By: Lisa Lai
*This post is not sponsored.
Uncomfortable with a lumpy pad? Anxious about the whereabouts of your tampon up there? Tired of changing your menstrual product every couple of hours? Yeah, me too. That’s why I looked into some alternatives like period underwear, cloth pads, and– oh, this one caught my immediate attention– menstrual cups.
Menstrual cups have been circulating around since the 1930s but were not officially publicized until 1987, when The Keeper, made out of latex rubber, was introduced. Nowadays, though cups like The Keeper are still made from rubber, most cups are made of medical grade silicone for their flexibility, hypoallergenic, and hardwearing purposes. As such, they are reusable and have a life of about ten years before necessary replacement. Cups today are still relatively unknown, as they only tend to circulate around social media rather than on mainstream television. Pads and tampons, on the other hand, though they both have circulated around the same time as menstrual cups, have received more attention, as they are apparently easier to sell because of their disposability. Fun fact: In 1985, Courtney Cox made history as she uttered the word “period” for the first time on national television, making her partnership with Tampax the first recognized period commercial. How cool is that? Crossing my fingers that history can be changed again with a widely publicized menstrual cup commercial! Just saying.
I’ve always been hesitant to try out a menstrual cup myself, just because “What if I can’t get it out?” and “What if I get an infection?” dominate my “But it is less trash” and “It saves me money” thoughts. Ultimately, I did some research and jotted down a quick pros-and-cons table for myself. If the pros outweigh my cons, I would get a menstrual cup.
My pros outweigh my cons 7-4. Okay, it looks like I’m getting a menstrual cup. But the cons…
It turns out I did not need to worry at all; there are many different solutions, as outlined in a Menstrual Cup FAQ:
And for those who are allergic to latex or silicone, there are cups that are made of natural rubber like The Keeper, as well as some made of Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE), which do not contain silicone, rubber, latex, Bisphenols (BPA/BPS), or heavy metals, like The Hello Cup, that you will still be able to use safely and comfortably.
Another concern regarding the insertion of menstrual cups is how it affects virginity. Cups in fact do not affect virginity, as virginity can only be lost during sex. That said however, menstrual cups can “break” or stretch the hymen, which is still sometimes thought to be a physical, valid indication of virginity. In truth, the hymen does not prove sexual activity or the “innocence” and “purity” of someone with a vagina– Healthline sets this myth about hymens straight in their article here. Menstrual cups are just one of the many ways that hymens might stretch, just like dancing, riding a bike, or using a tampon. And just like using a tampon as another tool to care for your reproductive health, menstrual cups, in short, will not “pop your cherry.” Feel free to refer to Rubycup’s article about virginity and menstrual cups for more information.
Now, the next question in my cup quest is… which cup do I choose?
I took The Menstrual Cup Quiz and I was offered the Lunette Period Cup. I haven’t ever heard of this brand before; in fact, up until I decided to try a menstrual cup, I had only heard of The DivaCup on social media. This led me to ask: Why aren’t menstrual cups, or even other period products for that matter, advertised openly in the mainstream?
A representative of Lunette had this to say: “With a taboo product […] it pays to hold [advertising] back a bit because otherwise you could be shot down.” This does not sit well with me– why would periods– something completely natural, something we have no control over– and period collection methods be silenced? We have no control over our bodily fluids, yet we are taught to hide it, as if by hiding it, what naturally flows out of us would disappear or go away. Maia Schwartz sums it up nicely: “Menstrual blood is the only blood which isn’t born out of violence, yet it is the only one that disgusts you the most.”
There is significant harm in this culture of stigma around periods. Firstly and most obviously, many young menstruators, especially those experiencing periods for the first time, will not only be unsure of how to manage their menstruation, but they also will not know what or who to turn to for help– not everybody is comfortable with using the typical tampon or pad methods. My high school self definitely would have opted for other collection methods had I had then known about them. Along that same note, not everybody who menstruates is a woman. Because there is an assumption that folks who menstruate are (young) women– and it does not help that existing period advertisements frequently only show athletic women using pads or tampons– the talk about periods leave out some communities. There are, for instance, non-binary and transitioning people, as well as some men who menstruate and some women who do not. And then there are some communities that are neglected in their need for period products in the mainstream as well, like those incarcerated or in shelters. No matter which communities people belong to, silence around periods benefits no one.
However, nowadays, there is more awareness about inclusivity for all menstruators; brands like UltuCup promote their gender neutrality, while advertisements (see Bodyform’s Blood Normal) have recently taken a turn for the realistic, using red liquid to not only educate and advertise, but to also redefine and revolutionize period culture. (What a vast difference from Cox’s 1985 commercial!) Shelters, clinics, and other non-profit organizations strive to uplift and advocate for marginalized communities needing period products. In fact, organizations like Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters have been instrumental in promoting menstrual equity and passing legislation that would allow menstruators in shelters access to menstrual products free of charge. Additionally, as more and more news circulate online, communities and websites have videos or interactive activities to help with things like locating and measuring your cervix, tracking your period and other discharge, or, like in my case, finding the ideal menstrual cup.
I remember I used to feel anxious hearing my pad ripping echo in a public bathroom. (“Are you eating chips in there?”) While I now am more comfortable with myself and talking about reproductive health in general, it is time for a new change for me and a Lunette seems to be the way to go. There’s something almost liberating in both talking unashamedly about periods and deciding to try out different period products. Thumbs up for menstrual cups! Or should I say–
Thumbs cup! 👍 👍 👍
Choosing Your Menstrual Cup: https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/menstrual-cup-comparison#1
Menstrual Cup Size Comparison Chart: https://putacupinit.com/chart/
Learn to Insert A Menstrual Cup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9fPUfm-uYE
The Life Cycle of Your Menstrual Cup: Menstrual Cup FAQ (& Some Not So Frequently Asked Questions)
Using Inclusive Language: https://periodpositive.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/queeriods-lgbt-stem-poster-feb-2016.pdf