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

Why Having A Boyfriend Doesn’t Cure Herpes

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We’ve all read that essay: the woman who gets herpes because she caves to temptation just once and has a regrettable one-night-stand, but goes on to find happiness because she meets that one man who loves her just as she is, STI and all. You can find it in glossy women’s magazines and anonymous chat rooms across the web, the inspirational packing popcorn of sex writing. It’s the Boyfriend Narrative, and it needs to die.

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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

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

Matt Lauer Asks Charlie Sheen What You Should Never Ask Someone With an STI

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Photo credit Samantha Okazaki, Today.com

I don’t want to talk about Charlie Sheen. I have spent the past 24 hours talking about nothing other than Charlie Sheen, and I am very aware that there are HIV activists and experts who can say whatever I have to say more articulately. No one “deserves” to get HIV. No one should have his sexual health turned into a headline. This is a hard week for sex workers, for adult film performers, for anyone living with an STI. This is about much, much more than Charlie Sheen, a man I don’t particularly like because of his erratic, violent treatment of women. I don’t want to talk about Charlie Sheen, but how we talk about Charlie Sheen matters. Continue reading

Dear Internet Commenters Who Really Don’t Want Herpes,

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Your Facebook comments have made me think. I’m not being facetious—whenever I read a comment from someone (usually a man) upset that rejecting someone who has an STI makes you a bad person, I wonder why you are so alarmed and defensive. When have I ever said that turning down someone herpes+ makes you a jerk, or a sexist, or an idiot? Where is that in the BuzzFeed article you just read? Where is that in my Tumblr post you’ve just reblogged with a snide note attached to it? My saying that I will not feel like less of a person because I have herpes and asserting that I’ve had a great sex life since getting diagnosed is not the same as condemning you for being frightened by such a prospect. I’m also not asking you to date me; I’m pretty set in that area.

“Up next on Buzzfeed, how rejecting someone with a STD makes you close-minded and insensitive lol”*

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A Lesson In Herpes Stigma, Via Facebook Comments

BuzzFeed postThe classic mantra of reading, writing and merely existing on the Internet is “Don’t read the comments.” Internet comments, and Facebook comments in particular, are widely discredited as a cesspool of nastiness and trolling. If the writer or subject of a given article is anyone other than a straight, white man, the comments are even worse. God forbid a post explicitly be about any sort of social justice topic—the comments on a post about bigotry inevitably prove its point.

I actually love Facebook comments. A big part of my job in social media is reading feedback on articles and talks in comment threads, and they can be insightful and even heartwarming. Whenever a publication shares a post by or about me on their Facebook page, I make sure to jump into the comments and introduce myself so that interested readers can find my official page more easily. Yes, sexist trolls and conservative assholes pop up to talk about what a gross slut I am. But I often find, regardless of what the publication is or how positively (and occasionally negatively) they wrote about me, strangers will defend me from these attacks. They share better information about how herpes works, answer the questions of others, offer their own stories, and thank me profusely for the work I am doing. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on Going Viral (Again)

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As I write this, an article about me is the number two trending story on BuzzFeed. My friends have been texting me all day to say that their friends have been texting them about me popping up on their newsfeed. The daily traffic to this blog has spiked into the thousands. Two different TV producers have reached out to me about being a guest on talk shows. And somehow, miraculously, I haven’t received any harassment whatsoever (knock on wood). It has been a very strange week. Continue reading