[Content note: Graphic discussions of vagina]
People...women bleed. If you cut us, do we not bleed? Yes. But we also bleed if you don’t cut us; on average around once a month. This can come as a bit of a shock to men and many of them really don’t like to be reminded of it. Some are pretty chill, but others are like “OMFG gross, shame and shun it!” As a result of this period sex isn’t as common as it could be, and women who do sex work are forced to find ways to cover up their menstruation if they want to keep earning a wage while they go through their natural cycle. This week we’re going to go back, into the deep dark depths of my past to retrieve a story about my experience with one such woman. So grab your popcorn and pull up the snuggie, cos it’s STORYTIME MOTHERFUCKERS!
Some of you might not be entirely familiar with the physiology of a vagina. I’ll skip the anatomy lesson and get to the point. Many women, during their period will elect to use tampons. This involves inserting what is essentially a cotton tea bag into your vagina to absorb the blood (at which point I always imagined it became a vampire’s tea bag, but for some reason Twilight never really ran with that one). However, you can’t have sex with a tampon in. Many women and their partners will elect to simply forgo sex during their period (especially if there are cramps) while others will enjoy the extra lubrication and engorgement of the area to have wildly fantastic sex. Neither of these is really an option for sex workers trying to make a living wage. They must maintain the illusion that there are no periods, and they achieve this by using a sponge.
There are different types of sponges, some are natural sea sponges, others are small pieces of medical foam but they both serve the same purpose. They’re similar to a tampon in that they’re inserted into the vagina to absorb blood and prevent it from just leaking out all willy-nilly. Unlike a tampon however, they don’t have a retraction cord. This means that when you’ve finished your shift and want to switch back to pads or tampons, you need to retrieve the sponge manually. If you’ve had a particularly well endowed client during your shift, this can be exceptionally difficult since it’s usually somewhere up near your cervix. Some women find it easier to squat down, others have invested in speculums specifically for this purpose. But in either situation it takes a fair bit of dexterity and practice.
Of course, all of these are things you learn from experience, and my first encounter with a sponge was at a point where I was still very inexperienced. I was working as a hostess and we’d had a shift with a few relatively new workers. At one point a gorgeous woman called Alanna came to the front desk and asked if anyone knew how to retrieve a sponge. The two other managers on shift kind of smiled apologetically and said no. I was always looking for an opportunity to endear myself to these gorgeous, half naked glamazons that I worked with so I happily volunteered. I mean, how hard could it be? I had long arms, if she’d dropped it behind the sink or something I’d fish it out no troubles.
Yes, dear readers, I boldly volunteered to retrieve a dish washing sponge, or perhaps makeup sponge, from some hard to reach place. That’s how astute I am.
As we made our way up the stairs to the change room Alanna advised me I’d need to grab some gloves. I nodded as though this was perfectly normal, obviously she’d dropped a makeup sponge down the drain and didn’t want me getting my hands dirty in the pipe. She was so considerate! So I picked up the kitchen gloves from the bar on my way.
When I met her in the girls room she was naked and squatting in the shower. I did a double take. Was this an unexpected seduction technique? Lure me up here on the premise of fixing the plumbing and then overwhelm me with naked shower acrobatics? I was even more confused when she gestured to my gloves and said “Yeah, I really don’t want those in my vag, can you use the fingering gloves instead?”
Fingering gloves were the thin latex gloves used for fingering client’s assholes (or less commonly for clients to use while fingering workers). I looked at the box she was pointing at and slowly peeled off the kitchen gloves trying to figure out what the fuck was going on.
At this point another worker, Fifi, came in. Fifi was an exceptionally experienced and wonderfully professional worker from Paris. She took one look at me and then at Alanna and burst out laughing “She does not realise the sponge is inside you!” Fifi declared Frenchly.
Still being the most obtuse individual this side of Trump Tower, I started wondering how the fuck Alanna had managed to get a makeup sponge up her vagina. Had it been some weird client request or just a unique masturbation trend I wasn’t down with.
Fifi placed a hand on my shoulder and illuminated me. “We can’t bleed on ze clients, so instead we put little sponges in our boxes. Then zere is no string and voila we still can work.” She pointed to Alanna, still squatting in the shower, trying to retrieve hers, “Alanna had a client with a big dick, so her sponge iz, well all ze way up zere!”
