Out of all the to-dos on my self-care list, menstrual cups loomed with the most intrigue. What’s more empowering than harboring a blood-filled chalice in your vagina all day? So witchy. So environmentally friendly. Such a swift middle finger to a tampon tax that internalized my instinct to apologize for my period, instead of celebrating it. Enter the menstrual cup by the Honey Pot Co., a Black female-owned, natural feminine care company that operates on an ethos of love, education, and general awe at the “vaginal ecosystem” (to paraphrase founder Beatrice Dixon). That’s the energy I want up my cooch, and why I was so excited to use their model for my first time.
So if you’ve never tried a menstrual cup, welcome. *Stirs cauldron* I hope the takeaways from my Honey Pot cup experience offers some guidance on how to prepare, what to avoid, and whether or not this journey is for you.
“Why does the packaging and marketing have such strong food vibes?” a friend said when I texted him a picture of my cup, which arrived in a crisp little box the day before I got my period, “I mean besides the name it looks like a giant strawberry gummy.” He wasn’t wrong. And I loved that. I love that the Honey Pot cup is a deep, juicy pink. I love that it feels rubbery but strong, and fits in the palm of your hand, even with its strange little plastic tail (we’ll come back to her). It also comes in two sizes: size 1 for those with a light-to-medium flow (or ages 19-30), and size 2 for those with medium-to-heavy flow (or ages 30+ or post-birth).
As a childless, Flaming Hot Cheeto-sustained 29-year-old with a narrow vagina but a Red Sea flow, I figured I fell somewhere in the middle. (Although, keep in mind that things like tampon size should be reflective of your flow, not vagina size). I picked a size 1 as recommended, sterilized it in a pot of boiling water, and resolved to try it the next morning.
Sometimes, my period pain wakes me up before my brain. It usually subsides, although the first half of the day becomes Anxiety: The Musical (Intermission: Fight with Your Plants). So, stressful grounds for any kind of vaginal insertion. That was my first lesson: don’t just try the cup on the first day of your period. Don’t learn to drive on the day of the road trip! Give your cup a practice run whenever you have the time, space, and mindset to familiarize yourself with this totally new skill.
The instructions consisted of box tips, and a small leaflet. Ample enough to make me feel confident, but not overwhelmed which I initially appreciated. So I popped a squat over the toilet. “Can collect 3 times more liquid compared to ordinary pads or tampons” the leaflet reassured, and can be worn “from 4-6 hours with heavy flow” (10-12 on a light day). I pinched it into a dumpling-like U-shape in suggestion #1. It popped right out as soon as I got it past my labia. Then I pinched in another side, as per suggestion #2, like a wonky shumai. The tapered tip was easier, but the same thing happened.
That’s when I realized: I needed to be over-prepared. I needed an influx of opinions, videos, and voices from other people with vaginas. I needed a cup coven.
So I watched a few YouTube videos. Read a few blogs, texted a few friends. I regained my confidence over the next hour or two, and put their tips (do: wet the cup; don’t: forgo relaxed breathing) to the test. I went for the tapered technique again, and fully Trojan Horsed my vagina. For all you know, I thought, this could just be another vibrator. A penis, a pierogi, who knows. It worked. Once the cup was in the entry of my vaginal canal, it naturally slid up towards my cervix. My pointer finger and thumb did a bit of guiding, but once it was positioned — and I made sure the cup was fully open — I was golden.
Wearing it out…
I went to the bar for a to-go drink. I road my bike. I lived my life. But my biggest irrational fear was this idea of spilling a tiny wine goblet everywhere I went like some asshole. That fear quickly subsided, because the cup was so comfortable. In fact, I didn’t really feel it at all. I wore a panty liner, as per a friend’s suggestion, but didn’t need it. In hindsight, it makes sense; I had forgotten that my period blood is gelatinous. And according to the CDC, most people only lose about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during a period cycle, which means all the dramatically smeared ghost pads of my past have been optical illusions, convincing me that my discharge was gnarlier than it was.
Taking it out…
So after about 5 hours, I stuck my finger up my vagina with newfound confidence — but I found no cup. I knew it was impossible to lose it in another part of my body, so I dove deeper. I hit the little rubber tail at the end of the cup, which I appreciated as a kind of lifeline for nervous users. That being said: do not tug this lifeline. It will not release the cup. The power of vaginal contractions and suction is real (now Ben Wa balls make sense), so you’re supposed to twist it, break the seal, pull it out, and pour it in the toilet — this felt daunting.
Another fun surprise? My cervix was too high for me to break the seal. So I lost my shit instead, texting all my friends to see who could come with me to get it surgically removed. Luckily, a seasoned cupper texted back with the perfect advice: “Relax yer puss. N push.”
I gave it a push. No dice. I pushed again, and peed on the floor. Only after about eight relaxed, consistent (keyword: consistent) seconds of pushing, did my cup begin to cap. It was wild, not because it was messy (again: my period blood is lazy Flubber. It dumped out pretty anti-climactically), but because it showed me the raw power of my organs. At the risk of trying to level with people who have actually given birth (to whom I’ll just say: RESPECT), I feel like I totally *get* the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey now, you know?
I made a promise to myself to use the cup for four days.
On the third day, I really started to find my footing; not only was I sleeping with the cup in (yup, you can do that), but I was sitting on white couches, and even stealthily removing it in a dude’s apartment before sex (the folks at Honey Pot are kind enough to give you a little storage pouch). Push, wash, insert, repeat was my mantra. By the fourth day, my flow was so low I could wear the cup for 12 hours. Bliss.
My qualms with the Honey Pot cup are pretty damn minimal. If anything, I’m more baffled by my lofty cervix (who gave her the right?). Overall, it was humbling to reacquaint myself with my vagina, and kill the tiny
Capitalist instinct to master my menstrual experience, rather than grow alongside it. My cup and I are still getting to know each other, and that’s OK. As one friend (and avid cupper) told me, you’re “going back to square one.” It’ll take a few cycles.
I only wish the cup’s instructions came with more info on insertion and removal (contrary to my first thoughts), because not everyone can access tips from the web or through friends — an immense privilege. But I also wish menstrual cups would’ve been presented as an option in my 7th-grade health class, and that’s not on Honey Pot. That’s on state education departments. That’s on a larger cultural need to normalize conversations on vaginal health, which always felt a bit solitary for me before using this cup; every tampon and pad has sold itself to me purely on function. But we, the bleeding, need more. That’s why, for me, the Honey Pot Co. cup is worth the hype; the heart of their brand identity is about bringing you into a community of others who care about your vagina — to say nothing of the many conversations it jumpstarted within my friend group. A menstrual cup can’t be everyone’s thing. But this menstrual cup should be everyone’s ice breaker.
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