Femininity Concerns and Feelings About Menstruation Cessation Among Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Women: Implications for Menopause

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2021 Dec;30(12):1751-1760. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2020.8757. Epub 2021 Mar 25.


Background: Women differ in how they psychologically respond to the end of menstruation and onset of menopause; however, little empirical evidence exists for understanding how sexual orientation and gendered dynamics contribute to menstrual experiences in middle-to-late adulthood. We investigated if women's attitudes toward the cessation of menstruation vary by their sexual orientation. Methods: Using data from the Midlife in the United States Study (MIDUS, N = 3471), we examined the relationship between women's sexual orientation and attitudes toward menstruation cessation. We also assessed their femininity concerns, such as their worries about attractiveness and fertility in the context of aging. Results: Sexual minority (SM) women, compared with their heterosexual counterparts, expressed less regret of their menstrual periods ending. SM women also expressed lower concerns about femininity compared with heterosexual women, and concerns about femininity mediated the relationship between sexual orientation and regret. That is, SM women felt less regret about menstrual periods ending than heterosexual women, and this finding was partially explained through SM women's lower concerns about femininity (attractiveness and fertility). Conclusions: Our results contribute to a growing body of research on the psychological strengths of sexual minorities by highlighting SM women's potential strengths in an aging context. We propose implications for understanding aging stigma and women's health, and we discuss how menopause may be differently experienced by women based on sexual orientation.

Keywords: aging; attractiveness; fertility; gender; menstruation; sexual orientation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Femininity
  • Heterosexuality*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menopause
  • Menstruation
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • United States / epidemiology