Do Mermaids Get Periods? or, Explaining The Menstrual Cycles of Various Mythological Creatures
That is menarche! Er, sorry, malarky. Either or.
Part of the fun of being a nerd is using an interest in science to imagine how it would be possible for our favorite monsters and magical creatures to exist. What bright-eyed dweeb doesn’t enjoy the occasional explanation of how a dragon might be able to fly, or whether or not a cockatrice’s body could support that weird chicken head it’s got? (as long as we all know they’re fictional, of course—looking at you, Discovery Channel). But what about reproduction—and, even more taboo for some reason, menstruation? The amount of erotic fiction written about vampires, elves, and mermaids could probably fill up every library in the world, but has anyone ever thought to offer one of these poor souls a tampon? Because I did. I did a lot.
First, not everyone gets good sex education when they’re young, so here’s a brief primer on what’s actually happening to a person’s body when they undergo menstruation so we’re all on the same page. For the TL;DR crowd, your uterus lining fills up with blood and nutrients to prepare for the possibility of a sperm-fertilized egg. If the egg is not fertilized in time, then your uterus sheds that lining, which then flows out of your cervix and into your favorite pair of underwear when you’re least expecting it. Okay, maybe that last part is less scientific. But it’s true.
Obviously there are a lot of fictional creatures who are something like humans, save for their magical and/or demonic powers (and also, sometimes their tails). But would their reproductive systems be anything like ours? If we ignore the hand-wavy explanation that magic can explain all inconsistencies (“A wizard did it” is funny, but unhelpful in biological matters) and focus solely on real-world biology, I believe that some of them probably do have to deal with periods. Either way, let’s speculate wildly!
“But Victoria,” you’re probably saying right now. “Vampires are dead. They can’t have periods.” Yeah, well, we’re also talking about a creature that doesn’t even exist in the first place, so why shut the conversation down there when you can use the opportunity to learn more about how uteruses work!
Anyway, much has been said about the vampire’s possible predilection for period blood (though considering that the blood in menstrual fluid is kind of old and not all that great compared to the fresh stuff that’s in your veins, I’d guess that they’re not really fans), but do they actually experience it themselves? It’s hard to say, because nothing about vampires make sense.
First off, because they are dead and their hearts do not beat, they should not be able to pump their blood throughout their bodies in any way; nor should they be able to create new red cells and replace any blood they might lose. Yet we see vampires bleeding all the time. Heck, sometimes they even cry blood. And lord knows that male vampires never seem to have a problem maintaining an erection, which you kind of need to have a working circulatory system to be able to do.
Secondly, while vampires lack the ability to successfully pass on their genes to a child offspring, that isn’t necessarily any indication that they would or would not create and shed new uterine linings. Plenty of barren and infertile women still get their periods on a regular basis; this is what’s known as anovulation. Also, remember what i just said three seconds ago about about vampire erections and how they happen? We don’t assume that a vampire’s ability to get erect automatically means that he is fertile, so the reverse can apply to a vampire’s ability to shed their uterine lining.
But ultimately, we’re gonna say that vampire menstruation is probably very unlikely. While it’s unclear how a vampire might be able to replace lost blood, most of the time that blood loss is involuntary and usually forceful (unless you’re Bill Compton, in which case you totally had all those sad bloody tears coming). But the human body loses about 30 to 50 ml of blood every menstrual cycle, and I just can’t see a justification for a barren, undead body to be losing that kind of plasma on a regular basis. But if you were a particularly inventive horror writer, you could probably come up with something to the opposite effect. Still, what’s the point of being a sexed-up creature of the night if you have to worry about sanitary pad chafing?
“God damn it Victoria, if vampires are too dead for periods than zombies are REALLY TOO DEAD FOR PERIODS.” Okay, yes, I know. But what about living, infected virus-type zombies?
We know that the Rage-infected in the 28 Days Later franchise, for example, become mindless animals incapable of doing anything other than ripping apart the uninfected—and that includes stuff like eating. However, we don’t actually know if this is a mental or physical change; meaning, we have no idea whether their biological functions completely shut down, or if they simply stop knowing that they’re supposed to feed themselves. If it’s the latter, then we can assume that all their biological functions remain intact, and that they do have the ability to menstruate. They’ll just be incapable of caring and already covered in too much blood for anyone to notice.
But! Eventually the infected starve themselves out over weeks of not feeding themselves, which changes things dramatically. A person’s body weight can greatly affect their menstrual cycle, and underweight women often go on for longer stretches of time without ovulation. Sometimes their bodies even stop producing estrogen entirely. So while it’s possible that rage-infected, uterus-laden zombies might start out on a relatively normal cycle, once they start to lose body mass they will also lose that ability.
Then there is also the matter of philosophical zombies, which are hypothetical beings used in thought experiments as part of the philosophy of mind. P-zombies lack a sense of consciousness, sentience, or sensory experience, but are otherwise indistinguishable from normal humans—meaning that they still act like they feel and think, even though they don’t. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say they probably do menstruate, but they are completely unaware of it. Oh, and there’s the Haitian practice of zombifying people by through the use of tetrodotoxin powder. I couldn’t find any research to suggest that tetrodozin poisoning causes any menstrual abnormalities, so they probably get periods too. Though, again, probably not caring.
As for your average raised-from-the-dead zombie? Most likely they wouldn’t bleed, even if they died while on their period; when you expire, all of your biological functions completely cease, and zombies aren’t exactly full of weird healing sexy magic like vampires are. Although, as we’ve established multiple times, it’s not like zombies would give a crap anyway. Hmph. Must be nice.
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