It’s the holiday season, baby!!! Typically the winter holidays mean lots of stress, lots of shopping, and lots of family time. Three things that don’t scream sexy sex time, right? Although this time of year is full of things that could cramp your sexual style, such as staying in your childhood bedroom a wall away from your parents while home for the holidays, I’ve got some holiday season sex tips for you!

Reduce the stress this holiday season

A large reason it is hard to get some sexiness going through the holidays is the stress! If your partner is the one hosting, cooking, buying all the presents, wrapping all the presents, and inviting everyone to your home, they do not have the time or energy to think about having sex with you! Share in some of those responsibilities! Finish up the shopping and wrap everything for them. Ask them what they need help with. Not only is this super thoughtful and lovely, but it frees up their schedule a bit.

Get out of the ordinary 

If you’re going home for the holidays and are staying with family members and don’t feel like you can fully get your freak on, consider staying in a hotel. If you don’t have the means to do this or you just don’t want to, this presents an opportunity to get creative. Try and have completely silent sex. Fun! Have sex in the car after running errands together. Schedule a sexy interaction during a small window of time when everyone else will be out of the house. Discreetly sext each other throughout the day in front of everyone. No one will know!! The disruption from the ordinary is fun, and the feeling of getting away with something sexy that no one knows about is fun too!

Make holiday season sex playful

Get playful! Dress up as a sexy Santa, Mrs. Claus, or another holiday-themed thing. An elf, perhaps? Do naked holiday cookie frosting. Spread the frosting on each other’s bodies. Lick it off! Gift each other certificates promising fun sexy stuff like a massage or romantic date. Even if you feel silly, tapping into your sense of play makes sex fun! 

Flirt it up and stay safe

If you’re single and ready to mingle this holiday season, flirt it up!! Flirt with everyone and expect nothing in return. Freely flirting helps you tap into your own sexy side, just for you. It’s fun to share that with others. Plus if you’re practicing freely flirting, then you’ll get really good at it and can use some of my holiday tips anyway. Just make sure you are safe. Ask your partner about their STD status, (preferably not in the heat of a sexy moment), use condoms or dental dams, and make sure you have consent!

Find time for intimacy, even if it’s not sex

If all else fails, embrace the coziness of the holidays and enjoy some wine in front of the fire together. Set the mood. The great thing about sex and intimacy is that there are no rules. Talk with your partner or partners about what excites them and what they like. Embrace the extra time off work outside of responsibilities to really take your time with each other and enjoy each other’s energy. 

Now that you’ve got all these hot holiday season sex tips, go forward and have some fun!

I love talking about birth control. If you’ve ever talked to me for an extended period of time, or heck, read any of these blogs on here, you know I love talking about birth control options. The pill, the patch, the shot, the ring, condoms, IUDs – the list goes on and on! It’s one of my favorite topics. Despite my passion for the pill (and other contraceptive methods), I found myself clueless recently when I realized I didn’t know what to do if I miss a birth control pill myself!

I’ve been on the combination hormonal pill (estrogen and progestin) for nearly a decade. During that time, I’ve never missed a pill. (Thank you for the applause!) Life got extra stressful recently and I was extra distracted because I opened up my pill pack one Friday afternoon to see Thursday’s pill staring me in the face. Since I had literally never missed a dose, I had no idea what to do. I immediately called my gynecologist and got some answers.

How does hormonal birth control work?

In order for the hormonal birth control pill to be most effective, you have to take it at the same time every day. The pill works in two ways: it thickens your cervical mucus so if sperm were to get into the womb, no implantation would occur. It also shuts down ovulation. This is the big one with the pill. If you’re not ovulating, no eggs are being released to be fertilized. If you miss a dose, this can throw off the delicate balance of hormones needed for ovulation to be shut down. This is why some people get pregnant immediately after coming off the pill. Of course, everyone’s body is different, but even one missed dose, depending on the timing, can cause problems. 

I called my gynecologist and asked to speak with a nurse. I told her I had forgotten to take yesterday’s pill, so I was 24 hours late on that dose. She said since I had only missed one pill this month, I could just take it with today’s pill, taking two pills at once. Since I only missed one pill in my monthly cycle, and I took it as soon as I remembered, I would still be protected contraceptive-wise. She did say that it’s possible I might have some breakthrough bleeding, or the length of my menstrual cycle at the end of my pill pack could be slightly different than normal, but I did not need to use any backup methods of birth control because I had only missed one pill. 

