I first heard about the m-cup (menstrual/moon cups) last year over dinner conversation. I was enthralled by the idea of environmentally friendly and safer methods of menstrual health and I seriously started wondering about all the waste products such as tampons and pads…where do they all go? It also made me wonder about women’s menstrual health and how warped it is considering the adverts on TV (especially for women who cannot afford the expense of tampons and pads).

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So I went and bought a moon cup soon after the conversation. I Googled more information and read anything and everything. Like most women growing up in conservative families with a mother who taught me “cleanliness is next to Godliness” and all things about sexuality were makings of the devil, my vagina was mostly invisible. The biology lessons at school (with male teachers) showed me cross-sections of tubes and balls that made little sense to me except when I had to label the image during a test. Apart from the monthly bleed and gevoevelling with curious boys in my teens, I knew little about my vagina. And I decided to abstain from sex when I was 15 which meant the vagina was officially silenced.

Watching the Vagina Monologues is where it all began. I hate to be so typical but until that point, I couldn’t really say the word vagina aloud. And to say it in isiXhosa was close to blasphemy. Friends and I tried to find Xhosa words for vagina: usisi, igusha, isinene/inenene, ikuku (sister, sheep, no translation, cookie respectively). But I still couldn’t say much about the vagina. Watching the monologues I realised I related with “My vagina is angry…pissed off!” and much to my dismay, I also related with the old woman who spoke about “down there”.

So when I finally heard about the moon cup and decided to buy it, my mind and heart had to make peace with the fact that my vagina is a real part of my body. When talking about menstrual health and vaginas the conversation mostly becomes about sexuality. I have no regrets about abstaining from sex, but this has meant that I have experienced my vagina as purely a biological process and a no go zone at any other time thus far in my life (which is a conversation for another day). And yes, conversations with girlfriends who are comfortable with their sex lives are becoming a tad awkward because as a growing woman of 24 I’m an anomaly.

Image from http://www.weheartit.com

And so the day of reckoning arrived when I was going to trial the m-cup. My body balked. Nothing seemed to work and I didn’t seem to know what I was trying to do. Instead I ended up in pain and exasperated. The websites I read seemed to assume that every woman wanting to use the cup has a sense of what the vagina was REALLY like. And I realised I didn’t and I wasn’t keen to have a conversation with my vagina at the time. So I put the cup away and much to my chagrin, returned to the hard, bleached cotton wool: tampons.

Fast foward: a year later and I decided to revisit the idea of using my m-cup. Part of the motivation has been watching the price of tampons and pads escalate every time I buy them. Not only has this been denting my budget, but again, the thought about the environment surfaced (I have similar questions about disposable nappies, where do they go?). Conversations with more friends who have been evangelising the gospel of the m-cup also helped so the process didn’t seem so daunting anymore. And this time I had a conversation with my vagina every time I had a bath before my cycle began.

It wasn’t dirty or disgusting, but a simple feeling for what it really means to have a vagina. I’m not surprised people who KNOW vaginas love them. They’re soft, warm, welcoming and great muscles. So when I used the cup, it was a simple process and my instant reaction was “WOW!”. When I told a friend, her response included the word “intense”. It doesn’t have to be. Vaginas and women’s sexuality are a beautiful thing and I wish we allowed ourselves more time to appreciate our bodies for what they are not purely as a means to an end for sex, but for the pleasure of what they are…beautiful and blossoming.