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Period 101: Toxic Shock Station

“Menstrual Dreamer” by mari-chan

Do you remember first getting your period. Were you excited. Do you hate yourself in retrospect for your excitement. Do you love it. Are you uncomfortable. Listen, we’re here to change your life. Make it better.

Long before getting my period, I enjoyed both Judy Blume novels and advertisements disguised as pamphlets about teenage girls named ‘Ginny’ ‘Patty’ and ‘Donna’ who had questions about pads, tampons and boys. This book, Growing Up and Liking it, produced by esteemed literary press “Personal Products,” inspires its reader to anticipate one’s period with sunflowers and fonts:

Of course, the reason companies even make literature like that is ’cause they have PRODUCTS FOR YOU! And as you may know, periods are both inevitable and expensive and often, for lesbians, especially irritating. In “Butch.Period,” a recent article by Heather Robinson for Curve Magazine, she writes:

Though I don’t know many women who love their periods, I’m more disgruntled than most. My cycle makes me acutely aware of all the Earth Goddess parts of me, and it’s impossible to ignore the baby-making organs on board. I’m just not made for menstruation. Despite my 20 years of visits from Aunt Flo, I am still caught unaware on a regular basis. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not being passive-aggressive with my own body. Meanwhile, my poor cargo shorts continue to pay the price.

Let’s lighten that load. We’re gonna tell you about menstrual cups and if you can’t handle it (which is fine, I can’t!) then we still have a super-special-secret way to ensure Proctor & Gamble’s lease in your vagina doesn’t get out of control.

“Our society creates a hospitable climate for cuntpower to be generated into profits amassed by large corporations…. taking responsibility for one’s bleeding ways is part of the reality-based revolution founded between the soft, luscious thighs of every woman on the planet… a more material aspect of this revolution is downsizing the percentage of our funding to corporations that exists for no other purpose than to constrain women in the throes of body-alienation and perpetuate our deleterious relationships to our cunts.”

CUNT: A Declaration of Independence
by Inga Muscio

1. The Menstrual Cup

Dina and Laura have kicked down some patriarchal walls for Real Life: I Use a Menstrual Cup.

Age: 27
Menstrual Cup User For: Four years or thereabouts

I moved into the dorms at my total hippie college when I’d just turned 18, and we celebrated our new beginnings by spending a weekend retreat before school started on Camano Island, where I found myself elbow-deep in alternative living choices.

One day after breakfast, the conversation turned to periods. “Oh, I use sea sponge tampons!” one of them said, a look of manic pride on her face.

“Oh, I use the Keeper menstrual cup!” another woman said. “It’s wonderful! I can save my blood and paint with it!”

“I put my blood in a jar so I can feed it to my plants!” someone else piped up. “They perk right up, it’s so beautiful!”

Meanwhile, I was sitting there trying hard not to look horrified. Needless to say, this girl from the suburbs was a bit traumatized.

It took me five years to even consider buying a menstrual cup for myself, but once I got my Moon Cup from the UK, I was hooked. Now I even help moderate the Menstrual Cups LiveJournal community because I’m a special kind of crazy.

(And no… I don’t feed my blood to any of my potted plants.)

Age: 21
Menstrual Cup User For: Ten months

Last Christmas break, the first day after getting home from out universities, my friends and I were sitting around and talking about everyone’s semester, including the three who’d just gotten back from studying abroad.

The group consensus seemed to be that, while Europe was great, periods were a problem. The only tampons you could buy in Austria, Germany, France, and Spain were o.b.-style and if you managed to find a pack of ones with applicators, they cost three times as much.

Because I take my menstrual healthy very seriously (read: I wanted to go abroad but wasn’t interested in shoving the dry, cotton equivalent of a cork up my vagina without the help of silky silky plastic) I went home and got on my computer to try to figure out what my options would be if I went abroad. I don’t even remember where I found menstrual cups, but after ten or so minutes of being grossed out, then fascinated, I realized I had to have one.

Diva Cup might be the most hilariously inappropriate name for an item designed to capture blood, but I love products with ridiculous names; my bike is called “Urban Soul.” Mine has reduced the amount of trash I create, soothed some of my cramps, and inspired bonding. I recently got text from my friend, Jonathon, who’s climbing the Appalachian Trail that said “All the girls on the trail have menstrual cups too!! Miss you so much.”

While it has its share of downfalls, we’re talking about a vagina band-aid; nothing’s going to be perfect. Since the product websites take special care not to be graphic, Dina and I aim to let you know all the things that you actually want to know when it comes to menstrual cups. If you’ve ever used one, we want to hear from you! Let us know what you like, what you can’t stand, and if you have any tips or warnings that we didn’t think up.

— The Good —

+The Price Is Right

Dina: When I consider that I was spending about $10 on pads before, my $50 cup paid for itself in less than half a year! If you’re inclined to think they’ll work for you, I suggest you give it a try. Figure out how much you spend per month on menstrual products, then see how many months it would take to make the amount you paid for the cup back. If you give it a try for that long and don’t like it, then you haven’t wasted any money!

Laura: I know the initial price seems steep (I paid $30), but these babies last ten years. Ten years of tampons adds up to about $1000. Eek!

+Comfort City

Dina: I find them much more comfortable. For me, pads chafe and smell funny after a while, and tampons are dry and scratchy and give me horrible cramps. The cup is non-absorbent, so it doesn’t dry your vagina out like a tampon can. This also means that the risk of TSS is much lower than with tampons – possibly even nil. I could always feel a tampon inside me when forced to use one, but I don’t feel the cup at all.

+Environmental Friendliness

Dina: They are also a lot more ecologically friendly – no throwing away used pads, tampons and packaging!

Laura: Tampons are really really white which means bleach was used in their production. I know they’re safe, but the thought of putting something porous that’s been soaked in bleach inside of me isn’t super appealing.

+The Pocket/Purse Issue

Dina: I love not having to carry around a handful of pads and/or tampons around with me when I’m on my period (or suffering the embarrassment of running out).