Protection if you miss a birth control pill

If I had missed more than one pill that month, I would not be protected contraceptive-wise and would need to use another form of birth control, such as condoms. If you miss more than one pill in a cycle, it throws off the process of stopping ovulation. If you miss more than one pill in a cycle, take your missed pill as soon as you remember, even if you have to take two pills in one day. Use condoms in addition to your pill until you have taken active pills for seven days in a row. You need active pills for seven days to reset your cycle. It’s also recommended to take emergency contraception such as the Plan B pill if you’ve had unprotected sex within the last five days if missing that second pill. If you have fewer than seven active pills left in your pack, take what’s left and skip the placebo pills to start your next pack early. 

In addition to not being protected against unwanted pregnancy during this time, you might also notice spotting. Your next menstrual cycle might be slightly longer or shorter than usual as well.

If you’re on a progestin-only pill, the protocol is slightly different. If you take your progestin-only pill anywhere between three and 12 hours late, then you’re late on your dose. Take the pill as soon as you remember, even if that means taking two pills in one day. It’s also recommended to use emergency contraception if you’ve had unprotected sex within the last five days of missing a pill. Use condoms in addition to taking your pill until you’ve taken your pill on time for two days in a row. Then your cycle is back on track. 

Backup methods when you miss a birth control pill

If you ever miss a pill and you’re unsure, call your gynecologist and ask to speak to a nurse. If you don’t have a gynecologist, call Planned Parenthood, and they can tell you what to do as well. Although this was my first missed pill in nearly a decade, people miss doses of their birth control all the time. Like I said earlier, the pill works best if you take it at the same time every day, but stuff happens and sometimes you forget. Take your missed pill as soon as you remember, and use a backup method of birth control if you missed more than one pill during your cycle. 

Trying a different birth control option

If you find that you’re missing pills frequently, consider a different form of birth control. Talk to your doctor to discuss what options are best for you. Birth control such as the ring or an IUD might be a good option since you don’t have to “take it” every day. If you love the pill, but find you keep missing doses, you can also have some strategies to help you remember to take it on time. You could set an alarm on your phone that goes off every day to remind you. You could also take it at a time of day when you know you’ll be doing the same thing, for example, if you eat lunch every day at the same time, take it with your lunch. Even if you’re not sexually active, taking the pill on time every day helps keep your hormones regulated and feeling good. When in doubt, call your gynecologist and ask for help.

A key component to great sex is communication. Thinking about what you want to do, will do, and won’t do, is a great way to set sexual boundaries for yourself and carry that through with sexual encounters with a partner. Talking about sex can sometimes be a little scary. We are socialized to never talk about sex, to keep our sexual desires a secret, and talking about sex out loud is taboo. I’m here to help you normalize talking about your desires, baby! If you can’t talk about what you want with a partner, then how do you expect to get what you want in bed?

What is a Want, Will, Won’t List?

A great tool for bringing up what you desire with a partner is a Want, Will, Won’t List. This is essentially a list of intimate and sexual activities that you can categorize as something you want to do or have done to you, something you will do or have done to you if your partner is into it, and something you won’t do or have done to you. You can make up the list on your own if you want, or you can find one online. 

How to write your Want, Will, Won’t List

The Want, Will, Won’t List can be filled out by hand, or there are some that you and your partner fill out online, then it only shows you the acts that overlap between you and your partner. That way you’ll only see the things that both of you want or will do. Having a list like this can be fun to help you and your partner think of sexy things to do together that you’ve maybe never considered. It’s also fun to fill out just for yourself as a tool to reflect on what you desire. You might also find that in filling out the list, some things don’t sound appealing at all, or some things are meant to stay just as fantasies. That’s great too. Every bit of information you discover about your desire will lead to a better sex life. 

Discussing your Want, Will, Won’t List

Once you and your partner or partners fill out the list, it’s time to discuss! I recommend discussing your desires separate from sexy time. You could talk about your list sometime when you’re just hanging out, or at the beginning of a date before you start hooking up. In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to clearly state what you are or aren’t into. Talking about what you want to do sexually with each other can also be a bit of foreplay, which is always fun.  

If you find yourself feeling nervous in discussing the results of the list, having one that generates the overlap between you and your partner can make it a little easier. That way, you’ll both only be talking about sexy scenarios that you’re both interested in. Getting better at communicating about sex outside of the bedroom will help make communicating about sex in the bedroom easier too. 

