An Ode to Menstrual Cups

“You were wild once, don’t let them tame you.”

My creative juices are surging slowly these days. Perhaps it’s laziness, perhaps a lack of inspiration – such is the life of a writer! So in an effort to get cranking again I racked my brain for something that truly inspires me without fail, and a few things always arise; travel, environmental awareness, and awakening consciousness. However, these are all topics I plan to write plenty on throughout my globe-trotting, so what is the one other thing that always gets me excited? – The Diva Cup, or I suppose more accurately, a menstrual cup. Yes, this post will be my ode to a small silicon cup that has unquestionably changed my life, and strangely enough I may still manage to incorporate all those other themes I mentioned!

While this post is obviously geared more towards those visited by their monthly flow, I encourage everyone to read it regardless of where you fall on the gender scale. Try putting yourself in another’s shoes. Our culture is funny because everywhere you look you see sex advertised to sell just about everything, and yet we are afraid to talk about it in any meaningful way. The US has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the world, for one reason and one reason only, we lack the proper education. Since we’ve long ago abandoned the separation of Church and State, we stupidly teach our youth that the only way is abstinence, we teach them that whatever deity they believe in will disapprove of those who succumb to an entirely natural instinct. Yet the reality is that people have sex, lots of it, and they’re not stopping anytime soon. So instead of wasting energy on teaching the entirely futile tactic of abstinence, why not make sex a far less taboo subject in our cultural conversation? Instead of surrounding a beautiful human desire with guilt and wrongness we should be teaching our youth of its importance, the importance of respecting yourself and your body, and the importance of knowing how to engage in sexual activities safely and with body positive intentions.

I am tired of seeing young girls being more and more sexualized, I am tired of young boys not knowing how to view the female body as more than an just an object, but as a complete and sacred being, just as they themselves are. Our culture’s propensity to mass produce pornography without acknowledging that it’s not how real and meaningful sex actually is, is not healthy or helpful to anyone of any gender. We sit here flipping through magazines, surfing the internet, and watching commercials featuring hyper-sexualized bodies in just about any form and fashion you could imagine. Yet the same people who guiltlessly consume this cultural fad are the ones embarrassed to talk about menstrual cycles, the ones who get angry when they see a mother breastfeeding her newborn. Instead our society squirms when talking about the very building blocks of life, the very reasons we are even here. Boobs on billboards for fried chicken and beer are just fine, but a woman engaging in one of the most human experiences is ridiculed. These hypocritical reactions are proof of the collective immaturity and insecurity of our culture. If we can’t embrace sex in its entirety, including the aspects that don’t involve superficial pleasure, then we aren’t giving it the respect it deserves, and we certainly aren’t respecting ourselves in the process.

So instead of getting squeamish or embarrassed, let’s celebrate the remarkable processes that allows life to be possible. Why should we be ashamed that our bodies possess such an innate knowledge to survive and thrive? Is it because it temporarily takes a women off the sexual market? Because we don’t want to think about them clutching their bodies in pain and leaking blood on their sheets? Let’s stop deeming these natural and normal parts of life unacceptable to openly talk about, instead let’s aim to understand them and appreciate them for exactly what they are. There is no need to pretend that women don’t bleed for several days on a monthly basis, because for a woman it is a very real part of their life experience; just as there is no need to aggressively push abstinence as the only cure for remaining pure (sarcasm!). In indigenous cultures women are revered during their cycle, it’s celebrated as a symbolic and spiritual time. Some literally believe it is an incredible source of strength and could ward off storms and enemies. We should take notes from these supposed “uncivilized” people and cast away unnecessary cultural taboos, stop making arbitrary aspects of life forbidden, and refuse to adhere guilt and shame to some of the most powerful human experiences.

With all that being said, periods can indeed really suck. No longer do women get put on a pedestal when we begin our monthly cycle, no longer are we fed feasts and encouraged to do nothing. Now we’re forced to adhere to the rat race regardless of the fact we may be on the precipice of bleeding out (can seem like that sometimes). Now menstruation is the butt of jokes in comedy and movies; new-to-puberty teens giggle at the tampon string dangling from the blissfully ignorant girl’s swimsuit. So we plug that shit up as quickly as possible. We hold back our facial winces inflicted by our uterine swords. We stifle our internal gasp at the dreaded feeling of an unforgiving leak at the company picnic. Because remember ladies, a vagina is good for one reason, and one reason only – selling fried chicken and beer.

Due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding this special time of month, most of us can’t just stay home to sit in a hot bath with candles and emotional music. Most of us are not about to tell our male boss that we can’t make it to the meetings today because our uterus is attempting a Shawshank worthy escape from our very body. The last thing we want to use our precious paid time off on is subduing mother monthly while she goes Pulp Fiction on our underwear. So instead we persevere through this trying time of cramps, acne, mood swings, and leaks… all the while, keeping it under tight wraps except to our closest mates.

