Why I Will Never Support Herpes Dating Sites

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Photo by William Iven

Positive Singles. Meet People With Herpes. Truster. Hift. Hope. H Date. Hmate. Herwks. That’s right, friends. It’s time to talk about herpes dating websites and how much I hate them.

Herpes dating services have been around since the Internet was invented, thanks to a powerful social stigma that makes disclosing your STI status a frightening prospect for many of us. In a world where we are judged for having a sexually transmitted condition, telling a new partner about herpes means risking a rejection that plenty of herpes+ people would rather avoid. I get it. There is a market for these services, and I don’t want to dismiss the experiences of the people who use them. Please do not read this essay as judgmental. I don’t mean to knock the insecurities of people with herpes: I want to address the companies that profit off of them. Continue reading

Watch My TEDx Talk: STIs aren’t a consequence. They’re inevitable. [With Transcript]

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.

I’m going to start today by asking you guys to do me a small favor: I would love it if you could raise your hand if you have allergies. [Lots of hands go up] Okay, I can relate. I have a tiny nose so I’m always congested. Okay, thank you.

Second question: I would love it if you could raise your hand if you have herpes. [No hands go up] I see no hands and a lot more confused faces, and that’s what I was expecting. In the time that I have with you today, I want to talk about why it is that it is so socially unacceptable to talk about herpes, despite the fact that almost everyone in this room either has herpes or will encounter it at some point in the next few years. I’ll let that sink in for a sec. Continue reading

It’s STD Awareness Month. Why Aren’t We Celebrating?

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In case you hadn’t noticed from the month-long party I’m throwing on my Twitter feed, it’s STD Awareness Month. April is the most wonderful time of the year: publications are popping out STD-related content, weird billboards are pasted up encouraging us to get tested, and there are not one but two hashtags for me to use when sharing my blog posts (not that they are the most interesting hashtags of all time, but still, THERE ARE HASHTAGS). This is the one opportunity that we get to mention STDs constantly, and I’m so goddamn excited. Continue reading

The Herpes Interviews: The Guy From The Bar

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A few weeks ago I crashed a party at a dive bar in Brooklyn. I’d just gotten back from a business trip and I hadn’t seen my friends in a while, so I promised myself I would have one drink and then go home and catch up on sleep. But Brooklyn had other plans for me: I met someone. Five weeks later, he let me interview him about what it’s like to fuck someone with herpes, how much texting is too much texting, and how he feels about me live-tweeting our relationship. Continue reading

I Am Not “Suffering” From Herpes

5B6A8472I’m exhausted today. Someone I’m seeing came over late last night to, in his words, “fuck the shit out of me,” and by the time he left it was just shy of 1:30am. I took a shower and then lazed around in bed, smelling him in my hair and remembering how he kissed my neck, how he bossed me around. He texted me once he got home to confirm that the G Train had been running after all, and I fell asleep reading my Kindle in sweat-soaked sheets.

I don’t sound like I’m suffering, do I? Continue reading

Why Should I Date Someone With Herpes?

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My face whenever someone asks me this stupid fucking question.

Here’s another pet peeve of my email inbox: when a man (because it’s almost always a man) asks me if he should continue seeing this woman he’s been dating who just told him she has herpes. Sometimes the question is data-based, about what transmission statistics are real. Sometimes the question is esoteric, about whether or not he truly knew this woman in the first place. And sometimes it’s the classic entitled bullshit I face on Twitter all the time: I’m not a jerk for dumping someone who poses a risk to my health, right? Why on Earth would I knowingly choose to put myself in danger like that? Is she worth it?

I don’t know, man. Does your dick get hard around her? Is she nice? Continue reading

Why STDRegistry.com Is Disgusting, and Outing Your Ex as STI+ Makes You an Asshole

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A few weeks ago I wrote a carefully crafted essay on my conflicted feelings about individuals who fail to disclose their herpes status and the criminalization of the transmission of sexually transmitted infections. These are painful topics, highly subjective and personal, and I delicately side-stepped any absolutes on what is and is not immoral. My experience is mine alone, and my feelings of rage and hurt toward my “giver” do not mean that everyone who transmits an STI has the same knowledge, responsibility, and moral ineptitude as he did. I am not interested in condemning or absolving anyone.

Judging by the email I woke up to this morning, I was being too subtle. But we’ll get to that soon. Continue reading

Dear VICE, Stop Using This Photo of a Smashed Banana on Your STI Articles

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This photo needs to die in a fire.

Look, VICE. We need to have a quick chat.

You’ve been on the STI beat this year, and I respect that. One of your journalists wrote a great piece about me over the summer and she was super lovely and considerate. It was a positive experience. But then the article used a repulsive image of a smashed banana as its lead art, completely undermining its anti-stigmatizing message. The photo also had a toxic impact on the comments on Facebook, where people reacted to the headline and the image instead of clicking through to read the article. They made a lot of jokes about herpes being the worst, and diseased sluts deserving it, and so on. The photo selection was a sensationalist click-grab, and it was obnoxious. I was upset. I didn’t say anything about it to VICE staff because, to be honest, I was young and scared and didn’t realize I could send a bunch of angry emails demanding it be changed, as the photo was disrespectful to me and I had a right to be hurt. I let it go.

I wish I hadn’t, because now I see you’re still using the photo on other articles about sexual health and STIs, and that’s a serious problem. Let me explain why. Continue reading

To The Woman Who Announced Her STI on Snapchat

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I learned about you when I Googled myself—as a narcissist is wont to do—and discovered I’d been mentioned in an article about you on the Daily Star. I’m not entirely sure why my efforts to destigmatize herpes were mentioned in the article, which was a masterpiece of stigmatizing, sensationalized journalism that in no way respected your humanity. Perhaps it was a nod to the morality they were chucking out the window in favor of page views. Either way, your story stuck with me once my initial “ethics in herpes journalism” rage passed.

You’re my fucking hero. Continue reading

The (Not So) Black and White Ethics of Herpes

-DO I HAVE TO TELL THEM--

I’ve been thinking more and more about writing a book and the many reasons I don’t know if I can. I haven’t written a single word of what this memoir could be but I have already Googled ‘defamation of character lawsuit’ at least five times. Have you ever noticed it’s only rich, white men who sue for defamation? My friends like to say “It’s not slander if it’s true.” I think a lot about legal fees.

Truth is a slippery, emotional thing. There is no real proof of the direction of herpes, only where it is and where it isn’t. Even that isn’t always solid. Lawsuits over who gave whom an incurable STI make me feel a specific type of nauseated: if only it were that simple to determine justice about a biological thing. If only blame weren’t so sticky, and disclosing so hard, and evidence so complicated. We need to be wary of a legal system that was built against us, not for us. My inbox is full of people wondering if they can press charges, asking how they should warn their ex’s future partners, and feeling as though their life has been ruined by someone who will get off scot-free. The other half of my inbox is people terrified to tell their partner that they have herpes, and when, and how, and if they really have to. I know too well the many reasons people are afraid to disclose. And I know too well the stories of those who weren’t disclosed to. It’s a difficult vantage point on a question that I used to see as black and white. Continue reading