So what are some examples? 

Want: 

  • I want to give and receive oral sex
  • I want to cuddle after sex
  • I want to make out for a long time before getting naked

Will: 

  • I will use sex toys on my partner
  • I will watch a sexy video with my partner
  • I will explore anal play with my partner

Won’t: 

  • I won’t have vaginal or anal sex without a condom
  • I won’t have anything put inside of me without being asked first – fingers, toys, body parts, etc
  • I won’t have penetrative sex without foreplay

Usually, the lists you find online are much more extensive, but your list can include anything you can think of in a sexy situation. If you Google “Want, Will, Won’t List,” you’ll find plenty you can download and fill out. Have fun!

Content warning: This article discusses stealthing, a form of sexual assault in which a condom is removed during a sex act without consent. 

Stealthing is the nonconsensual removal of a condom during a sex act. This is sexual assault. Despite being sexual assault, this topic is rarely discussed, even though it happens too often. Thirty-two percent of women who sleep with men, and 19% of men that have sex with men have reported this happening to them. California just became the first state to outlaw this specific act, which I think is great progress in the right direction. 

Is stealthing assault?

Many people don’t discuss stealthing because I think many people don’t realize it is assault. If you consent to having sex with someone under the condition that they use a condom, then in the middle of sex, they remove the condom without you knowing, you are not continuing to consent to what’s happening. That is assault. This is a problem because it is sex without consent, even though it began consensually, but it can also put someone at risk for an STI or an unwanted pregnancy when the sex they agreed to with a condom would not expose that risk at all. Consent is essential for all sex acts. It’s essential in many of our interpersonal interactions in fact. Consent says that everyone involved in whatever is happening says “yes” to all that is happening. If someone removes a condom without the other person’s knowledge, it is impossible for them to consent to that.

How are stealthing cases handled?

California just outlawed stealthing earlier this year, and I hope this brings much-needed attention and discussion to this topic. Many sexual assault cases do not end in favor of the survivor, and the way investigating sexual assault cases in this country is handled is not great. This is a step in the right direction though, allowing survivors of stealthing in California to sue the perpetrators. 

I first heard about stealthing several years ago through an article I saw online, but I had never heard of it discussed amongst people I knew or in any discussions of consent. It was also a topic of discussion on the most recent season of “I May Destroy You,” where the main character is raped after being drugged, then several weeks later is assaulted again when her partner removes the condom during sex when she turns around to switch positions. She asks him about it afterward and he says he “assumed” she could feel that he took it off, blaming her for being upset. 

How can I talk about consent?

Hopefully, other states will follow in California’s footsteps and outlaw stealthing as well, furthering this conversation of assault and consent. Sexual consent is ongoing throughout a sex act. If someone agrees to sex with a condom, then that condom needs to stay on the whole time, unless there is consent for it to be removed. This act being outlawed can also act as an opportunity for people to further discuss consent. As I mentioned, consent is ongoing, and it can be changed at any time. It is a discussion. Sex without consent is an assault. Hopefully, this being outlawed can help acts of stealthing to decline, and other states will follow California’s example.

Stress. You’ve certainly heard of it. You are honestly probably stressed about something right now. In this day and age, it seems that everyone we know is stressed and moving at a fast pace, fluttering between deadlines and projects, working themselves to the bone. People can feel stressed from their personal lives as well. It seems like “stressed” is most people’s default state of being, and let me tell you, this is having a bad effect on your health. But by completing the stress response cycle, you can better deal with it in a healthy way.

What are the effects of chronic stress?

Stress is “a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.” When stress isn’t totally dealt with, it can cause long-term effects on your physical and mental health. In the book “Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life,” author Emily Nagoski talks in-depth about the stress response cycle and how stress can affect your sex life and reproductive health. Nagoski writes that if left unmanaged, chronic stress can suppress your menstrual cycle, decrease fertility, increase the chances of miscarriage, and even increase pain during sex. That’s a big deal, people! Outside of this aspect of your life, chronic stress can exacerbate depression and anxiety, cause digestive problems, increase headaches, cause trouble sleeping, and impair your memory and ability to concentrate. 

What is the stress response cycle?

