Guest Post: Branded–The Scarlet H

17 Nov

We’re breaking new ground, scoundrels. This guest post is endearing and honest, but mostly, it’s reality. So many people are affected by STDs. I’m not sure how much this conversation is had in the open, but today is as good as any to start a public dialogue about what many sweep under the rug and pretend doesn’t exist. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call this guest blogger Mary, Mary Quite Contrary. Mary is braving what we wouldn’t ever want to experience–navigating dating with an STD.

TTTM has yet to venture into the territory of STDs, dating, and the oftentimes fact-less stigmas that are attached to STDs and the people that have them. Regardless of how you feel about this topic today, you will undoubtedly walk away from your monitor/laptop/PDA/whatever with food for thought. This is definitely a subject worth the conversation.

I’m 30 years old and I just found out this summer that I have herpes.

There, I said it. It has been weighing on my chest (and genitals) for several months now.

And, no, if you saw me walking down the street you would have no idea that I have a Sexually Transmitted Disease. I may wear the occasional low cut shirt, but my cooter is always covered, and I’m not out on the town slutting it up.

I actually got herpes (more specifically, HSV 2, the down south kind) from my last boyfriend, who was a long-term relationship. He was simply a carrier, he never noticed any outbreak, and testing will not show you have herpes until you actually have an outbreak, so there’s no way he could have known. However, I do know that he gave it to me since I started having outbreaks as early as January or February and that was smack dab in the middle of the relationship. However, I told myself the first couple times that I was having an allergic reaction to my detergent or something.

I mean, my whole life, I had been careful. I used condoms when not in a serious relationship. Before the condoms came off, there was careful discussion of our past STD tests and everything. I made sure I was on birth control pills so there was no risk of boo boo babies. In essence, I did everything the way a responsible adult should when it comes to having sex.

And I still fucking got the Herp.

You’ll notice I was talking in the past tense about the boyfriend. Yeah. He and I are no longer together. But I’ll always have the gift that keeps on giving.

And now I have to venture out into the dating pool with a fucking STD that is used as a joke at least once a day by friends, coworkers or acquaintances to describe someone totally filthy or slutty. I know they would be very supportive if they knew, but people don’t really stop to think about how common herpes actually is.

For example, 60% of the population has HSV 1, which is the mouth kind, and one quarter (ONE FUCKING QUARTER, PEOPLE) of the population has HSV 2, the downtown kind. That’s a lot of people with herpes. And you might be having unprotected sex with them, either because they’re tools and are too scared to be mature enough to talk to you about it beforehand, or because they’re just carriers and don’t know.

Now, the purpose of this blog is not to scare you into abstinence. It’s actually to try and get you to understand that herpes is actually not so scary after all. I mean, when you think about it, at the most you get little sores on your no-no bits for about 20 days out of the year. Some people do run a fever, but it’s not that common. Seriously, I know the thought of a herpes outbreak is gross, but, for fucks sake, women ooze blood from their ‘gina once a month. That’s pretty nasty if you ask me.

And yes, the risk for women who want to have children some day is greater, but the majority of c-sections performed in hospitals these days are actually related to new mothers that have herpes. Check it out, you can bypass the herp and not totally fuck up your vagina at the same time.

I’m not trying to downplay the fact that it’s an STD and it’s fucking permanent (at least for now it is). The thing is, now I’m starting to get out there and mingle with new gentlemen and I have to have this talk every single time I want to take my pants off. So. I haven’t. Well, sort of. I have not had sex since my ex and I split. I have made out a bit and done a little playing around, but nothing that would remotely put those two lucky people at risk of anything.

But this thought of having to bare myself and expose one of my most embarrassing secrets to someone who I have only known for a month, maybe less, is absolutely petrifying. I have to look them straight in the face and say, “I have herpes. I’m taking suppressive medication and, as long as we use protection, the likelihood of transmission is fairly low, but there’s still always a risk.”

It feels like I’m trying to sell a beat up old car to some poor schmuck. “Sure, the AC doesn’t work and it backfires every 20 minutes, but just keep the windows rolled down and make sure not to drive through dangerous neighborhoods after dark and you’ll be just fine!”

My strategy currently is to actually get the object of my affections to like me enough by that the time I have to tell them about my disease, the thought of being with me (in a relationshippy way and a carnal way) outweighs the fact that I have a communicable disease. The problem with this is that I have to open up quite a bit and invest a lot of myself into this person before I have “The Talk.”

