The Menstruation Issue
welcome to CUNTastic #2! it’s december 2009, six months after the publishing of CUNTastic #1. in just a few months, we’ve grown from 5 contributors to 13, changed to a larger format to accommodate more submissions, added a new erotica feature, and shared the love of vagina with readers all over the world, from brooklyn to malaysia, and from kansas to new zealand. as this zine continues to grow, i’m sure it will continue to change. but for now it is meant to be a compilation of experiences, thoughts & research from myself & others--it’s part personal, part educational, and all political. each issue of CUNTastic is bursting at the seams, overflowing with (at the very least): birth stories, diy recipes for coochie-related items, snippets of life with new baby ramona, and articles from contributors on the issue topic. lots of the illustrations included are from my stacks & shelves & shelves & stacks of vintage anatomy books. this issue #2 explores menstruation in all its crimson glory. you’ll find a 2010 menstrual calendar, product reviews of the best alternative menstrual products available, my story of going into labor at the DNC protests last year, a birth story, two book reviews, original cover art by Melissa Williamson, and TONS more engaging thought & experience from brilliant, vaginapositive folks in far corners of the universe. the next issue #3 will be the radical parenting issue, exploring how those of us with red & black (or green & black, or pink & black...or, really, just good intentions of the non-hierarchical, anticapitalist variety) in our hearts guide our offspring through this world. until then, give your lady parts a hug for me.
this issue is dedicated to alex, who thinks periods are disgusting and that CUNTastic is “a disgusting piece of trash that belongs in the garbage.” alex, i’m flicking a little menstrual blood at you right now. duck.
Lost My Mucus Plug at the DNC: Going Into Labor With Ramona Frances
by Laurel Ripple-Carpenter
2010 Menstrual Calendar by Danae Silva
The Evils of Disposable Menstrual Products by Connie Murillo
Alternative Menstrual Product Reviews: ‘The Keeper’ Reusable Menstrual Cup Reviewed by Michelle Matthews
‘Moon Pads’ Washable Cloth Menstrual Pads Reviewed by Laurel Ripple-Carpenter
Pearls’ Reusable Sea Sponge Tampons Reviewed by Connie Murillo
Lunaception: Bringing the Moon Back into Your Cycle by Laurel Ripple-Carpenter
by Quinten Collier
Book Review of ‘Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation’ Edited by Thomas Buckley & Alma Gottlieb Reviewed by Connie Murillo
My Last Period by Connie Murillo
Mothering A Newly Menstruating Girl by Heather Hill
Giving My Period a New Identity
by Jessica Marie
Cloth Pads as a Cultural Experience
by Lisa Wood
The Birth Story of Lilliana Michele
Erotica: Earning Your Red Wings
by Stephanie Dank
by Ashley E. Mates
About the Contributors
My mom comforted me and started breakfast. On my plate were two pancakes, one shaped like a heart and one shaped like a bunny rabbit--a breakfast she made for us when we were younger--it always made me feel special. That day was no different. Somehow that breakfast made it all better. I knew I'd be ok and I knew my mom loved and supported me. I will always remember that breakfast and that symbol of love from one strong woman to a fledgling one.
I woke up the next morning and told my mom I started. I don't really remember much of what she said. She gave me an OB tampon and I went into the bathroom. I wasn't really sure what to do. I knew the mechanics, but it just wasn't working out. Looking back, I think I was just too stressed and/or tense. I got upset and came out crying.
Nothing much exciting about that day in November of 1994 when I started my period. The part that really mattered was what happened the next day.
My Painful Relationship With Tampons
by Mallory Rice
28 30 31
The Cycle of My Cycle: Wanting It, Getting It, and Losing It
by Carla Burkle
Menarche: A Celebration of First Menstruation
PeriodLess: How Depo-Provera Took My Period Away
by Eric Niederkruger
connieâ€™s ďŹ rst period...
Lost My Mucus Plug at the DNC: Going into Labor with Ramona Frances
by Laurel Ripple-Carpenter
In the last issue of CUNTastic, I told the story of my pregnancy with baby Ramona. Here’s where we le1 oﬀ... Our home had been made ready for the baby’s birth, and we had prepared ourselves and our families for what our homebirth would be like. We ordered the birth kit, followed all the midwife’s instructions, and did everything we were supposed to do. All except for the ‘no travelling when you’re 9 months pregnant and ready to pop’ part... My due date was September 7, 2008 and the protests against the Democratic National Convention were happening the week before, just 4 hours away in Denver. It was just a fact that there was no, no, no way we were not going to the DNC. We made a backup plan in case I went into labor in Denver, laid out a futon in the back of the Subaru, and headed out to tell the democrats what we thought of them. Indeed, Subcommandante RaMarcos decided to send her mama into labor during the DNC protests. Amidst the gas masks and zip cuffs, the riot cops and Obama buttons, she heard the yells of “Whose streets? Our streets!” and started making her way on out of my uterus.
So, what do you do at a mass mobilization as a 39-week pregnant woman? You go into labor, that’s what. You also do a lot of standing around, sitting around, eating egregious amounts of Food Not Bombs and Seeds of Peace, and helping out in non-labor-intensive ways. My partner Jake & I got off work on Friday afternoon, loaded up and headed to Denver for the DNC protests. Yes, it was a risky decision, leaving town so close to my due date. But we had a plan--if I started showing ANY signs of labor at all, we would get right in the car and drive the four
hours back home, no questions asked. And as a doula, I could easily recognize the signs of impending labor, and use my professional judgment to make the decision to head home in time for our baby’s birth. In theory. Jake & I were standing at the Denver airport on Saturday, waiting to pick up a member of Blue Scholars and his producer, to take them back to the Capital building to play a free show for the masses before the anti-war march. It was one of our pregnant-couple-trying-to-help duties for the protest. As we waited patiently for their plane to arrive, I felt a strange stirring in my undies, and realized that something had just happened. “Jake, something just fell out of me,” I said with a look of concern, excitement, and disbelief. My intelligent, compassionate, and brilliantly loving partner’s face showed a thousand expressions in one, as he bent over to look under my skirt and asked in a panicked voice, “What?! Where?! The baby’s falling out?!” No, the baby wasn’t falling out. Laughing hysterically at his reaction, I went to the bathroom to confirm that yes, my mucus plug had begun to come out, and I was having bloody show. According to our plan, this should have been the point at which we got in the car and headed home to have our baby. Did we? No. It was only August 23rd, more than two weeks before my due date, and I knew that first time moms usually give birth well after their due dates. Plus, we hadn’t gotten to see any action yet! No passionate marches, out-of-control riots, or merciless police brutality had come our way yet at the DNC. We hadn’t had any opportunity yet to voice our opposition to the fraud that is the Democratic Party, or to the two-party system, or to capitalism or hierarchy or the farce of representative democracy. In hindsight, I see that I was probably just terrified of going home to have the baby, going home to go into labor and give birth and become parents and never turn back. But in my mind as I weighed my options that day, I just hadn’t gotten to see or do enough at the protest yet. And the baby would be reasonable and wait, right? We carried on and had fun. Jake got to film the Blue Scholars & David Rovics concerts with his new professional video gear, and I got to sit around and connect with old protest friends and listen
from afar to the sounds of dissent in the streets. The friends we had travelled to Denver with made sure to check in on me regularly and share their tales of drumming and dancing and riot shields and bandanas. A close mama friend, Connie, had brought her seven month old son with her, and watching them enjoy the protest together felt like peeking in on a glimpse of my future. Our future. Eventually my brain kicked back in and I was forced to acknowledge that my body was showing signs of early labor. We needed to either get home, or get comfortable in Denver. We called our midwife back home, who encouraged us to drive up to to see a midwife in Boulder who could check my cervix. We got to her office early, full of anticipation, looking like the stereotypical young couple who's excited but scared out of their minds that their baby is about to come. I began to lose any sense of myself as a birth professional who could make educated decisions based on my experience supporting other women in childbirth. Instead, I was slowly turning into exactly the laboring mama I warn my clients not to be. As a doula, one of my strongest pieces of advice for any first-time mom is to understand the difference between early labor and active labor. Early labor can last for days, so I stress to my clients that when early labor comes, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to basically ignore it and continue living your life like normal. Work on a special early labor project, finish getting ready for the baby, or go spend some final time with your lover or friends. Continue to be aware of any changes in your body, but don't stop everything to sit and wait for labor to progress. If you exert all of your physical & psychological effort focusing on early labor, then when the real-deal active labor comes along, you're already worn out & exhausted. So, based on this fantastic advice from my doula self to my pregnant self, what did I do? I focused on early labor. I reported back to Jake about every ten-minute-apart contraction, every speck of bloody show, every time the baby pressed her head down harder against my pelvis. He reciprocated with his normally hyperactive tendency to stress and worry now in overdrive, calling to check in every few minutes from whatever march he was filming, or sitting with me and watching with a constantly furrowed brow. The Boulder midwife had said that I was only dilated to 1/2 a centimeter, and the baby was still pretty high up, so we were probably ok to take our time and head home when we felt like it. It really was a bigger decision than it sounds like--if my labor picked up all of a sudden and became full-blown active labor, there was no way I was getting into a car for a four hour drive over the Rocky Mountains. So that would mean giving birth in Denver,