Now begins my ode to what is quite possibly my favorite female counterpart – the menstrual cup. To say it changed my life is honestly not even that much of a hyperbole. In fact, I nearly get excited for my moon cycle just so I can use my cup and revel in the joy and amazement it brings each and every time. Any time anyone, friends and strangers alike, brings up their period in any fashion I transform into Diva Cup’s unpaid spokesperson. I am like a new mother gushing about her baby that no one really cares about, except that I am gushing about gushing. Seriously though, all jokes aside, it really is a spectacularly useful piece of flow damming equipment. I am proud to say that I abandoned tampons, panty liners, pads, ruined underwear and period panic long ago – and I ain’t ever lookin’ back! So please join me in appreciating the many convincing reasons to abandon your outdated Shark Week folly.

I’d like to note that there are several worthy models of menstrual cups that all provide the same glorious benefits. I personally use The Diva Cup, so for that reason – and because I think it is a hilarious name and I am transformed into a true-life diva when I use it – I will refer to it as such.  For those that aren’t familiar with menstrual cups, they are small flexible cups made from medical grade silicone that are inserted into the vagina, catch your vampire tears (period blood), and can then be emptied and reused for years and years.

  • Environmentally conscious: According to the book Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation, the average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of menstrual waste in her lifetime. While it may not seem like too much for the individual, when you multiply that times those lucky billions who are graced with their period… it is a hell of a lot. Upwards of 31 tons. Somewhere out there, there is a tampon lake (try not to picture it). Sure there are much more environmentally damaging and waste producing activities out there then pluggin’ up the cookie for the week, but I think that thought process needs to change. We shouldn’t be rationalizing our reckless abandon for the Earth by assuring ourselves we could be much worse. Instead we should be making small and steady shifts in our own lives to live more mindfully and push for a more sustainable society. When you evolve into a Diva you are by far taking the biggest leap into greenness when it comes to your redness. With the Diva Cup you will rid entirely of your period associated waste. The cup is reusable and reloveable for years if taken care of.

– Think, no more trying to discretely dispose of your tampons or pads in a bathroom plastered in warning signs against flushing feminine products… and also incidentally don’t have a trash bag in their trash cans, or a single item of trash in their trash cans for that matter. Isn’t it ironic, don’t ya think!

  • Cost Effective: Women spend approximately $60 per year on menstrual products, and could be up to $80 or more depending on brand names and what quantity you require to tame your beast. On average, a woman has her period for 37 years in Western countries. So that is an approximate total (for the budget conscious woman) of over 2 grand on items we essentially buy to throw away. The Diva Cup, in all its reusable glory, costs about $30. Thus the Diva pays for itself many times over. As a loyal menstrual cup cult member, you would likely only need to purchase 4 cups maximum in a menstruation lifetime, since one can last up to 10 years. I will take a $120 fee for being a woman any day over a couple grand or more. Plus you can feel good about reducing the amount of money you give to giant corporations who profit off keeping people feeling grossed out about periods.

  • Better for Your Body: Unlike tampons and pads, menstrual cups are sans bleaches, irritating chemicals and fragrances amongst other strange mad-scientist words you can’t pronounce. Perhaps the biggest proof of this is that there is no risk for TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) with the cups. Since tampons work through absorbency they can cause bacterial infections that can, though rare, be fatal. Even though most women don’t have to worry much about the possibility of contracting TSS, you can still rest easy knowing your Diva is the ultimate warrior against vaginal infections’ dreams. While a pad doesn’t pose the same risk of bacterial infection as tampons do, any lady knows the immense discomfort that is a pad. Rashes, itching, squirming in your seat, weird adhesive sticking to your lady bits are amongst pads’ charms – oh and unless you want a built in flotation device forget about taking a dip in the pool with a pad on. The Diva Cup boasts none of these cons and retains your natural feminine balance. Though I don’t know of a specific scientific study that proves it, there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that menstrual cups even reduce the dreaded period cramps. I myself have certainly experienced less pain around that time.

