The performance of pleasure

I recently finished reading The Sex Myth by Rachael Hills.  While the book was fascinating, there was one particular idea that I’m still pondering ages after the final page has been turned.  This was the concept of the Performance of Pleasure.

 

In the book, the author suggests that people, women in particular, feel pressured to perform pleasure.  By that, she means that during sexual activity women feel obliged to act as though they are enjoying themselves, with a series of facial expressions, moans and bodily cues, even if they aren’t truly as turned on as their performance would suggest they are.  This performance is seen as an integral part of sex, and so many women don’t even realise that they are doing it.

 

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This chapter hit me like a punch in the stomach.  When I read those words, I realised how true they were for me, and that I was one of those women who puts on a sensual performance in bed, completely unaware that that’s what I was doing.  I don’t always do it though, there are times when I’m completely caught up in the excitement that I lose myself and the curtain is dropped.  But there have definitely been times when I’ve pretended to be more aroused or excited than I actually am, particularly when engaging with a new partner.  I’m not talking about faking orgasms here.  What I’m talking about is a subtle tweaking of my body language and verbal cues to suggest that sex is having a stronger effect on me than it truly is.  It’s not even a deliberate act, it’s something that I’ve learned to do over time, to encourage my partner and to avoid causing offence.

 

I think back to one of my first sexual experiences with a partner.  I am with my first serious boyfriend in my bedroom.  Nirvana is playing on my stereo and a half hour of kissing and touching has turned to heavy petting.  My boyfriend and I have partially undressed and he is using his fingers to play with my labia.  It’s the first time anyone other than me has touched this part of my body and it feels strange.  Good, but strange.  I’m getting over the self-consciousness of letting another person be this intimate with my body.  I’m anxious about my parents hearing us, and I’m enjoying the new sensations and being close to someone I care this much about.  After a while, it’s time for us to part so that my boyfriend can head home.

 

On the phone that same night, we talked about our experiments from earlier.  My boyfriend asks “Did you enjoy yourself?” and I assured him that I had.  His response confused me “It’s just….it didn’t seem like you were enjoying yourself”.  I asked why he thought that, and he responded that I hadn’t made much noise, and I hadn’t given much of a physical indication that I was feeling pleasure.  After our conversation, I considered this carefully.

 

There was no doubt in my mind that I’d enjoyed his touches.  Although I hadn’t been close to orgasm, it felt lovely and I definitely wanted more.  And it’s true that I had been quiet, but that was partially because I was very aware that my parents were in the house and also….it hadn’t felt good enough for me to make any involuntary noises.  I was worried because I didn’t want my boyfriend to think that I wasn’t having fun.  And I certainly didn’t want to be one of those girls who just “lay there”.  I wanted to make sure that our sex was good.

 

And so the next time we played together, I kept this in mind.  When he touched me I let out a little whimper of pleasure, and saw him smile.  I ran my hands through his hair and used my nails to claw at his skin, as though I was ravenous with desire.  I arched my back and bit my lip.  Even though I was relatively inexperienced, I knew how to act out this pleasure because I’d seen so many films and television shows that portrayed this performance.  I knew which marks to hit, which noises to make to indicate that I was having fun.

 

The important thing to note here is that I genuinely was enjoying myself.  His hands on my body felt good, great even.  But they weren’t making me as turned on as I appeared to be.  But he seemed more satisfied this time that he’d shown me a good time.

 

Over time, these little nuances became a part of my sexual repertoire.  They weren’t even a conscious act, just a few tweaks that I’d throw in to show that I was enjoying myself.  As I said earlier, they were more about encouraging a partner, indicating that something felt good, than actually pretending.  But now that I’m writing about it, it feels dishonest.  It feels wrong and shameful, like faking an orgasm.  And yet, on occasion when I’d drop the act, I had partners ask me if I was enjoying myself, if they were doing the right thing.

