Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Have Herpes


Yes, everyone, I have herpes.  The genital kind.  I had my first outbreak about three to four months ago.  You are probably asking yourself, why am I telling everyone such personal information?

Please, we all admit so much crazy personal shit on this site; herpes is nothing compared to most of them.  When I was diagnosed with herpes, I felt alone, ashamed, and frankly, afraid that no one would ever want to have sex with me again.  For a culture that talks about sex as much as we do, we sure as hell don’t talk about the risks of sex, like STDs or pregnancy.  Because I want this blog to go beyond narcissistic word-masturbation and actually help someone, I am willing to share this part of my life aloud and in print.  In fact, I think that this still an incredibly taboo topic and that is the reason I’m posting about it.

Here are the things I have learned (some of them the hard way) since contracting herpes that I would like to share with everyone in the hopes that someone else doesn’t have to learn the hard way:

1)  You are not alone.  Seriously, since I have started telling people I have herpes, people I have known a long time and people I have just met have been honest with me.  A lot of people have herpes.  Some statistics show as many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men, and most don’t have any symptoms or know they have it.  If you have slept with four or more women, chances are, you’ve slept with someone who has herpes.

2) Herpes, in general, is no big deal.  In fact, most STDs are no big deal because the majority of STDs are curable.  When I had my initial herpes outbreak, I thought it was a heat rash.  If I hadn’t had the accompanying flu-like symptoms that are so common with herpes, I never would have even gotten tested.  It is basically the same as having cold sores and is actually considered a skin condition, not really an STI because you get it from skin to skin contact, not necessarily genital contact.  I am on anti-virals so that I don’t spread it to my partners, and also, so I don’t have tons of outbreaks (as they are often triggered by stress, and hey, have you met me?)

3)  There is no such thing as safe sex, only safer sex.  One of the reasons I felt completely ashamed when I contracted herpes was that I am a HUGE advocate for practicing safe sex, all of the time, with any partners that you aren’t fluid bonded with.  I felt like I must have done something wrong to have contracted herpes.  The fact of the matter is, I practiced safe sex with everyone, and I still contracted herpes because it is contracted from skin to skin contact.  Also, many people with herpes don’t know that they have it because it isn’t usually tested for during normal STD panels.  In fact, most people don’t really know their STD status for sure, as there are window periods for STDs such as HIV, and most people do not get tested on a regular basis.  As it stands, I say assume everyone has everything, practice safer sex, and understand that RACK rules apply, meaning when you have sex with someone, you are risk-aware that an STD may be part of the package and consenting to that risk.

4)  Don’t play the blame game.  By this, I mean don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame your partner(s).  Shit happens, and the truth is you will probably never know for sure who gave you that STD, especially if you are promiscuous with other people who are promiscuous.  You could have given it to them; they could have given it to you.  What I am saying is, if you find out you have an STD, put your big boy panties on, make the awkward phone calls, and then leave it at that.  Knowing who gave it to you isn’t going to make it go away, and it is up to your partners, now, to be adults, get tested, and if they are positive, make those awkward phone calls to their previous partners.  There is no need to follow-up, unless they bring it up to you.  We are all adults here, and we should treat each other as such.  As I said, risk-aware.

5)  Don’t be a dick if someone makes that awkward phone call to you, and freak the fuck out.  This situation sucks for everyone involved, but it especially sucks for the person with the STD.  Don’t make it worse by making it all about you.  Your partner did the moral and honest thing by telling you about his or her STD status, and guess what?  It was fucking hard and awkward for him.  So before you freak out, take a deep breath, realize that this was a risk you consented to when you decided to fuck him, and say “thank you for informing me.”  Because he could have been an asshole and not told you at all.

6)  Awesome people are not going to stop having sex with you.  I think most people who are educated understand number three, and sexually-educated people are the best people to have sex with anyway.  Since I have had herpes, I have only had one person turn me down for sex, and it is a way longer story than I want to post up here, but basically, I probably should not have been having sex with this person again in the first place.  Some of my partners have been less informed, and inquired about the risks.  I am fine with this, and I have since educated myself, but before I actually had herpes, I had no idea.  Therefore, I do not expect anyone else to magically know about herpes just because I, a friend/partner/one-night stand happen to have it.  However, most of my partners have been pretty awesome about the whole thing, and a few actually helped me feel way more ok about it.  Yes, telling a new, potential partner is shitty and embarrassing, but don’t you wish someone would have told you?  Also, if for some reason you don’t want to sleep with someone because of an STD, don’t be a dick about it.  Understand that that person actually has feelings.  You are entitled to take whatever risks you want, but honestly, I am more afraid that my Daddy is going to choke me out and accidently kill me than I am of contracting most STDs. 

In conclusion, we have sex with lots of people who have sex with lots of people.  There are risks involved.  Don’t be stupid; mitigate those risk by practicing safe sex.  But don’t get pissed off or freak out or feel alone, ashamed, afraid, or any of those awful feelings that I originally had if you do contract an STD.  It happens, it is usually no big deal, and the awesome partners/friends/brothers that you had before will still be there for you.  Hell, when I told one of my brothers I had contracted herpes, he threw a condom at me and asked me if  I needed him to show me how to use it.  And it’s people like that whose opinion should matter to you, anyway.  

3 comments:

  1. Bravo.We need more people like you in our community!

    Tri

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  2. this is exactly why i pushed you to start blogging. you're brave, you have something to say, and you're going to help someone be brave too. i'm so proud to know you, ash.
    xo

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  3. Love this! Found a link to it on FetLife, and followed to read the whole thing. I posted something similar on OKCupid when I found out my status several years ago. Since pulled because OKCupid is full of assholes, but I did get some wonderful responses as well.

    Since then I have definitely seen that the statistics pan out, at least within the poly/kink community. I was terrified to date for a very long time, but it's become less and less of an issue -- maybe because more and more of us are speaking out. There are SO many of us who are HSV+ and if someone wants to eliminate up to 1/4 of an already very limited pool of potential partners, then that's their call, but that pool is only going to continue to shrink as time goes by.

    KNOWING the details and what you can do about it is a huge part of dealing with HSV. HSV 1 definitely doesn't have the stigma HSV2 does, which is silly, so I always try to make sure I include both in any discussion I have on it. Like you, I take suppressive anti-viral therapy, not for myself (I'm asymptomatic), but to be able to offer maximum protection to my partners from viral shedding.

    Anyways -- You rock, and thank you for adding your eloquent voice to a growing number of people who don't think that people with this common virus deserve shame or blame.

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