As I approached the end of 2020, my vagina was on the fritz. After attending a swinger party in October, having my guts made into soup, and my body contorted beyond its limit, I needed a break. I was ragged, and my old faithful friend BV had come back for a visit. I took my meds and gave my body time to heal. For Thanksgiving, I had sex with my guy and, once again, my pussy was hell on the equator. It didn’t smell, and there wasn’t any visible discharge; it just felt off, and I knew something was up.
I was tired of going back and forth to the GYN and getting the same results. I’d get BV, treat the BV, then the treatment for BV would cause a yeast infection. A big reason I became an advocate for condoms was to try and control my pH balance, but condoms made no difference over the years. My pussy just wanted to be a headache. For years (even when I wasn’t having sex), she gave me problems. But, as of lately, it seemed to be happening more frequently. Needing to find the culprit, I began experimenting with different condoms, different lubes, and various soaps; nothing made a difference.
After my October visit, I decided to adjust how I cleaned down there. I always had a habit of overcleaning (according to my GYN). I never thought a final pass-over with baby wipes would be a bad thing. But clearly, I was washing away all of my “good bacteria,” and the same went for my aggressive showers. So, I stopped with the baby wipes, and I used less intensity when I cleaned my lady parts in the shower. Wouldn’t you know, when I went back to the GYN in November, my less aggressive cleaning had also backfired on me. I was really beginning to hate my body.
Not only was there the headache of the discomfort. It had to pay the $50 co-pay to see the GYN and the $30 for prescriptions. Now, multiply that a few times a year. Fixing a broken pussy adds up. I really wanted to trade her in for a new one. But sadly, that’s not how vaginas work.
Tired of dealing with the headaches, I decided to Force Quit my Pussy, lock her down, and do a total Restart. I made the executive decision to have no sex until all results came back clear. Like most women, I had the habit of going back to having sex once I finished my medication and the symptoms subsided. This time around, I wanted to finish my meds, then go back to make sure EVERYTHING was in the clear before I had sex. I needed to start from square one, and I couldn’t do that if I were fucking all the time.
Sadly, the same week I decided to lock my pussy down was the same week all my partners called me to link up. I turned down enough partners that I copy and pasted the speech to make it easier on myself. —YES! It’s that good!— I did get push-back from some of my partners, but it was my box and sanity on the line. I had to ignore their desires and focus on my health. My body. My choice.
In January, it had been almost two months since I had sex, but something still felt off. Imagine someone breathing into your pussy; that’s what I was feeling. I went to the GYN and pressed play on the tape recorder that was my vaginal-health-life. The doctor did my exam, and a week later, my results came back negative for everything. SERIOUSLY! WHAT THE FUCK WAS UP WITH MY PUSSY. He concluded that maybe this was my new normal. But, thankfully, a few days later, the pussy-blower disappeared.
If I’m honest, there is a part of me that dreads what will happen when I return to having sex. And I’m not looking forward to the trials and errors of pleasure. Condoms, no condoms, regular lube, organic lube, coconut oil, it’s all a gamble; and at the end of the day, it’s my body and wallet that has to go through the motions. I just don’t know if I want to go back down that rabbit-hole.
But who am I kidding? I know I enjoy sex too much to stay away from it for too long. However, this time around, it’s essential to listen to my body and pay attention to the signals. If your body keeps responding in a way that waves red flags, it’s necessary to listen and make changes, regardless of how your partners may feel. No one has to live with your discomfort but you, and no one is paying your doctor bills or prescriptions but you. So, put yourself and your health first.
A few years ago, I found my first herpes support group on Facebook, and on the façade, it seemed very supportive. Messages of “Keep your head up!” Be strong, you’ll find someone!” and “It wasn’t meant to be.” seemed to flood the daily feed. Even though I knew I wasn’t the only person living with herpes, it was great to finally see and hear other people’s stories. The overall morale of the chats was positive and uplifting, which for a newly diagnosed individual can be essential. However, every so often, I would come across a post asking for advice and support.
I feel terrible, and I need your advice. Last week, I was drinking, partying, smoking (whatever) with my friend. Things got out of control, we had sex, and I forgot to tell them about my herpes status. I feel terrible, and I want to tell them, I just don’t know how to.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that once the comments have been disabled, it was safe to assume that the poster was virtually attacked. Similar posts often bring out, what I like to call, The Bully-Brigade. The Bully-Brigade is the barrage of people that come together to virtually bully anyone whose actions and views don’t align with theirs. With comments like, “You’re a terrible person.” “How could you forget…” and “People like you should be locked up!” — The Bully-Brigade has struck again.
The comments and attacks vary, but the one that sticks out the most is the one of blame. It’s the person that says, “You know, many of us wouldn’t be here if our partner had told us. If my partner had told me that they had herpes, I never have had sex with them. You should’ve given them a choice.”
