I was hooking up with someone recently and told him I carry HSV-1 because I didn’t know if we were gonna end up having sex. He said I was really cool for telling him, which is now the reaction I expect because it’s the one I’ve gotten from each and every boy I’ve disclosed to so far. I’ve told four people now, and while I’ve gotten some nervous and confused reactions, every single person I’ve told has expressed that they really appreciate me telling them, and seem to have genuinely meant it. Even though not all of them have been comfortable having sex with me right away, they have all reacted really positively.
I still hate disclosing to people, though. It’s not because I’m afraid or embarrassed, I’ve known I’ve had HSV for over a year now and have gotten to a point where I’ve told enough people (sexual partners and friends combined) that I don’t feel much shame anymore. Obviously it’s not a fun conversation to have, but it doesn’t scare me anymore.
I hate disclosing because I don’t see it as necessary. I really don’t. Why do I have to tell someone I carry HSV, whereas someone who gets cold sores doesn’t have to tell me before they go down on me? We’re both putting each other at a bit of a risk. The absolute only reason that I have to tell someone is because my condition is stigmatized (for no legitimate reason) and theirs isn’t.
When I told this guy recently that I have HSV, I asked if he had ever gotten cold sores. He said yes. I said okay, we carry the exact same virus. He seemed confused. When I first told my boyfriend before we had sex that I have HSV, I also asked if he had cold sores. Again, he said yes. Both of these people have performed oral sex on me, yet neither of them would have even thought to let me know that they get cold sores from time to time. Neither of them would have even considered letting me know that they could give me genital herpes.
I, however, have not had an outbreak since the extremely mild one I experienced for the first time over a year ago. Since then I have been asymptomatic. But for some reason, I’m supposed to disclose to each and every single one of my partners??
The argument that is often used is that “you would want to know if you were being exposed to the virus” and “when you don’t disclose you’re putting someone else’s health at risk”. Okay, first of all, yeah I guess I would want to know if someone was going to possibly expose me to HSV. But the vast majority of the time, people are exposing others to the virus and don’t say anything, because they either have it orally, or they have it genitally and have no idea. So because I have this extremely common virus in one spot instead of another, and was unlucky enough to actually find out that I have it, I have to tell others? Even though numerous people have exposed me to the same virus without telling me, even though they are aware that they also carry it, and get away with it guilt-free?
As for putting someone else’s health at risk… oh please. It’s a skin condition. The majority of the population ends up with it. I could have easily waited for those few bumps I noticed over a year ago to go away on their own, wrote them off as really bad ingrown hairs or something, not seen a doctor, and never had any idea that I carry this virus. Because it doesn’t affect my life. It is nothing more than a mild skin condition. It’s harmless.
I know in very rare cases it can be a serious health risk. There have been cases where it has been passed on to newborns and I know it slightly increases your chance of contracting HIV. But again, the majority of the population ends up with this virus. And for the majority of people it barely affects their lives. Even so, even if you want to talk about the serious effects it has on some people, this just brings me back to the question of why those with genital HSV have to disclose, and those with oral HSV don’t. We’re all exposing people to the same virus.
Why does the responsibility fall on me?
The only reason I have disclosed is because of the stigma. The stigma has told me that I’m a monster and I’m dangerous and I’d better tell every single person I sleep with that I carry this awful virus or I’ll be sent straight to hell. But my heart is never in it. When I tell people, it’s purely because I feel pressured to. Not because I feel I’m actually doing them a favour, and not because I think it is truly the right thing to do. The way I see it, pressuring people to disclose their status is just adding to the social stigma, adding to the view that this is a gross, dangerous disease that we need to inform others about.
So many people have exposed me to this virus and not thought to tell me. Why do they get to live without the burden of having to tell people they carry the virus? If you get cold sores and don’t feel the need to inform your sexual partners, I have a lot of trouble understanding why I have to. We’re both putting people at the same risk for the exact same thing.
“We dressed up as the book Madeline, with six people dressed up as her and me as Ms. Clavel, their teacher. One of the Madelines, however, was the truly special one…the one with the beard, that is. Our experience was hysterical—I’d walk all the girls (and one guy) down the street in two straight lines. Guys would be walking the other way, whistling or hollering at all the pretty ladies. Then, as they got to the back of the line, they’d see my friend Brennan, then they’d see me, and I could tell that they were suddenly wondering if ALL the Madelines were men.”
the last sentence
There will never be a time when I don’t reblog this because it is my fave.