Herpes rejection stories

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[Image: A person with a beard and a disgusted facial expression giving a thumbs down gesture.]

As most people know, I can see some of the terms that people Google that bring them to my site. One day I checked my stats to see that someone had searched “herpes rejection stories” and found their way to the Scrapbook of Truth. And there was good reason for them to arrive at my doorstep this time. A lot of the searches I get are for porn or weird stuff. But part of having herpes is, unfortunately, rejection. It’s not fun, but it happens and all you can do is respond with grace and understanding.

My first real rejection came in August 2014. I wrote the short story Sore about it. The man in the story was one of the first people I had met from OKC after I had started dating again and I really liked him. Our second date got a lot more physical than I had been expecting and I hadn’t thought to disclose earlier. When it came to the point where we were sitting on his hotel room bed, I knew I couldn’t let it go further. So I told him the truth and he was not okay with it.

I was very hurt and disappointed by his rejection (hence the story). But this is just a fact of life. I don’t hold it against him that he didn’t want to take the risk of contracting it and refused to sleep with me. I would never criticize someone for making what they believe is the best choice for their health. Even though the risk involved with me is very, very low (1% infection rate for a year of regular sex), sometimes 1% is too much. But he was someone that I really liked and wanted to be with. He also would have been the first person that I had sex with after reclaiming my sex drive following my relationship with my ex. Not to mention, we had spend the entire night kissing and touching and I was quite turned on by the time we went back to his hotel room. Being left cold wasn’t fun.

But also, his rejection of me was not just sexually. After he found out that I had an STD he tried to get rid of me. The following day I texted him and told him that I understood why he didn’t want to be intimate with me and asked if we could be Facebook friends. He basically told me to have a nice life. That shit hurt more than him just not wanting to have sex.

Other men have done disappearing acts after I disclosed. After a certain point, I learned not to put stock into anyone as a potential dating partner until I had disclosed. I sometimes would make guesses about who would be okay with it and who would not be. And I was always wrong. So I stopped. Now I just wait to see what they say before I put any stock into the relationship at all. Having an STD can be a deal breaker, not just for the disease itself, but because of all of the stigma and misinformation there is floating around out there about STDs in general.

Rejection isn’t fun. It isn’t pretty. But it’s going to happen when you’re dating. But the only thing you can do is disclose in a way you feel safe, when you feel comfortable, and be prepared for what happens after you do. For every guy that rejected me because of it, there was usually one that surprised me by being okay with it. I didn’t ask to get herpes, but no one that I date wants to contract it either, and I understand that. Rejection hurts. But it’s part of living with an STD.

Why I always carry condoms

screenshot-www.okcupid.com 2015-05-10 07-47-54There’s a question on OkCupid that asks how often you carry condoms. It never ceases to amaze me how few men put that they always do, how many men mark it as unacceptable when I write always, and how many men write in answers that carrying condoms means that you just are looking for sex and even that you’re a whore.

I have four latex condoms within arm’s reach of me at this very moment. I have them in my bedroom, in the TV room, and in my purse, which goes everywhere with me whenever I leave the house. Buying in bulk from Amazon leaves me with condoms to spare. I sometimes give them away to dating partners that I anticipate having sex with in the future.

okcondomsI do this because I am an adult that is sexually active and I also have an incurable STD. I know that if I want to have sex, I need to have condoms. The last thing I want to do is start getting intimate with someone, want to take things further and then be unable to because no one has a condom. I’m definitely not the only one providing protection in all relationships, but there is never a time when I want to be caught without one.

I’m not just out looking for sex, I don’t like casual hookups and I don’t do them. But I recognize that I need to be responsible about my sexual health and I need to be prepared. So that’s exactly what I am. And why are men so eager to shame me for this?

What would they think of me if I never carried condoms and left unprepared men in a constant state of blue balls because I always put the burden of protection on them? How responsible would I be to know that I have a sexual health issue that requires condoms and I leave them at home stashed in a dresser drawer? How is that preferable to what I’m doing?screenshot-www.okcupid.com 2015-05-11 12-16-06

I once saw a documentary about sexual attitudes in Europe and the United States. They interviewed young people to ask them if they had condoms and Europeans smiled and said yes. They would announce that carrying condoms was a regular part of behavior and a good, responsible idea. Cut to the Americans. Men would think that women were slutty if they carried condoms. Women thought that men with them would be sex maniacs. No one would admit to having a condom on them.

There’s no mystery that there are still some puritanical ideas left over from the choke hold that religion has had on America. But it would be refreshing to see more men on OKC being responsible about their sexual behaviors. Instead of messaging me sexually explicit things that they want to do my body then announcing that carrying condoms with you makes you a whore. Because, really? If you want to have sex, then accept the responsibility for it. And if you can’t do that, then at least don’t shame those that do.screenshot-www.okcupid.com 2015-05-10 17-41-36

My STD is not your punchline

1414446936Kendra-Herpes-Text-by-Caitlin-DIt wasn’t until after I was diagnosed with herpes and began living with the disease that I noticed just how people and STDs are treated in society. When I was uninfected I would laugh along with jokes about contracting these infections and look down on those that had them as tainted, dirty and unworthy of consideration. STDs are treated with so much stigma and disdain in pop culture that, when that’s your only real exposure to these conditions, it’s easy to dehumanize the people that have them and laugh along with the idea that they’re out there and waiting to infect you.

Recently, I posted a picture of a fortune from a fortune cookie that I got at Panda Express. The fortune stated that I was going to get a gift that would leave a lasting impression on me. A Facebook friend that I didn’t know hardly at all commented and asked if it was an STD. Because, after all, not all gifts are good. I was immediately annoyed. Mostly because this person was making a joke about STDs to a person that has a fucking STD. Since I am completely out and open about my illness, I immediately responded that I already had one and hardly needed another.

