Travis Rigel Lukus Hornung

A man refused to sell a woman tampons at a gas station because they’re ‘gross’

Was it a case of boyish ignorance or outright sexism?


Marisa Kabas


Published May 8, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 9:25 pm CDT

Most women would agree that the worst part about having two X chromosomes is getting a monthly period. It’s uncomfortable, messy, and something you never quite get used to. It’s also something that men will never truly be able to understand. One woman’s uncomfortable run-in while attempting to buy tampons and subsequent tweets prove just how ignorant and clueless some guys are when it comes to menstruation.

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Mary Epworth is a British singer/songwriter who’s on tour with the cast of the popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale. On Sunday, she and the rest of the crew made a pit stop at a gas station while passing through Iowa, and she needed to buy a box of tampons as it was that time of the month. But when she went to pay for them, the young man behind the counter refused to ring her up and went to fetch his female coworker.

“I kind of had that thought like ‘oh, there’s a guy on the counter.’ For a moment, I thought ‘I’d much rather a woman sold me these,'” Epworth told the Daily Dot. “Then I thought, ‘don’t be stupid.'”

But as it turns out, her trepidation was not unfounded. “I put them on the counter and he said ‘I can’t sell these.'”

She says the guy appeared to be young, perhaps in his early twenties. And the woman he fetched was middle-aged. “She looked me in the eye like she knew it was ridiculous.” And she also didn’t appear surprised, like this had happened many times before.

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Epworth wasn’t about to let him off that easy. “I sort of argued with him a bit, and told him this happens to everyone. He said ‘I don’t care. I wouldn’t even have them in my bathroom.'”

It’s hard to say if this was a result of ignorance, boyish embarrassment, or outright sexism. Perhaps it was a mixture. Whatever it was, Jeffrey Cranor, a co-writer on Welcome to Nightvale who was at the gas station with Epworth, found the whole thing downright offensive and gave the guy a talking to.

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This seems to boil down to widespread misinformation when it comes to sex education and explaining menstruation to the opposite sex. Periods are treated like a disgusting monster that descends upon a woman’s body each month to ravage her body, and more importantly, disrupt a man’s sex life. Or as Epworth puts it “a strange thing that happens to women.”

In the end, Epworth flipped him the bird and went on her merry way. Maybe it wasn’t the most rational response. But remember: Women on their periods are disgusting and crazy!

Photo via Travis Rigel Lukas Hornung/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: May 8, 2015, 10:00 am CDT