Laura: My friends would probably have me put this in “The Bad” column because I never had tampons when they come looking for one, but honestly this is a wonderful thing. If you keep track of your period, you can put your cup in the day you’re supposed to get it so that you don’t have the play everyone’s least favorite game: it’s the first day of my period so now i have to go home and scrub out my underwear. Or you can just keep it in a little cozy in your bag.

— The Bad —

+Making It Work

Dina: While I think cups are great, I also recognize that they’re not for everybody. Some people aren’t comfortable using internal products for various reasons. Others might find it difficult to use – it does take a while to master. (Remember that LiveJournal community? Lots of helpful people there!) Some people have leaking problems and have to try a couple of different cup brands before they find something that works… and not everyone has that kind of money to burn.

Special Correspondent Intern Emily: I had followed the instructions and I got stuck at the second to last step; when you insert it, the cup is supposed to open up inside of you, but it just wasn’t. I spent a few hours on the LiveJournal mentioned above and found the sections about first time use and popping open to be really helpful.

Basically this LJ is everything you’ve ever wanted to know (and more). It’s great because they’re real people and not brand instructions. There are so many more methods than just the ones that Diva tells you about in the instructions.

Laura: It took me a whole period to get it to go in right without leaking and the first time I got it in, I nearly had a panic attack because I couldn’t get it out. It turns out all I had to do was used a little toilet paper to pull on the stem because my fingers couldn’t quite grip it. As far as the stem goes, mine was a little too long so I had to cut it so it would stop mercilessly poking my vagina every time I moved.



Dina: My cup stains. Also, cleaning it in public can be kind of annoying – wiping it off with TP in the stall means that sometimes little toilet paper clumps get stuck to it. Bringing a water bottle into the stall with me and trying to clean it over the toilet makes me afraid I’m going to drop it and lose it forever. Just emptying it without cleaning means I get to deal with the tiny bit of blood mixed with vaginal juices that’s left behind. Unisex bathrooms are nice because usually the toilet and sink are in the same room!

Laura: Just because I’m comfortable with my period doesn’t mean my roommate is. I have to schedule cleaning it (I soak it in vinegar because I fear yeast infections like it’s my job and then boil it for 20 minutes) for times when she’s not around. As far as my neurotic tendencies go, the whole public restroom thing can be a problem. If I forget to empty it out in the morning, it’s going to overflow and leak and I’m not totally down with taking it out, walking to the sink, rinsing it out, and then going back in the stall and putting it in because that’s slightly disgusting.

— The Ugly —

+The Gross Factor

Laura: This one’s pretty obvious. You’ve got to be pretty comfortable with your vagina to decide to use one which, really, isn’t a bad thing to be. My mum thinks it’s gross and has asked me multiple times if it’s FDA approved. Once you get past the initial disgust, you have to realize that you bleed a lot more than you might think. When it’s all soaked up in a pad or tampon, you might not realize just how much blood is coming out of you every month. The upside of this is that I’ve realized that I need to eat healthier, especially during my period, to keep me from getting shaky or worn out too easily.

+ Going to the Bathroom

Laura: Using a menstrual cup does make me feel like I have to pee more often than usual. I think it’s pushing on my bladder and making it feel more full, but I know that I tend to get up to go to the bathroom 3 or more times before falling asleep when I’m using it.

Dina: Whenever I have to remove my cup, I bear down. Unfortunately, that uses the same muscles I use to poo. Which means that every time I have to poo with my cup in, I feel like it’s going to fall out into the toilet. When I’m at home I’ll usually just pop the cup out before I drop the kids off at the pool, but if I’m at work? I’ve been known to put my finger over my vagina to hold the cup in. I’ve never actually gotten close to losing it that way, but… it’s still a concern to my paranoid mind.

+I’ve Never Been So Scared Of Losing My Grip

Dina: One time after rock climbing, my cup started to leak and I had to go to empty it. My hands were really shaky from all the work (I have carpal tunnel syndrome), and I couldn’t get a grip on my cup. Before I knew it… plop! Into the potty it went. I had to reach down the toilet hole to retrieve it! (Thank goodness I live in Australia, where there’s only a small amount of toilet water rather than the giant swimming pool in American toilets!) After tearfully and furiously scrubbing it off in the bathroom sink (and getting extremely strange looks from a gaggle of ten-year-olds) I had to put it back in. What else could I do? I don’t carry around tampons anymore! Ahhh! Luckily my vagina lived to tell the tale, and I keep a death grip on my cup at all times.

— The Bottom Line —

Menstrual cups are economical, ecologically friendly and effective for many vagina-having people. But they’re not for everyone. At the end of the day, as long as you’re happy with what you’re using, we’re happy!

What do you think? Do you have a cup? What’s your favorite brand? Or could nothing ever convince you to shove a piece of latex/silicone/thermoplastic elastomer up your ladybits (at least for menstrual purposes)?

2. Do It Yourself

Of course cups aren’t for everyone, but if you’re still determined to be the best lesbian hippie you can possibly be, you’ll probably be excitant about some other options out there, like making your own pads!

3. Toxic Shock Station

Because we need ‘money’ to ‘fund this operation’ — so much more than we have, in fact, that we’re constantly asking you for it — we’re always thinking of new ways to facilitate the giving-of-money. That’s why we’ve put together this fantastic Autostraddle A-STORE so that you can save money AND stick it to the man. ‘Cause Amazon is the man, right, but so is CVS and Walgreens and Duane Reade and Rite-Aid, so if you’re gonna support all those places, wouldn’t it be way cooler if a little bit of that went to someone else, like say, Autostraddle? Well, just order your tampons on the internet and we get like ten cents, which eventually adds up to A BAJILLION DOLLARS.

Here’s some of those things, but really go visit the a-store. BUY THINGS; FUND AUTOSTRADDLE; WIN/WIN!