But this part of the larger problem. The more we joke about STDs, the more we stigmatize them, the more we shame the people that have them, the less we talk about them, take our sexual health seriously and give people that have STDs the room they need to be open and honest about what they have. STDs are not fun. It’s not a nice thing to have. But it’s not the end of the goddamn world and honestly, if you want to protect yourself from something, you need to know about it and be aware of your risks. Also, if you want to be a decent human being, don’t treat people that made bad choices or suffer from unfortunate circumstances with such reproach and contempt.

I wrote before that the worst part of having herpes is the stigma of having it. And I’m being completely honest. Due to my suppression meds and my body chemistry I have to deal with a single sore about once every two years. When I get it, I barely notice. The outbreak last for about 4-5 days and then it goes away. My period has a bigger impact on my life than my STD does.

However, as long as people are so fucking terrified of sexually-transmitted diseases and the people that have them, my STD will not be just a minor inconvenience once every few years. It will be something that brands me as a joke and a whore and someone that doesn’t deserve normal treatment because I’m too damaged for it. And all of that is bullshit. No matter what goes on in my genitals, I am no one’s joke and I deserve respect for the human being that I am.

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of ridiculing what you don’t understand. Society is filled with people that stigmatize STDs and the people that are infected with them. But I’m here and I have an STD and I am telling you; I am a person and I am not anyone’s insult or punchline. The way we talk about and treat people with STDs is not going to make the more honest and more open about what they have and how to treat it. It’s going to drive this information underground and make it more dangerous for everyone.

If you want to stop the spread of STDs and get those that have them to be responsible about it and so what they need to do to prevent further infection, then treat everyone with dignity, no matter their status.

I’m not trying to infect you

People-close-up-scared-manI’m not sure what it is. It could be paranoia, it could be insecurity, it could be ignorance, but I have now had three men “double check” to make sure that I was not having a herpes outbreak when we had sex. I find this insulting and rather offensive for several reasons. While I understand that I might be the first person that these men have encountered that knows that they have herpes and this is probably new and scary for them, I would like a little credit.

The bottom line is that I don’t want to infect someone else. I have (thankfully) never had this happen to me before and honestly, if it did, I’m pretty sure that I would never forgive myself. This is absolutely not something that I want for myself or for my partners. I’m aware that no matter how careful I am with someone, it can still happen, and that bothers me a great deal. When it comes to an outbreak, if I even think I’m having one, I inform my partner of it and do not let them get anywhere near my pants.

I do all that I can to make sex as safe as possible. I take my suppression medication every day, I alert all of my potential partners to my status, I look for signs of an outbreak regularly, and I carry condoms where ever I go. If I wanted to infect someone I would go off my suppression meds, not tell anyone shit about my STD status and have wild, bareback sex whenever I wanted with whatever random dude that hit me up on OKC. And seriously, if I went through the painful and awkward process of telling you that I had herpes, do you really think that I’m not at all concerned for your safety?

It occurs to me that the men inquiring were not doing it in order to doubt my integrity, but I have to say that it comes off like that. When I go out of my way to be safe and responsible about this, someone checking up on me sounds like they think I’m not doing everything I can to be careful. And I am.

I’m sure there are people out there with herpes that don’t give a fuck and are not willing to do everything that I do in order to keep their partner safe. I once read on a herpes forum that a doctor once told a woman that she didn’t have to tell future partners that she had HSV-2 at all because it was so common. But I’m not like that and I never will be. Everyone that I sleep with will have all of the information that they need in order to make their own informed decision. So don’t check up on me. Don’t make sure that I’m doing everything that I need to for you to be safe. Because I am. I’m doing it all.

Prompt 20: Time Travel

tardisPrompt 20. You are given the chance to travel back to any point in your life to do things differently. What point do you choose? What do you do different and how does it affect you now?

No doubt in my mind whatsoever when I say that I would go back to the day before I had unprotected sex with my ex-boyfriend and prevent myself from getting herpes. No second thoughts, that is what I would do. For all of the emotional pain that I’ve encountered before and all of the dangerous situations that I put myself in, I fucking survived and learned something and moved on. But not from the herpes. What I thought was a fling that I would look back on with a slight cringe left me with a permanent disease that carries with reoccurring health problems (albeit, mild) and a shit load of stigma.

Of the two major issues in my life, particularly in dating, bipolar and herpes, herpes is fucking preventable. There would be no going back in time to correct myself from becoming bipolar. But all I would need to do would be to stay away from one asshole who ended up using me and telling his friends I was a bitch while he was living in my apartment and I was paying for everything and I would be set. Granted, I probably would need a sit down to discuss safer sex and how people who tell you that they’re clean aren’t always honest or accurate about their status, but still.

And yes, I’ve been in some fucked up situations that I wish I hadn’t been. But I have to say, I did learn from them. Sometimes not right away, but I did learn. Getting herpes? Nothing. I was not at high risk for it, it didn’t prevent me from doing more dangerous things, it just messed up my life. While I’m a lot more careful about condom usage now (because I have to be), I could have learned that without getting a fucking incurable disease. Also, the sex I had with the person that infected me? Calling it mediocre would be generous. It’s not like I even had such an awesome time then ended up with this problem. No, I had boring, unfulfilling sex, and then got a disease.

So yes, if I could go back in time only once to fix something, I would fucking fix that. No matter what shit I got into with other people, this is one thing that could be easily changed and taken care of. As for how it would affect me now, I would be living the same life. Just no need to have to go through the stress and worry of explaining my disease to someone or the fear of getting an outbreak. It would just be nice to not have to deal with this at all.