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Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Alternative Menstrual Products

Secretdiaryofacallgirl

Does the title of this post have you scratching your head? Well, just hear me out...

Guys and other non-menstruating types might find this a little uncomfortable, but I invite you to read anyway and gain some interesting information.

In the episode that aired two Sundays ago, Belle shows up for a job at a hotel. She meets her protege Bambi there and Bambi has some bad news: she's just gotten her period and, from what I can gather, she only has tampons on hand. This is obviously not a situation conducive to her profession.

Bambi suggests that they have another girl come in her place but the client will be there in just a few minutes. Belle thinks quickly, grabs a sponge from the maid's cart, rips a piece off and hands it to Bambi.

I don't know about using such an industrial sponge. It seems likely that it might be treated with chemicals that are too harsh for such a sensitive place, but I was excited to see alternative menstrual products featured on a relatively mainstream platform.

See, about five years ago I started hearing about such products and became curious about menstrual cups, sea sponges, and reusable pads. The cups piqued my interest the most. I initially tried Instead Cups, which were a disaster, but became more interested in something called the Keeper. It's a small cup made out of natural gum rubber that you wear inside of your vagina, near your cervix. The cup collects blood and every few hours (or as needed), you empty the contents of the cup, rinse it clean, and re-insert it. The cup lasts 10 years.

At around $35, the Keeper is a larger investment up front than buying a box of tampons. But I ordered one anyway. It paid for itself within two months.

Initially, I did have to adjust to getting the knack of insertion and knowing when it felt "right." I also had to contend with emptying the cup while at work. I was nervous about someone seeing me with the cup on my way to the sink, noticing that it had blood on it and thinking that I was weird or gross. But I came to realize several things:

1) If someone, especially a woman, thinks I'm weird or gross because I come into contact with my blood, that's really more her problem than mine. I'm not forcing it on anyone and I'm not doing anything psychotic like dumping the cup's contents on anyone's head.

2) I am, in fact, in a bathroom and have rights to some privacy. My fellow bathroom visitors really aren't within their rights to inspect what exactly I'm doing.

3) I genuinely like using the cup waaaaay more than I ever did using disposable products. Tampons dried me out. Pads always felt like diapers, even the super thin ones. Also, I never have to worry about having enough gear.

4) I'm not creating any garbage. Seriously, think about how much garbage you create over your menstruating years by using disposable products and multiply that by the number of women who use them. Frightening shit, no?

5) There's some evidence that the chemicals used in creating tampons can be harmful to the vagina and that tampon residue can cause nasty build up.

Now, before you dismiss me as some dirty hippie, let me tell you that I am not. I hate jam bands and sandals and patchouli. I'm not committed to any kind of natural lifestyle, though I do try to make more conscientious choices now that it's pretty clear that our planet is somewhat fucked.

I'm also not using MamaPop as a platform to preach to you or shill products. But it was an interesting convergence of pop culture and alternative products and by pointing it out we recognize that we have more choices.

Any questions? ;-)

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Comments

steff

this is a great post and i like your view on this issue. ill admit im not completely sure i understand the physics behind a cup or the keeper but my interest is definitely piqued! i hate to think that a lifetime of my own junk and detritus (blech) is somehow causing our planet to turn to shit and even worse knowing that im just a tiny part of the problem. thanks for the info!

Sils

I use a Diva Cup, which is similar to the Keeper. It's made of medical grade silicon, which is great for me because I have a latex allergy and most sanitary napkins have latex in their adhesive. (Not to get too, too graphic - but often, if the pad slipped a little and exposed adhesive I would get what looked like large burns on my inner thighs from exposure.)

Anywho, I got my Diva cup almost 3 years ago and I LOVE it. It took a while to get used to inserting it and removing it, but I usually can leave it in for the day while I'm at work and wash it out when I get home at night. When I did clean it at work I simply wiped it out with some toilet paper, in the stall, and flushed the paper. No one was any the wiser.

I love that I'm saving money and helping the environment. Oh, and not getting blisters in sensitive areas that sometimes touch fabric is pretty great, too. -- Also, I found out a surprising number of my friends use menstral cups after I started. My family doesn't care for my product endorsements very much, but I've brought a few friends over to the cup side.

Snarky Amber

Dude, I so wish I could use the Keeper, but it's not recommended for IUD users, because of the suction. Still, the sea sponge is a definite possibility to consider. You have an excellent point about the waste associated with menstrual products, especially when, if you're like me, you spend half the month spotting and spend buckets of money on pantyliners.

I think I may need to add the word "pantyliners" to the gross-sounding word list next to "moist" and "douche".

Hilary

I have been curious about the Keeper in particular for a long time. Maybe it's time I just order one? As a belated V-Day gift to myself?! Maybe I will!