Go all-natural with Seventh Generation Chlorine-Free Organic Pads or Natracare Organic pads to keep chemicals out of your vadgehole.

The best way to save money is with a Lite/Regular/Super 80-count Multipack for $23.50 (.15/tampon) or  A 40-Count Multipack at $13.66 ($0.17/tampon).

As aforementioned, Menstrual Cups are super fun. Moon Cups are sold on Amazon in multi-packs, you can select how many  you want from two [54.59 ($27.30 / Item), which saves you $16.19 (23%)] to twelve [$314.30 ($26.19 / Item) which saves you $110.38 (26%)], or just get your two-pack in Size A MoonCup, or Size B MoonCup. Other Brands include Diva Cup Diva Cup #1 Pre Childbirth $25.95 (save 34%) and Diva Cup Diva Cup #2 Post Childbirth $22.95 (save 42%) and The Keeper Size A 1 Pk By Gladrags: $27.48 (22% off store price).

Hey did we leave off your favorite menstrual accoutrement? Tell us and we’ll add it to the store! Happy bleeding, revolutionists!!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

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  1. Woah, this article was highly unexpected but informative. I don’t quite know how I feel about reading all of that.

    • Right? My Fleurcup just came in the mail on Friday (addressed to Mme. W__, no less). Quit spying, Autostraddle!

  2. You can also buy cloth pads. I’m waiting on my order from Party In My Pants; among other cloth pads out there, they seem the cutest with the least hassle.

  3. I love the theme of that store. And the LJ menstrual cup community is SUPER helpful in figuring stuff out – I used it a LOT when deciding whether it was ok to get a cup with my IUD (short answer – yes).

    I’m a total convert now, and hate it when I have to switch back to pads or tampons (bad planning while travelling, etc.). I tend to keep some back up supplies on hand for friends/ guests, but can’t imagine ever going back.

  4. “I don’t even remember where I found menstrual cups, but after ten or so minutes of being grossed out, then fascinated, I realized I had to have one.”

    — That is exactly how I felt. I, too, have a Mooncup (Size B – they’re £21.99 in Boots over here in the UK) and I love it! I’ve had it since December last year and it did take me a while to get used to it, more so with taking it out (about two periods or so) but I had that initial adjustment stage with tampons too. I haven’t really tried removing and re-inserting my cup that much in public toilets; I just prefer to do it at home and take my time, but it’s definitely something to work on.

    What I like most about my cup is being able to insert it a day or two before my period, just in case I’m early — the painters don’t always show up when they’re supposed to! I also like to monitor how much blood is lost. I find that cool in a geeky way. My Mooncup comes with its own cotton drawstring bag for storage, which is very handy as well.

    I’ve also found that through using the Mooncup, my periods seem to be a little shorter — often by a day or so. No idea why, but since they were usually a week long, I’m not complaining!

  5. When I was 13 my grandmother gave me this weird pamphlet published by Kotex (the drawings and fonts plus paper color look like it’s from the 50s or 60s) that says “Youre a Woman Now”. And there were instructions on how to put on this diaper like contraption that even had a belt or clasp or something.

    Now that I think about it, it’s weird she’d keep such a pamphlet for decades (I was 13 in 1994).

    • this is actually hilarious. does you gma have any daughters? maybe she was just dying to give it to somebody and you were the first girl that came around.

      • well, my grandma had my mother- but she chose to hold on to that Kotex pamphlet for decades and pass it on to me instead. or maybe she stashed multiple copies or something. it’s a big mystery to me.

  6. Mooncups sound scary. I don’t like tampons. On my period I am delicate, I just don’t want to be violated, even by tiny bits of cotton wool.

    I will, however, take this opportunity to mention how outrageous it is that VAT is charged on tampons and female sanitary items in the UK. You know, because not having menstrual blood stain your clothing is a luxury, really.

    And my friends don’t believe me about the patriarchy :(

      • apparently Coles pay the tax on all womens sanitary products that they sell now, have done for a few months.

        • Yep, they knocked the price down by 10% AND they still sell Pringles. Four for you Coles, you go Coles.

          • I work at Coles (filling shelves.. many lesbians in supermarkets that I know perform this job, it seems. What can I say- lifting Listerine builds the muscles that get the ladies, and our blue collared shirts aren’t totally unfetching either)


            although this is a employment choice marked by little choice that comes with being a student who can only really work nights due to having sold their daytime soul to the tertiary education system
            and I sometimes am disappointed in self for working for The Man and actively supporting corporate evil

            sometimes Coles makes me smile / proud.
            Also, my Coles is basically the gayest Coles I’ve ever been in. There are three girls and 4-5 guys that I know of who are on the team.

            Once, a guy even did checkout whilst wearing a face of makeup. Some ignorant customers bitched quietly but management obviously didn’t tell him to clean it off before work.

            = slightly proud :)

          • ps. I’ve sometimes tried to work out if I can subvert the whole supporting corporate evil thing by being a part-time midnight freegan at my store or something
            but I’m still scared of getting caught and getting a record/getting fired/never getting another job/becoming a freegan full time.. hmm, perhaps that wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe I should rethink this. Still, people at my work are nice and I like a job where I can wallow in overthinking introvert mode for most of my shift whilst getting a slight work out and only being talked to by customers who know that they should probably be nice to me or else I might not tell them where the Epsom Salts are. Mm.

          • In my world, cashiers will be able to do their work in football pads with high heels, and other boss outfits. I can’t wait for it.

          • Can I come work with you at Coles(whatever that is)?

            The other day a customer asked me if I was dating my (male) coworker and I responded by saying that no, we’re both gay. I was told by my manager that perhaps I should not talk about my “sexual preferences” with customers. Oops sorry excuse me I guess I can’t help myself because I am a giant militant homo.