 

I got to thinking also about why these responses to sexual touch were expected.  Why my boyfriends (always boyfriends) seemed to believe that a single touch in a particular spot should make me weak and the knees and gasping for breath.  And I think I have the answer.  It’s a vicious cycle really.  When blokes are inexperienced in the sexual realm, their main sources of reference for sex and porn and films that feature sex scenes.  And on the screen, the women who are being pleasured are usually very vocal, and tend to show their pleasure with overt body language.  This is because it’s what looks good, what is entertaining and exciting on the screen.  And when these boys touch a real women for the first time, they expect her to react like that. And if their partner has learned that performing pleasure is an important part of sex, then his expectations are confirmed.  And if she doesn’t…..then he feels like he’s done the wrong thing or his partner hasn’t enjoyed herself.

 

So we’re all cheating ourselves with this cycle of expectation and anxiety.  Women are cheating themselves out of an honest sexual experience and men are cheating themselves out of the opportunity to genuinely enjoy their partner’s pleasure.  I believe that the time has come to be gentle with ourselves and our partners, and drop the act. Be vocal about what you enjoy and get into the habit of telling your partner what you want in bed.  Learn to communicate honestly and openly in your relationships and be genuine in your sexual expression.  It’s not something that can be done easily or quickly, but I think looking at our own behaviour and admitting to ourselves if we are performing pleasure is the first step to a better sex life and more genuine sexual relationships.

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Things I love Thursday 25/5/2017

It’s been an awfully long time since I did a Things I Love Thursday post, and there are just so many things that are making me smile this week.  I’m ready to jump on in and share the happy!

I love:

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  I just finished reading this book and it was excellent.  Sure, it’s in the young adult category, but that doesn’t lessen the awesomeness of this book.  In addition to being deliciously geeky, it deals with some really heavy issues like anxiety, bipolar disorder, dysfunctional families and navigating first relationships.  I truly enjoyed it.

Homemade sweet potato gnocchi with creamy mushroom sauce. #dinner #vegan #Italian #foodstagram #pastafrenzy

A post shared by Vanessa Bowen (@nessbow64) on

  • This sweet potato gnocchi I made for dinner on Sunday night.  I have made ricotta gnocchi before, but potato gnocchi just seemed too fiddly and difficult. I was so wrong.  It was much simpler than I expected and the sweet potato was a fun twist.  The sauce was also out of this world. It was the yummiest, creamiest pasta sauce I’ve made since I went vegan.  If you want to give it a try, this is the recipe I used.
  • Sharing my yoga mat with Mr Ringo, who thinks that yoga time is the perfect opportunity to steal kisses and smoosh his whiskers against my toes.
  • Celebrating my Dad’s 60th birthday with a low-key family dinner.
  • Warm socks and nightshirts.
  • Wes Anderson movie marathons
  • Watching American Pie with my long-distance love over Netflix and chatting on Skype about the horrendous plot holes and questionable fashion choices.
  • Good Mythical Morning.  This show has been one of my favourites for about a year now.  This week I watched this episode, featuring Mayim Bialik and nearly peed myself with laughter.

  • Nude lipstick.  I was always heartily bored by nude shades, but lately I’ve been drawn to them.  I found a gorgeous matte pinky nude by Lipstick Queen that I’m smitten with and I’ve been wearing it non-stop.
  • Rearranging my kitchen. I’ve switched around all my cupboards, moving the stuff I use most often into the spaces closest to the sink and countertop and lesser-used items into the far side of the room. It is so much more convenient and putting the dishes away takes a lot less time now.
  • Master of None.  This show is massively underrated.  It is funny, thought-provoking and full of heart.

  • This rad enamel pin.  I bought one for myself a few weeks ago and it finally arrived!  It has all the elements I love: it’s pink, it’s adorable, it’s sassy and it references Grease!
  • Chimichangas.  I had my first one last week and it was a revelation.  I can understand what Deadpool is so worked up about.

Took myself to the salon for a big chop. I feel like the sleekest fox in town. #hair #bob #sideshave #selfcare

A post shared by Vanessa Bowen (@nessbow64) on

  • Getting my hair cut.  I had about eight inches cut off my hair last week and it feels so much better now. I hadn’t really noticed how long my hair was getting, but I did see that it was due for a trim.  Once I was in the salon chair, I just wanted the hairdresser to keep cutting and cutting.  I love my swingy new ‘do.
  • Finally, this magnificent post called You Should Have Asked by Emma.  It so perfectly describes a phenomenon that I’ve been trying to put into words for years. It’s about the idea that in so many heterosexual households, the woman is the person who manages the house. Like, not just doing the housework, but undertaking the role of Project Manager for the entire home. And that this has a detrimental impact on mental health, self worth, relationships and family structure.  I’ve been in this situation, and it was this mental load and my partner’s refusal to take some of it off my shoulders that began to erode my longest relationship.  It’s hugely damaging and difficult to talk about, so I was exceptionally excited to find this cartoon that so wonderfully expresses these ideas.

