Tag Archives: periods

Menstruation as topic in South Africa

23 Mar

South Africa is a country of, as we like to brag, “rich diversity”. Without getting stuck in detail, let’s give you an idea.

This is not me. I found this picture by searching for "children South Africa". Thank you, random teacher-tourist girl, for taking a picture of yourself with these really cute girls!

We are culturally diverse. We have 11 official languages.  80% of our population are black African, but then we have “coloured” people (of mixed descent”), white people (European settlers who have been coming and staying since 1652), and people of Indian descent. As well as lots of smaller minorities.

Some are fabulously rich, some are desperately poor. Because of a centuries-old history of white government, many of the rich and the large middle class are white, while the poor are the non-black except for a growing number of exceptions.

Our constitution is liberal; our people… not always. According to surveys South Africans don’t generally support homosexuality or abortion or gender equality. Many are untolerant of other African nationals, Jews, and each other. But our non-discrimination rights are enshrined in the constitution and people have actually used these rights to win cases. And there has been a significant, growing and very vocal liberal constituency in the population since… well, since liberalism globally came into fashion after WWII.

So… menstruation as a topic? I guess our reactions would be as diverse as our people. My mother, an Afrikaner (the more conservative of the two white cultures), has been using tampons since the 1960s. She spoke to us about sex and menstruation and that seems to have been the norm for my white girl friends too. Is that cause we were upper middle class? Or because we were white? Or cause we were urban? My small-town best friend is more awkward about periods, suggesting the latter explanation.

Are black girls more squeamish because their groups are newer to this whole “liberal values for all” thing? I don’t know! I’ll check with my black housemates. Are coloured girls, who may be less or more traditional and have often grown up in conditions of moral decay and urban hardship, different?

I don’t know.

But I think it’s time someone found out.

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Inserting my Miacup

19 Mar

I tested my new mooncup today! Here is a little description of my experience that may help new users, especially ones like me: a virgin in her twenties. I think most other women who fit this description are comfortable with, but not very familiar with, their reproductive organs. That’s how I am.

My cup is called a “miacup” officially. It is distributed by a South African company by the same name. It seems to be exactly like the original Mooncup.  It comes in a standard Post Office padded parcel package. It cost me just under R400. I use type A for women under 30 who have also not given birth vaginally.

Before my first insertion. I sterilized it by boiling it in water for 3 minutes as per the instruction leaflet. Then I went to our res bathrooms with a little towel, a squirt bottle of water, the leaflet and the CUP! I washed my hands very thoroughly because I realized I may be getting a bit more intimate with my vagina than I ever have before.

Inserting it. In the instructions above, I used the first technique. The cup is remarkably firm. It actually takes some strength to fold it in half and keep it that way.

My real challenge was to actually push the cup into the vaginal opening. Having lubricated the vagina and the cup a bit with water, I put my finger where it would go – for a girl who uses tampons that’s not difficult – and then removed my finger and tried to put the cup in. The cup is considerably bigger than my finger, even in its folded position, and whereas I could feel my way with my finger,  I just kind of had to put the folded cup where I thought and then push it gently toward my spine. No luck. I wished I could just SEE what I was doing!

After a minute or two, I noted what exactly my finger does. I need to push down, toward the anus, if I want the opening to widen. I tried this with the cup and finally it worked! The next challenge was to keep it folded long enough to push it in, which I got right with the second or third try.

They then recommend that you grip the base of the cup – not the pull tab – and give it a full rotation in either direction. This secures the seal. This was quite new for me, as it requires inserting two fingers into the vagina at once and actually using them in there. This is how I learned that my vagina can actually stretch a lot.

Removal. You also have to grip the base of the cup when removing the cup, squeezing it and tilting it slightly to release the suction. Now that I had learned how to insert two fingers at once, this was quite easy. The cup moves down quite easily when you pull gently at the pull tab. Then you squeeze, tilt a bit, and pull gently.

A second time! Feeling a real sense of accomplishment, I did the whole procedure a second time. This time it took me a few seconds to insert and a few seconds to remove. The marketers were not lying: once you get the hang of it, it’s really simple.

Right now I’m a little bit aware of the skin outside my vagina; I think it isn’t used to so much touch. After all, it is sensitive and this was all quite new for me! It would have been nice to have something just to soothe it, but I don’t have a product like that. I’m sure KY Gel would have worked. Still it’s not painful.