Questions:
Does it hurt? Will it fall out? Does it- excuse the graphic nature_ over-flow? Can you sleep with it in? Those are the concerns that have prevented me from purchasing it in the past. Thanks for sharing!

eaumaison

I switched to the Instead cup after researching alternative products on the internet. I love Insteads because they're still disposable, so I can toss it in the stall trash without rinsing and re-using (doing this with sponges grossed me out).

I love using a cup because
1) I can't feel it. I seriously forget that I'm on my period.
2) I stay naturally moist - no drying out or tearing!
3) You can wear them up to twelve hours, so after my first day of period I only have to change my junk once in the AM and once in the PM.

They cost a wee bit more than tampons, but I have decided that that's one area not worth buying the cheapest thing out there.

I wish I'd know cups were an option earlier in my life, and I was only 22 when I made the switch!

michele

fantastic! you make many a valid point. it is extremely fascinating that this show touched on this topic, even if it was a bit...unrealistic. you would think those girls would have to schedule around those times each month, no? i am going to check out the Keeper!

michele

sorry, just watched, clip--it is "unprofessional" to not schedule around it! love it.

Amy H

Where am I?

This topic, while totally new to me and therefore interesting, is definitely not what I am used to around here.

I have to admit it was a little awkward reading this entry. Of course, now that I know something about this product I am interested to hear more. So comment on, folks!

Maxine Dangerous

Cloth pads are the bomb! I've not picked up a Diva Cup or Keeper yet, but have a number of friends who use them and love them. The writing/voice on MamaPop has really changed over the past year; I'm glad to see these kinds of entries. Dirty hippies unite! :D

ivymae

I can't stand any kind of insertable (they make my jaw hurt, which sounds weird but I've been told is actually not so uncommon, since nerves are crazy little buggers) so I've been using cloth pads for years. Luna pads are popular, or check out etsy for so many different styles.

kdiddy

Hilary, good questions. A cup does not hurt. If you've used tampons, you'll know that you've inserted it correctly if you can't feel it. Same thing with a cup. If you don't have it high enough, you'll feel it, and while it won't hurt, it's definitely uncomfortable and you will be compelled to adjust it right away.
A cup can't really fall out. The muscles in your vaginal wall and a small amount of suction (very small amount, you really can't feel it) keep the cup firmly in place. When you're ready to remove it, you give the cup a little squeeze to break the suction.
It can overflow or leak a little if you're not mindful of how long it's been since you've emptied it last. I have a pretty heavy flow the first two days, so I just stick to a guideline of going to the bathroom every two hours just to be safe. I also have some reusable cloth pads that I wear on those days as back up.
You can definitely sleep with it in, just like you can with tampons.
You can not, obviously, have vaginal intercourse with the Keeper or the Diva Cup in place. However, some alternative products allow this, like the sponge and the Instead Cup.

jonniker

I had an epic blog comment section a few years ago that it STILL LINKED by menstrual forums (yes, there is totally such a thing, I KNOW) all over the place about this very topic.

I use The Keeper. Everyone says that it's the same as the Moon Cup, except for aesthetics (it's brown natural rubber vs. Moon's silicone), but it isn't. It fits me quite differently, and never leaks unless it's full, unlike the goddamn Moon Cup, which is flimsy and hard to fit. It's much firmer, so it stays in place better, for me.

(Warning: graphic-ish menstrual content ahead) Hillary -- to add to what KDiddy already said, I'll say that if you are of the ... clotting ... sort (which I am), then you will be MUCH more apt to have it overflow quickly and without warning. One biggish clot can send that sucker right over the edge, and it does NOT do well with them. Now, mind you, this is not enough to make me dislike it or not want to use it anymore, but it's something I had to learn and be aware of.

Clots can take "leaking a little" to proportions unlike anything you've ever seen in a cup vs. a tampon, so if this is you, you MUST be vigilant until you've figured out how your body works with it. With a tampon, the clot will just sort of hang out there, while the tampon absorbs the other junk. In a cup, it actually takes up precious volume, which leads to some seriously horrid accidents, because the whole thing only has a one-ounce capacity.

(Accidents which, I might add, have caused me to run to Target in the middle of a workday for new pants.)

I will say that if you like the idea of a cup, shop around. I've tried the Moon Cup, The Keeper AND the Diva, and settled on the Keeper. Yes, it's brown and yes, I shelled out $60 over the course of a few months, but I'm telling you, not buying tampons -- or worrying if I have them, or have them in the house -- is the best! thing! ever!

palinode

Ah, you crazy folks, with your tampons and your cups and your electricity-powered toasters. I just can't keep up.