What do you love this week?

How to deal with a body that’s changed.

So, over the last year or so I’ve noticed a lot of changes in my body.  And I don’t mean like, growing hair in strange places.  I mean that I’ve gained some weight.  Not a huge amount of weight, but enough that I feel uncomfortable in my own skin (and in most of my jeans).  And I’m not going to lie to you, it’s been pretty hard for me to deal with this change in my bod.

Now, I’ve written before about gaining weight, and how it’s troubled me. And a lot of the feelings I discussed in that post are still ringing true.  I’m finding it quite hard to manage the feelings that are cropping up with the weight that I’ve gained.  So in an effort to move forward, I sat down and thought carefully about why I’m so bothered by a few extra kilos.

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While my negative feelings about my body are complicated, there are a few key issues that have bubbled to the surface during my ruminations.  The first is the realisation that even though I try hard to be body positive, even though I try not to internalize the messages I’m bombarded with about how thin is better, and how being fat is a terrible thing, I’m still affected by them.  Even though I know countless people with a wide array of body shapes and sizes who are all incredibly gorgeous, even though I constantly tell people to be kind to themselves, I still feel the weight of those messages.  I still feel like I’ve failed in some way because I’ve gained weight.  I still feel less attractive when I notice that my jeans won’t zip or that my belly pokes out more than it used to.  I still feel like I should be ashamed of my weight gain.  It makes me pretty angry that even though I’ve done my best to resist that negativity and shame, it’s still wormed it’s way into my consciousness.

I’ve also felt frustrated with myself because I keep having this idea that my weight is something that I should control.  And that if I’m gaining weight, it’s because I’ve done the wrong thing.  I feel ashamed and lazy.  I feel mad that I have to manage my depression with drugs that have caused me to gain weight.  I feel burdened by my full-time job, which takes up much of my time and energy and makes it much more difficult to eat well and exercise. And I curse my genetics which make it more likely that I’m going to have a rounder figure as I get older.  I feel impotent because there are so many factors working against me, and I imagine that I should be able to manage them and keep my figure because that’s what women are “supposed to do”.

I also feel uncomfortable with the way I look.  Now, I need to point out that I don’t think that fat=ugly.  The reason that I don’t feel comfortable is that I’m not used to the way my body looks now. Even though the shift in my weight hasn’t been dramatic, it’s enough that I feel strange in my own skin.  I look in the mirror and it feels weird to see more rounded hips, and a curved tummy  and actual boobs.  My figure has become more hourglass where it was always fairly up-and-down and very skinny.  My clothes fit me differently and hug me too tightly over my new curves.  Outfits that used to make me feel confident and sassy now make me feel like a sausage in a too-tight casing. I don’t feel like I look like “me”. It’s so difficult to learn to love a new shape when I’d barely become confident in the one I had.

But I’m doing alright.  And there are a few things I’ve been doing that have helped immensely.  I’d like to share those things with you, in case you’re also struggling with a body that’s changed.

Talk about it.

Discussing my feelings and insecurities has been extremely helpful.  I’m lucky enough to have many people in my life who were kind to me, who listened attentively and empathised.  Talking it over with a few of my favourite people helped me to feel so much better.  It made me realise that my feelings aren’t unique, that these struggles are something that most people go through.  It gave me comfort to know that those special people didn’t think any less of me because I’d gained weight, and still valued me just as much.

Decide what action you want to take (if any)

Let me be absolutely clear: you don’t have to do anything about your weight gain if you don’t want to.  I’m the last person who will tell you that you need to go on a diet.  But I do think that if your weight gain is causing you pain and grief, then you need to do something.  For me, I’ve taken stock of my  lifestyle and realised that I could definitely improve my eating habits and exercise routine.  I know that I need to plan a more well-rounded diet and move my body more often.  At the same time, I know that unless I starve myself and stop taking my medication, I’m never going to get back to my old body.  And so as well as taking better care of myself, I’ve decided that I need to work on accepting my body and coming to terms with the changes that have taken place.  So whether you want to change up your habits, or look at your emotional patterns, or a bit of both, I think taking some action to get yourself feeling better is a good idea.

