Sexual Liberation: The Herpes Edition
Is it an ingrown hair, is it a misplaced pimple, no, it’s genital herpes! It’s the superhero none of us ever asked for. After receiving a genital herpes diagnosis at 18, it’s easy to believe you will never have sex again, and that’s exactly what I did. I pulled out the iron-caste chastity belt and prepped myself to throw that key away, because once I disclosed my status, no one would ever ask for it.
I spent weeks on the couch lamenting my loss of sex appeal, having daytime nightmares about growing old only being able to use heavily sanitized sex toys (while also taking the Acyclovir my doctor prescribed). I put away all the lacy thongs from Victoria Secret, pulled out all the period panties from the back of the drawer, and prepared for my life alone and untouchable. I felt like a nuclear bomb, no one could touch me, or even go near me for fear of radioactive consequences. My life was full of obsessive hand-washing, showers so hot I’d get dizzy, and sweatpants. I even shaved my head to further solidify my role of the chaste monk.
So far, I’ve made my experience of contracting an incurable STI sound pretty funny, but it really wasn’t at the time. It was the biggest heartbreak I ever experienced up until that point, and I felt like anything that was attractive about me died. I felt like I had a tattoo of “UNTOUCHABLE” on my forehead and walked around in shame, feeling disgraced from my throne of womanly virtue. Obviously I see now that this was all total bullshit since practically half of the population has herpes and I’ve watched Ella Dawson’s TED talk, but at 18, shit never looked worse. I was convinced no one would ever want to get into my pants again and I would only experience orgasms alone.
It took a very, VERY long time to break this mindset. After a suppressant was prescribed and the tingling stopped, I still had to wade my way through the muddy waters of having genital herpes and having absolutely no one that I could talk to about it besides my OBGYN. She was great, sure, but I wanted someone who had it, who was my age, and found someone that still wanted to sleep with them. There were online websites that taught me a lot about the condition, but no one who could tell me how to navigate the emotional minefield of it all.
After finding a wonderful partner who was more than willing to take the plunge (metaphorically and quite literally), I started opening up to friends and mostly anyone who would listen about my herpes. I will be the first one to tell you to use a dental dam, the first one to tell you to get that weird bump checked out, and the first one to tell you you are not alone. STIs are common in a world where our conversation of sex is completely lacking of education. We need to start talking about our realities without feeling ashamed.
Reader, if you have herpes or any STI for that matter, you aren’t dealing with it alone. You are not untouchable and you are sexy, and worthy of all the sexual pleasure you can handle. Take your medication, let your whatever heal, slap some protection on, and get your freak on. You deserve just as much as anyone else.