in a hospital, with a stranger delivering our baby, and our families hundreds of miles away. The exact opposite of our plan, and pretty much an unacceptable option. We debated. And in the meantime, my pregnant belly and I sat under a tree beside the Seeds of Peace bus in the park across from the Capital building. Friends stopped by to eat some funky oatmeal and write the legal number on their arms and legs. Connie and her crawling mini-rebel hung out after marching to the Pepsi Center with him in a sling. She told me about walking by a conservative counterprotest of god-hates-fags wingnuts, and how she and her unmarried partner disrupted their hatred spewing for a minute by making out in front of their stage, throwing her tattoos and piercings and bandanawearing baby in their faces. When we explained the trickery my body was up to, everyone would say, "Oh, you're in labor?! Oh my god! Good luck & have fun & hurry home!" as they scurried off to the next dance party in the streets or toward the sound of tear gas grenades a few blocks away. But I didn't want to go home! Connie's birth had been the first in our small, tight knit radical community, and it had been a community event. Everyone gathered at the collective house where she lived, cooked food and played music and supported and watched and waited. She got foot rubs and back rubs and walks and pep talks, and we were all involved. I was her doula, but really we were all her doula. And I wanted that. I had a smaller house where Jake & I lived by ourselves, but when I pictured my birth I still pictured my community there, cooking & talking & watching & waiting & supporting. If we went home now, that community would still be in Denver doing their thing, while I labored without them. I didn't expect them to miss out on what was for many of them, their first massmobilization. I didn't actually expect them to get in their cars and drive home before the action was over just because I was in labor. But I think somewhere in the back of my head, I wished they would. The Boulder midwife called us back later that day, a little bit frantic. She explained that she really wasn't a midwife yet, just a student midwife. She had talked to the senior midwife she apprentices with, who said that we should absolutely, without question, get in our car and go home immediately, unless giving birth in Denver was an acceptable option for us (which it wasn't). We were a bit miffed about the contradiction in opinions, especially since we hadn't gotten any real solid advice from our midwife back home either. We made the decision to spend the night and drive home the next morning. I was advised not to walk even short distances, since walking and being
physically active speeds up labor, and to drink plenty of water and get my ass home. I half listened to the midwives' orders and half didn't. I don't know if I was trying to tempt fate by walking a few blocks up-hill to a restaurant for dinner with everyone that night, but I could instantly feel the contractions get stronger and closer together. But then while we ate, they slowed back down. We walked the few blocks back to the car, and they sped up again. We got in the car, and they slowed down again. I think I was just getting annoyed with being in limbo, and wished this labor would either get on with it or get out of my way. And I was grumpy about leaving the protest, and about my community staying behind. That night when we got back to the yard we were all camping in, everyone was supportive and encouraging and wished us luck, and then went back to telling their stories from that day and making plans for the events the next day. We woke up in the morning, packed up the car, and got hugs & well wishes & love from everyone as they geared up to get back out in the streets. I have an awful picture from that moment, my belly enormous, my face swollen and puffy, my hair all skewed to the side, and everyone standing a few feet away just kind of looking at me strangely. Like there was this enormous divide between us that had finally become visible. Like they wanted to be supportive and participate, but had something else they needed to do. And I don't blame them for that, it was just awkward. I made Jake drive through downtown Denver one more time before we got on the highway, just so I could get another glimpse of the DNC protests that I really hadn't been able to be a part of. We stopped by the booth for the new book Goodnight Bush, a parody of Goodnight Moon marking the end of Bush's reign of terror on our nation. One of the book's authors is a dear friend of mine, the kind of friend that is super close to my heart, but who I only see every couple years at mass mobilizations or lawsuit court dates. We hugged goodbye, he did the whole "You're in labor right now?!" thing, and he gave me a copy of the book with the inscription, "To Ramona, Weâ€™ll all be working hard to leave you a better world than the one Bush left us. DNC â€™08...any day now! With love, Gan." It was the perfect send-off. We drove home, through the mountains, away from the protests and the riots and the smell of tear-gas-scented-freedom, toward our labor and our birth and our daughter and the new parentversions of ourselves we were about to meet. Even though it was a fairly anticlimactic, tumultuous experience, I'm glad we went to the DNC. It was like a farewell to my former super-activist self, the self that went to every major protest and worked on the legal teams and organized the convergence centers and marched in the black bloc and went to jail and got the charges dropped and sued the cops and won. Going into labor at the DNC was like thousands of people were giving me a going-away party, ushering me into a new stage of life. Whether they knew it or not, everyone there at the DNC protests was a part of my story of having a baby.
The Evils of Disposable Menstrual Products by Connie Murillo
When I was first educated on the health risks associated with tampons, and learned that alternatives have existed for decades, I was angry. Why, after 15 years of menstruating, had I not been exposed to anything other than disposable tampons and pads? Why didn't the stores carry re-usable cloth pads, sea sponges, or menstrual cups? Volumes could be written on the health and environmental risks associated with tampons, on the decades of cultural indoctrination that menstruation is dirty and shameful, on the exploitation of women by corporations who are making billions off of us (not to mention the government’s profit from the taxing of these 'luxury items'). Here we’ll briefly cover some health risks, the environmental impact of disposable products, and some alternatives.
Health Risks Tampons don’t absorb just blood. They absorb vaginal mucous as well, which is necessary for a healthy vagina. The absorption of mucous can change the pH balance of the vagina, leading to frequent yeast infections and other bacterial problems. When tampons absorb the moisture that
is supposed to be in your vagina, it can cause dryness and irritation of the vaginal tissue, making sex uncomfortable or even painful. The abrasiveness of tampons can cause tiny lacerations in the vaginal walls, increasing the risk of infection. Most brand-name bleached tampons contain artificial fibers like rayon, which are abrasive. When the tampon expands or is inserted or removed, it can cause tiny cuts and tiny pieces of the tampon can become embedded in the vaginal tissue. If anyone reads the instructions and warning that accompanies tampons, they are well aware of the increased risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)--a bacterial infection. Younger women may not know of the TSS scare in the 80s, when over 1100 cases of TSS were reported, 55 of those resulting in death. TSS is mainly associated with younger menstruators and the use of higher absorbency tampons. After these deaths (and still not soon enough) tampon manufacturers were required to change tampon ingredients, standardize the tampons’ absorbency, and include warnings about the risk of TSS. These companies have never been required to list ingredients in tampons and still aren’t required to do so. So, what are the ingredients, and why should we care? In addition to TSS, women are exposed to dioxins—potential carcinogens related to Agent Orange, through the use of tampons. Dioxins are bi-products of the bleaching process (keep in mind that just because tampons and pads are bleached, does not mean they are sanitized, or required to be for that matter). While tampon companies say they no longer use this process in their tampon production, this does not guarantee that this process wasn’t used earlier in the production of rayon out of wood-pulp. While the tampon companies will tell you that there are acceptable levels of dioxins that we are exposed to in the environment, the fact that the vagina is the most absorbent part of the body and tampons are worn anywhere from 2-8 hours, is still cause for alarm when it comes to what exactly is getting absorbed into our bodies every month.
Environmental Eﬀects Not only does tampon manufacturing release chemicals such as dioxins into the environment, the waste produced by disposable menstrual products is overwhelming. It is estimated that a menstruator will use anywhere from 11,000-17,000 disposable pads or tampons in their lifetime. Not many people think about where their waste goes after they flush the toilet. Tampon applicators and hypodermic needles are the two most common waste products that wash up on our beaches. Between 1998 and 1999, 170,000 tampon applicators were collected off our shores. Tampons are mostly made of rayon, a synthetic fiber made out of wood-pulp and cotton. Cotton requires about 25% of all insecticides used. Five out of nine of pesticides used on cotton are cancer-causing and listed as some of the most dangerous chemicals. Yet, there is no regulation on the use of pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers for cotton to be used in tampons.
i used pads from then on. the end.
during my next period, my mom handed me an ob i read the tampon and sent me to the bathroom. instructions, put one leg up on the toilet, and failed miserably since i had no idea i even had a vagina.
that’s all i remember. i’m sure that my mom and grandma meant to explain it or had good intentions or didn’t know any better than to leave me in the dark. who knows.
i remember her on the phone with my mom, telling my mama that i’d started my period, without anyone explaining to me that i’d started my period.
i remember my grandmother rummaging through her bathroom cupboard, searching for menstrual products left behind by my older cousins.
i remember bleeding through my dress onto the seat cushion in first class. when the plane landed, it took everything in me to stand up and leave my seat, exposing the blood stains on the upholstery and my satin dress.
i remember going to the bathroom on the plane and stuffing complimentary maxi pads in my underwear and purse, because maybe that would help with this strange bleeding in my undies.
i remember sitting on an airplane, flying by myself across the country to visit my grandparents. i was wearing an ankle-length navy blue satin dress with tiny embroidered flowers.
i didn’t know about periods yet, or vaginas, or uteruses, or sex. i was 9 and unsuspecting. i have snippets of memories, like frames, of moments of my first period.
