Blush: TSS and menstrual cups

I am a huge supporter of the use of menstrual cups. I have used a Diva Cup since 2008, and cannot imagine switching away from it. I talk about my foray into postnatal products here, as it is not safe to use insertable menstrual products after delivery, no matter the method of delivery.

The other day, one of my friends tagged me in a link to an article describing how cups are linked to increased bacteria. At first, I just brushed it off. ONE article does not concern me. But as I was thinking about what to write this week, I realized that I was biased. I should actually sit down and do the damn research myself.

And do you know what I found? Not much.

Not only is there next to no research done on the prevalence of bacteria found on cups, there doesn’t seem to be any plans of doing any research on this. Get on this, scientists!

Moving on…

Let’s examine what Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) actually is. If you’re like me about an hour ago, you would say, “oh, TSS has something to do with leaving tampons in for a long time.”

You’d be partially right, but mostly wrong.

Yeah, I was surprised too.

TSS is actually caused by bacteria (specifically Staph and Strep) getting into the bloodstream and releasing harmful toxins.

This is a Giant Microbe of Staph. You can buy them here.

This means something super important: Toxic Shock Syndrome is NOT limited to tampon users.


That was my reaction. Anybody can get TSS. Jim Henson died from TSS, and as far as I know, he did not use tampons.

Tampons are a pretty good breeding ground for bacteria, and in the 70’s, there was a chemical compound in the “super absorbent” tampons that really increased this. Once that compound was eliminated, the number of TSS cases reported dropped drastically. Removing tampons when directed helps, too.

Also, using a higher absorbency tampon than required can cause micro-abrasions inside the vagina, leading to a higher likelihood of the bad bacteria finding a way inside the bloodstream.

Okay. Now that we’ve cleared that up, what about bacteria on cups causing TSS?

According to my research (thanks Dorothy Ann), there has been one reported case of a person getting TSS while using a cup. It was in 2015, and it was reported that there was an abrasion inside the vagina at the time of use of the cup.

We already have Staph and Strep bacteria all over our bodies at all times. They’re mostly harmless. If they are allowed to grow as a colony, breed, and then slip into our bloodstream, there is STILL a pretty high likelihood that our white blood cells will fend them off. It’s once the bacteria release the poisonous toxins that there’s a problem, and scientists still don’t know what causes that!

Without any real hard scientific evidence to prove one way or another, we can’t say that Cups are better or worse than tampons at breeding bacteria. If you look at the original article I mention again, there’s a diagram showing the amount of bacteria found on tampons and cups, with the control being just a regular vagina. Look at how much Staph they found in a regular vagina, and compare it to the rest. There is almost as much or more Staph bacteria in a regular vagina as there is on a cup or tampon! Remember, this is NORMAL. The decreased amount of bacteria on the tampon is probably due to the change in pH of a vagina from the substances on the tampon. This is not necessarily a good thing. The pH of a vagina should be balanced. You WANT to find bacteria in there! (The good kind, obviously.)

This diagram is one of the reasons why I wanted to dismiss the article immediately. It doesn’t really show anything important.

But I’m glad I did the research, if only to realize how little research has actually been done. I’m surprised, even though vaginas are apparently a dirty word in research.

I will keep using my cup, washing it thoroughly with soap after every use. But honestly, I’m not too worried.


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Blush: Recommendation Wednesday LGBTQIA+ books for kids

Two things happened recently that gave me the idea to do this post.

I took my 19-month old daughter to the library last Friday for the first time since the fall. She had a lot of fun with the two other kids there, sharing the train set, and putting blocks into a basket. She also put all the books that were on the floor (and there were a lot, because one of the other kids had been there for a while) into the “file box” after I showed her where that was.

But the best part was when she brought me a book to read to her called “Introducing Teddy”.

Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson. Image from bloomsbury.

Just in case you were wondering, no, I did not point out this book to her. She pulled it out from the shelf on her own.

Anyways, it was a super cute book about Teddy being a girl, not a boy. It also has a human girl building a robot, which was rather exciting.

I think we might get this book for our daughter’s personal collection, because it was just so adorable, and it held her attention for the entire book (unlike the other two children, who sat beside us for a couple of pages and then ran off).

The second thing that happened was a post on Facebook (of course). NewNowNext released a list of 9 new or upcoming LGBT children’s books. We own the first one: Promised Land. The rest look interesting, so we’ll probably borrow them from the library.

Promised Land by Adam Reynolds and Chaz Harris, illustrated by Christine Luiten and Bo Moore. Image from goodreads.

It’s a typical fairy tale, where a farm boy and a prince who have an adventure together and fall in love.

We backed this book on Kickstarter, and have since backed the second one (coming out this summer, I believe – no pun intended). And, to save on shipping (because this comes from New Zealand!), we ordered 5 copies of both books. We still have one unclaimed book (of each), so if there’s anyone interested, please leave a comment, and we’ll talk!

