies. Their latest campaign, Generation Know, offers a site where girls can anonymously ask questions about periods and get answers from experts, peers, and moms. And holy cow, are these girls misguided.
I mean…there are no “wrong” questions when it comes to the complexities of the female body, and a lot of the questions are pretty basic (like “what happens during a pelvic exam?”). But some are a truly frightening demonstration of the absolute lack of information that young girls get when it comes to matters of their own health.
Here is a sampling of the more alarming questions from the site:
“Is it ok to wrap your tampon in toilet paper and then change the paper but not the tampon? Then the tampon lasts longer because it remains dry.”
“Once you are sexually active, do you need to go to the doctor so they can cut a piece of your vagina off?”
“Do tampons cause cancer?”
To be fair, the askers aren’t required to give their age or any other personal information, so they may be quite young. And tampons are kind of weird and scary, if you’ve never experienced them or had them explained to you.
But the questions on Generation Know’s site also reflect the lack of salient information that pre-teen and teenage girls get in their sexual education classes, in the home, and from other trusted adults. Many of the questions reflect discomfort or even outright fear about asking parents about periods and the body—and more at least one referenced “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” as their only sense of information. Girls shouldn’t have to depend on YA literature or a tampon company as their sole sources of comprehensive, medically-correct guides to their own bodies.
I guess what this reminds me of the most is that sexual education in schools isn’t just about learning the perils of sex (although some advocates do believe that pleasure should be part of the sex-ed curriculum for older students), it should include essential information about knowing how to best take care of our bodies. With girls getting their first flow earlier and earlier, it may be time to roll back the age of first information, too, in kid-friendly, easy-to-understand, but accurate ways. So that, you know, girls aren’t afraid their doctors are going to slice up their vaginas.