  7. If you’re a college student, it’s also a good thing to check out somewhere on campus that might sell them- perhaps a Student Sexuality office that might also sell condoms and lube and the like. I bought mine at my Uni and got a Keeper for about $20. I then got a bit intimidated and had a few unsuccessful attempts at using it before resorting back to ye ole tampon but thanks to trusty AS and live journal, I’m excited to try again :) …well maybe not excited, but you know.

  8. I started using a Mooncup about a year ago and have never looked back. It is honestly a great solution and as soon as you are used to it its no trouble at all. Wish I new about them 20 years ago as my body has never really ’embraced’ tampons.

  9. I know that this is all about cups and whatnot and everyone seems to hate tampons, but I really, really love them. They are so reliable and ungross! And yes, I am killing the earth and all that but OH THE JOY OF CONVENIENCE. Does no one else feel this way? This is also from someone whose period leaves them curled up in a crying, pained fetal position, so anything happiness creating about a period is a shocker. Although hopefully not as shocking as Toxic Shock, which still scares the bejeesus out of me.

    • Yes! Sorry earth, but my convenience wins.

      I always feel kinda bad because my periods are not painful at all. Never have been.
      I do not know what a ‘cramp’ is. But I still use them as an excuse to get out of doing stuff.

    • it’s not all about cups and we don’t hate tampons!

      “Let’s lighten that load. We’re gonna tell you about menstrual cups and if you can’t handle it (which is fine, I can’t!) then we still have a super-special-secret way to ensure Proctor & Gamble’s lease in your vagina doesn’t get out of control.”

      it’s all about our new tampon store and how you can help support Autostraddle while doing what you always do: bleed!

      • I was never ready to go the full on earth friendly route after being scared by a sea sponge soaking roommate and a dislike of blood. Though I once did environmental work near a river and realized the true extent of waste created by applicators. Think of a river full of floating pop cans and tampon applicators, it was disgusting. I still use tampons, but promptly started using applicator free … Still some plastic waste but not nearly on the level.

        • I’ve never once used an applicator, nor seem them sold in stores. In fact, I didn’t even know such a thing existed until I received one in a sample bag of stuff which also contained some tasty cat food (I WAS DRUNK AND POOR LEAVE ME ALONE).

          Anyway, my point is, applicators are giant/weird and as far as I can tell, unnecessary. I think that was my point anyway.

        • the couple of times i’ve tried to put in a tampon w/out an applicator, i’ve failed miserably. but um, thanks to that graphic description and my own nagging guilt, i’m going to go ahead and try harder.

          also i’m going to eat your dog b/c it is so fucking cute.

    • Personally, I find cups much more convenient. It’s pretty “set it and forget it” for me (except on heavy days, but those will be hell no matter what I’m doing). And there’s no carrying around pads or tampons – you just need the one thing.

      But that’s just me. ;)

      Also, I found tampons extremely painful, so that really pushed me to find an alternative!

    • My periods are fucking.awful. I’m sure some of this is TMI, but this whole post kinda erases the idea of WHAT is TMI, so whatevs. I’ve had second days so bad that I’ve had to call in sick or go home sick and like, not leave the couch at all, and I was put on birth control at 16 – not to have sex with dudes, but because my periods were lasting 3 fucking weeks.

      But I’ve been using a diva cup for almost five years now, and I find it’s GREAT if you have a super heavy flow. Once you get the hang of it, they don’t leak in the way that a piece of textile you’ve stuck inside yourself can if it’s soaked full and gets squeezed, and you never run out. and they tend to shift shape along with your body/movements, so I barely notice it’s there. And they’re AWESOME for sleeping. No leaking. AT ALL.

  10. I have been using the Diva Cup for two periods now, and I love it. I love this article, I agree with so many of the points, and basically have a lot of feelings about it. I just hope that readers aren’t scared off by the bad points… the good things totally make up for it!

    At work, a few of the girls were wondering about it (I work at Whole Foods and we were in a group/class discussing alternative products), and I didn’t hesitate to shout across the table (perhaps to the horror/embarrassment of the boys & shyer ladies in the room) that menstrual cups are wonderful and they should try it! Now, I’ve never been one to talk about these things in public, or at all really – I think it was the liberation from patriarchal shame talking.

    To me, using a menstrual cup feels a lot cleaner and less gross (it’s definitely less smelly!) I like to see all the blood – it’s kinda cool. And the money I don’t have to spend every month is just amazing – I feel like I should do something special with it, and buy myself ice cream or something!

  11. Oh I don’t know about this. I bleed heavy. The only thing that’s ever worked for me is Always Overnight Ultra-Thins. Sometimes my girlfriend buys something on sale, and it’s just like…okay, I’ll survive. But not without changing my pad every time I turn around…or cough, or sneeze…which isn’t really money saving at all in the end.

    BC isn’t something I’ve ever worried about but I’ve thought about going on the pill just get my period under control.

    I started my period when I was in the 5th grade. Sort of a waste on a tomboy baby butch who wanted nothing to do with blossoming. That’s when my Mom started trying to de-butch me. So, I was very unhappy about that.

    • There are some high capacity cups out there that might make your life a lot easier! Check out the”heavy blood flow” section on the LJ community. :)

    • Hell yes, my Always-using heavy-flow compatriot. I switched to tampons a while back, but I am right there with you.

    • I bleed ridiculously heavy, so I understand. Like for a while, it was tampon/backed up with pad/change tampon every hour or two/heavy.

      Then I got a Diva Cup, and I would use that with a pad as backup, because while people say it doesn’t leak (and it doesn’t nearly as much as tampons) I fill it up WAY faster than most people, so it’s just prudent to have backup.

      So if you want recommendations, you’ll probs be a little better off with the Diva Cup. I love it. And I’m switching to cloth pads for my backup (just bought some!)

  12. I’ve been using my mooncup (UK) for almost four years, since I was 15. It is the best thing in the world – and I’ve managed to convince various of my friends to join me in the reusable menstrual revolution.

    I’ve never had any problems with my cup ever, aside from overnight overflow and though it is slightly stained, that is all wrong!