Recognise that bodies change

All bodies, particularly female bodies, go through massive changes over the course of a lifetime.  And whether those changes are caused by a lifestyle shift, hormones, medication, illness, age, growing a human inside you or some other reason, it can be difficult to manage.  As difficult as it is, it’s really important to accept that our bodies alter and shift as time passes.  It’s perfectly OK to mourn the shape and size you once were, but I think it’s also a good idea to begin to celebrate some good things about your new shape.  For example, I’m trying to feel chuffed about the fact that I finally have boobs, after years of struggling with push-up bras.  Find something that you like, celebrate that and build from there.

Get rid of clothes that trigger self hate.

This one has been hard for me, because my clothes are a huge part of my life.  I love getting dressed in the morning, and I place a lot of emotional attachment to the items in my wardrobe.  For me those skinny jeans aren’t just a couple of denim tubes and a zipper, they have the power to make me feel fierce and sexy.  And when those fierce jeans will no longer zip, their power changes….they become a trigger for self loathing.  Lately I’ve been taking a long, hard look at my clothes, and I’ve gotten rid of a few things that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wear again.  There are some I’m hanging onto because there’s a chance that they’ll fit someday.  But the ones that made me feel the shittiest had to go.  It’s hard to let go of those items because of the memories attached to them, and because in a way it feels like the end of a part of my life.  But sometimes you have to take a deep breath, let them go and then buy some new gear that makes you feel fierce and fabulous.

Do you struggle with your body when it changes?  What have you done to make that change easier?

How Mummy shaming hurts us all.

I got shamed at the gym a few weeks ago.  Not Body shamed or Fat shamed. I got Mummy shamed.  After class, I was chatting with a group of women I work out with, and I admitted that I almost hadn’t made it to yoga class that day because I was feeling so exhausted.  One of my workout buddies exclaimed, “Ness, until you have kids, you don’t know what it means to be tired”.  The others nodded in agreement and I felt, well, shitty about myself.  And then on the walk home that shitty feeling broke up into shame, anger and frustration.

 

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Now it’s true that I don’t have kids, and I don’t know what it’s like to be a mother.  Raising children is a task that is impossible for me to even imagine.  I can’t really fathom how tiring it is or how challenging it can be, and I’m not here to suggest that motherhood is anything other than trying and difficult (and probably also ultimately rewarding).

 

But here’s the thing: in spite of me not having spawned a brood of offspring, I definitely know what it means to be tired.  I work full time.  I live on my own and run my own household.  I support myself financially.  I deal with chronic mental illness.  I keep up family and social obligations and occasionally do some dating.  I’m busy, I’m challenged and at times I’m fucking exhausted.  I know all too well what it feels like to be tired.

 

Thinking back to that day at the gym, I recall how small I felt.  I’d admitted to this group of women that I’d struggled to get to the gym that day, that I was struggling in general, and instead of being met with support and encouragement, I was made to feel shame.  Like my efforts were less than theirs because I’m not a mother.  Like my tiredness wasn’t as important as theirs because I don’t have a family at home to take care of.

 

This isn’t the only time I’ve ever been Mummy shamed.  In fact, it’s happened to me a whole bunch of times.  And in each instance I’ve felt invalidated and unimportant. Looked down upon for my choice not to bring children in this world.  And that really sucks.

 

Here’s a big truth: every single person you meet is fighting the battle that is life.  And they’re fighting it in their own way.  We each have a unique set of hurdles and struggles, and to each person those struggles feel entirely real and sometimes overwhelming.  From the outside, an observer might think that any given individual’s burdens are simpler and lighter than their own.  But to the person carrying them they are heavy and complex.

 

Mummy shaming hurts.  It hurts the person being shamed and it hurts the person doing the shaming.  It adds fuel to the flaming idea that a woman’s life isn’t complete until she’s had children.  It invalidates the choices of those who decide that kids aren’t for them.  It dampens the ecstatic notion that a woman can choose a life that suits her, rather than just being what she’s “supposed” to be.  It perpetuates the idea that women need to be snarky and competitive to each other, rather than being supportive and compassionate.  It creates situations where we aren’t comfortable asking for help, or speaking out when we are struggling for fear of being stamped down or made to feel unworthy of the help we need.  And it creates a further divide between those who have chosen to have a family and those who have not.