And it makes you wonder, who is running things here? Who is making money off the disposable feminine hygiene industry? Corporations. And who runs corporations? Men.
A tampon is an object that comes into contact with some of the most sensitive tissue in a your body. Shouldn’t there be more discretion about what it’s made of, and what it does to your lady parts? As women, what can we do? Take control of our bodies back. The tampon industry wants you to believe that you need their product, but you don’t. There are many economical and safer alternatives.
In the following pages, we’ll review a specific brand of each of the alternative menstrual products that are widely available on the market today. This is just a quick overview and a few viable options for people ready to move beyond disposable tampons and pads. Some of these alternatives take some getting used to, but once you make the change your vagina will thank you.
laurel’s ﬁrst period...
Product Review of
‘The Keeper’ Reusable Menstrual Cup review by Michelle Matthews illustration by Ronit Vistitsky I've read that a "normal" menstrual flow is from two to four ounces. But when I was using pads and tampons—the first 12 years of my menstrual life—that amount was kind of abstract. You don't really think of your blood as a liquid flow, but rather as drips and stains absorbed and discarded with your Kotex. When you start using a menstrual cup, though, the idea of ounces of blood becomes a lot more real. No longer is your period theoretical—it's a dark, rich, liquid cup of blood. When I bought my cup about five years ago, there were essentially three options: the Keeper, the Diva Cup, and the Mooncup (sold in the U.K.). I chose the Keeper for the sole reason that I could get it faster in the mail than the other options. When it arrived in the mail, along with a cute swiss-dotted cotton drawstring pouch, I tried it immediately and discovered that the coordination of folding the cup and inserting it required odd contortions while sitting on the toilet. More than any menstrual product I had encountered before, the Keeper had a learning curve. But thanks to the Internet, new cup users can easily find loads of information. I quickly found a LiveJournal community called menstrual_cups, where other women posted about different cups, different folds for insertion, and offered general support to other fans of cups. This was great, I thought. Not only did I have new "toy," but I now had a whole community to discuss this alternative type of period product. I hadn't ever before—even when I had my first period—felt actual excitement about my cycle. I eventually figured out how to insert and remove the cup and how to know when it's full (a kind of squishy, bubbly feeling). I also had to "customize" my Keeper: The Keeper has a fairly long stem (the "handle" that you grip to remove the cup), and I found that the cup sat low enough where its tail irritated my vagina. Fortunately you can easily trim the stem on most any cup and then gently file the edges back to a taper. My super-awesome boyfriend even helped with the filing! (I knew he was a keeper; he's now my husband.)
Now, in 2009, there are many more options for trying a menstrual cup. Besides the three I considered, overseas makers now offer a slew of menstrual cups including Lunette, Ladycup, MeLuna, Femmecup and more. American maker Keeper Inc. has also started producing its own silicone cup, called Moon Cup (yes, the same name as the other, more established UK cup). The different brands & sizes vary in diameter and length, but often by only a couple of millimeters. The majority of the cups are medical-grade silicone, with two exceptions: the natural rubber (latex) Keeper and the You can ďŹ nd plastic MeLuna. This wide variety assures that almost anyone who The Keeper reusable wants to try a menstrual cup can find menstrual cup at: one that suits her needs. If youâ€™re thinking about purchasing a cup, consider these features:
Most of the cups, with For more info about menstrual cup options, visit the the exception of the opaque brown site http://community.livejournal.com/menstrual_cups/ Keeper and the opaque Miacup, are or http://menstrualcups.wordpress.com/. translucent silicone, which may stain yellow over time (think about what happens to a Tupperware container when you leave tomato soup in it for too long). The opaque cups are less likely to stain.
Anecdotally, I've read that the silicone cups seem to feel more "squishy" while the rubber Keeper feels "firmer." Personally, I can't tell a significant difference, at least in my hand. Different users may prefer different levels of rigidity, so if you can touch the cups in a retail store before you buy, it may be helpful to your choice.
A stem can usually be trimmed, so don't worry too much about the length, but you may think about the style of the stem before you purchase. For instance, some stems have ridges, which may be helpful in gripping, but potentially might be noticeable when you are inserting or wearing the cup (the same applies to ridges on the cup itself). A couple of the cups (Lunette and Miacup) have flat stems rather than round, hollow stems, which should reduce the chance of blood or vaginal fluid getting inside the stem, which can be difficult to clean. The MeLuna cups have a selection of innovative stem choices, including a ball, a loop, and a stemless cup.
Use with IUD:
If you use an IUD, you may want to do some further reading on whether a menstrual cup is appropriate for you. There is some risk of accidentally tugging your IUD strings when removing the cup, thereby dislodging or removing the device. Some manufacturers say the cup is OK for IUD users, others say it isn't.
Many of the cups have measuring lines on the inside, which is great if you want or need to track your flow. On the other hand, those little lines and numbers can also trap blood and be a bit harder to clean.
Some cups offer a liberal return policy (Keeper), some offer exchange for a different size (LadyCup), and some offer no returns or refunds (Diva Cup). Investigate the policies of the cup you choose, in case there’s a problem or your size is different than you expected.
by Lisa Wood
lisa’s ﬁrst period... When that day of first menstruation came, my mom gave me a brief overview of the pad or tampon options. She handed me a box of each, like there was no other option, and told me to read the instructions. After reading the long warnings on the tampon box, I opted for pads.
Watering My Plants with Menstrual Blood
Much to my mother’s chagrin, I have no problem with the site of blood. In high school, I read on an environmentalist website that you can fertilize your plants by watering them with the blood-soaked water you use to wash your menstrual pads. I excitedly washed my pads and watered all of my house plants, then watered all of my mother’s house plants. To my delight & my mom’s horror, many of the plants turned red over the next few days. It was fascinating to see the veins colored red with the nutrients from my menstrual blood. It was a neat science experience & a good lesson in interconnectedness. Instead of being wasteful and polluting the earth with more disposable plastic, I was helping to nourish plants.
Product Review of
‘Moon Pads’ Washable Cloth Menstrual Pads
review by Laurel Ripple-Carpenter illustrations by Ronit Vistitsky I’ve never been a big fan of maxi pads, so it never really occurred to me to try washable cloth pads. Why would someone want a stinky, soggy, bulky band-aid in their undies? But when the alternative bookstore I help run started carrying Moon Pads, the image of pads was totally transformed in my mind. Instead of a sticky mess of plastic and padding, these Moon Pads were handmade with organic cotton flannel, using fly fabric and cute cowgirl snaps. I couldn’t resist buying a set and trying them out. These beauties are 100% natural, ethical, and gorgeous. When you combine 100% organic, hand-dyed, cotton flannel for the body, 100% organic, union made, grown in America terry cloth for the filling, and 100% unbleached cotton thread, you get something totally worthy of spending time between your legs. There’s even a little ribbon sewn in to hang your pad up to dry after washing. Which brings us to most people’s big question--how do you clean them?? Just like you clean anything else! Wear, rinse, wash, repeat. Some people keep a bucket of water or bleach water in the bathroom to soak their pads in after use, and some people just rinse them out and then stick them in the washing machine. I generally rinse them out, and do a load of just pads at the end of my period, soaking them in a stain remover at the beginning of the wash cycle. It’s super simple, especially considering the alternatives of filling up landfills with petroleum-based plastic crap. As for the usual feeling pads give you of wearing a diaper, all lumpy & bulky between your legs, Moon Pads don’t feel that way. There’s no sweaty plastic sticking to your thighs, and no cheap-o lining getting all bunched up inside the pad. They’re made out of soft fabric that you barely even notice, and their absorbency is definitely up to par. In fact, Moon Pads are made in extra long, extra absorbent, regular, and pantyliner sizes, covering all the bases. They’re handmade by a sweet lady in Portland, Oregon, and available online and in unique stores across the country. The cost per pad ranges from $7.25 to $9.50, depending on the size.
I’ve been using Moon Pads now for almost a year, and couldn’t be happier. I can say for sure that I’ll never stick another tampon up my hoo-ha, and although I’d be happy to try a Keeper or use my sea sponges if I needed to, Moon Pads will be my menstrual product of choice for the foreseeable future. If you’re thinking about purchasing washable cloth menstrual pads, here are some features to consider:
Wear, rinse, wash, repeat. You’ll figure out your own routine that works for you. If your cleaning routine includes soaking your pads after wearing them, make sure you use a bucket with a lid to soak them in, and make sure you live in a house where no one will be freaked out by a pad-soaking-bucket in the bathroom.