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Blush: Rim shot

A couple of weeks ago, an article popped up on my news feed (I like to write posts about topics that come up in conversation online or in person, especially if they are ones that I don’t know much about, so I feel like I’ve said this opening sentence often) and out of curiosity, I clicked on it to read it. It was about a gastro parasite contracted by rimming. Here it is, in all it’s graphic detail.

Image from youtube video screenshot.

So there’s a couple things that I’d like to talk about in this article.

The first thought that came into my head as I was reading was, “I’ve only really thought about STIs being transmitted!”

The second thought, almost immediately following the first, “It makes complete sense that bacteria could be transmitted as well. Why isn’t this discussed more often?”

And third, “Why wasn’t this guy using a dental dam?”

I’ve talked about dental dams before, so I won’t repeat myself. However, I hadn’t mentioned that they are a good barrier method for oral-anal (or analingus) sex. I’ve now done some research, and yes, they are safe (and recommended!) to be used on the anus.

My search history is quite varied and unusual.

My first attempt at finding out more information on bacteria transmission via analingus didn’t turn up anything about bacteria. I found a lot of confirmation (references #1-6) that dental dams are safe for anal use, but only that they protected against STI infections.

Reference #7 finally mentioned bacteria, but only in reference to anal sex, and didn’t go into any detail about it.

Finally, references #8-10 discussed the topic I was interested in, and I was able to learn a bit more about what the original article described.

Parasites in the gastrointestinal tract invariably leave it in one direction: via the anus. Cleaning, even as thoroughly as one would before sex play, will NOT get rid of all the bacteria. Any time anal play is involved, protection should be used, even in an exclusive relationship.

(Side note: reference #9 suggests plastic wrap as a barrier method – THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA! Plastic wrap is porous, and is not a viable method of protection.)

The fact that it was so difficult to find references (at all, not just good ones) on the subject means that very few people have considered the consequences of not using protection while rimming. That’s kind scary.

To sum up, use protection!



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Blush: Infant foreskin

I don’t have a penis. I have only rarely dealt with (read: changed the diaper of) an infant with a penis (and don’t remember doing it, so it was a really long time ago). So when an article about infant foreskin crossed my path, I opened it, because, “Hey, new thing I don’t know much about!”

And wow did I learn.

Ovate Mushroom from

If the foreskin is still attached to the penis of the infant – you don’t have to pull it back to clean inside it.

Not only that, but you should NOT pull it back.

In an infant, the foreskin is attached to the head by a membrane called the synechia. The membrane dissolves (not unlike the hymen), but this takes time (2-6 YEARS is normal, although earlier or later than that is not concerning), and should not be rushed. The first person to pull back the foreskin should be the child – they will stop if it hurts or if there is resistance.

If the membrane is pulled back, severe pain, bleeding, tearing, infections, and permanent damage could happen to the penis.

Once the child does this the first time, you can teach them how to wash underneath the foreskin (pull back, wash under the folds, rinse away all the soap, push forwards again…references below). But until then, the foreskin protects the head of the penis from all bacteria – including poop! (If I had thought about infant penises before having read up on the subject, I would have assumed that you would have to pull back the foreskin to clean out poop – you certainly have to clean EVERYWHERE with an infant vulva! But nope!)

The only time you should be concerned about the foreskin of the infant is if it gets red, sore, or inflamed. If the child can’t pee, that is definitely a problem. Bring them to a doctor.

The human body knows what it is doing. Let it take care of itself, and don’t pull back an infant’s foreskin!


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Blush Recommendation Wednesday: QueerPop

I am sick. Here is a recommendation for you.

Image from the Facebook page.

Info taken directly from their Facebook page:

QueerPop is a site for conversations about LGBTQ2IA+ identities, particularly as they appear in our popular culture and popular media. We hope to open dialogue about Queer experiences and portrayals of us as Queer people. We plan to use this digital space to bring to light some of the positive representations of LGBTQ2IA+ people and culture. We hope to capture the idea of queerness as a CULTURE, as a group identity, and to look at aspects of our cultural identity. As a group, we are frequently erased or ignored, so we hope to bring attention to and talk about the things that people outside our culture don’t hear, see, or experience. We want to promote own voices materials and let our voices percolate in a space of conversation. We also hope to explore the way that we are described and articulated by people outside our community and the problems that often arise from our portrayal by straight, cisgender folks.

We plan to use a variety of methods for engaging in the discussion of Queer Pop including video, audio recordings, artwork, photos, creative writing, poetry, storytelling, performance, and written materials. We plan to engage with these materials through discussions with specialists in the area (authors, activists, academics, artists, and others with narratives to share), through sharing panel discussions, and by sharing reviews.

We want to focus on the idea of ACCESS.