 

We’re all struggling.  We’re all tired.  And every person’s struggle is real.  Every person is deserving of a kind ear and an encouraging word.  So let’s do away with shaming and just give the support and kindness that we can.  If a person says “I’m really worn out” you can offer your support.  And then if you need to, you can say “I’m worn out too” and tell them about your struggles and get the support you need.  If we all give that kindness and support and stop shaming, the world can be a much better place.

Peer pressure and my uterus…

Peer pressure is something that’s been on my mind lately.  When I hear the phrase “peer pressure” I instantly think of teenagers being bullied by their mates into shoplifting or experimenting with alcohol.  When I was in school, that’s what I thought peer pressure was.  I recall being made to watch countless videos of unfortunate teens who desperately wanted to fit in so they caved to their friends’ coercion and took a drag from the proffered cigarette/downed a swig from a communal bottle of booze/ nicked an eyeliner from the chemist.  (Ultimately getting caught and reflecting on how they should have listened to their gut instead of their bonehead mates).

 

But peer pressure isn’t just something that affects teens.  As I near my thirties I’ve noticed a different kind of peer pressure creeping into my life.  Only this time it isn’t booze and cigarettes that are being pushed onto me, it’s babies.

 

Now, I’m pretty darn sure that I don’t want kids.  I have nothing against children per se, but they have never really been a part of my plan.  Motherhood just doesn’t appeal to me and I’m OK with that.   There are enough people procreating that I’m confident that the universe won’t implode if I decide not to add my spawn to the gene pool.   But lately I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure around the topic of children and motherhood.

 

The first one to jump on the Baby Pressure Bandwagon was my mother.  She has two sisters who each have an adorable brood of grandchildren and I think Mum’s eager to join them in their photo-and-story-sharing sessions.  And in order for her join the Grandma Club I have to squeeze out a baby.  And when she found out that I had no intention of doing that, ever, she seems to have made it her personal mission to change my mind.

 

Like those peer pressure vids from high school, it started with some casual needling.  A few questions here and there to feel out my position.  “You’re so great with babies, don’t you think you’ll make a wonderful mother?”  “So-and-so named their baby Sunflower,  which I think is really cute.  What baby names do you like?”  and so forth.  Then when my answers proved maddeningly obtuse, she started with a more direct line of questioning.  “When do you think you’ll have kids?” became her catch-cry.

 

Once I made it clear that I didn’t intend to reproduce, she took it upon herself to convince me.  She will jump at any opportunity to remind me that kids are great, and being a mother is awesome, and when you have kids you get to do all kinds of fun things like play in sandpits and have play-doh in the house again.  Any time she sees me holding one of my friends’ kids she will give me a little knowing nod and make a point to tell me how great I am with kids, as though to reinforce my maternal behaviours.

 

At this point it was easy to shrug these things off as a bit of silliness from my baby-crazy mother.  But then the balance shifted when many of my friends started to join The Motherhood, rolling down the streets with their strollers and colourful collection of Peppa Pig toys.  All of a sudden, the pressure wasn’t just coming from my mother, it was everywhere.  Friends who had never batted an eyelid at my childlessness before started to inquire when I’d start my own family.  And then the tension began to mount.

 

What started as a bit of casual questioning took on a distinctly disdainful air.  Whenever I’d mention that I don’t want to have kids, inevitably there would be someone who would roll their eyes and say “You’ll change your mind”.  My decision to remain childless has been met with people asking if I hate children, or questioning whether I’m vain and selfish and don’t want to devote my time to another.  My mother has begun rattling off lists of people I went to school with who have had children, and I’m starting to feel that same old high school pressure “Everyone else is doing it, why not you?”.