There are tons of different designs for washable cloth pads, so you may want to explore some of the differences.
Some washable menstrual pads are designed to fold up into themselves after use, so that you can snap it closed into a little ball and just tuck it into your purse with no mess. The placement of the snaps on Moon Pads means that strategy doesn’t work with them, so you might consider getting a small pouch or waterproof bag.
Moon Pads are the only pads I’ve seen that have the super cute cowgirl-style snaps, which are super adorable, but they’re also a bit larger than the normal plain silver snaps. In the year I’ve been using them, there have been maybe 2 or 3 times when the snaps (which are placed off to the side on the wings) started to rub against my thighs in a pretty uncomfortable way. I still love the pads and won’t stop using them, but if this would be a big issue for you, you might want to find pads with smaller snaps.
Make Your Own:
Handy with a sewing machine, or know someone who is? A quick trip round the internet can produce tons of patterns for making your own reusable menstrual pads.
You can ﬁnd Moon Pads at: http://www.epicerma.etsy.com
Product Review of
Reusable Sea Sponge Tampons
review by Connie Murillo illustration by Ronit Vistitsky After deciding that tampons were no longer for me and also not wanting to use disposable pads, I went in search of something that would be less harmful to my body and the earth. I didn’t want to wear pads because it always felt like I was wearing a diaper, and I didn’t want to use tampons anymore because they had gotten so uncomfortable and I was becoming more aware of the amount of waste these two products produced.
I searched the web and came across sea sponge tampons. Jade and Pearl Sea Sponges have no harmful chemicals or additives. They are sustainably harvested, all natural, and cheap! Twelve dollars gets you two sea sponges, a storage bag and a brochure showing you how to use and properly care for your sponges. Each sponge lasts for six months or more, making them extremely economical compared to disposable products. When you are finally ready to dispose of your sea sponges after months of using them, they will quickly & easily biodegrade. I immediately felt a difference when I tried sea sponges,. They were simple to use, like a tampon but much more friendly to my vaginal walls and didn’t cause drying. They need to be changed every few hours, but instead of throwing away a tampon that will sit in a landfill for years, you simple rinse out your sponge and re-insert it. After several months I also noticed a decrease in the intensity of my cramps, which were horribly painful when I used tampons. The only downside I have noticed is the feeling of leakage. Before inserting the sea sponge, one has to first wet it and wring it out. Sometimes it felt as if I was leaking menstrual blood, so I would think I needed to go change my sponge, but it turned out to be just a little water coming out. However that’s never been inconvenient enough to deter me from using them. Just in case, I usually back up the sponge with Luna Panties or a cloth pad, especially on my heavier days. Overall, I really like Sea Sponges and recommend them to anyone, especially those making the switch from disposable products. Make the switch! The earth, your wallet and especially your vagina will thank you.
If you’re thinking about purchasing reusable sea sponge tampons, here are some features to consider:
You need to be careful to make sure that anything you put into your vagina is clean--like tampons, sea sponges are not sterile. Sea sponges need to be cleaned between every use, using a mild soap like Dr. Bronner’s or natural cleaners like Tea Tree Oil, Grapefruit Seed Extract, or Colloidal Silver.
You can ﬁnd Jade & Pearl Sea Sponge Tampons at: http://www.jadeandpearl.com
Size: Sea sponges are generally sold by size
for light, regular and heavy days. They can be easily trimmed using normal scissors if you need to adjust the size of your sponge. They are look larger than a normal tampon, but squeeze down very small for insertion.
While you might think a sea sponge looks a bit like a plant at first, they’re actually the simplest multi-cellular animal called a “Porifera.” Because sea sponges are actually a form of animal, they may not be considered to be a vegan-friendly product, even though they are extremely environmentally friendly.
Mom was not capable of celebrating our first periods, which I imagine was because of her own I negative memories. remember when my sister got her first period. My mother's response was to make her feel dirty and ashamed. Mom bought my sister a bag of pads and told her that she could not go to swimming practice for a week. By the time I had my period, Mom was gone. There was not a constant woman around me and the thought of having my period was outright scary. However inconsistent my sister can be, she made it a point to support me when I did have my first period. We went out for ice cream and she told me how excited she was for me. Rather than making a menstruation punishment like my mother had done with her, my sister and I began a celebration that I continue today.
carrie’s ﬁrst period...
Lunaception: Bringing the Moon Back into Your Cycle
by Laurel Ripple-Carpenter
When I first heard the term ‘moon’ used as a synonym for ‘menstrual cycle,’ I was living at a commune and spent my days roaming the wilderness, listening to birds and watching wildlife. I didn’t question or put much thought into what it really meant to link a woman’s menstrual cycle with the moon and the lunar cycle, I just kind of accepted the term. Now, years later, I realize that I was taking for granted the closeness I had to nature and the earth in that lifestyle. So many urban and suburban women live bustling lives filled with schedules and walls, blocking out much of their relationship to nature, and potentially affecting their bodies in unintended ways. The concept of ‘lunaception’ is a strategy to bring women and their menstrual cycles back into communion with the earth, by allowing the moon’s cycle to regulate one’s own menstrual cycle, as many people believe has been the norm throughout history. The link between the moon and menstruation isn’t in any way proven, but it is very commonly and historically believed to be a strong and important relationship. The idea is that in the past, our lives were lived more outdoors, and we were exposed to moonlight more regularly than we are today. By blocking out the moon’s light at night, women have lost their connection to it, and have lost the regularity that it provided. In the 1975 book Lunaception by Louise Lacey, the author suggests that before our lives became dominated by the invention of electricity, women’s menstruation was directly related to the lunar phases. She posits that the onset of a period usually coincided with the new moon, and her fertile days coincided with the full moon. She also suggests this caused most women’s periods to occur generally at the same time as one another. Ideally, the way to correct this detour from nature would be to reconnect with the earth, and remove the barriers in our lives that are preventing our bodies from relating to the moon as they should. But in reality, that’s just not a viable option for many women. In Lunaception, the author advocates a solution that should restore the connection between the moon and your ‘moon.’ Lacey’s strategy is to sleep in complete darkness for all but three nights in a month, and during those three nights, add a nightlight in place of the moon’s glow. She suggests that after a few months of using this method, a woman’s menstrual cycle should basically reset itself in step with the lunar cycle, and the sleeping arrangement becomes unnecessary. Lacey’s recommended sleep pattern can also be combined with daily charts of waking temperature, cervical mucus, and mood to create a method of family planning, to either achieve or avoid pregnancy. For more information on the book Lunaception, visit www.lunaception.net.
Book Review of Blood
Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation
edited by Thomas Buckley & Alma Gottlieb reviewed by Connie Murillo
This 326-page collection of essays addresses all things menstrual. Published by the University of California Press, Blood Magic looks at how menstruation is viewed in various cultures around the world. The introduction offers a critical look at previous theories regarding menstrual symbolism throughout cultures. The essays are then categorized into three sections: Menstrual Images, Meanings, and Values; The Sociology of Menstrual Meanings; and Exploratory Directions: Menses, Culture, and Time. The reason this volume of essays stands out in the anthropological world is the fact that the anthropologists of the past, being mostly western males, paid little attention to this matter. In many instances, menstruation was either ignored all together or the anthropologist made assumptions and projected their personal or cultural beliefs on to the subject, leading to a misrepresentation of various cultural beliefs and the supposedly widely universal 'menstrual taboo.' Blood Magic is not a casual read. It is academic in nature, but worth looking into if one is interested in the topic of menstruation, particularly how it is viewed in various cultures. Even if one is not interested in reading the whole book, it's easy to pick and choose between essays that are of interest to the reader. What is refreshing about this book is the exploration of the more positive aspects of menstruation--an affirmation of an important biological process is welcome after years of being told menstruation was evil or dirty. It offers a less damaging way of looking at menstruation and can be a source of healing for those who have grown up with a less than positive view of looking at her body and its functions.
My Last Period
by Connie Murillo
friday, october 24, 2008--Q, Nicolai, and i are visiting my dad in albuquerque, nm. today is the last day we are spending in the city, then we’ll be heading up to farmington to visit my bro and his family before heading back home tomorrow. i wake up with the cramps and know i’ll be starting my period that day. i start popping ibuprofen. i had just gotten used to my period again. after having Nicolai, i didn’t menstruate for five months. then when my periods finally started back up, they were coming about six weeks apart. i’ve always had a long cycle, but these new periods were a bit longer. breakfast is quiet, dad’s at work and my step-mom, V, is out. Nicolai is still sleeping. i don’t know how the topic came up, but Q and i start talking about what we would name our baby if we were to have one (we had no plans to have a baby). after nearly 2 hours of discussion about baby names, we decide on Cohen--for a boy or a girl. Marie for a middle name if it’s a girl and we don’t decide on a middle name for a boy. to this day i don’t know how that conversation came about or why we had it, but fast forward into december, six weeks later... sunday, december 14, 2008--something’s been on my mind and i leave Nicolai at home with Q. i walk into the grocery store and pick things off the shelf here and there. i stop by the pregnancy tests, drop one into my bag, and head to the bathroom. i feel i already know the outcome. i’m a week late. it doesn’t take long for 2 pink lines to show up on the test. i toss the test in the trash, pay for my things, and head home. Q and i are having a baby.
