EVERYONE: USE CONDOMS UNTIL YOU AND YOUR PARTNER GET TESTED.
This is probably the least surprising statement I could ever make, but apparently I am going to have to make it every single day, because not taking precautions and being careful about your sexual health is now interpreted as bravery.
I was a bit of a loose girl who had sex to prove her worth and wasn’t crazy about condoms. At the time, I went straight to the doctor (responsibly!) and had the itchy, burning rash (which had developed on that part of my ladybusiness where the mons folds in half, just above the clit) scraped (as pleasant as it sounds, I can assure you), then went home to wait on tenterhooks for the results.
Okay, that’s awful. That is a nightmare story. And herpes is obviously a tricky disease that condoms only help in preventing – but then condoms help in preventing the spread of herpes. They will decrease your risk of contracting it very considerably.
So, I will say it again: please use condoms until you and your partner have been tested. I realize the testing conversation can be uncomfortable, so one way I approach it is to say, “I am a fucking neurotic, and you almost certainly do not have anything, please go get tested for all the STDs now.” In an attempt to be edgy – and yet relatable! – I will note that as a loose woman I have said this to more than one man. I believe one was remotely offended, but we were both virgins at the time, so… he had a point. And he still knew where I was coming from. The rest have universally been receptive to this. No one has thought that it’s crazy, although I have clearly chosen to couch it in the language of being some sort of Woody Allen character. Most people have just seen it as being responsible, and a reflection of me not wanting to get a whole host of diseases, which is one definition of “being a sane adult.”
If your insurance does not cover being tested at your doctor’s, go to google and type “free STD testing + your city” in. Clinics are available in most major cities. They will run blood tests on you and get you results in about a week. Though, if you suspect you have herpes, because you’ve begun developing symptoms on your ladybits, please go to your doctor.
Just so we’re clear – this is not slut shaming. I am entirely down with you fucking everything that moves if you wear a condom or take other sane person precautions. This is stupid shaming.
But, okay, this girl fucked up. Fine. I completely understand that. We all fuck up sometimes. That happens, you go in, you do the testing, you are ashamed of yourself for being reckless, you go on with your life. You get your disease treated and alert your partners in the future, and everything is fine. If this happened to myself or a friend of mine, I would really like them to play up the “you get this treated and everything will be fine” message. That’s alright.
Except that the writer didn’t do this. This is what the writer did:
A few days later, a call from the nurse revealed that the test had come back “inconclusive, due to mishandling of the specimen.”
She asked me to come back in and have another sample taken, but the rash was already gone. I know I shouldn’t have, but I went about my sexual business in the usual way.
Somehow, in my head, it was justified. Like, “Look, I don’t know for sure that I have an STD so why freak out about it?”
No. Be responsible. Please, please, please, go get tested when things are wrong. You’re adults. This is what adults do.
And then she did this:
About a year later, another rash appeared, this time, further up on my mons, in the furry bit. I went back to that same doctor (I was having a good run of consistent health insurance coverage) and had another scrape.
A week later, another call with the same “inconclusive” results. Apparently, the sample has to be refrigerated or frozen or something, as soon as it’s taken. Even sitting on the counter in the exam room for the amount of time it takes the doctor to ask if you have any questions will destroy it.
I was frustrated, but I still didn’t change my sexual behavior, even one bit.
It’s interesting that XOJane ran this with an adorable picture of the author rather than a picture of what herpes looks like. You can check the top of our post for confirmation that herpes is something you should really take serious steps to avoid giving to people. Doing otherwise is monstrous.
Though I think part of the lesson we should derive here is “get a competent doctor who doesn’t keep fucking up your test results” but perhaps that’s beside the point.
Eventually, years down the road, a doctor pointed out that the writer has herpes, which is what seemed likely (and the writer was clearly suspicious of) all along. After she presumably went around spreading it to many, many people. If you are strongly suspicious that you have herpes wait until you get a conclusive result before going out and having unprotected sex with a bunch of people. I italicized the parts of this statement that were hardest for me to type without swearing.
Now, to her credit, the author does say that she feels bad about being so reckless. So, lots of points for that. Good for her for acknowledging that this was unbelievably reckless on her part.
She ends by saying – and I suppose this is the message of this piece,
Shame kept me from being realistic about my condition and I don’t want anyone else to go through the same things I did (and still do).
Yes, but you did not give readers a single piece of advice on how to prevent it. All you did was write a piece saying “look at me, I have herpes, and seemingly, an astonishingly inept doctor, and I spread it to a bunch of people because I make appalling choices.” Being aware that “people have herpes” is not really helpful to anyone who has ever taken a sex ed class, any more than being aware of the existence of chickens would help you make an omelet.
Here are some commenter responses to this:
Jennifer, that sucks! But I’m glad you shared your story. You’re so courageous for sharing this!
Is there an award for xoJane superhero of the year because you have my vote!
You are hella brave! let’s talk about this shit! I get scared every time I get an ingrown hair “down there” (I’ve gotten about 4 in the 12 years or so that I shaved on a regular basis) and yet, I’ve never been tested. i don’t even know how it works.
Superhero of the year.
Who are these people? Stop clapping for women’s bad decisions as though they’re roadside attractions. Riding around on a high horse that’s been cobbled together out of mistakes and stupidity is not an admirable way to go through life. [tagbox tag="xojane"]
But more important, and this is something I am saying again – stories like these are not “brave” or “heroic” so much as they are “why politicians don’t think women are capable of making responsible decisions about their sexual well being”. Stories like these, that people respond to with delight, make women as a whole seem as though they are utterly unable to take care of their own bodies. The Plan B ruling just got overturned. Ohio is considering passing an anti-abortion bill. These are going to be serious issues in the next election. As a woman, this is not the time to applaud idiocy.
Though frankly, no time ever is.