    They are awesome though if you’re not comfortable with your vagina or menses, they aren’t for you.

  13. I love, love, love my Diva Cup. It doesn’t dry me out like tampons did and I don’t have to SIT in my own blood like I did when I used pads. It’s the best.

    I can understand that not everyone feels that menstrual cups are for them, but don’t write them off! I knew of their existence for a couple of years before I bought one (two or three years ago) because the idea of them freaked me out, but it was maybe best choice I ever made and I’ve never looked back.

  14. I have used the Lunette cup for some years now… Its so much more clean and comfortable than tampons and pads.

  15. Reading this has reminded me just how glad I am that my out-of-control endometrium required me to get an IUD. Thank you, Mirena, you’ve obliterated my Lady Times and you also sound like you could be a type of dance, which I find delightful.

  16. My sister introduced me to the concept of menstrual cups about a year or two ago, and I started using one myself 10 months back.

    Best decision ever. I’m a really heavy bleeder, so I’d been spending way too much on tampons & pads. The cup isn’t perfect–I’ve had spills before, simply from bleeding so fast that I filled it, and it can be a bit messy when I’m changing it in a public toilet. However, compared to the alternatives, it’s a dream.

    • Diva Cups and public toilets–A Cautionary Tale.

      First, I have to say that Diva Cups are pretty much the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but occasionally something goes wrong. A few months ago, I was at work (I used to work in a big box retail store famous for red shirts and KHAKI pants, which is a totally unrelated level of period suck). I’d had my Diva Cup for about a year at this point, and I was totally in love with it.

      So it’s like, maybe day…three of my period? It was either right before or right after the MASSIVE GUSHING DAY but still pretty heavy. I went to the bathroom quick, took out my Diva Cup, turned it over to empty it…and it slipped right out of my hand, due to being all covered in fluid.

      I sat there for a second going “fuck fuck fuck what do I do?” and then decided to shift my vantage point and see if I could grab it out of the toilet.

      Except the toilets were the automatic flushing kind, the super industrial high powered ones. Bye bye, Diva Cup.

      I had to buy some ob tampons, which are like my best disposable option, and deal. But it sucked. I’m so glad I got a new one. :)

  17. in case anyone is hanging on the edge of their seat i finally got the hang of it and that’s all i’m going to say out of fear of going into the TMI section. but also i will add that it’s awesome. that’s it for real.

  18. A friend told me about cups a few years ago, but I kind of ignored her suggestion until now.

    My girlfriend has been using the Diva Cup for something like six years and has spoken very highly of them, so I decided recently to try it out.
    I did a little research and decided to get a Moon Cup as well as a Diva Cup to compare and find out which worked best for me (if at all).

    The Moon Cup came in the mail first, so it was first to be tested. It took me a few tries to get it in securely and in the right place. I was happy to learn that I could keep it in longer than a tampon, but was wary of leaking (it never has).
    The only problems I had with this was that the stem is a little long and tends to poke me, but the instructions say that you can trim it if need be. Also, the stem is just straight and slippery, which makes removal a bit difficult.

    During my next period I tried out my Diva Cup. At this point, I was much better at getting my cup in place, so I had no problems there. The stem on this one is much shorter than the Moon Cup and has little rings on it so I can grab it easier when I need to take it out.
    The Diva Cup’s CUP is actually a tiny bit longer than the Moon Cup, so it fits a little differently, but the easy removal makes this one my top pick of the two.

    Both are made of clear silicone and although each one costs about as much as three months’ worth of tampons, I know they’ll soon make up for the price.

    I live in the dorms on campus, so I have to deal with emptying and cleaning my cups in public. I’ve got a small pot that I can boil my Diva Cup in at the end of each period; I just use the kitchen on my floor and pretend like I’m cooking pasta or something.
    The Moon Cup isn’t supposed to be boiled, so I just have to wash it out REALLY well. Cleaning them in the shower is pretty convenient too.

    • You can boil any of the silicone cups, really, regardless of what the instructions say. Medical grade silicone can take an autoclave, so it can definitely deal with sitting in 100C water for a few minutes! ;)

    • you also don’t HAVE to boil any of them. as long as you scrub them really well, you’re good to go; the boiling is just an extra precaution and keeps them from getting too stained.

  19. When I started to use the diva cup, 8 years ago, lots of my friends thought it was gross. I use to care about what they though but for this little thing, I was like «whatever», it’s the most awesome invention ever.

    • I started around the same time frame, with the same reaction from some friends, but those friends were vaguely misogynist gay men who have never had a period before.

      • Mine were actually girls which was dissapointing but I guess ones relationship with their body is very personnal. For them, stiking their finger inside themself is gross, for me, feeling my interior is being sucked up by a bleached hyperabsorbant material is.

        I think this really shows how we are thought to be discussed about our body. I think the super-white-don’t-touch-anything-don’t-see anything-absorb-everything-tampons tends to encourage that.

  20. Additionally, you can buy a box of the Instead Cup in any drug store for like 8$. A box comes with 14 – so they are one time use only. So I mean, if you think you might want to use cups but don’t want to spend that much without knowing if you’ll like it, they’re an alternative to kind of give you a feel for it. So to speak.

    I don’t use them. It was quite an intimidating thing for me, putting them in. I’m just saying.

    • I would like to point out that Insteads fit in an entirely different way to reusable cups. They’re shaped completely differently and they sit in a different place. (I could never get them working, personally. Other people like them more than bell-shaped reusable cups. Different bodies!)

      I’ve also heard of people washing and reusing one Instead over the course of a cycle, which saves on money/garbage.

      Hey, Insteads should go on the Amazon store too ;)

  21. I was in my 20s before I ever used a tampon because I was so paranoid about toxic shock syndrome. Now, I like them though, they’re so convenient.

    Menstrual cups, not for me. I really don’t like blood, so the whole emptying and cleaning it thing would not go well (and I really don’t want to know how much I actually bleed). It makes me nauseous just to think about it.