Sarah

Ok yall seem to have this pretty covered but here's my question for the group, you all said the cup products didn't hurt but I'll throw this one out here. (TMI coming up) I'm a virgin and waiting until marriage (and no I'm not completely innocent and let's not open that whole debate over to wait or not to wait here), my question is are these products easier to use if you have had or are having sex? I sometimes use the ultra slim tampons and even those are not fully comfortable to me (even my obgyn makes fun of me for my body being this way saying it might be easier if I would "get a boyfriend and do something"....I like her anyways) SO my question I guess is would these be a problem for someone like me?

Sarah

Oh and another thing to consider, I'm one of those that has a backwards tilt to my cervix (something else that makes drs visits real fun but hey "It'll be real easy for you to get pregnant"). Would that be something that would affect the comfort or usefullness of any of these products?

Dee

Sarah,

I have a tilted cervix, and I've used a Diva Cup for more than 2 years with no problems. I have an extremely heavy flow on the first two days, so if it works for me under those circumstances, it will probably work for you.

As to the virginity issue, I don't know about the other brands, but Diva Cup comes in two sizes. The smaller size is intended for women under 30 who have never given birth, so it fit. I am not all that hopeful, however, given that the cups are definitely much larger in diameter than an ultra-slim tampon. I suspect you would probably find them too large to insert.

sils

Sarah, I have similar issues w/ my dr even though I'm sexually active. You might be all right since you're more likely to "unclench" when you're on your own and less nervous.

Irma

I have been thinking about a Diva Cup for a while, but I didn't realize they weren't recommended for IUD users like me. Hmm...more research needed I guess!

DebiDebi

I have been checking into the whole IUD/Keeper thing and so far it's looking like it's ok just check with your Gyno. I am going to try it out! I just grossed my husband out, he had to ask what I was reading. ha ha ha ha

Hilary

KDiddy and Jonniker: Thanks so much for answering my questions! I think it's time I made the switch.

tadpoledrain

Diva Cup = best. thing. ever.

If you're new to this type of thing and it doesn't feel right at first, give it a while. And by a while, I mean like six months. At first I had a hard time with it, and I could always sort of feel it, and it was hard to insert preperly, and I almost gave up. But a after a few months the problems disappeared, and now I am so so so happy I made the switch.

Laurie

Okay, I'm confused. I had a Diva Cup and when it worked it worked great and I loved it. But when it didn't it was a pain in the ass. And it always seemed to vary from month to month if it would work or not. Then I read on the website it needed to be replaced every year. I gave up. Now I have an IUD so it's a moot point but could someone clarify how long you're supposed to use those sucker before replacing?

Tricina

Like everyone else, here, I totally have an opinion. I used the Keeper for years and then one day, on a whim, ordered the Diva Cup because I'd heard it was a bit smaller in length. I'd also heard that the MoonCup (from the UK) was a bit longer than the Keeper. I found the Diva Cup to be even more comfortable than the Keeper, and I had always thought the Keeper was pretty darn comfy. So, just as a little take-it-from-me, don't be afraid to shop around and try out one of the other brands. We're all shaped differently, so it only seems logical that we all might need different-shaped cups.

Mers

Just wanted to chime in with a "me too" comment. I've used the keeper for around 10 years and love it! I've owned two. (I lost the first one. I can only imagine what the finder thought when they opened the cloth drawstring bag and found it inside.) I do occasionally have minor issues with leakage (especially when getting up in the morning during a heavy flow time - I sometimes have to sprint to the bathroom) but that's usually because I've forgotten that I had it in.

Not Likely

Excuse me, but EEEW! I brush my teeth, reapply makeup and wash my hands at that sink where you're dumping your menstrual remnants. Use it at home, by all means, but spare us at the office, mkay?

Miss P

I've used the Diva Cup for a year now. I never leave home without it as I am very irregular on my periods. It has saved my life lots of times. I love it so much there are no words to express it.
I dont care If people think im going all hippie and grass lover on them, I will ever use it until menopause. Period.

Heather

I'm going to chime in here and say that Jonniker's advice is spot on. I love my Keeper - I've had it for over four years now - but clotting means I do need to check it quite frequently the first couple of days of my cycle. I'm definitely going to look into cloth pads as a backup.

I am so grateful to be saving waste and money with this method, and I do find the vaginal walls are noticeably less dry than with tampon use. I highly recommend trying it out.

Elizabeth

Okay, alternative menstrual products, great, but um, SHE RIPPED A PIECE OFF A SPONGE ON A HOTEL MAID'S CART AND SUGGESTED SOMEONE PUT IT IN THEIR VAGINA? Instead of just, you know, NOT HAVING SEX? I'm missing the point here I'm afraid.




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