Yes, I use a menstrual cup.
No, I’m not a weirdo. I don’t have anything particular against tampons and pads. No, I don’t have a fetish for scat or bodily fluids. And no, I’m not one of those people in the mangy koala suits who is asking you for cash at the train station.
I just find it very simple and convenient.
Menstrual cups have been around for about 80 years. They don’t have a particularly high profile in Australia. I first read about them in a feminist chatroom (it was the 90s, ok?).
Now it’s not true to say that when women get together (in person or online), we sit around and talk about periods. But when one woman has an excellent experience with a product, then they like to spread the word (the same goes for vibrators and hair removal techniques – both of which have been recommended to me by colleagues, in the workplace). It’s just the decent thing to do.
With that in mind, here’s what I’d like you to know about my menstrual cup.
I bought my first cup online about 10 years ago. I had gone back to do some post graduate study and was financially poor and time rich.
The first time I used it, I stood starkers in the bathroom with my laptop open on the bath and a mirror propped up against the sink. After a series of Moulin Rouge-worthy high-kicks, some silicon origami and several helpful online videos, I got the cup up in there. I gave it a twist to make sure it was in place.
Then I waited.
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I put some clothes on. I did some star jumps. I made myself sneeze. Everything seemed stable.
I went outside. I walked around. Everything was fine.
I went to the shops, but didn’t have a great time because I kept dashing into bathroom to whip down my undies and check the structural integrity of the device. It all seemed to be holding.
I finally went home and yanked it out. The first thing that surprised me was that there wasn’t as much in there as I was expecting. I mean, I thought I had a heavy flow. But when it was just sitting there in the cup, it seemed like such a piss-poor effort on my body’s behalf. How can this tiny amount cause me and my body so much grief?
I don’t know what I was expecting. Some kind of crimson tidal wave? A Carrie at the Prom moment? A Dexter-worthy crime scene?
Nope. My period was just sitting there. In an egg-cup thing. It was very red (I afterwards read that was because it hadn’t been exposed to air, so hadn’t taken on that usual rusty hue). It didn’t have that gross tampon smell, either (it smelled a bit metallic – yes, I smelled it. I’m a scientist, ok?). I tipped it into the toilet and rinsed out the cup in the sink. And I felt like an Amazon.
But that’s when I realised the menstrual cup’s fatal flaw.
You can only ever use it when you have a sink in the same room as the toilet. You can’t use it if you’re at the shops, or at work – unless you work in a place where you have your own bathroom or the bathrooms happen to have a sink. This is not a sani-bin situation – you need to be able to get to a sink to rinse it out. And walking to a communal sink to rinse out your cup seems a bit anti-social.
I guess if you are caught short, you could just empty it and reinsert, but the one time I had to do that, it was a bit messy.