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(Archive) The Soothing Cup

Exploring the mutual relationship with a living menstrual cup

This project was part of DDW 2022
Living cup incubator

What if a living object could reconnect humans with their menstrual cycle and change the way we perceive it? The Soothing Cup explores a speculative future reimaging the interaction between the menstrual body, the vaginal environment, and a living menstrual cup.

The vaginal microbiome and the stigma surrounding menstruation

The vaginal microbiome plays a central role in preventing vaginal infections and resorting balance, as well as reducing symptoms of dysmenorrhea; severe menstrual cramps, which affect around 80% of people who menstruate. However, recent studies have highlighted how most menstrual hygiene products and pain relief medication affect our bodies and the planet by interfering with the healthy microbes we live with. Furthermore, the patriarchal and capitalistic culture has perpetuated the stigma around periods by promoting the production of single-use products that have influenced the behaviours of many generations.

The living menstrual cup and its incubator

The Soothing Cup explores a speculative future where menstruators are deeply attached to their menstrual cups, establishing a mutualistic relationship as an alternative to chemically preventing periods. The development of an alginate-based hydrogel allows the cup to become a membrane able to interact with the vaginal environment. Thanks to an incubator that acts as a surrogate vagina, people who menstruate can cultivate their own anti-inflammatory bacteria and let them colonize their cups once a month. When off-menses, the user can take care of the cup whilst increasing awareness and challenging the stigma around periods.

The aim of the project

The Soothing Cup attempts to bring the viewer of this work into a world where menstruators have a psychologically deep and intimate connection with their cycle, where there is no shame surrounding menstruation but rather respect for the natural process of the body and the vaginal microbiome. The incubator (the surrogate vagina) wants to have a powerful symbolic form, pointing the viewer’s imagination towards the world the project is attempting to manifest. The aim is to have equal weighting on both scientific ethics and cultural and political aspects.

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Living cup prototype

Hydrogel with lactobacillus

Bioprinting process

Exploration of different shapes