I’ve been resisting writing about Instead Softcup® for a while now as I have never tried it, nor do I think I ever will. Some may think that it’s hypocritical to write about a product that you’ve never tried before, but why try something that is not eco-friendly, sends a negative message about menstruation to men and women and in the end costs more money than the product I am currently using?
For those who have never heard about the product, Softcup is a reusable (well reusable for up to 12 hours or a full cycle, if you use Reusable Softcup) cup that is worn near the cervix and collects your menstrual flow.
While I must admit that their advertisements promoting the “benefit” of being able to have mess-free period sex are well done, from a marketing standpoint, from a women’s health standpoint they are very negative in their messaging. It’s not enough that the femcare industry tells women that we need to conceal and protect ourselves from that “o so awful monthly bleeding”, now we can’t even be secure in our sexuality without buying yet another product to ensure our cycle doesn’t mess up our sex life!
Take this ad for example:
While it sure does catch the eye, it also sends a familiar message – that in order to enjoy anything in life when you have your period, a woman must take extra, extra care to ensure it remains a secret. And of course that means buying yet another product to keep the “leaky” process of her body in check.
I want to let you in on a little secret…
Contrary to the negative discourse found within religious and cultural texts, having period sex is not dirty, infectious or dangerous. It must however be something both partners are comfortable with, still be accompanied by the proper protection (if require) and it should be something that doesn’t reinforce the age-old menstrual taboos we have so long been hearing. Yes, Softcup may keep the blood away, but it also keeps away women’s self-esteem and open communication about menstruation with your partner.
Additionally, as the high heels are suggestive of work attire, I can’t think of any woman who after a long day of work, and while having her period, would be caught between two drapes in such a state. Maybe after changing into some comfy pants and having some “me time”, but the reality is, this is not the reality (at least for me).
And if Softcup is paving the way for: “The next generation of period protection” I’d like to stay as a traditionalist, using a reusable menstrual cup that last and lasts… and not one that is only reusable for one cycle or one day.
A little more about the eco-friendly claim of Softcup. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health sought to investigate whether Softcup is a more comfortable and effective femcare solution for women. In addition to respondents rating the product’s convenience and disposal as low in satisfaction, the study cited that within three cycles, and of the over 300 women who participated in the study, 13,963 Softcups were used and disposed of. Not exactly the type of eco-friendly product you want to be using if you are concerned about your cco-footprint and the health of our planet.
On a side note, What’s defined as “mess free” and is “mess-free sex” even possible? Softcup’s website states that: “With Softcup, you and your partner can enjoy less messy intercourse during your period, and neither of you will even feel it’s there”. Which is it, mess-free or less messy?
Regardless of the idea Softcup is trying to sell to its young audience, my period has never stopped me from… well you get the drift. While I may be offering too much personal information about my relationship with my husband, I feel it is important that women know a few things about “being intimate” while on your cycle.
- It may help alleviate cramps
- There is less of a chance of getting pregnant (less not none at all)
- Because of the “O”, sex during your period may help to shorten your period.. which can be nice if you have a 7 day cycle with extreme cramping prior, during and after your cycle.
- Your hormones may actually want you to be intimate during your cycle, making for more enjoyable sex
- As menstrual blood is a natural bodily substance, it makes a nice lubricant
You can learn more about this and also find some helpful tips here.
If you are going to avoid having sex while you have your cycle, the main reason should be that if you are not in a committed relationship, you are more susceptible to contracting an STI, not that you are bleeding. What’s worrisome about the Softcup “mess-free sex” ad campaign is that the demographic of college and career-aged women that these ads appeal to may actually put women at risk of disease and in turn compromise their health. If there is an increased risk of STIs during period sex and women are encouraged to not put being intimate on hold, they are also not being told the truth
And finally, as I was researching a bit about Instead Softcup, I learned that the design of the product inspired the creation of a similar product to be used as a disposable diaphragm which can hold a contraceptive gel that they are calling Amphora.
Since 1995, Instead Sciences has been developing and re-tweaking a formula for an over the counter non-hormonal vaginal gel contraceptive. Amphora is FDA approved, and undergoing clinical trials with hopeful release in 2014. You can even sign-up to join their clinical trial right now! Because of its latex-free and hormone-free elements, I can see how it can appeal to women who are looking for a contraceptive option that does not pump them full of hormones or induce an allergic reaction.
The website notes its qualities saying:
“Amphora is a bio-adhesive acid-buffering gel that coats the vaginal wall and cervix, helping maintain a woman’s natural pH level between 3.8 and 4.2, a level that has been proven in early clinical testing to render sperm immobile and inactivate most STI-causing organisms, including gonococci, herpes, Chlamydia, HPV and HIV.”
You can learn more about Amphora in their press release, Instead Sciences’ website and this promotional commercial. While the women in this video make a convincing argument, it still seems a bit too early to detect the effects this might have on women’s vaginal health.
It will also be interesting to see if Amphora’s capability as a delivery vehicle for other microbicides will provide a safeguard against STIs and if so, what, if any are the long-term health risks associated with it.
In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Women’s Health sought to investigate whether Softcup is a more comfortable and effective femcare solution for women. In addition to respondents rating the product’s convenience, leak protection and disposal as low in satisfaction, the study cited that within three cycles, and of the over 300 women who participated in the study, 13,963 Softcups were used and disposed of. Not exactly the type of eco-friendly product you want to be using if you are concerned about your cco-footprint and the health of our planet.