Welcome to the World, Cohen Eugene! Mad props, big ups, a shout out and a holla to teeny weeny Cohen Eugene! On July 29, 2009 CoCo became the latest addition to the Black Diaper Collective, and the newest member of an evergrowing radical family. As the above story tells you, his mama & papa knew he was on his way long before he did. Stay tuned for the story of his beautiful birth in an upcoming issue of CUNTastic.
Mothering a Newly Menstruating Girl by Heather Hill It all started last year. The thought kicked into my brain, “Uh oh, my daughter is going to be 10 this year. She could start having a period at any time.” My heart sank, my stomach turned over. The years had passed so quickly before me. It couldn’t be possible, could it? It was time for “THE TALK.” So I pondered on it for a while, and asked all my friends who are older for advice. I got some good book advice on new books that had come out. Everyone told me not to worry and I made it my goal to be discussing this by the summer of 2009. Summer 2009 came way faster than I wanted it to. Soon my girl would be 11. I needed to get on the ball. So I picked up one of the suggested books, Growing Up: It’s a Girl Thing, which is part of the American Girl series. Read through it. It was pretty basic, hair care, how to take care of your skin, things you might notice changing. Okay, good starter and it shouldn’t take her long to read. So I gave it to her with the explanation that if she had any questions she could come to me or her father. A couple of days later I went and asked if she had any questions. Nope. Of course, she is 10. She knows everything. I researched online for what other parents had said and found a couple of good websites and some more books. One in particular caught my eye, The Period Book. Sweet, this sounds perfect. I read through it. Whew, much more in depth, talking about the differences between tampons and pads, and more natural options, questions to ask mom and dad. I passed that one on to her one day, trying to be encouraging about what was going to be happening. I could feel it would be soon. I had started noticing mood swings and irritability more. Ugh! Girls! I waited. One day I heard, “Mom could you come look at this?” Yep, sure enough. I handed her the pads that I had bought for her and tried not to look shocked or start crying right there in front of her. She didn’t look scared. She was very calm. I explained that she needed to wash things out in cold water and I calmly walked away. I had to go outside, though, and call her dad. By the time he answered the phone I was full on crying. My baby had gotten her first period. I wasn’t ready for the shock of it. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was in my arms and I was singing her lullabies? Wasn’t it just yesterday I took her to her first day of kindergarten? My husband, he just started laughing at me. “Oh honey, you’re so cute. It’ll all be okay. You knew this was going to happen sooner or later.” Yeah, I knew. I just was playing the ostrich. Trying to hide in the sand so I could ignore the facts. She was growing up. I now had a young woman with all of the friend issues and mood swings associated. We survived though. Some of the growing up milestones are hard. Next comes the first date, but I’m letting her dad take care of that one along with the first broken heart.
My Painful Relationship with Tampons by Mallory Rice I started my period in eighth grade, a bit of a late starter, which was good in my case. Fortunately, I was a very independent, smart young woman. Unfortunately, my mother thought the same. I never got a sex talk (maybe that’s why my first few sexual encounters turned out to be one-nightstands). By about fourth grade, I had gained the knowledge that something happened to women when they ‘came of age’ involving blood. Thanks to the commercialization of the period, I learned in school that you are to soak up the blood with some foreign object such as a pad or tampon with the words “Always” or “Tampax” on them. My mom never taught me any of that, or anything different. My sister (two years ahead of me in school) started her period in sixth grade, so she had been going strong for three or four years by the time I started. Most of my friends had started too, so I was a bit behind of the crowd. I had never experimented with inserting things into my vagina (not even my own fingers, I felt it to be too socially taboo) so I went straight for the pads for the first couple of periods. I began to feel self conscious of the permeating smell coming from between my legs; after all, I was a nerdy girl with glasses who got good grades. The last thing I needed was a nickname about my menstrual smell. For some strange reason, I didn’t want my mom to know that I was going to use tampons, so I stole one from my sister’s box under the sink. The tampon had a plastic wrapper that held static electricity like crazy, and the applicator was soft, smooth, pink plastic. I decided I would use it right before P.E. class, to keep everyone from detecting the musty smell of period exuding from my body. In the locker room bathroom, I unwrapped the pink plastic device. I inserted the applicator less than an inch into my vagina, and pushed the smaller tube. “Woah…” I thought, “That’s weird.” I stood up from the toilet seat and immediately felt this crazy stinging feeling everywhere the chunk of cotton had touched or was touching. My vaginal opening was on fire. Every time I moved almost any part of my body, it felt like my vaginal opening was being forced wider and wider by an itchy miniature penis going the wrong way. My vaginal walls were being cut and/or scraped for the first time ever. And it was P.E. class. Stretching was hell. Bending over to touch my toes was like having an oversized pipe cleaner (wire pokeys and all) rubbing up and down against my vaginal walls. Running was even worse. I was already a slightly chubby kid, and the second or third slowest runner in the class, but that day I was the slowest.
Nobody ever taught me how to insert a tampon. I didn’t know to put the whole upper part of the applicator in, and then push the lower part of the applicator. And, smart independent me didn’t read the directions. And the string? Nothing like a strange piece of cotton string hanging out of your vagina, tugging down at the alreadytoo-low tampon while running laps around the gymnasium. I thought this was normal. I thought all women went through this crazy pain every month. After all, the tampon kind of covered up the smell. I thought this feeling was normal. I wonder now what it would be like had I known about alternatives like sea sponges, home-made pads, or the Keeper. I wonder now what it would have been like if I fully understood even the mainstream menstrual pads and tampons. Since I didn’t have open communication with my mom about this stuff, I went on to believe that pain from tampons was normal for quite a few months. Finally, I read the directions and discussed it with one of my girlfriends. Even after I learned to ‘properly’ use a tampon, the nasty rayon and crap they’re made out of still caused slight bits of pain to my virgin vagina, and especially my young cervix and vaginal walls. I continued to think that was normal until about 18, when I stopped using tampons all together, realizing that the only pain I had to experience during menstruation was coming from my body and not from an unsustainable product of capitalism. Once I discovered that there are healthier, safer, and painless alternative menstrual products, I realized that it’s kind of masochistic to use tampons. I have experience self induced pain in my vagina one other time since I quit using tampons. I was late on my period a few days and had had risky sex. Laurel had turned me on to the zine ‘Hot Pants’ which is a guide to DIY gynecology. I thought I would try a parsley infusion to induce my period (it changes your PH balance to make an unsatisfactory place for a fertilized egg to rest). It said you could also insert a ‘sprig’ of parsley into your vagina to help. Apparently, I didn’t know what ‘sprig’ meant and inserted a ‘sprig’ along with its stem. I was quick to look up that word after my-first-tampon-experience-feeling came back. At least this time it was a plant that hadn’t been processed or had crap like rayon added, and wasn’t made out of the same cotton that one third of all pesticides used in the US were sprayed upon. When I look back at my experience of learning about my body’s cycle and my relationship with it, the overwhelming feeling I have is that tampons are evil. Open communication with female role models, an introduction to alternatives, ignoring the forces of capitalism, less commodification of my period and a bit of my own research would have saved me a lot of pain.
Giving My Period A New Identity by Jessica Marie (aka VulvaLoveLovely) Not too long ago, a friend of mine was over at my house and she saw my mini model sitting on my desk and a burst of "EWWW!" escaped her lips. Clearly, I had missed something, so in order to clarify I asked, "What?" "It looks like she’s grabbing her tummy, like she’s on her period and is having cramps. That is so gross," was her reply. I was at a complete loss for words, comprehension, anything. Apparently the idea of cramps was enough to cause my friend what was clearly immense distress. Why would someone react like this? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I went home and, while watching The Mighty Boosh, a Tampax commercial came on. I started to think about tampons. You throw them in the trash, and not just any trash, a special trash. Dirty. Your menstrual cycle is very dirty. I started to think about Midol and Yaz commercials. In both, menstruation = the devil. Cramps are this unavoidable, horrible vengeance. In the Bible we learn that pain while giving birth and menstruation were part of a curse that was placed upon us. Everything is telling us that menstruation is dirty, painful, and overall unwanted. But is any of that true? I looked it up. I found several sources that say menstruation is a natural, harmless substance that is not at all unsanitary. I could not find a source that said it was unsanitary or unhealthy in any way. And it is really that unwanted? Personally, I would be devastated if I could not menstruate. It’s become part of my life as a woman, and I love being a woman. I read somewhere about women who have parties for their daughter at menarche. She gets a stunning red dress, everyone eats red cake and brings her red gifts wrapped in red paper and they get down with their bad red selves. I had to find pictures of this no matter how long it took, because something so rare is going to be very hard to find.