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Blush: Binders

I was having difficulty coming up with a topic to discuss in this week’s Blush post until yesterday. A friend had shared this post:

It hadn’t occurred to me before, because although I played a boy in a couple dance routines, I never wore binding because my breasts were small enough to hide. But now that it has been brought to my attention, I wanted to learn more.

Binders. Don’t use this kind to bind your chest, though. Very unforgiving.

Generally, it is recommended to discuss binding with your doctor. They know your body best, and can recommend the maximum length of time you should be wearing a binder to minimize the risks of damaging your body. However, you should also discuss with someone who knows about binder materials and how to bind properly and safely. Ottawa has a great sex-educational store that sells binders: Venus Envy.

It is very important to note that no matter how safe you are, binding over time comes with serious risks, including pain (potentially chronic), discomfort, and physical changes not just to the chest tissue, but to the spine and rib cage. So please be wary of compressed ribs, collapsed lungs, or back problems associate with spine misalignment.

I would imagine there are similar problems with wearing a corset for too long.


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Blush: Candy is not a toy

Are you looking to spice up the bedroom this Valentine’s Day?

Keep looking past the grocery store.

Candy is not safe to use!

Image from stock photos.

While your first thought might go to chocolate, whipped cream, hard candies, and fruit, all of these things (and a lot of others that don’t pop up in Cosmo’s “recommended sex foods”) are not safe for one very good and major reason: sugar should not go anywhere near the mucous membranes of the vagina or anus.

Sugar can change the pH of the vagina, and is a food source for bacteria and yeast, leading to yeast infections and other problems.

Coconut oil is very popular, and I’ve heard it suggested as a use for anything from cradle cap to an ingredient in stir fry. But do NOT use it as a lube! If you are using it with a latex condom/dental dam, oil can degrade the latex. If you are not using a condom/dental dam, you’d think that the slipperiness of the oil would be an ideal lubricant. Unfortunately, the oil is hard to remove completely from inside the body, and it can trap bacteria, increasing the risk of infections.

Fruits and veggies should NOT be inserted into the body (other than your mouth), unless inside latex. For one thing, there’s no guarantee that you’d be able to remove all of it – your internal muscles are stronger than you realize, and having to go to the doctor’s to have a piece of food removed from inside you isn’t the best way to spend your evening. Secondly, no matter how thoroughly you think you may have disinfected the food, there is still a chance of bacteria on the skin.

The safest way to use food, even the ones with sugar, would be to keep it above the waist. If you insist on bringing something down below, use plain ice. Avoid direct contact, as the nerve endings are much closer to the surface and can be “traumatized”.

There are several safe products that can be used down below, but you may have some difficulty finding them in the condom aisle of your drugstore. Sex shops like Venus Envy or Wicked Wanda’s in downtown Ottawa are safe spaces for all genders and orientations (although you may have some difficulty entering the latter if you are mobility impaired, Venus Envy has an automatic front door and is accessible as stated online), and they would have edible lubricants and other products that could be fun. Unfortunately, these products are still a work in progress:

[I]t’s hard to balance taste with safety. The ingredients that bring flavor (sucrose, sodium saccharin, aspartame) can also cause yeast infections – or lead to genital irritation – Atlas Obscura

Happy Valentine’s Day, and be safe!


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Blush: Recommendation podcast

I was recently introduced to a really great podcast called Queer Sex Ed.

Queer Sex Ed logo from their website.

I have only had the time to listen to the first half hour of the first episode, but it impressed me so much and gave me a lot to think about, so I know that this is a winner.

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Blush: A New Cup

I have talked about using a Diva Cup in the past, but over the past 9.5 years of my using a cup, I have come across several people who were not able to use one, for a variety of reasons.

I was very excited, therefore, to hear about a Kickstarter for a new cup: the Keela Cup. The new design should make the cup easier to use for a lot of the people who could not use a Diva Cup. I hope that they get the chance to try this cup out.

Check out this article by one of the creators.

The Keela Cup mascot, designed by Nomi Kane. Image from

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Blush: Consent from kids

The last time I talked about consent and kids, I focused on how to teach kids how to ask for consent. This time around, with the holidays here, I want to remind the adults that read this that the children in their lives are not obligated to give hugs or kisses to anyone.

Image from Elise Gravel, a cartoonist.

For example, our daughter is terrified of men with white hair. This includes her great-grandfather, friends of the family, and, of course, Santa Claus.

Although her great-grandfather is getting older, we managed to get a picture of them by having her sit beside him on her father’s knee. It’s not the snuggly picture that we ideally wanted, but it’s a good compromise that lets her know that she has been understood, but still lets us get a picture of them together.

So remember, at holiday parties this year, that just because there is a child involved, does not mean that they are automatically obligated to give you a hug. It doesn’t matter if you’re a super close friend, parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or stranger; if the child does not give you a clear indication of consent, don’t touch them!

Our daughter’s consent is uplifted arms, or pro-active climbing onto your lap, in case you come across her this season.

Happy Holidays!

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