Before the age of 19, almost all I knew about menstruation came from a) sex ed classes in public school and b) my mother. It was not all bad – both taught that menstruation was a natural biological process without any inherently positive or negative value. Teaching us how to use disposables was better than not teaching us anything. But I really, REALLY wish they had taught me about other options.
I choose pads because I did not want cotton/plastic objects spending extended periods of time inside my body. Not that my body liked disposable pads either. I got rashes all of the time. But the worst thing was that I had to get them, soil them, and throw them out. Bad to the environment coming in, bad to the environment going out. It made me feel horrible about myself that I had to be tied to the industrial trashing machine in such an intimate way. I knew that people menstruated long before the industrial trashing machine existed, but according to sex-ed and my mother, the industrial trashing machine was my only option.
It was my dad of all people who broke me out of this. My dad read something about menstrual cups, and he suggested that I could try it.
At first, I rejected the menstrual cup. It goes inside the vagina, which is scary enough to many menstruators who have lots of experience putting things in their vagina (including my mother – she said that it looked scary when she saw one, and my mother has had me come through her vagina). It was even more scary to me, having never had any object inside her vagina. But that suggestion made me research alternatives … and I discovered cloth pads.
Me and cloth pads were love at first touch. Far fewer rashes. Instead of relying on the ‘feminine care’ aisle, I became self-reliant. Instead of pouring my personal fluids into plastic thrown in the trash, I watched the pretty patterns the blood would form as I washed my pretty pads by hand.
I reconsidered the cup when I knew I was going abroad. Well … I went for it. It was painful and rough for the first couple months, but its painless now. And I learned a lot. For example, just as hair, feet, butts, noses, etc. come in different shapes and sizes … so do vaginas. Is this common knowledge among people who use their vaginas for sexual purposes, or is this just among cup users? I found my vagina had a very different shape than I had imagined, so that was cool.
My vagina, alas, does not allow for a complete seal, so I still need my cloth pads … but the cup does the heavy lifting these days, and it cuts down on the time I spend hand-washing. And I can now do useful things with the blood, like fertilize plants.
Menstrual alternatives are beautiful. Every menstruator should know about them.