  22. This is freeeeaky, I’ve become obsessive over alternative menstrual gear lately, (especially intrigued by the idea of cups) and was wondering what it’s actually really like to use them, since the only general advice out there is from the manufacturers… et voila! Thankyou!

  23. “We’re talking about a vagina band-aid.” LOVE YOU LAURA.

    also i’d like to recommend the shower as a place to insert/change the cup, at least as long as you have like a private one. although be warned that my period is pretty light so changing it only every 12-24 hours works for me.

  24. You guys. When I was 12 I read My Side Of The Mountain and I was SO INSPIRED to run away and live in the woods forever. The only catch was that I didn’t know WHAT THE FUCK I WAS GONNA DO ABOUT BLEEDING EVERY MONTH. Like, I was so distraught. THESE CUPS HAVE SOLVED ALL MY PROBLEMS! I’m going to live in a forest now. Kbye.

    • hah! I had that same fantasy, too, and I figured I’d just lie in a creek for a week or so. I actually started fantasizing about this, because I always found water soothing when having my period, plus I wouldn’t have to sit or stand or run (= leaking) and would probably not have cramps.
      that’s what I thought when I was, uhm, 12? never mind that it could get cold in the water or that my skin would have liked to say a thing or two about this theory…

  25. I just started using a Diva Cup about 4 days ago. A few of my closest friends at school use Diva Cups and I had been meaning to get one but I was nervous about it, and eventually one of them stood over my shoulder and got me to order one haha. I’m not gonna lie, using it the first day or 2 sucked. I was almost in tears trying to get it in the first time (mostly out of frustration). However, by the end of the 2nd or 3rd day I finally figured out how to get it in easily and a good method for taking it out (I was having a lot of trouble with the stem slipping out of my fingers). I definitely recommend it, it’s way more comfortable and I love not having to carry around tampons and figure out how many I’ll need for a day/remembering what time I put the last one in/etc. My biggest issue was with the girlyness of the pouch and the packaging and that stupid “diva” pin that comes with it haha.

    • the pouch bothered me too! so I sewed myself a new one out of ikea fabric that has mountains and snow and houses and goats on it. even if you’re not good with a sewing machine, it’s pretty easy. Or just buy a mouse-shaped pouch from etsy.

      • I use a Mooncup, not a Diva, but I got the shits with my pouch and got a new one, too!

        ‘Course, I went for the purple one with Hello Kittys all over it… ;)

  26. I have an odd question! How do you know when it’s full? Or will it just… leak and you know? =S

    • That’s not odd. Eventually you can just sort of tell. At first, you’ll be checking it often, etc., and you might get a leak or two since you don’t know how long it takes you to fill it, but after a bit you will know based on timing & feel

    • Depends on the person. For me, it’s a combination of knowing the timing with my body (trial and error!), the fact that on heavy/crampy days, a full cup makes me cramp like a mofo, and a bubbling sensation that precedes cup leakage. (Screw you, TMI!)

      It’s not a bad idea to wear a pad or liner as backup (cloth or disposable, your call) while you’re figuring things out. I actually wear cloth liners on my first couple of days because sometimes I can’t get to the toilet in time if I leak (or if a big clot comes through and RUINS EVERYTHING).

      • Oh thanks guys!
        I’m actually blessed (not!) to have mine currently, and I can’t stop hemorrhaging; I want to die. Part of me thinks I should just sit in the bathroom all day because it would save a lot of time and tampons.
        Oh and thanks AS; I’m now convinced I will get TSS =P
        Keeper cuppy thing ftw!

        • SERIOUS QUESTION: does anyone know anyone who’s ever gotten tss? I don’t think it’s real. It’s like huffing; they warn you about it in d.a.r.e. but no one actually huffs.

          • WAIT. i have a family member who huffed and she is for real fucked up now. like, actually brain damaged.

          • I’ve read those little inserts and I’m still not even sure what the hell TSS is or what it has to do with tampons, to tell you the truth. It’s all just kind of vague scary words and …something about bacteria? I don’t know, maybe the science has improved since the last time I looked at one.

          • My friend read one of those inserts when we were 16 and has not used tampons since because she is genuinely convinced the first time a tampon touches her vagina she will GET TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME AND DIE

          • from what i’ve heard about TSS, it isn’t a serious threat. It was a big deal with tampons years ago because someone decided to make tampons that you wouldn’t have to change for a whole week (gross?). Leaving a tampon in for more than eight hours greatly increases your risk. And your not supposed to use a higher absorbency than what you need.

            To actually answer your question, I think my aunt had it back in the 70s or 80s. Not severely, but it happened irl.

          • yeah, i was just gonna say something like that. men can get tss too. it’s not an ‘only tampon’ related thing.

        • I don’t know what your situation is, but if you get in good physical shape, it makes your period way less crazy.

          • i don’t think that’s true because i used to be a hardcore athlete and also sometimes my period makes me vomit/have to take the day off and lie in bed sweating and dying for hours.

          • For some people it can. For others, not so much. It’s worth a try, though, because I don’t think being in good physical shape ever HURT anyone! (Unless you fall off a bridge while running or something.)

          • True story: I participated in too many athletic activities in HS/college and thus went 9 months w/o a period.  My mom thought I was preggers (ha) and the obgyn put me on the BCP for years in order to “make it more regular.” Now I fear the long-term effects.  Nevertheless, I learned through clusterfuckery that moderation is key.

  27. I bought a mooncup almost a year ago now to take travelling with me and did not bring it because I had been too intimidated to try it yet and I didn’t think a developing country was the place to start. In retrospect this was a good decision.

    Seriously though, okay, I will try it now, because I find periods/tampons/deathcramps the most ludicrous fucking inconvenience and this does sound like it could help. (I seriously resent buying tampons like I cannot even tell you.) Laura’s thing about not having to boil them if you clean them really well is the most helpful, I had been really worried about having to buy and keep a specific pot and all that faff. So thank you!