 

In the face of this adult peer pressure, I’ve decided to console myself with the very same advice that those videos preached so many years ago: to listen to your gut and do the right thing.  The truth is I like kids.  A lot.  They can be hilarious and a source of great joy.  And I’m good with kids.  But I am also good at handing them back to their parents when a tantrum kicks in.  As much as I enjoy them, I don’t have any desire to have kids of my own.  I’m perfectly content being Aunty Ness to all my friends kids.  That’s what’s right for me, and just because everyone else seems to be having babies doesn’t mean I need to have one too.

 

Have you felt peer pressure as an adult?  What have you felt pressured to do?

Working towards financial freedom

My views towards money have shifted pretty dramatically in the last few years.  From the ages of seventeen to twenty-seven I was in a relationship with a man who was in a secure and well-paid profession.  As our relationship was serious, I never gave a lot of thought to my own finances.  I wasn’t too stressed out about saving for the future.  And when that relationship ended, I was faced with the very scary prospect of having to finance myself through my future.  I realised that if I wanted to own my own house one day, or have a retirement plan or be in a position where I wasn’t living hand-to-mouth each week I needed to do something.

 

DSCF7394I made the mistake of confusing having a boyfriend with having long-term financial security.  Please don’t think that I got into the relationship for the money.  Or that I didn’t work hard to pay my own way.  It’s just that whenever I’d considered financial planning for the future, I didn’t put a lot of thought into it because I imagined that my future would include another person who was financially stable.  And it was a rude awakening when I realised that wasn’t going to happen.

 

Once the dust had settled on my break-up, I had to think very carefully about the kind of life I wanted to have.  When I got to thinking about my future, there were a lot of things I wanted: a house, overseas travel, a secure retirement, which weren’t going to happen unless I made some changes and took matters into my own hands.

 

Now I feel that I’m on the road to financial freedom.  I’m nowhere near that coveted place yet, but I’m travelling the right path.  Today I wanted to discuss some of the things that I’m doing to move towards financial freedom because I think it’s a really important topic that not enough people consider carefully.  I understand that I’m in a privileged position and that not everyone is able to take the same steps that I am.  But I wanted to share my own experiences to give you some ideas and encourage you to think about your own financial future.  So here are the things that I do to help improve my finances…

 

Work full time

When I moved out on my own I had a choice: I could continue to work part-time and have just enough to pay my expenses or I could look for a full-time job and earn enough to begin saving some money.  This wasn’t an easy decision for me.  As you may know, I have depression and was very worried about the toll that full-time work would take on my health.  But I decided to give it a shot when an opportunity for a full-time job presented itself.  It was a hard transition, but I adjusted and ultimately I’m very pleased that I did it.  I now earn enough that I can live comfortably and still put aside some savings each week.

 

Live well within your limits.

When I first started my full-time job, I went a bit crazy with my pay cheques.  I started taking myself out for meals several times a week, splurging on clothes and household items that I’d been coveting and buying gifts for family and friends.  It was a lot of fun and I think I earned a bit of play-time.  But after a month or so of this I noticed that my bank balance was at a standstill.

 

If you want to put away money for a rainy day, you need to live within or below your means.  Find ways to save money and don’t go crazy with luxury spending.  You don’t have to live like a miser, but you also can’t live on a champagne budget and expect to save cash.

 

Have a savings plan

It’s not enough to simply decide to save, you need to decide where your savings are going to go.  Last year I opened up a dedicated savings account.  It’s a high-interest account and I get a reward every few months if I don’t make a withdrawal.  I don’t have a card attached to this account so if I want to withdraw from it I have to physically go into the bank.  I aim to put at least a little from each pay into this account.  I have a list of specific big-ticket items that I’m saving for, such as an overseas trip and a house or apartment.  It really helps to have a dedicated account for your serious-grown-up savings that’s tricky to access so that you won’t be tempted to dip into it for discretionary spending.

 

Put money away for retirement.

Superannuation is unsexy but important.  If you want the best possible deal on your super, you need to shop around a bit. Try to find a fund that works well for your lifestyle and financial profile.  If you can, try to make a voluntary contribution to your superannuation every now and then.  In Australia, if you meet a certain income threshold, the government will match any post-tax super contributions you make.  There are also some super funds which will give you a bonus if you make voluntary contributions.  So it definitely pays to put some cash into your fund from your own pocket wherever possible.

