Editor’s Note: I am not ashamed of being a person who menstruates, period.

By Camryn Cutinello, Co-Editor-in-Chief

I can picture it now: I’m sitting in my first period high school English class, trying to stay awake, when I feel the all too familiar start of my period. After a moment of silent rage, I carefully reach into my bag to grab a tampon, making sure no one is looking when I do. I hide the tampon with my sleeve and quickly ask if I can use the restroom.

As I walk to the bathroom, all I can think about is if someone noticed me grab the tampon, my face burning at the very thought that someone could know I’m on my period. It isn’t until later that night, when I’m lying on my bed with a heating pad, that I wonder why it would be so embarrassing for someone to know.

People who get periods are taught at a young age to hide them. On TV shows, we see women hide their menstrual products and become noticeably upset when their period comes. We are taught to hide our pads and tampons from sight because it is shameful for others to know we are on our period. We say it’s “that time of the month” or it’s “shark week” instead of saying we are on our period.

A study conducted by Thinx, a company which makes period absorbing underwear, found that out of 1,500 women, 58% reported that they had felt embarrassed when on their period, 42% said they had been shamed for their periods and 71% said they had hidden a pad or tampon on their way to the bathroom.

Why should we have to feel ashamed?

The average person who gets periods will have around 450 periods in their lifetime, equating to about 10 years of their lives. It’s a natural part of the reproductive cycle, and at any given time there are around 800 million people menstruating worldwide.

I used to work at a gym with mostly men. I remember tucking my tampons into the waistband of my leggings, hoping no one would notice as I made my mad dash to the bathroom. I would sit in the office in pain sometimes so excruciating I would throw up and hope that no one would need me for anything.

Once, I pulled something out of my bag and a tampon fell on the floor in front of my boss. I was so embarrassed. I wanted to quit my job and never come back. It was a wrapped tampon, and I wasn’t even on my period at the time, yet I remember it as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.

It is time for us as a society to put period shame behind us. That starts with us as individuals refusing to feel shame. Our annual Sex Issue works to demystify sex, sexuality and other topics that people are told to feel shame for.

We do this by talking about them and refusing to hide.

I decided a couple months ago that when I grabbed a tampon out of my bag, I wasn’t going to hide it because I shouldn’t have to. I will not hide my tampons or feel embarrassed when I purchase them because I am one of millions of people menstruating, and that is nothing to be ashamed of.

I make no apologies for being a person on my period, and you shouldn’t either.