Pics from about five seconds into my search: There were pictures of face painting, celebrating, and games of pin-the-ovaries-onthe-uterus. Wow, these chicks are having fun and it is all because of their periods. Periods and fun, what a crazy idea! Well, I was not about to be left out. I decided that when my period came next, I was going to celebrate her! And I did. I cleaned out one room, entirely. I organized, got behind all of the furniture, bagged up things for Goodwill. Thats what my uterus was doing, after all, cleaning house for a new beginning. I thought I should take a hint. I took a bubble bath and drank all of the chocolate soymilk I wanted. I made myself a favorite meal every night. I watched a scary movie cuddled up with my partner every night and every night I put on a favorite song and danced like an idiot. This became a ritual for me. Every month I pampered, cuddled, ate some awesome food, watched some great movies, and cleaned. All of a sudden, I actually looked forward to my period! I loved my period! I didn’t think of it as a chore or a pain, it was a new start. A reminder of my ability to do something so amazing and profound as giving birth, a declaration of my womanhood. All of the shame vanished. Why should I be sorry about something that almost every woman on the face of this planet does or has done? Forget being sad about it, I was going to dance while drinking chocolate soy milk. My cramps vanished. I had been on prescription painkillers before, in bed for three days with a heating pad clutching my belly. With my newfound sense of celebration and my new ritual, I didn’t take any painkillers--not my prescription, not midol, tylenol, not even a heating pad. All that and I was cleaning the house, dancing, and sometimes doing both at the same time. So women, stop giving into this idea that your period is a curse. It’s not. It’s your body cleaning house for a new month, it’s a symbol of your amazing ability to create and bring life into the world. So have a freaking party.
One more thing:
Dear Tampax, Midol, Yaz, and all of you other period haters - Fuck you.
Cloth Pads as a Cultural Experience by Lisa Wood My first experience with homemade menstrual pads was not from a feminist event or environmentalist group--it was at a Girl Scout meeting. We were learning about 1800s women on the prairie. We held replicas of old designs, from the first store-bought pads, to the modern kind we have now. That day, at the age of seven, I vowed that I would use the old fashioned pads, as soon as I could. In high school I made my first cloth pads. I basically copied the design of the plastic pads at first. Then I made changes, to conform to my needs. If I wanted thin pads, I made thin liners. If I wanted more absorption in the middle, I added more cloth there. If I didn’t want to see the stains, I used dark fabric.
I felt so connected to the women in the past and to women in other cultures who use cloth pads. That may sound strange, but I think it’s like the feeling you get when you make your own clothes or cook food from another country. You can relate to the way other people do things, and understand what it’s like for them. I am grateful to those Girl Scout leaders who taught us about the history of menstrual pads. Who knew it would have made such an impact. I still make my own pads. I save money, cut down on waste, feel connected to the past, have fun making pretty pads, and I get to tell the woman at the fabric shop exactly what
The Birth Story of
On July 21, 2008 I woke up at 1am with mild cramping in my lower tummy, I tossed and turned trying to sleep through the annoying cramps. Finally at 3am I decided to get up, the cramping was starting to come about every ten minutes. I decided to go and watch some TV while I waited to see if these 'contractions' were picking up or not. I called my mom who was also my doula--I was tired of being alone and wanted the company. The contractions started to increase, and with each contraction I had to drop down to my hands and knees and lean against the couch. By 5am the contractions were about 4 minutes apart. At this time I also lost my mucus plug. I was still not ready to go to the hospital and still coping with the pain very well. My doula/mother thought it may be wise to go, because the hospital I was delivering at was about an hour away. It was 6am before we got on the road, and once I got in the vehicle and moving, everything STOPPED. We reached the hospital at 7am, still coping just fine. I was checked shortly after I got settled in. I kept telling myself I would be happy to be about 2cm, that way I would not end in disappointment. To my surprise I was already 5cm and 80-90% thin. WOW, I thought. I kept coping and managing my pain with deep relaxing breaths, squats and the yoga ball. By 10am I was no longer having fun, my stomach was itchy and pulling and the pressure was getting very intense with a burning sensation. The nurse checked me again and I was 8cm 100% thin with a lip of cervix. The doctor wanted to break my water, but I refused. I headed into the shower, for my goal was an all natural, unmedicated, low intervention birth. When I came out of the shower, the pain and intensity was picking up. I was having to find new comfort measures, and all my muscles became stiff with each contraction. I was checked for dilation yet again, and I was 9cm still with a lip. The nurses called the doctor and prepared the bed and room for the delivery. At this point in time, the only thing I could do was breathe and move my legs up and down, opening my pelvis. I let the doctor break my water to help me reach 10cm. Then I felt the "'ring of fire," a burning sensation that was more painful than anything I could have ever imagined. I felt a contraction coming, and with all the voices saying push push push in the background, I closed my eyes and pulled myself up and pushed my hardest. I did that 3 times within 13 minutes and my daughter was out. A 6 pound 12 ounce baby girl named Lilliana Michele. I would not change a single thing in my labour. It was so rewarding, I was not on the monitor, I had no IVs, had no medication and am so thankful that my hard work and research led me to have a great birth.
The Cycle of My Cycle: Wanting It, Getting It, and Losing It by Carla Burkle "It's that time of the month again...ugh." Aunt Flo's monthly visit is a real drag for most women. But how would you feel if she stopped hangin' around? Relieved probably...at first. And what if she never came back? Menstruation is something we can't wait to get as pre-teens then can't wait to get rid of as women. I found that when I lost my regular cycle at 21, that I lost so much more than cramps and a Tampax expense account; I lost my connection to one of the defining acts of my womanhood. When I was in fifth grade my teacher, Ms. Withee, informed us we'd be subjected to sexual education classes. All the fourth graders had been shepherded out of the room lest our talk of pubic hair and wet dreams corrupt the uninitiated. As a pre-pubescent girl this naturally fascinated me and I was excited for the class. About a year before I'd happened upon a box of Playtex tampons that belonged to my dad's girlfriend and "getting my period" was the most fascinating part of the sex ed curriculum. I spirited the box of tampons into my room and studied the insert. I dismantled the perfumed pieces of cotton in pink plastic and conjured my best guess as to how that got up in there. If every woman (more or less) got their period, who was getting it and who wasn't? Having your period was like a secret society. Blood was flowing all over the world yet I was never the wiser. I sized women up throughout my day: this woman said she had to "do something" when she went to the bathroom, that woman brought her purse into the stall; good signs of getting their period. Why weren't they making a big deal about it?! Blood was coming OUT of their BODIES; wasn't that all they'd want to talk about? Weren't they in pain? I wanted to ask questions but few women acted like they knew what I was talking about. "What do you mean dear? Period? Ask your mother." Sex ed answered a lot of questions in the form of pamphlets distributed by maxi pad and deodorant companies. Ms. Withee gave up on teaching the class; we only met for one session and no one could stop laughing. She scolded us for being so immature yet she couldn't bring herself to say "penis". She distributed gender-appropriate goodie bags and said "read the stuff inside." My goodie bag had panty liners, tampons, deodorant, and various absorbencies of maxi pads along with several pamphlets that explained the menstrual cycle and advised me to use the products I got in the goodie bag. I can't rightly say what it was that fascinated me about my period. Maybe it was some combination of wanting to have the respect of being a woman and sheer fascination that my body could do something so intricate. But once I knew what it was I was obsessed. I wanted it more than I could ever remember wanting anything. From the age of 10 to 12 I looked for signs of it at every trip to the toilet. I listened with rapt attention anytime someone talked about their period. My
dad's girlfriend had a daughter two years older than me and the rivalry between us intensified when I knew she had hers and I didn't. I snuck her Seventeen magazines and read the full page Tampax ads like they were the Sunday comics. I carried an extra pair of panties and a full, unopened package of pads in my book bag just in case I got my period unawares. I pretended it would be such an inconvenience but nothing could have made my tween heart happier. Thanksgiving day when I was 12 I was ironing the table cloth for our feast. I had diarrhea and my labia felt like weights had been clipped to them. From my encyclopedic knowledge of the period pamphlets and "'The What's Happening to My Body?' Book for Girls" (my mom's version of the birds and bees talk) I knew this was a potential harbinger of getting my period. My next bathroom trip confirmed I'd gotten It when I saw a ribbon of red on the toilet paper. From my initial days of endless fascination with this very mysterious and secretive process to adulthood when my period became a pain in the uterus that made life inconvenient, to the time when my period stopped because I'd gained enough weight to have polycystic ovaries and has only returned now and again, m y feelings and relationship with menstruation have gone through a cycle of their own. Every month I was reminded that should I have sex, I could become pregnant. The only other thing I've wanted my body to do as much as get my period is to get pregnant. Now that it's gone I feel like a living blow up doll. My partner can come till he's dry yet no life will come of it. There was a comfortable predictability to feeling mittelschmerz pain, noticing the changes of cervical mucous, to getting cramps and then ultimately the fierce flowing crimson tide. Having my period was an excuse to wrap myself around a hot water bottle, take a day off, soak in the tub, act outlandishly and say "I've got my period; sorry." I haven't menstruated regularly for six years. When I read that I am overwhelmed by my sadness. It's not the cramps and inconvenience I miss...it's the regular reminder that my body is a force of nature, connected to the Earth and the Moon, the cradle of life. I feel not fully a woman without it. Another cycle has come full circle: wanting, getting, losing, and wanting again.