Stress is part of a cycle, and in order to feel and deal with stress in a healthy way, we must complete the stress response cycle. Nagoski also has an entire book dedicated to this topic called “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.” She writes that our bodies are wired to react to stress in a way that will protect us from attacks, like how back in the day we needed to fight predators or run away from a lion. When your body perceives a threat or stressor, it will cue your hypothalamus to sound the internal alarm. The hypothalamus is in your brain and tells your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. The adrenaline increases your heart rate and boosts your energy, while the cortisol increases glucose in your bloodstream to enhance your body’s ability to repair tissues. The cortisol will also quiet things in your body that you won’t need in a survival-type situation, such as your digestive system. 

When all of this is happening in your body, this cues the classic fight, flight, or freeze response to determine how to protect yourself from the stressor. It is important to note, however, that your nervous system chooses this response for you. In Nagoski’s example of being chased by a lion, your body quickly determines which response gives you the best chance of surviving: fighting the lion, running away from the lion, or freezing and playing dead (like a possum). This intense, intricate process goes on in your body whenever you feel threatened, and yes, even a small stressor like a work deadline triggers this cycle. 

How can I complete the cycle?

When you’re feeling stressed and all of these survival hormones are dancing around in your body, you need to do something with this energy to complete the stress response cycle so it won’t negatively affect your health. Keeping all of this energy and hormone-induced survival-level alertness in your body is not good. Nagoski recommends completing the cycle by exercising, meditating, or doing a “primal scream.” The first time I did a primal scream, I was in my car so no one could hear me, and I burst into tears immediately after because I was so surprised by myself. It was a little too primal for me. I prefer exercise or meditation to complete my cycle. You can also do a leisurely activity you know will help you relax, such as reading or gardening, or even talking about your stressors with a friend or therapist.

So many people experience different stressors multiple times a day and never complete the cycle, which can have adverse effects on their reproductive, mental, and physical health. You likely have tell-tale signs your body throws out when you’re feeling too stressed, so pay attention to those signs and make sure you make time to complete the cycle. You’ll be more productive and healthier because of it.

People feel weird talking about sex. There’s a lot of worry about whether or not we are “normal” when it comes to sex: Do I want it enough? Do I want it too much? Am I having sex the “right” way? If you’ve been here around long enough, you know I’m all for talking openly about sex and spontaneous or responsive desire without shame. Discussing sex creates a more sex-positive culture, which leads to better sex lives for people because we are informed and confident. Because people feel so self-conscious talking about sex, there are a lot of misconceptions about how you “should” be when it comes to sex, and if you don’t fit into this box of how you “should” be, you might feel ashamed.

What is spontaneous desire?

We grow up being taught that we should experience spontaneous arousal. Spontaneous desire is when you feel aroused and interested in having sex spontaneously or out of the blue. Perhaps you are watching tv and all of a sudden you’re horny, or you wake up in the morning and feel super aroused. Most people probably feel a good amount of spontaneous arousal when they are first being intimate with a new partner, but how spontaneously you experience desire will change throughout your life. 

What about responsive desire?

Responsive desire is when you feel desire and arousal in response to pleasure. Perhaps you are watching tv and your partner snuggles up next to you and starts kissing your neck or massaging your shoulders. You think “wow that feels nice,” and you start to feel desire in response to what they are doing. 

Is responsive desire better than spontaneous?

Neither form of desire is better or more normal than the other. Culturally we are told that men typically experience spontaneous desire and that women don’t experience desire at all, which is untrue. All types of people can experience either type of desire at different points in their life and throughout different relationships. 

One of my favorite sex educators, Emily Nagoski, has written extensively on responsive and spontaneous desire, and writes about it in her book “Come As You Are.” Nagoski points out that despite the cultural idea that spontaneous desire is correct and any other type of desire means you have a low sex drive that needs fixing, there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims. She has done research interviewing men and women about their sexual desire, and both men and women experience both spontaneous and responsive desire, and both types of desire are healthy.

In an article for the New York Times and another for Medium, Nagoski writes about a drug called Flibanserin, created in 2015, which is also known as the “female Viagra.” The drug is intended to create a spontaneous desire for those who take it. As she mentions in her articles, the drug was created to treat low desire in women, as if lack of spontaneous desire is a disease — which it isn’t. The clinical trials of the drug were fairly unsuccessful and had several side effects.

How to communicate your pleasure needs

As Nagoski reminds us, focusing on spontaneous desire distracts from what is really important when it comes to sex: pleasure. We get too caught up in how much we do or don’t want sex when really the focus should be on the quality of sex being had. 