Alanna looked at me and smiled, “It’s okay, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”
But no, I was a professional damnit. I’d been knuckles deep in vaginas before, I wasn’t afraid and I wasn’t about to leave one of the workers in my care high and dry.
I grabbed the gloves and put on my big girl pants.
“All good, I got this,” I said with a confidence I really shouldn’t have had.
I took my begloved hand and lubed it up before sliding my fingers into Alanna. This wasn’t sexy, I was a soldier on the front lines of the feminine experience. I felt like a surgeon retrieving a shard of kryptonite from Supergirl so she can go back to saving the planet (I have a bit of hero worship for sex workers, so sue me). “Okay, so what am I feeling for?” I asked matter of factly as I fished around blindly.
“Okay, so I’ve used a sea sponge, it’ll be a soft squishy thing.”
I nodded professionally and set to work, brow furrowed in determination.
Dear readers, if you’ve ever fingered a vagina before you’ll immediately understand my dilemma. Finger fishing for something spongey inside a vagina (especially while wearing latex gloves) is kind of like trying to find something wet by sticking your hand in the ocean. I kept arbitrarily grabbing at Alanna’s anatomy and saying “Is this it?” as though the sponge was connected to her nervous system and she’d be able to feel when I’d found it.
“I don’t know...can you pull it out?”
“No, it seems to be attached”
“Well, it’s probably not the sponge then.”
For a woman with a stranger’s fingers inside her as well as a missing foreign object, Alanna was a picture of grace and composure and made me feel like we were in the trenches together.
After a few minutes of fishing around uselessly I adjust my hand so that I could reach further inside her. My thumb rested up against her clitoris and I thrust my two longest digits up towards her cervix. Was that...I grazed against something spongey. “I think I’ve found it!” I refrained from shouting “Eureka”.
“Awesome! Try and hook it with your fingers and drag it down,” my surgical nurse advised.
I wiggled my hand a little trying to gain the extra depth and began trying to pull the sponge towards the front of her pelvis so I could roll it down towards the exit. It was a sort of, come hither motion.
Many of you with vaginas will realise exactly what was happening at this point. I probably would have as well if I hadn’t been so determined to be the best damn surgeon Supergirl had ever had.
Alanna started to fidget a little, and I assumed she was trying to help me angle the sponge the right way. “Are you sure you’ve got it?” she asked.
“I’m pretty sure,” I replied, concentrating, “Are you okay, am I hurting you?”
“No, I’m good, just get that little bastard,” she laughed.
I redoubled my efforts, despite my now aching fingers, I was determined. I started stroking my fingers back and forward trying to catch the edge of the sponge with my gloved digits, periodically repositioning my thumb on the outside to get deeper.
Alanna was a trooper, she was obviously in discomfort but instead of asking me to stop she soldiered through it. Her brow was furrowed and starting to sweat, it was more important than ever that I retrieve this thing. She started to shake and make low moans of pain and discomfort and then finally she gave in to the pain and cried out loud. I jerked my hand out in alarm, it had smears of blood on it but I couldn’t tell if it was from her period or if I’d maybe accidentally scratched her or opened an abrasion.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry! Are you okay, do you need me to call a GP or something?”
Alanna collapsed on the shower floor, breathing heavily, “No, no it’s okay but uh...I think I’ll take it from here?”
“Of course! I’m so sorry! I’ll be at reception if you need anything or want me to call someone!”
I stripped off the gloves and made it halfway down the stairs before I realised what had just happened.
I was sitting at the reception desk still stunned by my own idiocy when Alanna bounced down the stairs.
“I am so sorry!” I began apologising, “I just realised…”
She held up a hand to stop me and then smiled, “Come on, give me a high five. That was my first orgasm of the night!”
We high fived and she informed me that she’d also managed to retrieve the sponge and was heading home for a bath and cigarette.
I apologised again, because I wanted her to understand that I hadn’t intended what happened, and she reassured me that it was all fine.
On her way out of the door she turned back and said “But maybe buy me a drink first next time.”
And kids, that’s how I met your mother. Okay, maybe it’s not, but it is how I learned what sponges are.
That is all.
You may go now.