This post asks questions to women who use the Diva cup, and I cannot resist answering them! Warning: this post contains gratuitous TMI re: menstruation.
I like the Diva cup because it’s reusable, environmentally-friendly, and feels cleaner. When I have a pad on, I’m basically sitting in a pool of blood (ew!), plus pads are kind of scratchy. Theoretically, tampons would solve this problem too but I don’t use them—there’s something I just can’t stand about stuffing myself with a cylinder of hardened cotton.
I think one of the reasons the Diva cup works for me is my periods are fairly light. I only have to empty it about four times a day.
Here’s the questions!
“1. How do you pull it out without inciting a bloodbath?
It’s a tiny goblet full of blood and uterine lining. You’re tugging it out of your vagina. How is this not spilling all over the bathroom and your body and your clothes? How do we not have a Carrie situation on our hands? I know you’re going to say that normally doesn’t happen, but what if it does? What if you’re not at home when it does? It’s one thing to have my tampon leak on my underwear a little, it’s another to have collected the entire 12 hours of menstruation in a little keepsake chalice.”
I’ve never gotten a bloodbath. I pull it out while squatting over the toilet so when blood falls, it only falls into the toilet. Obviously don’t pull it out when you’re at a random non-toilet location. I think the only reason you could get a bloodbath is if you’re being exceptionally careless. Perhaps don’t use a Diva cup if you’re planning on getting heavily intoxicated?
“2. What happens when it fills up?
The DivaCup is promising me 12 hours of leak-free protection. What happens in the 13th hour? If I wear a tampon too long, the string gets bloody, and there’s a tiny stain in my underwear. Hopefully it hasn’t gone through the cotton lining and onto the nylon outer part, but if it does I’m wearing my stained period briefs anyway, no big deal. I am picturing a champagne fountain, except there is no tier to catch the champagne after the top tier and it’s not champagne, it’s blood.”
Well, definitely don’t leave it in for 12 hours without checking it. You should really check on it every four hours, or if you’re bleeding heavily, maybe even more often than that. I know my own period and I’ve never let the cup fill all the way full. I suppose if it filled all the way up, it would leak, yeah.
“3. What the hell is going on in the public bathroom?
So you go to the public bathroom stall, you take your DivaCup out, you dump it in the toilet. Then what? You need to wash it, right? So you’re going out to the sink with your dirty cup. What’s the cleanliness situation of your hand right now when you open the stall door? And now you’re out at the sink and there’s a lady in a St. John knit suit fixing her lipstick on one side of you and a granny lathering up on the other. You’re washing your bloody cup out there under the fluorescent lights and everyone’s cool with it? Then back into the stall for reinsertion? Are your co-workers wondering where you are by now? Haven’t you missed your flight?”
Most of the time, public bathrooms are fine for me. Every day at work I check my cup once at lunch time. When you’re in a public bathroom, you can just dump the cup out and then wipe it with some toilet paper and put it back in. I always wash it in the morning and then when I get home. I did drop my cup into the toilet once. I’ve been using it for several years now and only that one time did I drop it. That was a really horrible experience! I had to fish it out of the toilet and put on a pad and wash the cup in the sink and then put it away in my purse for the rest of the day so I could boil it once I was at home. Of course, I reported this to one of my feminist Facebook groups with the hashtag #cisprivilege. Honestly, it’s rare to drop it, just grip it firmly.
“4. What is going on with your fingernails?
I know I’m harping a lot on “Ew, blood” and my own squeamishness, but I am concerned about the state of your nails after you’ve been handling a cup o’ blood. Do you carry a nail brush with you? I heard once that the way people get sick at the gym is that germs enter their bodies through the cuticles. What’s up with your cuticles right now?”
This is no problem for me, since lesbians have short fingernails. 🙂 But seriously, no, I don’t get blood under my nails. If your nails are that long, cut them!
“5. What’s in the cup?
No explanation needed. Ratio of solid to liquid? I know it’s kind of gory, but I really want to know.”
Well, mostly blood, and some blood clots, and some gelatinous stuff.
“6. Is this thing going in the dishwasher?
I once ran my toilet plunger through the dishwasher and a germ-savvy friend advised me to throw out my dishwasher. This is probably more of a question about dishwashers and how clean they’re actually getting my dishes and whether or not one thing in the dishwasher (say, a bloody cup) can contaminate the other stuff in the dishwasher (say, a salad spinner). I would like to know, however, if you are, per manufacturer instructions, removing debris from the cup’s seal-creating holes with a toothpick. Admit that’s a bridge too far.”
Who puts their Diva cup in the dishwasher? I live in a rental apartment and I don’t have a dishwasher, but even if I did, I would not put my Diva cup in it. I wash it in the sink by hand, and I boil it in a saucepan to disinfect it. I’ve never used a toothpick to clean the little holes. When I notice stuff in the holes I just kind of stretch it a bit while washing it.