It’s important to know what type of desire you experience so you can communicate that with a partner. If one partner experiences spontaneous desire and the other is responsive, the spontaneous desire partner might feel like their partner isn’t as interested in sex since they might not initiate as much. In reality, their partner is interested in sex, they just don’t feel desire until they experience some pleasure first. Communication is a great tool for a healthy sex life regardless because you can tell your partner what you want and they can communicate their needs as well. 

It’s also important to remember that neither form of desire is more correct. Responsive desire doesn’t mean you have a low sex drive or that your sex drive needs fixing. Pay attention to your body and what does or doesn’t make you feel aroused, then communicate that with your partner or partners for a more pleasurable experience for everyone involved.

I remember seeing a chart for monthly breast self-exams hanging in the shower in my parent’s bathroom when I was a kid. There were about four or five illustrations of a woman doing a breast self-exam with text explaining what she was doing. Since I couldn’t read when I first saw it, my little kid’s brain thought she was doing a fun dance. I would wave my arms up over my head like the woman in the pictures and dance around in the shower. Now that I’m an adult and have talked with my doctor about doing breast self-exams, I now know the importance of doing this check each month.

What is a breast self-exam?

Breast self-exams are an easy, inexpensive way for people with breasts to check for lumps or irregularities in their breast tissue each month. Self-exams should in no way replace having your primary care doctor or gynecologist check your breast tissue when you visit, and they shouldn’t replace mammograms either. Self-exams are meant to supplement the professional care you get to check your breast tissue. Mammograms typically aren’t necessary until you’re in your 40s anyway, so you want to make sure you’re aware of your breast health from a young age.

Why should I do a self-check?

Self-exams are so important because about forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by people who notice a lump in their breast. All people with breasts should start doing self-exams once they develop breast tissue or go through puberty. You should do a self-check breast exam once a month. My birth control pack actually has a little note written after my first week of pills that says “Monthly breast self-exam” to remind me to check. You could also put a reminder on your phone or in your calendar, or just do it each month when you get your period. 

When doing a self-exam, you’re looking for any changes in shape or color with your breasts or nipples, and also feeling for any bumps or lumps. In addition to checking for irregularities in your breast tissue, I think breast self-exams are awesome because it prompts you to pay attention to your body and get comfortable with it. 

There are a few steps for a breast self-exam, and it only takes a few minutes

Stand in front of a mirror and have your arms by your side or on your hips. Observe your boobs! What do you see? Do they look the same they always do? Do you notice any discoloration, dimples, or swelling? You should contact your doctor if you notice any dimpling or puckering, bulging, redness or soreness, or nipples that have changed position. Additionally, if your nipples are expelling any liquid or discharge, contact your doctor ASAP!

Next, while still in front of that mirror, lift your arms up. (This is the part on my mom’s chart in the shower I interpreted as a dance, but who can blame me?) With your arms lifted, look for all of the same things you were looking at before. 

You should also check your breast tissue while lying down. Your tissue spreads out all over when you’re lying down, positioning everything a little differently. Lay down and use the tips of your fingers to feel around. Put a pillow under your right shoulder, stretch your right arm up, and feel with your left hand. Use varying amounts of pressure as you feel around. Make sure to feel all the way into your armpit (you’ve got breast tissue in there, baby!), and under your boobs as well. The underboob area is sometimes hard to see in the mirror, so it’s important to feel for it. When you’re feeling around, it’s helpful to go in a pattern. You could start at your nipple and move in small circles going outward, or you could feel in lines across your breast. Just make sure to touch the whole breast. Repeat on the other side.

And finally, do a check standing or sitting up. A lot of people like to do a standing check in the shower (hence my mom’s chart in her shower) because your skin is slippery, making it easier for your fingers to glide over your breast. You’ll basically do the same movements you did to feel your boob when you were lying down. Pay attention to any lumps or bumps you feel.

What if I notice an issue?

If you do find a lump, dimpling, discharge, or change in your nipples, contact your doctor. A lot of women get small bumps or lumps in their breast tissue during their period because of hormonal changes, so if you notice a bump during that time, it might be due to hormones. If that lump persists and doesn’t go away by your next period, it could be something else. Just to be safe, if you notice any irregularities, call your doctor and tell them what’s up. They can guide you through your next steps. 