Now I’ve invested in something. What if I sit down and tell this person I have herpes and they look at me and say, “I’m OUT!” and get up and leave. Or maybe it’s not that mean, but they still consider it a dealbreaker. Then I get to miss out on something that could have been cool, but because someone else wasn’t safe and gave me an STD, I have to pay the price for the rest of my life. What’s worse, I will have to think of that ex every time I start dating someone new and have to deal with the emotional stress that not only the herpes causes, but that particular relationship caused in my life. It’s not very fun.

Scoundrels, what I want to know from you is, if you were dating someone for a while, that you really saw potential for a great long-term relationship with told you they had herpes (before you actually did the deed, of course), how would you react? Is it a deal breaker? Do you need some time to think about it and adjust? Would you try and be supportive and understanding? Tell me the deal, lovelies.

Oh, also, if anyone wants to learn more about Herpes or was just diagnosed with HSV 1 or 2, I would recommend listening to episode 195 of the Savage Love podcast. It’s a frank, funny and honest discussion about herpes and HPV and has a lot of valuable information for those just learning about the STD.


6 Responses to “Guest Post: Branded–The Scarlet H”

  1. Sport November 17, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    I get it Scoundrels. No one wants to comment today at the risk of seeming overly sympathetic for “relate-able” reasons.

    But that’s the whole point of today’s post. You may be banging somebody who can relate really, really easily.

    I love y’all, but guys are some damned pussies today.

    To answer Mary’s question from my point of view:

    Sorry for the brutal honesty, love. For me it would be a deal breaker. I can deal with a lot, but that is just one of those things that I couldn’t get past. I wouldn’t be a dick about it, I just wouldn’t continue the relationship. I think everyone has different deal breakers and this just so happens to be one of mine.

    But here’s the thing. If a person doesn’t want to be with you after you reveal something like that, then it’s okay. That which is for you, will not pass you by.

    So if it’s a deal breaker, fuck ’em. Next.

  2. Becky November 17, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Firstly, you’re a bad ass for addressing the issue and I empathize with your situation!

    All the concerns you’ve expressed are honest and real and make one consider the internal dialogue that someone must confront when pursuing romance with an STD.

    For me, this wouldn’t be a deal breaker.

    Love is a weird and wild thing that will catch you off guard no matter what your preconceived notions about STDs may or may not be.

    I think a thorough discussion of what’s what, how one handles the hot action, and precautions are important – but those details should be being discussed anyway.

    People make things work. Millions of people…all the time!

    Good luck, ladyfriend! And seriously, like Sport said, “…if it’s a deal breaker, fuck ’em!”


  3. Christine November 17, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

    if it was a hook up? it’d be a deal breaker. if it was a real legit relationship thing? nah (but I did start dating someone who had just been diagnosed with terminal leukemia, so I can’t say much about my credibility).

  4. Just Jane November 18, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    Frankly, I’m torn.

    If it were just me I had to worry about and I was really into this person and could see it being long term, it would absolutely not be a deal breaker. There are precautions, medications…and frankly? As a nearly 40-something? I’m an adult and know that with everything there are risks.

    But it’s not just me I have to worry about. Because I’m non-monogamous, I wouldn’t be able to do this without the consent of my other partner(s) and that would be nearly impossible to get consensus.

    However, having researched herpes (because hello non-monogamy), Mary’s statistics are pretty accurate and the number of people infected with herpes is rising. At some point, there will be no distinction between HSV1 and HSV2. And how many carriers are there? That’s unknown. More than 1 in every 2 people have HSV1. And yet, we share drinks and kiss people without giving it a second thought. Then they please us orally and WHAM! Hello HSV1 in the #2 place.

    Anyway, not to make light of an STD but Mary’s dating pool is steadily growing while those in the uninfected column are dwindling. Eventually, this won’t be able to be a dealbreaker without mass celibacy *laughing*.

  5. indigenous November 20, 2010 at 5:31 am #

    i think you are incredibly responsible for deciding to have that conversation with someone before having sex, because do you know how many people do have sex carelessly and irresponsibly, knowing they will give that person an STD? too many!!

    You go girl, you are so strong, and you know what, this may help you to only fall into relationships with men who really care about you, and can be an easy way to weed out losers who aren’t actually worth it.. always look at the bright side of life!! haha, like the song says. props to you girlfriend.

    here is a link to the cdcs website, center for disease control and prevention.. on stds and statistics from 2008 and the US and how very, very , very common they are…


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