Upon her sex partners herpes diagnosis, Pilar Reyes reflects on her personal path from initial anger to condoms enthusiast. The opinions shared are the authors own.
We had been sleeping together on and off for a few months when he got herpes. At first, it was the usual immature reaction: panic, followed by anger, followed by bitter text messages that said, “We’re never fucking ever again!” But that wasn’t true, because despite the echoes of my high school sex education that had planted the seed of “anybody who has an STD is a dirty, bad person,” the sex was still good, and I still wanted to fuck him.
So I did my research. The Internet threw a lot of information at me, but at the end of the day I knew one thing for sure: condoms, condoms, condoms. We had always used condoms before the diagnosis, and it seemed that now using protection was imperative. The herpes virus is spread via direct physical contact. The herpes virus can shed from the skin and be passed from person to person even in the absence of a physical outbreak. Even with the use of condoms, herpes can still be passed on, although the use of condoms greatly diminishes that risk.
I looked at the odds, I looked at my needs, and I came to the conclusion that the risk was worth the reward. Armed with the knowledge that I could potentially spread an STD to my other sexual partners, I did the responsible thing and let them know. Of course, when they found out, they decided to stop sleeping with me. That was fine, because it wasn’t that serious anyways. I guess that’s the thing about casual sex – at the risk of STDs, it becomes a less worthwhile pursuit.
Which was why my partner and I became less casual and more serious. After a brief hiatus, and after the initial outbreak cleared up, I realized that the sex wasn’t the only reason I was coming back. Maybe it was the shared experience of dealing with a new STD diagnosis together, or maybe it was the fact that I hadn’t completely ditched him because of his herpes, we decided, fuck it, we clearly care about each other. Let’s stop fucking around and start dating.
It would have been really easy to instead close my legs and walk away at that point. Certainly all my friends had advised me to do so, but when I had done my initial medical research, I also came across an online community devoted to debunking the STD shaming that is pervasive in modern culture. At first I was surprised that I had never come across this point of view before. As a feminist and an avid anti-slut shamer, it just made sense. Given my initial reaction and my friends’ reactions to the situation, I realized that , much to my chagrin, our attitudes to STDs were not exactly PC. Sure, I have friends with HIV and herpes, but they were certainly not people that I would have even considered having sex with. Of course, that’s a completely unfair perspective, because all it takes is a condom to diminish your risk. So long as a person is honest when disclosing their STDs, there shouldn’t be a problem.
To give this story a happy ending, my partner and I are still together. We have safe sex every time, and, while I still do not have herpes, I’ve come to realize that if I get herpes, then I’ll have herpes. It won’t be a life shattering event, nor should it be, for myself or anyone else. Sure, I certainly don’t want an STD, nor does anyone else, but much like a cold or like acne, often times STDs are merely inconvenient medical conditions. With proper education, you can diminish your risk. Fuck it – just use a condom every time.
Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the author’s own.