    • They’re not great for travelling. I took mine to a festival this summer, and can honestly say that emptying it late at night without light over a long drop toilet was one of the most horrendous experiences of my life.

      • While I have yet to deal with the Dreaded Porta-Potty/Outhouse sitch, I couldn’t disagree more. Not having to find a place for half a bag of pads in my suitcase is worth the price of admission!

  28. My last period lasted five and a half weeks and was so heavy it made my [face] lips pale. It hasn’t come back in two months but when it does and is normal, i’ll be using the cup

  29. Dear the team,

    Much like Jennifer’s cousin, I’m a real goon when it comes to all this (i.e., my body, myself, etcetera) so I really appreciate your post. Thank you!

    Luv and stuff,

  30. My periods have been super heavy for ages, so I switched to tampons years ago because I had to deal with padshifting and at least if a tampon leaks that’s my own damn fault for not changing it fast enough. But I keep hearing good things about cups and now my interest is officially piqued – maybe even to the level of making purchases.

    Since we’re sharing, my period likes to do a slow, light start that makes it that much longer, followed by some moderate-heavy flow, then petering off for a couplefew days so just when I’ve switched to a lighter tampon/pad or, worse yet, decided it’s stopped, in comes the BLAM BLOOD EVERYWHERE HA HA BITCH BETTER LUCK NEXT MONTH.

    Both my uterus lining and hair hate me, but at least I can keep my hair cut short to keep it in line. Maybe these cups will finally quell my uterine rebellion?

    • This is another great thing about cups – there’s only one of them (usually – I do know of some people who have different sizes for different flows, but most people just have the one cup) and you can put it in when you have light/no blood. Yay!

  31. so in the spring i got the depo-provera shot because my period fucking kills me, was giving me additional digestive trouble (and when you’ve been on the BRAT diet for six months that is NOT INCONSIDERABLE), etc. and i started bleeding three days later.
    and then kept bleeding.
    and… bleeding

    so once i got to the point that my [non-facial] lips were actually chafing and skin was rubbing off (hey this is a TMI party, get over it), six weeks in or so, i said “FUCK IT IT’S TIME FOR A DIVA CUP” and then i was happy.
    it took me a while to figure out the putting in/leaking/taking out, etc., but oh lord so much better than tampons and pads.
    i bled for another seven weeks, but then i stopped bleeding, and left my mom’s ob/gyn the fuck behind (seriously you treat my mom on a regular basis how did you NOT REMEMBER THERE IS A FAMILY HISTORY OF OSTEOPOROSIS), went to a community clinic to get back on the patch, and didn’t bleed again until i moved in with new roommates and the pheromones attacked me.

    long story short: autostraddle, a contraceptive post would be awesome, particularly because i have never seen one that was not centered around “now that you’re fucking people who produce semen”

    • That sounds awful! :( I know a girl who used to get migraines with every period, so her doctor said, “You should go on Depo!” Result? MIGRAINES ALL THE TIME!

    • after my period went crazy, i went to the ob/gyn who did absolutely nothing but give me sonograms. the period took care of itself, and he found a cyst on my ovary, but said “i don’t want to do anything because i NEED to protect your fertility”, avoided the topic of birth control, and then he told me my kidneys looked like they were in bad shape. i’m not an expert on medical things, but WTF?

      anyways, ash, i second your proposition.

      • i just wanna say, provided your fertility is okay to begin with (and how do you know these things i don’t know), it’s not affected if an ovary is removed. which should be the worst case scenario anyway since they should be trying not to touch it when they remove a cyst. So that’s a pretty crappy reason if the cyst is actually causing crazy 5.5 week periods/possibly anemia.

      • That’s horrible :( I’d want my health and well-being to be protected above my possible fertility, personally. Good luck with your doctor.

  32. i’ve been using a diva cup for four-ish years now and it is an absolute miracle. i can actually forget i have my period for hours. have to admit i was totally freaked out at first by the idea of insertion and blood everywhere, but it wasn’t nearly as bad in practice as in my imagination. i encourage everyone to try it and keep trying until you’re comfortable with it. also, it made having my period on a nine day canoe trip, including 4 14-hour days in the car, totally bearable.


    I wait for anyone to bring up anything remotely period-related so I can talk about how much I love it. I wish someone had told me about these sooner.

  34. I’ve used a diva cup for the past 2 years, and it’s been one of the best purchases I’ve ever made! As a former O.B. user (I never understood the need for the “applicator” other brands have), the switch was kind of easy, and the amount of money I’ve saved as a result was a great bonus.

  35. I’ve never really had a problem with tampoons. However, my ex raves about her Diva all the time and, although the thought of it kind of grossed me out initially, I’m definitely getting to a place where I’m ready to try it. The main thing I’m worried about is the negativity around using public restrooms with it. I work 12/14 hour days sometimes and don’t want to have to worry about leaks/spillage/cleaning up fiascos when using a public restroom.

    • You could always go with the dual approach – cups on a day that you’re going to be at home/in a comfortable cup-changing place, tampons when you’ve got a long shift at work.

  36. I hate tampons and I LOVE MY MOONCUP.

    For me it solved the heavy flow problem, I used to flood chairs and beds with my niagara falls but the tampons hurt (they absorb everything, even natural lubrication) so I always had to be on the lookout for my staining power to unleash upon certain days.

    But with my mooncup, it feels very close to not having your period at all, because the blood does not go out, and I can go long hours without emptying it. Not to mention the money you save. Go Mooncup!

  37. I’ve been using a Diva cup for a couple of years now, and it’s great! I pair it with clothe pads, some I’ve made, and some I’ve bought from http://lunapads.com/. (They are a Canadian company). My diva cup has worked great on long car rides and long canoe trips (I wash it off with my water bottle).