Earning Your Red Wings by Eric Niederkruger
AUTHOR’S WARNING: This article pushes sexual mores and taboos to the limit. You may want to pursue a glass of wine at this time.
I was blessed as a young man to have a lover who was worldly and ten years older than me. I learned at an early age that menstrual sex was particularly hot for some women. The first time I had sex with my menstrual lover, she was able to string together several orgasms one after another. She claimed that while it was exciting to defy a taboo (period sex), something inside of her also devoured sexual attention at that time of the month. So I got used to messy sex at times. Besides, it usually involved an erotic follow-up in the shower, which was always a delightful twist. I found out over the years that not every woman is enamored of menstrual sex. For some women, the very subject is disgusting. As time went on, I became a genuine salty dog sailor in the Caribbean. This was in the 70’s when frequent, near-anonymous sex was more common. At a small divey bar in Baltimore on Liberty, my sailor buddy and I got to talking to two nice Jewish girls from the neighborhood. Much rum led to much conversation, which let to an invite to join them at their home. After a couple of joints, I was mightily high. My buddy wandered back to Liz’s bedroom, leaving Fran and I to some passionate making out on the couch. It was a headily lustful session. I’ve always been a big fan of foreplay, so I would commonly finger a woman, go down on her, then randily penetrate her with my penis. First base was fun, second base a blast, and presently I was rounding towards third. I slipped my finger into Fran and she was certainly wet. “Wet,” I made a little mental note, “and a tad squishy.” Nevermind, I diddled her freely and with much gusto.
Following a long intense orgasm, I withdrew my finger and dove into the muff. “Earthy, wet, and a tad sticky,” I made a mental note. “Salty too, and gushy!” I lapped and lapped her away into a second orgasm. But this was no ordinary orgasm! She clamped her thighs so tightly, and pulled my head in with such force that breathing was choreful. Still, I kept up licking until she very nearly passed out. “This is a good thing!” I thought to myself. Now some women repulse at the thought of kissing the lips of those that have kissed her ‘lips.’ Some are neutral, and some just dig the hell out of it. I took a risk, shimmied my body deeply up into hers and simultaneously planted her mouth with one of my sloppiest ever deep kisses. She intensified. Her arms and legs were wrapped around me and squeezing me like an anaconda. We had a nice, slow, strong, and soulful grind going for a while, never once stopping our sloppy kissing. After an eternity, we both shifted gears to orgasm mode and we came nicely together. After a pleasant while, I got up to relieve myself of a righteous piss. I actually almost missed it. When my eyes saw all the red stains on my lips, mustache, and goatee, speckled with little clotlets, I was startled. I came out of the bathroom a little freaked out, to tell you the truth. I sat next to Fran, who was rolling a joint, and took a big slug of rum. “Are you on your period?” I asked, in a well-modulated voice. She looked a little surprised and meekly answered, “Yes, I thought you knew, that’s what turned me on so much.” “Aahh,” I answered non-commitally, and sat back on the couch to reflect. Here I had just gotten my ‘red wings’ more or less unintentionally. To be frank, the sex was great, no doubt in my all-time top three favorites. For now, there was pot and rum, good female companionship, and I was on dry land. This salty dog sailor had just garnered a classic sea story to regale my fellow sailors with. I grabbed Fran’s hand and asked her to take a shower with me. And they all lived happily ever after.
Menarche: A Celebration of First Menstruation by Stephanie Dank
Myths about menstruation date back to prehistory and tribal life, yet live well into our culture today. Menstruating women were thought to be very dangerous, and were isolated from their families in small brush houses and 'red tents.' They were forbidden from entering holy places, cooking food, and even looking at men. While this seems archaic and utterly oppressive to the modern woman, it's a testament to the power awarded to this principle bodily function, a power no longer acknowledged today. Our modern cultural myths stand without mention of the life force of women or the healing power once associated with menstruation, and simply regard it as something disgusting and to be hidden. While there was a lot of fear surrounding this physical phenomenon in ages past, it was celebrated as the biggest rite of passage in a young girl's life, the largest celebration being around her menarche, her first menstruation. A girl's first menstruum was embraced in many cultures by grandmothers and wise women of that tribe who would take the girl, bathe her and adorn her with jewels (as in many eastern cultures), and prepare a feast. This would be contained in the community of women, and then often a ceremony would take place with the entire tribe to honor her successful passage into womanhood. The rituals varied from culture to culture, but were distinctively universal in that they were a celebration. These communities were in a time where an oral healing tradition between women thrived due to the honor associated to women's rites. In western culture, a woman's oral healing tradition no longer exists. Most of it was burned at the stake in the centuries spanning the eradication of paganism in Europe, and the rest was successfully silenced by imperialism and patriarchy in the centuries to follow. Womenâ€™s practices such as midwifery and herbalism were commandeered with the new institution of medicine. And so in an age of technology, where fertility is rewarded when expressed as sexuality, yet unspeakable when associated with the sacred experience, 'menarche' is no longer in young girls' vocabularies. Menstruation is introduced on accident by stumbling upon our mothers' box of tampons or finding a wrapped up pad in the bathroom trash can, and quickly evaded with matterof-fact statements implying that we'll cross that bridge when we get there. Unfortunately for many girls, the bridge to womanhood these days is coming up sooner and sooner, and nobody seems to want to know why. Many scientifically supported theories exist, such as the effect of hormones in our meat industry and the existence of estrogen-mimicking chemicals in our environment. Childhood obesity is thought to be a major contributing factor to the early onset of menarche, as estrogen and progesterone rely on cholesterol to reach the appropriate levels for menstruation. Both of these hot-button issues are fairly new in our culture's vernacular, causing one to suspect that the negative attitude around menstruation is becoming even more damaging to girls at a younger and younger age. But working backwards to try to
reunite us with the recognition of our power as women would be futile, at most. Only when women reconnect with the wisdom of our 'dangerous' bodies, and relearn the tradition of sharing that knowledge, will we be able to embrace and celebrate even the youngest of girls coming of age. Women's spirituality groups are on the rise, as is a revival of the medicine woman tradition of herbalism which is tied closely with the do-it-yourself ethic of many radical communities. Workshops and classes are being held on the subjects of alternative menstruation practices and women's health, and having led both, I can see clearly that there is a collective wound among women once these subjects are breeched. Many of us have suffered a loss around menarche, having been shoved into an experience so integral in our lives and yet so silent and resented, left to figure out the mystery on our own. It's true that menstruation is painful as well as powerful, but we've been indoctrinated into focusing on the pain and inconvenience of it, and once we discover that the power of it was something that we once celebrated, a lot of us feel cheated. This was the experience of the group I led with Free School Denver called â€˜Positive Menstruation.â€™ We met every Monday night in the living room of a community house, and what was first an informative workshop on the mechanics of menstruation soon became a very intimate and healing space. If questioned on the process of creating a safe space, I would be hard pressed for an answer, because for us, it seemed to evolve naturally out of talking respectfully on a subject so close to all of us women. In reclaiming the knowledge of our bodies, many of us mourned the loss of women's wisdom and the lack of a celebration around our menarches. We were able to do this through each other, through tapping into that lost oral tradition. In a way, Monday nights became our ritual. Together, by overcoming our anger about having held our bodily functions in such a negative light for so long, the connections we made with each other had a respect and equality about them that I imagine was very similar to a tradition we've lost. So by giving agency to our painful experiences, we were able to transform the cycle of isolation that gripped us at menarche. We were able to celebrate! Reclaiming the knowledge about our bodies is imperative to the restoration of any rite of passage for young girls. Only once we are able to mourn the lack of celebration around our menarches and the loss of information that we should have inherited, can we realize our responsibility. Those of us with access to this information are responsible for passing it on. In my experience, sharing knowledge was what brought about change, which is what compels me to continue the conversation. I know that eventually it will be passed down to my daughter, or the daughter/ sister/cousin of the woman I pass information to, and that's when we come full circle. Womanhood is so incredibly universal, that to think that it's been isolating for any of us is a shame. Entering into it is one of the most intense points in our lives, and so it needs to be embraced. Menarche has been traumatizing for so many because the community that should thrive around women's experience has been erased. It's not just our responsibility, but within our power, to reclaim it.
