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Menstrual Cups Might Be The Answer To Your Period Woes

Menses are messy but how you handle them doesn't have to be.

Women's Health

I've had plenty of names for menstruation, each one more fitting than the last—my favorite being a Game of Thrones reference—the red wedding. And sometimes Aunt Flo is an utter b*tch, especially when I don't have birth control to keep my hot headed cramps at bay.

The only thing worse than Aunt Flo herself is the astronomical taxing of feminine hygiene products—better known as the pink tax. We don't talk nearly enough about how it affects low income women or women in prison. In fact, it wasn't all that long ago that a state rep in Maine suggested that by providing an adequate supply of feminine hygiene products, it would make prison like a country club.

I say to you in my best early 2000s crunk rapper voice, haaaan?

Well, I guess he's accurate in that sadly because this is a man's world forgoing free bleeding all over yourself has become a privilege much like a country club. As someone who has admittedly been caught stealing tampons in hardship and have in recent years foregone menstrual hygiene products for the better part of my period unless I luck up and find an old one lying around the house—I can tell you that not bleeding on yourself is not a feeling next to being admitted to a country club. It's quite literally as simple as feeling good about yourself in the most basic ways, feeling clean, and shame-free.

It's feeling carefree because you're not spending the days leading up to your period worrying about whether or not the red wedding is going to hit hard, killing all your panties in the process. I hadn't felt that in a long time because my months have been dedicated to picking and choosing what bills I will foot. Menstrual hygiene has not been one. I had been leaving my tampons in all day just to ration out the intermittent use of pads and tampons.

This, of course, also led my vagina to feel like it was on its deathbed as tampons are not meant to be in the vagina for that length of time.

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Fortunately, in 2020, the options to go green is steadfast in every industry marketing products. So I started to do the research by my own accord of what it means to go green (i.e. saving my money) and I decided to give recyclable menstrual cups a try...again.

(I tried one once and I spent a great deal of time flipping shit and pinching my labia minora in a panicked effort to retrieve it.)

This time, I tried out three different brands: Bloody Buddy, Lena, and Lunette cups. And this time, I fell in love.

What You Need To Know About The Menstrual Cup + Reviews

You should know that menstrual cups are made from medical-grade silicone that are placed in the vagina in to catch Aunt Flo when she begins to fall, it can stay for up to 12 hours of her visit before you need to remove, empty, and rinse/wash.

Most brands size their cups based on lite or heavy flows, but some will ask you to take into account matters such as whether you've bore a child and others will ask you to consider how your cervix sits. I highly recommend reading up on these things before selecting a brand that works for you.

1. Bloody Buddy (two-pack), $26.99

Amazon

I wanted this menstrual cup to be my fave because (hello) the name is, and don't get me wrong they were incredible—they just weren't for a newbie like me quite yet. Partially because I hadn't read up on soft cups versus hard cups prior to me troubleshooting on the toilet. After every insertion, I had this weird feeling when I was walking, like the little tether string was constantly rubbing up against my labia minora in a weird, friction-causing way. Assuming I hadn't fully inserted it, I went through the motions galloping through my hall in a side squat, taking my boots off to get up in there and rework the cup. It felt a lot like trying to jump into my jeans that barely fit. Although, eventually I was able to get it adjusted, it took a lot of footwork which wasn't conducive to my work day or productivity on any given day.

Regardless of the weird feeling I was having, I'm happy to report that I was leak-free with the Bloody Buddy. Not to mention, unlike many other brands, this one comes with two cups in each pack...periodt...and for a damn good price (the price of one through other brands), might I add. And even though the price varies by color, it wasn't a major tipping point as far as prices go.

Shop the Bloody Buddy 2-pack here.

2. Lena (two-pack), $39.90

Amazon

These menstrual cups were ready for anything and easy to use just like their marketing as the "best beginner" cup suggested. My guess was that Lena cups were hard (hard cups, that is) due to how easy it was to place, as it reformed into an 'O' as soon as I inserted it. Most videos I found suggested rotating the cup after you've inserted it and so I did this with each cup to ensure that it was sealed properly, however, Lena was the only one that felt easy to rotate, only requiring the quick swirl of my index finger.

Lena was so easy and comfortable that I forgot I was wearing it and unlike tampons, there wasn't that irrational albeit urgent fear of toxins culminating in your vagina. I didn't have to lie in my bed and dig in my crotch and I appreciated that.

Price-wise they are pretty steep by comparison to the others. Nonetheless, the price point is so worth it when you consider that you can fund a good chunk of Aunt Flo's first year of college education with the money you spend buying tampons and other unrecyclable feminine hygiene products. They also don't charge you based on color preference, as it's likely included in the upfront cost. And lastly, it's easy insertion makes it well worth it.

Shop Lena Menstrual Cup here.

3. Lunette (single pack), $26.99

Amazon

While the Lunette menstrual cup got the short end of the stick as it didn't get to make its appearance until the last day of menstruation, it was still put to the test, especially because I knew what to look for with the cup.

I quickly discovered that these cups were of a softer variety, as well, making it difficult to expand once in my vagina. However, these were a bit easier than Bloody Buddy when it came down to adjusting them in order for it to fit properly. I had minimal issue with inserting my finger to shift the cup.

It can't go without being said: Off-top, I loved Lunette for having wipes to go with my cup and sanitizer. Despite YouTube video after YouTube video saying that while you can boil your cup to sanitize it in between cycles, you can wipe it with tissue or rinse it on the day-to-day of your menstruation—I was not fond of the former method. All I could envision is tissue residue stuck to my cup and thus internally floating in my vaginal canal. I enjoyed being able to thoroughly wipe my cup down after each 12-hour window and it was appreciated.

Shop Lunette Reusable Menstrual Cup here.

How It’s Going Down

Many of the products ask for you to account for a learning gap when it concerns leaking, but fortunately for me that wasn't something that I experienced. That could be due to the research I conducted prior to trying or the fact that my period is fairly light with the inclusion of my birth control. Either way, I suggest doing some additional research, plus giving your menstrual cup a trial run prior to your period.

How you fold impacts how smoothly your insertion process goes, and thus, the leakage you experience. Through YouTube reviews, I found that my favorite folds were the tulip/push down method and the seven fold—the seven became the ultimate with a little work on my grip and by little I mean my hands are a bit on the small side, so I had to remember to apply pressure to hold it down prior to inserting it into my vagina.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our weekly newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

10 Of The Absolute Best Period Hacks

The Truth About Period Sex

I Tried CBD Products For Period Cramps, Here's What Happened

Men Admit Period Sex Is Not A Turn Off

Originally published on May 8, 2019

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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