I'm Desperate: Is There Sex After Herpes?
Q. Two years ago I learned I have incurable genitals herpes from a routine annual STD screening, and I went into a sexual deep freeze. I haven't had sex with another person since.
How can I? Herpes is a bad joke on television about someone who is dirty and slutty. Someone who is unclean. People with AIDS are tragic; people with herpes are contemptible.
Herpes is telling someone you want to make love to that you have a painful, ugly disease that they could get if you’re physically intimate together. Herpes is rejection and isolation, having sex through plastic, never feeling someone's tongue on your pussy again. I can't face sex, or the magnitude of the loss of it as I knew it, so for two years I haven't acknowledged it.
Now I have to face that I don't want to live my life as a sexual hermit, I don't think I can. I love sex. But what's left of it now that's good? I'm a living contagion.
A. Zoe, my dear, you have wonderful sex to look forward to for years, so get out of your funk and start learning about delicious safer sex techniques to reduce risk. Yes, you need to take protective measures during sex, both to protect your partner and to protect yourself. In this day and age, so does EVERYONE. Safer sex isn't punishment; it can be very fun and erotic with a little practice. (Check out our two pages on safer sex for some tips).You can cry over spilt milk, or you can savor the bounty of pleasure available to you with the acquired knowledge and skill you can easily gain about gloves, dams, condoms, and other delightful friends of the adventurous.
And yes, as a society our attitude towards the herpes is juvenile, cruel and prurient because it is a condition associated with sex, and socially we are sexually immature. The masses are asses. The simple fact is that the herpes virus is an extremely common, highly contagious medical condition that one out of every 5.5 American has – one fifth of the population. These stats hold pretty steady over much of the adult world population. We should all be taking about herpes just as we should be talking about sex among friends and family, openly, compassionately, and without judgment.
So become informed about safer sex, and be patient and honest with potential partners. Some of them may choose to avoid sex with you, as is their prerogative; this is not a rejection of you as a human being in any way but a personal choice on their part not to risk a contagious condition. Others will definitely want to explore safer sex options with you.
The important thing is not to carry any feeling that your personal worth has anything to do with this mere medical condition. I strongly recommend checking out an STI support group if one is available to you; talking with others who are experiencing the same thing can demystify the scary aspects of having a disease, and reassure you that you're experiencing something quite normal and manageable.
IF you are reading this and have questions about sex and herpes, please ask! Live in knowledge, not fear.
Shain Stodt is the founder and author of the sex ed website Informed About Sex. Shain maintains a flourishing question and answer column, a quick-response posting page, authors a large number of features and articles on Informed About Sex and writes regularly for BlogHer, as well as other social media sites. A Sex Educator certified by the Institute For The Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, she has worked in the field of sexuality since 1972 when she began working with the Abortion and Birth Control Outreach Project at The New York Women's Center in Chelsea. Shain has lectured on Sexuality in the New York City public school system, given numerous workshops on sexuality for women's organizations, and hosted a program on women and sexuality on New York City's public access television station. She has been featured on Native Out, Occupy Menstruation and other social media sites, and moderates the Facebook page Radical Women Talk Sex. Shain lives in North Carolina, where she speaks, writes, consults, and advocates passionately for progressive sex education.
She can be contacted for professional engagements at: firstname.lastname@example.org