For those of us who menstruate, period sex is as polarising as Marmite: you’re either completely turned off by the idea, or you’re too horny to care.
No matter where you stand, riding the crimson wave is a whole lot easier now that Flex has launched in the UK.
Flex is a soft, disc-shaped, disposable menstrual barrier that can be worn up to 12 leak-free hours and it can be worn during intercourse and promises stress and mess free sex
It’s also hypoallergenic, BPA-free, isn’t known to cause toxic shock syndrome and produces 50% less waste than plastic tampon applicators.
Unlike tampons and menstrual cups, it doesn’t sit in your vaginal canal but rather in your vaginal fornix – a doughnut shaped hollow at the base of your cervix – meaning that it can be worn during sex, which is its biggest selling point.
Basically, you can have your cake and eat it (or have it be eaten) too.
On paper, it checks all the boxes, so I was keen on trying it out for myself to see if this ‘revolutionary menstrual product’ was worth all the hype.
Perseverance is key
My first thought when I saw it was ‘how on God’s green earth is this going to fit inside me?’ The disc looks like a menstrual cup and condom hybrid. But at three inches in diameter, it took up the size of my whole palm.
I decided to give it a test run the day before my period to avoid any nasty surprises.
I skimmed the instructions to get a sense of how to insert it but I was curious to see if the product was intuitive (also, I’m lazy).
I had to squeeze it, insert it as far up as it would go, push back then down, and tuck it under my pubic bone. Not so easy when you can’t see what you’re doing.
Despite the fact that I had no clue whether or not I was doing it properly, it slid in pretty effortlessly, but I had to really and truly get up close and personal with my genitals.
If you’ve used a menstrual cup before, the thought of venturing that far up your vagina probably won’t seem so daunting, but to me it felt like Narnia: you make your way through all the fur and find yourself in an uncharted world of mystery.
Once it was in, I hadn’t the faintest idea whether or not I’d placed it correctly so I did what any self-possessed woman would do: I panicked.
While I was squatting on the bathroom floor, knuckle-deep in my vagina trying to remove it, I had mild heart palpitations that I’d end up in stirrups in my local GUM clinic with a nurse using forceps to get it out.
Luckily, vaginas are like fleshy culs-de-sac and nothing can get lost up there, so after a mild meltdown, I eventually got it out.
The whole experience gave me traumatising flashbacks of learning how to use a tampon, but according to the manufacturer it takes 45% of Flex users three tries to place it correctly.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again, right?
I tested it for the whole 12 hours – I went about my day and even worked out with it – and I have to say, it does what it says on the tin.
Wearing it was comfortable and there were zero leaks, which is more than I can say for tampons, frenemies to most women and ruiners of many knickers.
Tampons, however, are considerably easier to remove, you literally only have to pull a string.
Knuckle-deep in my vagina once again, I had to deal with the blood this time.
When I remove the used disc – at which point it had basically become a blood drawer – my index finger, thumb, and most of my palm was covered in warm menses, dripping down my wrist and the loo seat.
It’s safe to say that if you’re squeamish, this product isn’t for you.
Let’s skip to the good bit
As I said, the biggest selling point was the promise of mess-free period sex.
While period sex and the subsequent clean up shouldn’t be that big of a deal, the prospect of unstained white sheets was extremely appealing.
According to a Flex survey, 86% of participants said that ‘the mess and cleanup’ was the biggest period sex cock-block and 80% said they’d do it more if there was a way to make it mess-free.
Online reviews on its effectiveness during intercourse were too mixed to reach a consensus, so in the name of journalism I had sex with my boyfriend.
At that point my vagina was a veritable funhouse – between my IUD, the Flex disc and my boyfriend’s penis, who knows what else you might find in there.
Scepticism aside, I was pleasantly surprised that there was not a stain in sight and I wouldn’t have to do another overnight hydrogen peroxide soak.
My boyfriend could feel the disc a little at the beginning, but overall, it was like I wasn’t wearing it.
It’s also worth mentioning that we only tried it in missionary, and I get the sense that positions like doggy or girl-on-top, which allows you to go deeper, would be a little less comfortable.
Small caveat aside, ‘boning while wearing a menstrual disc’ was a successful experiment.
There’s definitely a learning curve to Flex, and I found there were a few shortcomings.
First of all, you need to be extremely comfortable with your body and its various fluids, and secondly, it’s not exactly cost-effective.
It’s considerably more expensive than pads or tampons ($15 for a trial box of 24 discs), and it’s not reusable like a menstrual cup.
As someone uses period underwear (as I said, I’m lazy), nothing beats the ease of just slipping on a pair of knickers, and I’m not sure about faffing with my foof when I’m already dealing with cramps and mood swings.
Did Flex do what it advertised? Absolutely.
Was the period sex fun and mess-free? Totally.
Is my reluctance to partake again simply due to my laziness and not a fault of the product itself? Most likely. But it’s also more clean up than tampons.
As far as everyday menstrual products go I think I’ll stick to period underwear.
Considering that one in 10 girls in the UK can’t afford sanitary products, I was grateful to be able to try it just for some mess-free nookie, and it’s one to keep around for when I’m in the mood for some lovin’ but can’t be bothered to deal with the clean-up.