Sex. Ugh. Herpes. Ugh.
I had an interesting conversation with my niece this afternoon. She’s a nurse. She’s 33. She’s the most mature put together person I’ve ever met. She’s learned and calm and logical and strong. Even being the ding battiest aunt of all time, she loves me to pieces.
I told her two of my doctors had said it wasn’t necessary to disclose herpes prior to sex if I was using a condom. I told her I didn’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t disclose.
“When you’re having the type of sex you’re having, you know there are certain risks…” she began.
I immediately jumped to the conclusion she was referring to the fact I’ve had a fair amount of casual sex, roughly half the time without protection, and knowing those risks, I was paying the price for my bad choices.
“I know, I know! I should have used condoms every time!” I interrupted.
“Why are you self-shaming?” she asked. “When you have the type of sex you’re having, your partner knows there are certain risks. Herpes is an infectious disease, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s no fun. But it’s not going to kill anyone.”
Of course, she’s right. That’s the first thing both doctors said when they told me it wasn’t necessary I disclose.
I still feel pretty strongly about disclosure. But I also feel pretty strongly I might not ever have sex again. When I think about having sex, my lips curl up in disgust and my stomach goes into a knot. How can something so incredible, so wonderful, so beautiful, so fun result in something so ugly? Well. There is no answer to that. And the question is kind of ludicrous to begin with. Yes, there’s a physiological cause and effect. But the life affirming act of sex should not be sullied by the fact there are sometimes negative consequences. In other words, never having sex again doesn’t fix the fact I have herpes.
Herpes, or any STI for that matter, resulting from casual sex doesn’t make sex bad. It doesn’t make casual sex bad. It’s simply a risk. Know the risks. Know the risks. The word “risk” appears eight times in my book Empowered Online Dating. The word “risk” appears fourteen times in my book How To Do Single With Dignity and Grace, which I haven’t even finished yet.
I know this shit. I know it through and through. Herpes is not a reflection of character. I don’t deserve herpes because I had casual sex and didn’t always use condoms. No one deserves to be infected with anything – STI’s or anything else. It just happens. STIs are one of the risks of having sex, casual sex, sex in a committed relationship, any sex. That doesn’t make sex bad.
I say that, and I know the full truth of that, and I’d scream it in my friend’s ear if she was saying to me what I’ve put to paper here. But I still feel like I’ll never have sex again. Ugh. Sex. Ugh. Herpes. Ugh. I’m an idiot. Ugh. I’m stupid. Ugh. I’m a hypocrite. Ugh. I kind of sort of hate myself right now. Ugh.
From what I’m learning online, my reaction is normal. It takes most people a few weeks or even months to come to terms with the fact they have a lifetime relationship with an STI with the second worst reputation to HIV. And it also takes time to get into a right perspective. Herpes is a nuisance, but it’s not going to kill anyone.
What now? I Persevere. And life goes on. But I still don’t want to have sex. Ugh.