Personal reflection

I feel really cool. I feel super comfortable with my body. I feel like I’m open-minded and ahead of the times! I am also quite relieved because I won’t be wasting money: I shall definitely be able to use the miacup for my periods.

Some thoughts about sex…

The vagina is quite accessible. As a young girl I used to wonder how on earth my husband will find my vagina, because I myself had no clue how to identify it “down there”.  But I’m starting to believe it will be very simple; I could guide the penis in a second.

Also, lubrication. That must be a bit awkward on your first night, having to first apply something to the penis before you can start. But I think it is essential.

Arousal. You can do alllll these things and never once feel aroused. Isn’t that a bit strange? The arousal organs are outside the vagina (unless it’s true what they say about the g spot…). Motion, not insertion, arouses. If you’re giggling, hush! I guess this is very obvious to anyone who has had sex, or has even watched porn, but I haven’t and I didn’t know.

Hymen and virginity. Assuming that a hymen gets broken upon insertion, I broke mine when I was, like, 13 inserting my first tampon, and if there was anything left it’s certainly gone now (and then breaking it was not painful, contrary to some things I’ve heard). If a whole hymen is how virginity is defined, I’m not. And if virginity is defined by ignorance, then I’m not (I’m not! stop giggling! refer to the pad-using friend above. she’s ignorant!). But I believe that virginity is about innocence; about having a lot still to experience with a man. A lot to give, and a lot to receive. And in that sense I am a virgin.

Which leads me to my last point. I’m not going to tell the boyfriend about my miacup, because I’m not sure how he would view it. The fact is that I’m incredibly curious about my vagina and the miacup gives me several reasons to get to know my body better. I think sex – with him or whoever I end up marrying – will be a bit easier because I’ve done some exploring on my own. With him probably knowing even less about the female body than I do, he might not understand how sexually innocent this actually is.

This is a satisfied desertvixen, signing off!

Dizziness and periods

20 Feb

It sucks that the world doesn’t allow us to talk about our period-related physical challenges. Tomorrow I have a major deadline, and today happened to also be day 2 of a particularly heavy period.

Despite the relative mildness of the pain this time round, I struggled to concentrate on my work. My eyes didn’t want to focus properly and I was inexplicably tired. It was like the world was ebbing and flowing around my eyes. Not cool if you’re trying to focus on a computer screen!

The pharmacist was a bit taken aback. She tested my blood pressure (normal) and asked me questions about my eating habits the past while (more or less healthy). In the end she concurred it might be the blood loss and associated loss of iron. I will have it checked out tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’ve eaten some good low GI bread with cheese, and gratuitous amounts of yoghurt. I feel a bit better and I am able to concentrate on my work tonight.

But I couldn’t help speculating that this trouble was right up there with the flu in terms of its effect on my ability to concentrate. In some other world, I would have gone to bed early tonight and told my supervisor my work isn’t done because I had period trouble.

Mooncups

29 Jan "Yes, it goes where you think it does."

It is appropriate that the first post on 12 to 50 should be about Mooncups, because they finally pushed me over the edge. I couldn’t stand it anymore: I had to talk to other girls about periods!

A mooncup is a soft silicone cup that is inserted into the vagina to receive menstrual blood. It does not absorb the blood like a tampon, nor does it need to be disposed of; you simply empty it and reinsert it. It also sits completely inside the body, which is good news since it’s amazing how a tiny string can annoy you through the day.

I am probably going to try and order one from Johannesburg and I will let you know how it goes. I expect it is not for the squeamish: it will definitely require inserting your fingers into your vagina to remove the cup. Fortunately users of the mooncup rave about how much blood it can receive (compared to tampons) before it requires emptying. They also report that your panties (and roommate) will thank you, since a reduction in leaks means you spend less time soaking and washing your blood-stained panties. That’s gross in itself.

Mooncups are relatively new in South Africa and are not widely available. I have never heard about it by word of mouth; I only stumbled across it in my search for a blog such as this one. I reckon it is pretty hard to advertise such a product to a population that discusses periods even less that it discusses wet dreams or masturbation.

Mooncups are made in the UK and their site tells you everything you need to know.

The only South African distributor I know of is Redpepa.

In case you missed it on the Mooncups site, you should also really check out Love Your Vagina – and add your contribution!