This one always bugs me, because they so conveniently forget that they, in fact, did have a choice. To have consensual sex, without knowing your partner’s sexual health status, was a choice. The power to control the sanctity of my body is my responsibility, and the same for your body. Do you not eat when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty, or sleep when you’re tired? So, why when it comes to sex, is it only the other person’s responsibility to protect you? I don’t say this to point blame, I say this to take accountability.
Think of your body as a new car you just bought. You wouldn’t give the keys for your new car to a person whose driving record you didn’t know and whose license you haven’t seen, would you? No! You wouldn’t! But if you did, and they crashed it, was it not your choice to hand your keys over to them, in the first place? We don’t take that risk with material things, but we assume that risk with our bodies every day. From the moment I laid eyes on my partner, once I know I want to have sex with him, the responsibility to ensure my sexual health is mine, and mine alone. It was my responsibility to make sure that he posed no threat to me, and the choice I made to not verify his status was, in fact, A CHOICE.
Over the years, I learned to stop arguing with The Bully-Brigade; because they had already made up their mind that their positive diagnosis was someone else’s fault. What I try to do now is pose the question, what if…
You say — “If they had told me they had herpes…” I pose the question — “What if you had asked…?”
What if they told you they were clean, because the test they took didn’t include herpes? Therefore, they had no way of knowing they had the virus.
What if they had the test that included herpes, but because they recently acquired the virus, the antibody test came back negative? (It took 9 months for my antibodies test to detect herpes).
What if you had used condoms? (I used condoms when herpes was transmitted to me).
What if they told you they had a history of cold sores? Marketing doesn’t make it clear that cold sores and herpes are the same virus. Many people don’t think that their cold sores are herpes or that they can impact their partner’s genital region. What if this information was made clear to the masses?
What if doctors did a better job of educating patients before, during, and after their diagnosis? What if they pointed patients to support groups after their diagnosis, instead of giving them a prescription and sending them on their way?
What if sex education was clear and transparent, and inclusive of all sexual behaviors, sexualities, and sexual health? What if consent and boundaries were mandated? What if the stigma was never able to exist because people were educated on the truth of all sexually transmissible and non-sexually transmissible viruses?
What if testing were made easier for all to access? What if when I asked to be tested for everything, I was tested for EVERYTHING?
What if we stopped shaming sex, sexuality, and people with STD/STIs?
What if you’re herpes positive, you disclose to your partner, but you don’t ask to see their results in return? (Is that not, once again, handing someone the keys to your car without checking their license, all-over again?)
What if asking about a person’s sexual health was as easy as saying hi? What if asking to see a person’s test results (and getting them), was as easy and pleasurable as having sex?
What if they never assaulted me?
What if the dad, the aunt, the uncle didn’t kiss the toddler, and pass them the herpes virus?
What if the mother didn’t kiss her child and pass them the herpes virus?
What if you had waited another 3-9 months to get re-tested before having sex?
What if you had waited to go and get tested together?
What if you had asked your partner their sexual health status?
While the what-ifs are endless, none of them can guarantee that you still wouldn’t have ended up with herpes virus. With all the precautions that you could’ve taken in your adolescent or adult life, you still could’ve acquired the virus before ever taking your first steps. At the end of the day, we’re all here. So, instead of focusing on what if, focus on the future. A lot of why we feel what we feel is stigma. So, instead of trying to change others, maybe we can change our perception. And with that, we can change the stigma.
I’ll be sad to see you go, but I’ll remember the beautiful times we had. At the stroke of midnight, my family welcomed you with prayers and open arms. We made our traditional “Happy New Year” and “I Love You” calls, drank some champagne, and eventually retired to sleep.
My first post in 2019, Yay! She’s Back was a story about my vibrator’s love for me. In the summer of 2018, I had made the decision to stop having sex, because I needed to allow my mind and heart to heal from all the heartbreak I had endured in 2018. I needed to re-devote my energy back into myself, and I didn’t want the exchange of negative energy that sex often brings. So, being that the only forms of safe sex are either abstinence and masturbation; writing a story on masturbation seemed quite appropriate.
Inspired by a member in the support group that I attend; I decided to write and publish my, first ever, post on herpes; The Ex That Never Left. Hitting publish was the hardest thing I did in 2019 and it was the post that would forever shift the tide and purpose of my writing. Being positive for 10 years- ‘it was what it was’ and I operated on a need to know basis. When I started to write my blog, I had no intention to ever discuss herpes. But, I realized that, to be a great writer, meant to be vulnerable and to let people in. I couldn’t continue talking around herpes, I had to call it out and give it a seat on stage; especially if I planned to stand in my truth of sex positivity.
With herpes out in the open, I was finally able to take bigger steps toward being the writer that I am now. I wrote about my first 3-some experience, in Turn Up while also coming out as bisexual. Because I wanted to experience a woman alone, I went on The Hunt. Unfortunately, I never found a woman or couple that was actually willing to meet up. It became abundantly clear that if I wanted to explore being intimate with women, I would have to step out of my comfort zone and walk into a sex-club.
