Two concentric tubes of cardboard or plastic surrounding an unused tampon. One inserts the tubes into the vagina, pushes up on the smaller, inside one, and it pushes the tampon itself farther into the vagina. Then one removes the applicator and throws it away. Tampax and OB Tampons both make applicator-less tampons which are inserted with just the fingers. Those work far better for me, but the one with applicators are more common, used by women who:

  1. are too squeamish to touch themselves
  2. feel that the tampon gets placed in a more comfortable or secure place when they insert it with an applicator
  3. are in a situation where they are unable to wash their hands after inserting a tampon.

Many people have expressed the opinion that women who use tampon applicators must necessarily be squeamish and afraid of their own cunts. And I agree that this is probably the case with many women. However, I have it on good authority from a friend that the reason she prefers applicators is that it is uncomfortable to slide a rough cotton cylinder into her vagina and the smoothness of the applicator alleviates this discomfort. So don't assume that just because someone uses an applicator that she isn't in touch with her femininity or her sexuality.

These things have a practical application, i'm sure. I can't stand the things myself, but *shrugs* i have friends who just don't find the applicator-less brands as comfortable or that they don't sit right for them.

But they also have a far more nefarious use... the Cardboard Nerf Gun from Hell (TM).

I was digging through my drawer looking for something the other day--advil, i think--when i ran into the stash of cheap-ass tampax tampons they always give out free to all the girls, first couple weeks of campus. Now, the concept of tampon applicators generally pisses me off because so many of the people who do use them do do so for the squeamishness factor. So i grab one out of the drawer and begin ranting to mcc, who's sitting across the room looking at me funny. I rip the thing out if its wrapper and start gesturing madly with it while venting. And in the process i gesture just a bit too violently and my hand slips and pushes the inner tube in, sending a tampon flying across the room in the general direction of a very startled mcc.

We look at each other.
Look at the applicator.
Look at each other.
Look at the tampon on the floor.
Look at each other.
And just start laughing. REALLY hard. And we muse about how out of all the female friends we both have, none of them have ever come up with (or at least mentioned!) this before, having so much amusement value as it does.

And then we proceed to spend the next half an hour shooting tampons at each other across the room. Occasionally getting one stuck in the palm tree or bouncing off the door. And mostly laughing too hard to shoot straight.

But they do shoot remarkably well. And they're reloadable, so you don't have to go through a box just to have a war. And they're much, much cheaper than Nerf.

Plus they make a better story ;)

Another point in favor of tampon applicators: it is possible to wet them, which on occasion is practically a necessity. You aren't always gushing blood whilst inserting a tampon; neither are you generally particularly aroused. Maybe you are trickling blood, but maybe not, especially by the third or fourth day of your period. As well, you often need to insert a tampon immediately upon removing a used one, and I find that tampons tend to, you know, ABSORB things, leaving me devoid of much of the normal liquid in that bit of my system. So, natural wetness is not always enough lubrication for insertion of this strange little cylinder of compressed superabsorbent cotton.

The natural and convenient solution to uncomfortable, dry insertion is water. However, there is a slight problem with wetting plain tampons. See, tampons are fibrous, and meant to expand in order to absorb blood. But they can absorb other liquids as well! And when they absorb liquids, they get less firm and potentially misshapen. It can be like trying to insert a wet straw wrapper. Obviously, this is a bit of an exaggeration (no one wants to pre-soak the thing), but it's not very appealing, and not all that successful either. You want the tampon in its proper shape for proper insertion.

An applicator, in contrast, is made of rigid cardboard, sometimes coated with plastic, or just of plastic. It is smooth and not particularly absorbent. It is, of course, harder to work with plain cardboard, but certainly easier than just the tampon. You can wet it without getting the tampon inside more than very slightly damp, if at all. To do this, you can hold the applicator under a very thin stream of tap water, avoiding the very tip, or lick the outside of it (an excellent solution in a public restroom stall). Licking, incidentally, is also a point against the non-applicator tampon: although I have not tried this, I would bet that millions of little cotton fibers would stick to your tongue were you to lick a plain tampon. You can lick a piece of cardboard, however, with no problem.

So, after you wet the applicator, you have your necessary lubrication. You can then insert the tampon without undue pain or irritation.

Lucy-S points out that lube such as K-Y would also work. I don't generally have any lube on me while out in public, personally, but perhaps you do. Anyway, yes, this would probably eliminate the need for an applicator.

fuzzy and blue says: "if you're using tampons that turn too mushy to insert with a little water, they're also likely to leave fibers in you and increase your risk of TSS. you might want to switch brands." Well, I didn't know that, so in case you didn't either, here you go.

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