We so often go to great lengths to keep the fact that we're menstruating to ourselves. From hiding our tampons in our pockets on the way to the office restroom to bowing out on dates during inopportune times, we have perfected the art of pretending we never bleed. Uterine lining? What uterine lining? But now it turns out that our bodies are betraying our efforts: some guys can tell when it's that time of the month just by hearing us talk.
Yes, a new study by psychologists Nathan Pipitone from Adams State College and Gordon Gallup from SUNY Albany found that men can reliably predict when a woman was menstruating by listening to her voice. While other studies done on women's voices show they're not a reliable indicator of ovulation and fertility, the same does not seem to hold true for menstruation. For this research, Pipitone and Gallup recorded 10 women counting from one to five at four different times during their menstrual cycle. They then played them for three different groups of men.
The first group listened to all four of the recordings from each woman in a random order. Then they guessed which one was made while she had her period. Statistically, they had a 25 percent chance of getting it right, but they managed to guess correctly 35 percent of the time, which researchers note is a significant difference.
For the second group of guys, the researchers removed the recording made during ovulation and replaced it with a duplicate of one from a less fertile day. That made sure the men weren't picking up on the contrast between the highest fertility and lowest fertility days. Yet the men still guessed correctly 34 percent of the time.
The last group got the real doozy of an assignment. They had no idea the research had anything to do with menstruation; rather, they were asked to choose the recording of each woman's voice that sounded most "unattractive." And, surprise, surprise, they chose the menstruation voice 34 percent of the time. God, these men were remarkably consistent in delivering news we really don't want to hear right this fucking second, okay?
Seriously, though, what are we doing with our vocal chords to signal that Lady Burden is visiting the manor? Well, men were picking up on whether the voice was in a good vs. bad mood, had a harsh or smooth quality, and also the pitch and speed of the voice. You can obviously guess which mood and vocal quality the menstruating ladies had, but let Pipitone sum it up for you: "The men seemed to determine menstrual voices by picking the most unattractive voice." Oh, bloody hell.
These differences could be caused by any number of things, including a deep crabbiness brought on by discomfort and exhaustion, or it could also be something purely physiological. Julia Fischer who did an earlier study on women's voices and fertility, surmised that women's voices were different during their periods because having more water in their bodies affects the form of their vocal chords. Whatever the cause, let's not get too paranoid. Whatever evolutionary biology might explain this is irrelevant, since we live in a society where guys don't judge us solely on our ability to reproduce right this second. Plus we don't know what it was about the men who picked Aunt Flo out of a line-up that made them more perceptive than their brethren.
Regardless, it's still only 34 percent of guys who can tell you've got your period. But if you are truly worried about keeping your sanitary napkin status to yourself, you've got two options: 1) Don't speak to anyone for your entire period or 2) Only speak in an exaggerated cartoon voice or crazy high-pitched accent that will disguise your normal voice. If that is not practical, because you don't work at a Disney theme park, then you're just going to have to hope that the males you come into contact don't fall into the 34 percent with PMS (Period Man-Sense).
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