  38. I absolutely love my sea sponges. They’re sold for far too much $ at health food stores, but can be bought at art supply stores for just a couple bucks and cut down to size. I only use them when my period is light and I’m not doing any real traveling. Using it means less of my $ goes to the TSS industry per month. They last for several months with proper care- and they must be kept super clean!

    Yes, I hafta deal with my own blood, but I have no problem there. I am uncomfortable with my partner’s dealing with my blood, but with a sponge in, external play with no tampon string in the way is totally OK! YAY!

    Sorry for rhyming…

  39. I have a Diva Cup and I love it more than my vibrator.

    My only problem with menstrual cups how my cycle works. I have 2 days of the Great Flood, 2 day off, and then about 4 days of light rain. Somewhere between days 3 and 7 I will forget that I’m wearing it, and not remember until a day later, and then discover this Putrid Blood Monster that has mutated inside my vagina. It’s seriously retch-worthy, and I probably do this at least every other cycle.

    Man I love oversharing!

  40. I have a Diva Cup and I love it more than my vibrator.

    My only problem with menstrual cups is due to how my cycle works. I have 2 days of the Great Flood, 2 day off, and then about 4 days of light rain. Somewhere between days 3 and 7 I will forget that I’m wearing it, and not remember until a day later, and then discover this Putrid Blood Monster that has mutated inside my vagina. It’s seriously retch-worthy, and I probably do this at least every other cycle.

    Man I love oversharing!

  41. I love my Diva Cup, but there always seems to be one point in my period when I revert back to tampons. For some reason or another — I’m always worried about the seal or I don’t think I can handle a Diva Cup and alcohol simultaneously or I’m in so much pain I don’t care about life or the earth, etc. I’m not totally confident in my Diva abilities. Also, this one time it ‘tipped’ when I was sleeping, which was horrifying and messy.

  42. No offense to the contributing writers or commenters but I wish to God I could unread this article and unknow forever what a mooncup is. If I had to empty a… and how do you even know when it’s full? Part of me feels guilty for not embracing graphic openness of this conversation since we are all women here but yeah, I just really need to be somewhere that’s else right now.

    • I am always perplexed by these reactions. Then again, there’s practically nothing I find to be truly disgusting.

    • I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but if it’s a phobia or visceral reaction or something like that, I think it’s totally cool to say, “Not for me.” Actually, the only reason you really need is, “I don’t wanna.” :)

  43. so, what was that about less cramps withouth tampons?
    just had the worst period of the last 5 or so years.

  44. i cant believe i didnt read this article earlier. I dated a girl once who used a cup, and i thought it was some hippie-granola-over-the-top thing. then, years later, i made plans to go to camping in joshua tree and got my period the day we were supposed to leave. there was no way i was going to go backpacking and have to carry around dirty tampons in a ziploc all week, so i frantically searched the city for a place to buy a diva cup.

    it worked like a charm – especially bc you can leave it in longer than a tampon and not have to worry about it leaking or giving you tss or being too dry when you take it out. plus, it is way more convenient than tampons and way cleaner – the blood is nice and contained and there’s no smell bc the blood never hits the air until you remove it. my friends / gf are still a little skeptical, and i admit it’s a little bizarre (ppl probably felt the same way when they first invented tampons), but im sold. best idea ever.

    oh and as for public restrooms – as long as there’s TP to clean up, youre good to go. oh, and if the paper doesnt work for clearing the holes at the top (so it can suction), stretching the cup and blowing air through does the trick too. wait, was that too much information?

  45. I have Lichen Sclerosis (a rare autoimmune condition affecting the vulval skin) and although it is now *fingers crossed* in remission, it has made my life a bit of a misery (seriously, google it). I can’t use pads or tampons anymore, and my Mooncup has saved my life. Before I bought it I was, I kid you not, just casually bleeding away into my pants.
    Because it was easier.

  46. I’ve heard of those cups. Unless you have a very steady hand and change it frequently when it’s not very full, it seems like the chance for spills and, just, grossness is high. Why do I want my hand going into my vagina when I’m on my period of all times? Ew. I want to keep awayyyyy from that area when Aunt Flo is in town. I use tampons with plastic applicators. Glide right in. Don’t feel them.

  47. Oh yeah and for all those who are like me and haven’t shoved anything up your vajayjay yet and are havin some trouble shoving the menstrual cup up there, here’s a tip for y’all-think of boobs.

  48. Dappled- I got diagnosed with Lichen Sclerosis at 7, and has thankfully (after 13 years) gone into remission too! I’m still super sensitive down there because of all the left-over damage (my clit is half numb scar tissue and half extremely painful- a nightmare for girlfriends to figure out), so any chemical-infused products like tampons or pads are horrible. I’m only on my first cycle on using my Diva Cup, but I’m loving it! I have sensitive skin all over, even shampoo makes my entire neck break out in an incredibly painful scaly rash.

    Working in medicine, I have zero problem with blood, but I can understand using a cup could definitely be an issue for the squeamish. My period makes it’s own schedule, although it’s usually between 35 and 45 days, so it’s going to be great to just be able to leave the diva cup in, instead of using tampons for several days ahead of time and feeling like I’m ripping my insides out when I remove them.

    I also get horrible cramps, and they seem to be slightly less with the diva cup. That’s actually how I first decided to get it…I came across an article saying that the chemicals in pads and tampons can heighten the pain.

    I figured while I was at it, I might as well go in for the whole deal, so I bought some cloth pads too, as well as underwear that have a thicker liner (which is fantastic, since I always wear thongs, which don’t exactly work with pads and I was slightly nervous about leakage with the diva cup).

  49. I ADORE my LunaPads! I’ve been using them for about a year, and I will NEVER go back to the dark side! The only issue I’ve had is that they can be a bit sweaty.

  50. I would totally be into making my own pads (because for one thing it would be hilarious to see some of my friends reactions) but I’ve just got too used to tampons. Plus, pads aren’t that great when you have an ‘active lifestyle’ and doing parkour(free-running) with a pad or a cup seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

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