  • Freedom from Period Anxiety: By far one of my favorite benefits of the Diva is the complete annihilation of aunt flow angst. Farewell to the panicked realization that you suddenly got your period two days early and there are no tampons in sight. Adios to the inevitably scathed underwear on days one and two of your moon cycle. Goodbye to the Olympic 100m Sprints to the port-o-dungeons during your spandex laden volleyball match only to discover there’s no toilet paper and vomit on the seat. Chao to the hungover mornings next to someone you thought looked much different the night before, only to discover you’ve left permanent proof of the conquest on the sheets. Maybe it’s just me but sometimes I drink a little too much and forget to take care of my lady business and wake up scorned by the now inescapable necessity to launder my sheets. I hate laundry! Now I leap and bound in a field of dreams, cradled by a loyal Diva friend who would never dare let me down in such a way. When you make the switch you can enjoy the freedom of passing out drunk in a stranger’s bed or drooling on a tropical beach without worrying whether you are flooding your immediate area – dream big because the Diva is the ultimate period ninja.

  • Comfort of a Cadillac: Menstrual cups are bar none when it comes to comfortability. When inserted properly (which does take practice) you literally can’t feel it. You can “set it and forget it” just like you saw on TV for those who can’t keep track of what they are cooking for dinner. Your active life will be changed forever, you can now follow your long lost dream of becoming a Cirque de Soliel acrobat because you will no longer fear losing focus on the tightrope due to the overwhelming sensation of over-soaked cotton between your legs. I’m actually willing to bet menstrual cups are a mandatory part of the uniform for contortionists, purely because someone higher up demands that your life be more comfortable and carefree. What I would give to go back to those years of high school sports games tainted by frustrating delinquent periods that tampons refuse to cooperate with. Somehow, even though it feels like you are inserting identically every time, some will still end up sideways, upside down, inside out. Even worse when your period is nearing its anticipated end and inserting and extracting tampons becomes one of the most unpleasant feelings of all time. Not to mention when removing tampons during your dryer times they can cause small tears and leave unnatural fibers inside you. Guess what – surprise! – Diva Cups do none of the above!

  • Take Back Stolen Time: Since menstrual cups only need to be changed every 12 hours or so (slightly more or less depending on where you are in your cycle) you can reduce all those covert bathroom missions, complete with miscellaneous menstrual paraphernalia tucked into your waistband and socks. You can forever eliminate the unfortunate series of events that is the recent tampon change followed by a cup of coffee that proceeds to send you runing back to the bathroom minutes later to relieve yourself – shucks! Now this tampon will never live up to its full absorbent potential and must be consequently flushed due to a pee infested dangly string. With the Diva you can look forward to many a bathroom break free of the monotonous plug exchange or unpleasant tearing away of used pad adhesive, and you won’t have to worry about leftovers from your eliminations. Also, properly placed cups are virtually leak proof, so no unnecessary changes when a pseudo-leak cons you into thinking your tampon needs changing. Ridding of leaks also removes the guesswork of when to change to a different level of absorbency, since the cup holds whatever liquid it can – the one size fits all vaginal accessory.

  • The Ultimate Adventure Accessory: Nevermind crossing your fingers in hopes you’ve packed enough tampons for your wilderness camping trip; nevermind having to carry back your used feminine products to the main camp to dispose it properly in front of all your coolest friends. Instead, pack one trustworthy item that will be sure to last for however long you need it and won’t send you hustling to the nearest sign of civilization to re-up on your cotton. Menstrual cups truly shine most when traveling, especially in the outdoors or internationally. You never know when you’ll find yourself in a bind in a foreign country where there simply aren’t any stores to purchase feminine products in the nearby vacinity. Sure you can ruin a pair of shorts and undies, but it certainly will not make for very nice day of sightseeing. Luckily, you read this list before your great adventure and simply got out your handy-dandy Diva Cup from your backpack and kissed your worries goodbye – you go girl. You will never be more thankful for your cup companion then on adventures, it will do everything you need and more.

  • Embrace Your Body, Be a Badass: Most women cringe at the thought of switching to a menstrual cup, they can’t stomach the thought that you do indeed have to get a bit down and dirty with your bad self. Sure, it’s a bit weird at first, a little out of your comfort zone; but with dedication and perseverance you will be a period pro in no time. As always, there is a plethora of helpful information online to help you through the transition. Don’t get discouraged if it seems to be taking some time to get the hang of it, I am sure you had a similar experience your first time with tampons. I can guarantee it will be worth it. Once we start rethinking the arbitrary cultural norms that induce a sense of disgust associated with our menstruation we will begin to realize that this is simply part of our beautiful body and its natural cycles, and the aversion will subside. Besides whatever minor grossness you may feel at first will very quickly be squashed by the glorious benefits a menstrual cup has to offer.

I guess the moral of the story is don’t let society tell you when your vagina is cool and uncool. Take back that time of the month, grab a menstrual cup, and start going-with-the-flow!

If you are interested in another sustainable lifestyle change check out my friend’s blog that features a recent post on DIY harm-free household cleaners, amongst other tips for a happy healthy lifestyle!

Stay Wild Ladies!

Kate Townsend

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