How Depo-Provera Took My Period Away
by Ashley E. Mates
I’ll start from the beginning. My period started early; way early, in fact. I was the first one I knew to get it. I was terrified and all I can remember thinking was this was going to go on forever! It took me a year or so to figure it out and realize it was going to come every month, no matter what I did. One horrible time, it came unexpected. I was in the middle of the 5th grade, during class, and had to be sent home early because it was so bad. My mom tried to console me, and I didn’t go to school for the rest of the week. Then in 6th grade I started swimming on the swim team. I knew back then there was something about tampons I didn’t like. I just thought how mean it was to keep all the blood up ‘there’ when it was suppose to come out. So when I got my period and had to go to swim practice, I tried to swim with a pad inside my swimsuit. Needless to say, I didn’t go to practice for the rest of the week. I became embarrassed by my period. Fast forward to the 9th grade when I learned to love my period. Let me set the recorded straight, it was not because I finally accepted my womanhood. It was because I had lost my virginity. I loved my period because it told me that at least for another month, I was fetus free. I looked forward to my period every month I had had sex. While other girls were writing down pages to read for English in their agendas, I was keeping track of the first and last days of my period. I loved the blood rushing from my body. I looked for it every time I went to the bathroom, changed my clothes, before I went to bed, when I got up in the morning. I didn’t mind the cramps. I didn’t mind the stains on my underwear if I bled through. I didn’t mind any of it. In fact, I looked forward to it. I never thought of it then but I understand it now. It was the one week of the month where a boy was not important and it was a week were I didn’t have to impress a boy. I could be me, do me, love me. Even though, it was boys that made me want my period. I see that as a shame now, something so womanly in my life, being dictated by men.
Now by no means was I sleeping with every boy in high school, but I did have always have a boyfriend or something close to a boyfriend. I would cry, beg, and pray for my period. And, if for the off chance my cycle got messed up, I would be sick to my stomach, worried, distracted and scared to death until it came. I would worry all night long that I was pregnant. “What will I do? How will I tell everyone? My life is over!” It always came though, I was the lucky one. I was the only one whose period always came. All my friends growing up, didn’t always get their period like me. They all have kids now. I sometimes think my period knew me better than anyone else. She knew that I was incapable of reproducing, I am not the motherly type. She must have known the boys I ‘involved’ myself with here not good for me, either. She protected me. She saved me. And, then one day I said goodbye to her. I had been on and off birth control since the 10th grade, and all the different ones I tried made me so sick. Unlike most girls, birth control made my period worse. I would lay in bed sick for days and not the regular ‘period sick.’ I would feel nausea and get the worst headaches. I couldn’t focus. It made me fat, pimply and mean. I hated it. My doctors tried everything--high dose, low dose, the patch, everything. Until I found the shot. I was 19 or 20 when that happened. My doctor told me eventually my periods might stop completely, if I was one of the lucky ones. I was the lucky one. After my first shot, three months later my period left me. She has not been back since. I’m 23 now. I have had the same box of tampons and pads for three years. I think in the last three years, I have had a handful of periods (when I was late getting my shot) and the period always stops as soon as I get the shot I missed. She isn’t as much of a friend as I remember. I still feel her sometimes. I know when it is time to get my shot because I feel her trying to bleed through back into my life. It was scary at first when she stopped coming around. It’s ironic, really--my biggest fear used to be her not showing up every month. Every once in a while that fear creeps back into my life and I think I may be pregnant. “What if my shot stops working? Did I get it during the right time frame? My life is over!” I think she is still protecting me, saving me and waiting for me. Girls are always so amazed when I tell them I do not get periods any more. They look at me with envy, shock and dismay. “Really, you don’t get periods?! No really… no more periods?!” My period will probably have to come back to me sooner than later. The Depo-Provera contraceptive shot is probably what is weakening my bones sending me into the early stages of Osteoporosis. As much as I used to love my period and still have a nostalgic memory of it, I love her not being around too. Am I less of a woman because I live without her? I do not think so, I think it goes to show that every woman lives differently. Every woman’s experience is different. I learn every day to embrace what makes me a woman. I work every day to make myself a better woman and person. It bothers me sometimes that I live without her mostly because of men. One of the most liberating things about the feminist movement is the ability to not have children, or at least that is what I think. No one should be defined by her period like I was once, but rather define what her period means to her. Today my lack of a period is a symbol that I have taken control of my life in a responsible way that better suits my life. I am pretty happy about that, I
...about the contributors...
Laurel Ripple-Carpenter is a radical doula, reproductive rights activist, abortion advocate, anarchist, radical crafter, partner, aspiring midwife, and mama to the feistiest red-headed 1 year old ever. She lives at the Black Diaper Collective in Grand Junction, Colorado. Check out her menstrual beads, fertility charting kits, & other vaginal goodies at www.doulahara.etsy.com or email her at email@example.com. Carla Burkle spends her days facilitating compulsive eating recovery, helping
her clients on their intuitive eating journey using a technique called EFT, and learning to be a more loving person every chance she gets. Sheâ€™s passionate about fat activism, helping people love their bodies, and restoring sanity to America's relationship with food. At www.counterintuitiveeating.blogspot.com she writes about her joys and misadventures on this journey. Carla lives in Gainesville, Florida with her dog and cats, and the hard-partying students that crash on her lawn every night at 2am.
Connie Murillo is a radical/anarcha mama, zinester, activist, and lover to Quinten. She lives with Laurel at the Black Diaper Collective with their wonderful partners and babies. Connie is co-founder/co-editor of the Red Pill, and her mama-zine, The Peep Show. She also writes for Mamaphiles, a mama/papa zinester collaborative project and contributes to several other parenting zines. Check out gjredpill.org for these zines and many others. Stephanie Dank is an herbalist, sexuality educator, and student of the Wise
Woman Way. She's currently pursuing a formal education in nursing with the intention of practicing midwifery. Her first child is due in six weeks (!!) and she lives with her wild man-husband in Lincoln, NE.
Quinten Collier is a freak poet and super papa who created the amazing tampon & maxi pad centerfold in this issue. His music career is about to blow up, so watch out for shrapnel. Heather Hill spends her days mothering her three angels, loving her husband & supporting women through pregnancy & childbirth. Sheâ€™s honored to be a part of every birth she attends, and she runs Winged Heart Doula Services at http://www.freewebs.com/wingedheartdoula/index.htm. Shoshanna is a certified birth doula and mother to sweet 1 year old Lilli.
...about the contributors...
Melissa Williamson is a zombie space cowboy living as a graphic designer,
artist, and creative geekpod. She is currently thrilled to be getting her braces off, dispersing most of her belongings, and then moving to Washington. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle Matthews is a copy editor and freelance writer in Dallas, Texas. She is also studying to be a birth doula and hopes to help women find their voices in pregnancy and childbirth. Email her at email@example.com and visit her websites at michellemathews.net and handcraftedbirths.com. Eric Niederkruger is a proud possessor of a penis and a major fan of the vagina. He writes for fun and the pleasure it brings him.
Lisa Wood has a BA in anthropology. She has worked for feminist organizations and craft groups. She currently works in education and social work. Mallory Rice enjoys rowdy protests, shaking her fists at fascists, and long romantic walks along the barricades. She is co-editor of The Red Pill, Coloradoâ€™s longest running alternative news zine, and a founding member of the Housing First! No More Deaths! homeless advocacy campaign. Jessica Marie is a full-time starving artist and is madly in love with her Vagina.
So much, in fact, that she has an entire shop at www.VulvaLoveLovely.Etsy.com.
Danae Silva is a vagrant feminist vegan, obsessed with menstruation, patterns & illustrations (amongst other things). She created the magnificent menstrual calendar in this issue, and you can find more of her menstrual treasures at www.vivalacraft.etsy.com.
Ronit Vistitsky is a ridiculously interesting woman who recently wandered off
into the farmland of Western Colorado.
Ashley E. Mates is currently a student at Mesa State College, hoping to graduate in May 2010. Writing is among her favorite things, although she doesnâ€™t do it often enough. After graduation, she hopes to continue her in education and to become the first in her family to earn a PhD.
cunt + tastic
p.o. box 186 grand junction, co 81502 www.gjredpill.org firstname.lastname@example.org
a suffix attached to words to express a fun, joyful experience
=CUNTastic an exploration of all things cunt: reproductive health, menstruation, pregnancy, birth, abortion, parenting, patriarchy, oppression, STIs, sexual assault, sex-positive living, and much, much, more.
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(formerly Grand Junction Alternative Media)
Conﬂuence Media Collective
A term used to describe vaginas; also known as pussy, box, coochie, snatch, va-jay-jay, lovebox, cooter, kitten, fl o w e r , y o n i , a n d coochie-snatcher. Also a word used to demean woman-bodied persons by attaching a patriarchal, negative connotation to womanhood.