August 28, 2012
A Guest Post By JENELLE MARIE
The last thing anyone wants to talk about when dating someone new and the first thing everyone should talk about before going to bed with someone: STDs.
Quick, run for the hills, this post is going to be dicey! STDs are scary, I know; I’ve lived with one for 14 years. And, I’m young (or, at least I like to think I’m still young – don’t we all? – I’m 29). At any rate, STDs are no laughing matter. Albeit, the only time we really hear about them is in the media being portrayed as a just that: a laughing matter.
The media does a fantastic job of highlighting the fears we all face about contracting an STD – they predicate the stigma – yet, they do little else. They do not talk about the sheer number of people contracting an STD annually and living with an STD, they do not explain that many STDs are curable and the ones that are not curable are usually quite manageable, and they lead us to believe that people who have STDs are dirty, damaged-goods, or whores. I say us, because, even though I’ve learned to live with my STD, I don’t want to acquire another if I can help it and there was a time I also believed those things. Nevertheless, it’s important I tell you this (and for those of you already living with an STD – there are many of you, I know – this will give you hope): I have never been rejected as a result of my STD, an STD has not stopped me from achieving my goals, and if anything, an STD has made me a more open-minded, educated, and conscientious individual.
Even the World Health Organization finds the stigma attached to STDs frustrating:
“Sexually transmitted infections, and other reproductive tract infections [PID a leading cause], cause substantial disease, death, and misery but not, apparently, enough for societies to overcome the stigma and prejudice that prevents investment in effective control measures.”
This, of course, makes dating even more convoluted than it already is (as if we needed something else to complicate things)! Especially considering more than half of all sexually active people will contract an STD (some curable, some not) by the time they’re 25. This is shocking. Yes. But, STDs are certainly not the end of the world or the 21st century’s version of the zombie apocalypse; at least, they haven’t been for me, and they shouldn’t be for you (whether you’re STD free now or not).
Plain and simple, STDs are a part of sexual life. I should also be honest when regarding these things as cavalierly as I am right now; living with an STD hasn’t always been pleasant. Previously, my genital herpes has been downright emotionally painful and grief-laden, but I’ve had many years to deal with the self-hatred, the, “I’m a whore”, “I’m being punished”, “I’m unlovable” bull-sh*t (please excuse my ‘French’), to realize, none of those things are true. I’m authentic, unique, and awesome, despite my STD and I think that’s why I’ve had such luck in the dating realm. That, and I’ve been, mostly, up front and honest with suitors and have taken steps to be sexually responsible with my actions.
At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering, “how the heck does this have anything to do with me; this is just some chick talking about how she’s still beautiful even though she has an STD, but I don’t have one and I want to avoid one at all costs!?” This post is still for you, I assure you.
No one actually goes on ‘dates’ anymore. People meet up with people and enjoy casual sex. There’s very little of: going on multiple dates (months of them), getting to know someone, introducing to family, etc., before physical activities ensue. I realize those ideals are NOT what happens on most occasions (even writing them I feel a bit overly pious). So, let me be clear in stating that I’m a big advocate of sex. Sexy time is fantastic and I encourage lots of it….responsibly. Yup, I had to go there.
Really though, when we ‘go there’, is anyone asking about previous sexual experiences in detail (number of partners with and without protection – oral sex included, STD tests taken – when and which ones)? No, most often that conversation is not being had alongside our cocktails and the after-party at that cutie’s adorable flat in Yorkshire. If you happen to be one of those awesome people who have those discussions and get tested frequently; you’re awesome, and, quite frankly, you’re few and far between. Don’t assume the rest are like you.
As much as we’d like to blame STDs on someone else (I’d also love to play the victim, shouting from the rooftops about the bastard who gave me a life-long infection and didn’t bother to tell me), we can’t. I take full responsibility for my actions (or lack thereof when it came to getting to know someone, asking questions, and using protection). We have a responsibility to ourselves to know what is possible, what our risks are, and to decide at that point which risks we are willing to take. The question is, who is going to be the first person to start the trend? Who is willing to go the extra mile to learn about STDs, to break the stigma, and to be responsible sexually active people? Raise your hand! I think it should be you.
Jenelle Marie is the administrator of The STD Project – an award-winning independent website geared toward removing the stigma associated with contracting and living with an STD by encouraging education through story-telling and resource recommendations. Jenelle has been living with genital herpes for 14 years. You can also find The STD Project on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.