Staying on top of your health is super important, and your breast health is no exception. Build in your monthly check as part of your self-care or health routine. It doesn’t take long, and if you find a lump or irregularity, it could literally save your life to be on top of your breast health. Remember, self-exams are only meant to supplement exams by your doctor or mammograms. Get comfy with yourself and stay on top of your breast health.

Illustrations depicting a breast self-exam can be found at nationalbreastcancer.org and breastcancer.org.

If you’ve ever worked in any service job, you’ve probably dealt with managing your emotions to keep the customer happy. If you work at a restaurant and you bring food to your table, and the customer says their sandwich came with a sauce on it they didn’t ask for, you need to stay positive and offer a solution to keep the customer also feeling positive so they’ll return to your restaurant. You have to manage your feelings while also managing the emotions of the people around you. This idea of managing emotions, feelings, and expressions is called emotional labor. With Mother’s Day in May, it feels especially right to discuss emotional labor, as women often exercise it most. 

What is emotional labor?

The concept of emotional labor was first fully explored by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her 1983 book The Managed Heart. When Hochschild was first discussing emotional labor, she mostly explored this concept in regard to work relationships. Other professions that require a great deal of emotional labor are teachers, nurses, flight attendants, or hotel management, just to name a few.

Since Hochschild’s initial writing on the topic, many other sociologists have delved deeper into studying emotional labor. This topic has now been expanded beyond just showing up in work situations. Emotional labor also is present in people’s everyday domestic lives, and unfortunately, women often bear the brunt of emotional labor in many relationships.

Examples of emotional labor for women

The first time I heard the term “emotional labor” and saw a lengthy explanation of it was a Harpers Bazaar article written by Gemma Hartley. In the article, Hartley describes how she asked her husband to hire a house cleaning service for her as a Mother’s Day gift. She wanted her husband to handle it all so she could relax and enjoy a clean home. She didn’t want to have to go through the trouble of looking up cleaning services, comparing prices, and reading reviews—she wanted her husband to do that for her as part of the gift.

Instead, her husband cleaned the bathrooms himself, which is a nice gesture, but Hartley describes that she ended up watching their children and cleaning up some clothing and a box her husband left out in their closet. Her husband says she should have just asked him to put the box away, and as the author expresses, the whole point is she doesn’t want to have to ask. She wanted to feel cared for by her partner in the same way she cares for him.

Bearing the full responsibility of managing a household and making sure everyone is cared for is a lot of work. Updating a calendar with everyone’s schedules, packing lunches for children to take to school, washing and folding laundry, asking your partner to clean up after themselves, asking them a second, third, and fourth time to clean the bathroom even though it’s their responsibility and they shouldn’t need to be reminded. These are all examples of emotional labor women often are responsible for in a home.

The actual, physical work isn’t the emotional labor— all of the little things you do for others that make their lives easier, and the process of asking your partner to also do their work and share in the responsibilities is the emotional labor.

How can we manage emotional labor?

Having conversations with your partner about them pitching in more, being considerate of their feelings, making sure they understand you asking them to help out and do their chores without being asked multiple times is not an attack on their character, is emotional labor. All the while you just do what needs to be done because if you don’t do it, no one will.

So why is it that women often bear a great responsibility for this? There’s the old stereotype that men will go out into the world and work a full-time job while women stay at home and raise the children and look after the house. Maybe some of this is due to old gender norms sticking around, but honestly, I’m not quite sure. But many modern relationships have both partners working full time, so shouldn’t the housework and in-home responsibilities be split equally?

Obviously, every relationship won’t have this exact dynamic, but if you google “emotional labor,” you’ll find article after article citing specific examples of women handling emotional labor in the home. Think about your own upbringing and who was in charge of domestic and emotional care in your home. Think about those responsibilities in your own life now and who takes care of them in your various relationships.

Do what works for you and your relationship

Everyone has to do some sort of emotional labor in their lives, but if you are thanklessly responsible for the majority of this labor in your home, you should feel able to change that.

If you’re feeling like you are bearing the brunt of all of this in-house labor and you’re having to constantly remind your partner to do their share of housework, run errands, etc., then it might be time for a conversation with them about equally distributing work. Yes, you’ll want to be considerate of their feelings when you talk with them, but you are not nagging! You’re simply asking for an equal share of responsibility. And if your partner loves you and cares about you, then they should want to actively share the responsibility. 