“7. What about the smell?
The DivaCup website addresses this: “Menstrual flow only begins to develop an odor when it is exposed to air.” (Huh! Who knew?) “As The DivaCup is worn internally, your days of worrying about period odor are over. Menstrual fluid on tampons and pads is exposed to air which creates odor throughout the day.”
There seems to be a crucial step missing from this explanation. Isn’t the blood getting exposed to the air when you spill it or it overflows? And I get you about pads, Francine Chambers, co-founder of Diva International, that’s a stinky situation I’m only courting on those days I’m staying home all day, and I just can’t bear to put in another tampon because it feels like my entire body is convulsing with every uterine contraction.
But I am not exposing my bloody tampon to the air. It’s going down the toilet. And now is when I confess I know that I’m really not supposed to flush the tampon even though the box says I can, but I do it, I flush tampons. I am that person who you think about every time you see a sign in a public bathroom that says “Don’t put anything but waste and toilet paper in the toilet” and you think what A-hole is putting paper towels in the toilet? Yeah, it’s me. I’m the reason for those signs, a septic outlaw. Anyway! I don’t smell!”
No, there’s no smell. I suppose there’s a slight smell during the few moments when I’m dumping the cup out. But during the course of the day, I don’t detect anything.
“8. What if I can’t get it out? What if it falls out?
I know neither of these things is supposed to happen, but you’re also not supposed to flush tampons. If the DivaCup gets stuck, I’m assuming it’s going to be like the time I accidentally put a tampon in when I had a tampon in and I had to Our Bodies, Ourselves it in a way that I really never want to revisit. Is that a possibility? And what if it falls out? Like what if I’m swimming and it escapes and I go from Esther Williams in my cute retro swim cap to shark bait?”
I really can’t imagine that it could get stuck. It does form a seal when it’s placed properly, and you have to squeeze it to break the seal and then it will pull out. The cup is long enough that there’s no way it will go up too high for your fingers to reach. Plus, it comes with a stem sticking out the bottom so you can grasp it. I cut the stem completely off and it’s still quite reachable. If it’s placed in properly, it definitely won’t fall out. When you put it in, you have to turn it around so that it opens up completely. If it remains folded, it’s not sealed properly. Make sure it’s in properly before swimming and you won’t turn into shark bait. By the way, if it keeps on remaining folded when you put it in and it won’t seem to open up, I have two suggestions. You might be pushing it in too far and it’s up beside your cervix which is why it won’t open. Or you might try running it under cold water to make it a bit stiffer.
“9. Are o.b. tampons the gateway drug to the DivaCup?
Did you get gradually more intimate with yourself, going “pad-plastic applicator tampon-cardboard applicator-o.b.-Diva”? Or was the Diva adoption a jump in, feet first, no training wheels kind of thing?”
They probably are, because I used to use o.b. tampons. I’ve never used an applicator in my life. I wouldn’t even know how to use one. Why are women afraid of touching their vaginas? Is it the overly long fingernails?
“10. Do you miss shopping for ‘feminine hygiene’ every month or two?
OK, I know the answer to this one. You don’t. You don’t miss the husbands and boyfriends tittering as you do a cost-benefit analysis trying to figure out if it’s worth possibly injuring yourself with the sharp “petals” of the CVS brand tampons just to save two bucks. You don’t miss it one bit. Fine, one point for you! I order my tampons from Amazon anyway.”
I still buy pantiliners to wear underneath the Diva cup. Most of the time absolutely nothing spills, so I just wear one per day. This is still much cheaper than relying on pads, which have to be changed frequently. The pantiliner is only there in case of emergencies, which generally don’t happen. I also have a couple of cloth reusable pads which feel really soft and nice. I feel very environmentally friendly wearing a cup with a cloth pad. 🙂
“11. Do you think I’m kind of a terrible person?
Because I sort of do. I want to be the person who is totally fine with menstrual blood, who doesn’t care what people think of her at the public bathroom sink, who is not contributing any further waste to the already overtaxed earth that does not need 10 to 16 more plastic applicators in its landfills every month. I super-secretly want to be, if not a person who uses a DivaCup, then one who’s feminist and mature enough to not be so totally skeeved out by it.
I also want to be a person who makes pies instead of buying them, who doesn’t dye her hair or polish her toenails, who washes the glass jar of moldy food and recycles it instead of burying it in the trash hoping no one notices. I want to be these things, but I’m not. So please don’t judge me too harshly. I am many other good things, and starting today I am going to stop flushing tampons. I swear.”
No, I wasn’t judging you at all.
And one more thing: whenever I boil my Diva cup, I put it in a saucepan full of water on the stove, and the following scene occurs: my partner walks into the kitchen and asks what I’m cooking, and I say “a Diva cup” and she says “ew.” Lots of fun! 🙂