 

 

Make payments off your debts

Debt is one of the biggest obstacles to financial freedom.  I have never let myself have a credit card, so I am thankfully free from credit card debt.  But I do have a fairly significant HECS debt from my time at university.  So I make a point of making voluntary payments off this debt when I can.  Once your debts are repaid, you’ll have less liability hanging over your head.  And then you can just focus on saving.

 

What do you do to work towards financial freedom?  Are your future finances something you’ve given much thought to?

 

Cloth pads vs. Menstrual cups.

Although there is some variety in the kinds of reusable menstrual products available, there are two that stand out as the most common: the cloth pad and the menstrual cup.  While some women who choose reusable products use a combination of these two methods, some are devoted to just one or the other.  I’m often asked by people which of these products I’d recommend, and I would suggest that they are both great.  While they both have some downfalls, each has a distinct set of advantages as well.  There are certain situations where I prefer one over the other.  So today I thought it might be fun to give you a low-down on the pros and cons of my two favourite menstrual products.

Cloth pads

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Pros

– You can make your own if you are handy with a sewing machine, which will really cut costs.

– Last for a long time.  Generally pads will last several years.

– Easy to clean and care for.  Just pop them in the washing machine and air dry.

– Simple to use.  You just clip or slide them into your underpants as you would a disposable pad.

– Comfortable and discreet.

– Little or no smell.  With cloth pads you don’t get that gross “period” smell that disposable pads produce.  That smell is caused by the blood reacting with the chemicals in the disposable pads as well as sweat that gets trapped by the plastic backing of the pad.

– Completely painless.

-It’s pretty easy to pick the right pad for you.  Although shapes and thickness vary, it’s hard to go wrong when selecting pads for the first time.

Cons

– It can be tricky to guess how many you will need, and you run the risk of running out if your cycle is heavier or longer than expected or you don’t plan ahead with your laundry.

– Not as discreet as a cup.  If you need to change a pad at school or at work, you still have to carry the pad to the bathroom, and then carry the soiled one in your bag.  This can be awkward or embarrassing for some people.

– Can be uncomfortable when worn during sports.

– Needs to be changed several times a day.

– Leaks do happen from time to time, particularly if wearing overnight.

– Can’t be worn to go swimming.

– Can be slightly uncomfortable in hot weather.

Menstrual Cup

Pros

– Very discreet.  It’s small and easy to slip into your handbag.  Plus, it’s safe to wear when you don’t have your period.  So if you know your period is due, you can pop it in before you leave the house for the day and you’ll be covered in case you start bleeding.

– Is washed and used again, so you’ll never run out.

– Very economical.  One cup can last 5 years or longer.

– Very hygienic.  Cups are made from medical grade silicone and can be sterilized. As they don’t absorb and hold the blood against your skin there is no risk of toxic shock syndrome.  You also don’t get any odour using the cup.

– Once you’ve learned to use the cup properly the risk of leaks is extremely low.

– Can be worn for up to 12 hours (depending on your flow), so you can wear it all day without having to empty it at work or school.

– Very easy to clean.

– Is very comfortable and can be worn for high-impact sports and in water.

Cons

– It can be tricky to learn how to use the cup properly.  It usually doesn’t take long to get the hang of it, but the first few times may be awkward and potentially messy.

– Not as readily available as cloth pads.

– More expensive than cloth pads (although in the long run a cup works out cheaper).

– You have to be very hands-on with your body to use a cup.  You will have to put your fingers right into your vagina.  You will see your menstrual blood in the cup.  You may get blood on your hands.

– Although a cup is safe to use if you haven’t had vaginal intercourse, it might be difficult.  I know that a lot of women, myself included, struggled to use internal menstrual protection until after they had sex for the first time.  But this varies from body to body.

– Can be difficult to choose the right cup the first time.  You need to do a bit of research and be very familiar with your body to pick the right cup for you.

– Removing the cup can be a bit painful until you’ve learned how to do it properly.

– Unlike a pad, you can’t see when your cup needs emptying.

Overall, I prefer the cup to pads, but they both have their advantages.  The cup is great if you very active or travelling and it’s definitely the more discreet of the two. However the cloth pads are simpler to use and a better choice if you are squeamish about blood or touching your vagina.

If you have any questions about reusable menstrual products I would be happy to answer them.

Do you use cloth pads or a menstrual cup?  If you do, which do you prefer and why?