When I started sex work, I had no idea what a sponge was. At my first brothel shift, my manager explained it to me, and I was ECSTATIC. I thought I would have to take time off each month when I got my period, but behold, the magic of the sponge.
Today I’m answering the questions I get asked MOST about menstrual sponges.
A menstrual sponge is a soft sponge about the size of a golf ball. You insert it into your vagina to stop the blood from coming out while you are having sex. It acts just like a tampon and absorbs the blood, except it’s soft – sometimes sponges are referred to as soft tampons. There are HEAPS of different brands and types of sponges.
The most common brands of sponges are Sax and Beppy. They are usually individually wrapped, so they are sterile. Sax sponges are a small cylindrical shape, while Beppy sponges are more of an oval with a hole in it to assist with removal. Sponges can also come pre-lubricated to help with insertion.
Other types of sponges, such as sea sponges, make-up sponges and cup-up household cleaning sponges, are also commonly used by sex workers. These methods might be effective and seem attractive because they are more easily accessible and cheap. Still, PLEASE, I beg you, spend the few dollars on the individually wrapped, sterile sponges.
Sea sponges, make-up and household sponges are NOT sterile or made for this purpose, and they increase the risk of vaginal issues such as thrush and bacterial vaginosis. Sea sponges can also have rough particles in them (I mean, they literally come from the sea) so they may create microtears or even break the condom. Seriously, buy a proper sponge.
To use a sponge, wash your hands thoroughly and remove the sponge from its packaging. Wet the sponge with water or lube (I prefer water, as I find lube makes the sponge less absorbent), and then squeeze out the excess liquid. Scrunch or fold the sponge, and then insert it into your vagina, as you would a tampon. If you are finding it difficult to get the sponge inside, you can use a dildo to push it up further.
To remove the sponge, get in a comfortable position and bare down your muscles as though you are going to the toilet. Hook one finger around the sponge and gently pull it out. If you are unable to reach the sponge straight away, don’t freak out. There’s nowhere for the sponge to go (it’s WAY too big to be going anywhere other than your vagina), so you can’t lose it, promise. It will come out eventually, it just takes some practice. The more you tense up, the more difficult it will be to remove. Try removing the sponge in different positions and using different fingers.
If you are absolutely unable to remove it, you can always visit a GP who will assist you. I have never had to do this, but I had friends who have. The doctor will most likely insert a speculum and then use their fingers or forceps to remove the sponge.
It shouldn’t hurt. Sometimes it’s slightly uncomfortable to insert or remove a sponge because your vagina is dry. Make sure you wet the sponge and then squeeze it out before insertion. If you are still having trouble, use a small amount of lube on the sponge. If you feel like you can’t get the sponge up high enough into your vagina, you can use a dildo to push the sponge into position.
If you are scared of scraping the inside of your vagina, you can use latex gloves when you insert and remove the sponge.
Think of a sponge just like a tampon – you can leave it in for up to 8 hours. Whether or not it’s actually practical or useful to leave it in for up to 8 hours is up to you.
Some sex workers will use the same sponge for multiple bookings on the same day. In between bookings they may remove the sponge, rinse and reinsert it. I prefer to use a new sponge each time as I am very susceptible to thrush and taking extra hygiene measures helps to prevent it.
Yes, you can. Just like you can bleed through a tampon. Whether this happens will depend on how heavy your period is and how long you leave the sponge in for.
On the heaviest day of my period, I can only wear a sponge for about an hour before I will bleed through. Whereas I can wear a regular tampon for around 4 hours before I will bleed through. Sponges are significantly less absorbent than tampons.
Some sex workers will use two sponges when they have a heavy period. If you have a shorter vagina, this may not be possible for you.
If you’re concerned about bleeding through, you can always use black coloured condoms to hide any leakage.
Eventually you’ll probably bleed through it, and it will smell NASTY when you finally get it out. But, more importantly, you will be at risk of contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome. If you’re concerned that you might forget about your sponge, set the alarm on your phone to remind you to remove it after your booking.
Nooooo, please don’t. The safest option is to wrap the sponge in some toilet paper and throw it in the trash.
I have been using sponges for my entire sex work career and have only ever had ONE client comment that he could feel the sponge.
If your client is wearing a condom, it will be difficult for him to feel the difference between the sponge and your vagina. The sponge is soft and moulds to your vagina. However, I have had sex with my partner without a condom while using a sponge, and he said he could feel it because of the skin-to-
If a client is fingering you, they may be able to feel the sponge because to sponge has a slightly different texture to your vagina. This is how the client felt the sponge when I was wearing one – because he was fingering me.
If you want to avoid your client feeling the sponge, you can simply say no to digital penetration when you have your period (e.g., “I’m feeling really sensitive today, could you just stick to the outside instead?”) Alternatively, you can say it is a contraceptive sponge which provides extra protection.
Or, if you feel confident, you can just tell the truth. After all, if a man isn’t mature enough to accept that women menstruate, then he probably isn’t mature enough to have sex.
If you work at a brothel, the brothel should either provide sponges or have them for sale.
If you work independently, you should be able to buy sponges from your local sex shop, your local sex worker peer organisation (Google’ sex work peer organisation’ + your city name) or online.
Photo by Unsplash.
Disclaimer: I cannot, and do not, speak for all sex workers. I speak from my experience of working in a legal brothel and as an independent escort in Australia. Where possible I try to be inclusive. However, I can’t relay every experience of sex work – especially if I haven’t experienced it myself.
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