The vagina is an absolutely amazing organ. It can bring life into this world, it helps facilitate your menstrual cycle to let you know your body is working properly, it can be used for sex and pleasure, and it’s totally self-cleaning. And since it’s a self-cleaning organ, that means vaginal hygiene products are totally unnecessary.

Why do vaginal hygiene products exist?

If your vagina is self-cleaning, then why do “feminine hygiene products” like Summer’s Eve and other brands exist? To be perfectly blunt, these products exist to make you think your vagina’s natural discharge and odor is dirty and unnatural so you’ll want to buy feminine hygiene wipes and douches to “cleanse” yourself. Not only do vaginal hygiene products use people’s insecurities and shame regarding their vaginal odor to make money, but these products also are harmful to your vagina’s health and can throw off your vagina’s pH balance, leading to infections or other complications.

The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, using discharge to flush out any bad bacteria. Discharge is one hundred percent normal and essential for your vaginal health. A specific odor likely accompanies this discharge, and for some reason, people are made to feel ashamed of the way their vagina smells. Vaginal odor is also completely normal and healthy. In fact, a person’s vaginal odor will likely change throughout their menstrual cycle, and can also change depending on diet. The only time you should be concerned about your discharge or vaginal odor is if either one changes drastically. If your discharge changes color or consistency and your vaginal odor change significantly, consult your doctor. You could have an infection.

Cleaning your vulva versus vagina

Although the vagina cleans itself, the vulva does not. Your vulva is the folds of skin (labia) on the outside of your body. The best way to clean your vulva is with warm water. Doctors also recommend warm water and mild soap. If you have very sensitive skin, unscented soap would work best, but again, just water is fine as well. Since all you need for a clean vulva and vagina is warm water, the chemicals in vaginal hygiene products can be harmful to users.

Summer’s Eve has a whole host of products such as cleansing wipes, sprays, cleansing wash, body powder, and douche products. It’s important to note that Summer’s Eve is not the only brand that sells these types of products. I am just using them as an example because they are very widely known and easily available. No matter the brand name, these products are unnecessary and can be harmful. 

Most importantly, do not douche

If you gather only one thing from this article, let it be this: do NOT douche. Douching is a method to wash out the vagina using a formula that is sprayed directly into the vagina. Douching products can contain water, vinegar, antiseptics, and fragrances, all of which can be harmful to your vaginal hygiene. People douche to wash out bad bacteria from the vagina and to feel “fresh and clean.” While you are washing out the bad bacteria, you also wash out the good bacteria your vagina needs to maintain a healthy pH balance. Side effects of douching include bacterial vaginosis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, pregnancy complications such as ectopic pregnancy, and an increased risk of cervical cancer.

Summer’s Eve website contains no ingredients for any of their products, which I find alarming. Through my research, I found one source that listed some ingredients, some of which include “fragrance” (which the product does not elaborate on what makes up this ingredient), methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone, cocamidopropyl betaine, and many more. For a full list of ingredients you could of course look at the products in the store. However, if I am using something to clean my vulva or vagina, I would like to be able to pronounce it.

I also found that Summer’s Eve cleansing wipes contain octoxynol-9, which is a spermicide. There is no warning on the packaging that discloses this information. The wipes are not viable forms of contraception, however, it is unclear if the octoxynol-9 is strong enough in the wipes to affect someone’s ability to get pregnant. 

Your vagina’s smell is normal!

This is no joke! Your vagina doesn’t need to be flushed out with water and other chemicals. Your vagina is not smelly or dirty. This harmful narrative that vaginas are dirty and smell bad is incredibly harmful to your physical and mental health. Being told that your vagina is dirty and literally needs to be flushed out with fragrances in order to be clean and desirable harms positive self-image and feeling good in one’s body. I understand wanting to feel clean or wanting to “freshen up” before a sexual encounter, but as mentioned above, all you need is water for that. No chemicals or artificial scents are necessary.

I’m here to tell you that the messages sold to us by these hygiene companies are lies. There is science to prove how harmful these products are and to reiterate that vaginal odor is normal and healthy! Your vagina is not supposed to smell like flowers or baby powder. You are not a flower or a baby. Your vagina should smell like vagina! 

 

In this great year of 2021, there are many ways to manage your period. From pads, to tampons, to the period sponge, to period-proof underwear, you are bound to find an option that makes managing your period fit with your lifestyle and preferences. Menstrual cups have been gaining a lot of popularity in the last few years, and there’s so much to explore with this environmentally friendly invention.

When were menstrual cups invented?

Although menstrual cups have only become extremely popular recently, they were first invented in 1884! They didn’t hit the market until much later, but the first design was invented then. This first model, known as the Improved Menstrual Receptacle, was invented by Hiram Farr, and was designed to hold several cups of blood at a time. This first design never actually hit the market, but big thanks to Hiram Farr for designing this revolutionary device.

In 1937 American actress Leona Chalmers patented another menstrual cup design, and actually followed through on trying to get it to hit the market. This menstrual cup was similar to the menstrual cups we have today, but it was made from latex rubber. After a few redesigns, this menstrual cup was sold by the company Tassette until the 60s, then they went out of business. Menstrual cups made a comeback in the 1980s with the brand The Keeper and starting in 2003 with the Diva Cup, menstrual cups have become more and more popular.  

How do menstrual cups work?

Menstrual cups have clearly been around for a long time, proving they must in fact be an excellent idea. I first heard of menstrual cups a few years ago when I first learned about the Diva Cup. Unlike the early menstrual cup designs, Diva Cup and other modern brands are made of silicone. Not only is the allergy risk of silicone much lower than latex, but it is also super soft and easy to clean. There are many menstrual cup brands available—Diva Cup, Keeper Cup (that same brand from the 80s!), Moon Cup, Lunette Cup, Lena Cup, Lily Cup, plus some disposable cups or discs. Although there are many brands to choose from, they essentially all work the same.

Menstrual cups are made of flexible silicone material and are shaped like a small bell or cup with a little stem on the end. You place them inside of your vagina right below your cervix and they catch your menstrual blood. You use the short stem on the end to pull them out to empty and clean. Menstrual cups can be left in anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, and need to be rinsed and washed when emptied. When emptying your menstrual cup throughout the day, dump out the blood and wash it with unscented antibacterial soap and water before putting it back in. Some menstrual cup brands also sell cleaning wipes so you can clean your menstrual cup if you’re using a public restroom and can’t wash it thoroughly in a shared sink. Wipe that baby down in the privacy of your stall, pop it back in, and you’re good to go.

How do I use a menstrual cup?

There are different sizes of menstrual cups based on if you just got your period or have had any children. Some menstrual cup brands have more detailed size finders on their websites, and that can be a useful tool to find one that works for you.

To insert your menstrual cup, wash your hands and sit or stand. Similar to putting a tampon in for the first time, this might take a few tries, so you should give yourself plenty of time to get it properly inserted. If your vagina isn’t already slick with a lot of period blood, it might be helpful to use some lubricant to help slide it into place. Be sure to use water-based lube if you do so because other lubes are not silicone compatible and could eat away at the cup over time. 

Relax your muscles and body as much as you can, pinch the top of the cup (most brands come with their own set of instructions on the box and recommend pinching it so the top is a “C” shape), then gently guide the cup into your vagina. You will have to get really comfy with yourself here because you need to put your fingers into your vagina to get the cup in place. Once it’s far up in there, slightly rotate the cup and let go of the top of it and it should suction into place. If the cup is inserted properly, you shouldn’t be able to feel it. As I mentioned, this may take a few tries, so be patient with yourself. The first time you wear it, you may even want to wear a liner or pad just to make sure you don’t leak and see if it was inserted properly.

What about emptying and cleaning?

When it’s time to empty your cup, you’ll have to bear down a bit and activate those pelvic floor muscles. Reach your hand into your vagina and gently pull on the little stem at the bottom of the cup and it should slide out. You’ll have to pinch the cup slightly to loosen the suction at the top of the cup that keeps it in place. If you don’t break the suction it could be very painful to pull out.

In between periods, you can disinfect your menstrual cup by washing it with soap and water, and some people even boil their cup in hot water between cycles. Since your menstrual cup sits below the cervix, it won’t get lost inside your body, and even if it feels like it’s stuck, you can get it out! If you really have trouble getting it out, go visit your doctor and they can easily help you and give you some tips on how to get it out easier next time. 

Menstrual cups are a great option for people to manage their periods. You can reuse them for several years, so they are a fairly cheap option because you get a lot of bang for your buck. They are also good for the environment because they’re less wasteful than tampons or pads. If you’re interested in using a menstrual cup, check out some of the brands’ websites and find a size that works for you.