In March, after being ‘celibate’ for almost 8 months, I walked into my first sex-club; but it wouldn’t be my last. Being the new honest writer that I was, I wrote all about my experiences in; Corset, Collar, Lingerie 1,2, and 3). In concluding that I was, indeed, bisexual; I also discovered that I deeply enjoyed being an exhibitionist, amongst like-minded individuals.
It was during this time that I started dating again. However, this time around I was playing by a different set of rules. Over the years of dating, since I was 14; I had experienced my share of heartbreaks. During my time of celibacy, I realized that I had set unrealistic expectations on my partners and they did the same to me. I realized that I dated, like many other people, only for the end game. I missed out on cherishing all the amazing moments because I was only focused on achieving one thing. It was then I realized that, not only was I limiting my capacity and the ability to love; but that I was forcing myself to be someone that I was not. It was then that I decided I would love polyamorously; and in Working The Garden, I dived deeper into my emotions.
With my mind and emotions finally aligned, I was surprised to see how quickly my sex life got on board. For the first time, in a very long time, I was dating how I wanted, with men whose company I genuinely enjoyed, and the sex was not only good, it was kinky as well. I was finally able to explore sexual acts that I was nervous to explore prior in (Tabooty 1 & 2).
In June, I discovered an invite-only sex-party; and I slowly became a regular on the scene. I was enjoying my moment of being an ethical herpes-positive individual, and shared it with you in (The Wonders of Coconut Oil 1 & 2).
By the time August arrived, I had only discussed my herpes status on my blog and with select friends and family. It wasn’t until I wrote into Whoreible_Decisions, and was chosen to be a guest on their podcast, did I finally decide to go fully public. I first told the remainder of my family, I made all of my social media public, and I waited. I was surprise at how many people reached out to me after the episode dropped and I immediately knew that I had made the right decision. Naturally, because I was nervous, I had missed some key pointers, so being that I did have a platform of my own (even though small) I elaborated on some of the things I wish I had said during the podcast, on the blog post Things Unsaid.
By the end of the summer, I was fully invested in the poly-love style. I had one primary partner that I loved dearly, whom I met at a sex-party; (I Only Wanted Sex: Then you happened) and I was dating three other men. Eventually one of the men realized that dating multiple women wasn’t for him so he ended things; (Tales of a Polyamorous Heart Break), and I, in true fashion, wished him the best.
I was finally living my life to the fullest; I was building amazing connections, having great sex, and living and loving my truth; (End of My Hot Girl Summer & You Can Have It All).
Surprisingly polyamory was flowing smoothly. The only difficulty I found was having to explain, over and over, to people that weren’t in the lifestyle that Polyamorous Does Not Mean Sex-Addict). Other than that, I encountered no real roadblocks and/or difficulty dating, even while being herpes positive.
As I write this, I could never have imagined being where I am now.
After appearing on the Whoreible_Decisions podcast, I’ve been a guest on multiple other podcasts; Shit! I’m 30 podcast, Something Positive for Positive People, and during my visit to Philly, to see Elton John, I (with my primary partner) were guests on the UnCumfortable w/ Muva Esh Podcast.
In addition to publicly speaking about herpes on various podcasts; in the early fall I became a member of HANDS (Herpes Activists Networking to Dismantle Stigma). Almost every day I receive a new message from a person that tells me, hearing my story has helped them in some way. Who ever thought speaking publicly about having herpes would help so many people? It was a big step for me to take, but I’m happy that hearing my journey can help others. I offer tips on how to disclose to potential partners How Do I Tell Them. And I use my years of experience and words to combat bullying within the herpes community If Only It Were That Simple.
In the year 2020 I foresee major changes in my personal life and career. I’m currently working on a book that hopefully will be out in the Spring of 2020. I’m also in the process of writing my memoir; and the future holds more fantastic ventures for me.
So, I hope that you have enjoyed my 2019 re-cap and I hope you follow me into 2020.
Now that you have this horrible thing plaguing you, how can you ever live a normal life again? That was a question I asked myself once I was, finally, ready to get back into the dating world. Part of the answer is, having herpes is only as horrible as you make it. Another thing to consider is… What is normal?
We all have traveled different roads and have different stories to tell; and since people living with this virus are often secretive about it; this road is rarely ever paved, for the next person’s journey. There is a lot of trial and error in dealing with this virus; and I’ve tried quite a few things and here were my results.
First things first: I want to stress the importance of taking time to actually heal after being diagnosed. I’m talking about emotional, spiritual, and mental healing. The first thing we often struggle with, post positive, is – Who will want me? I’ll tell you now, the answer is “Somebody!” Maybe not the person you thought, but there are enough people in the world that will see you and see beyond the virus. But, I deeply stress self-healing because; there are just as many people that will see your desire for acceptance and use that to have control over you. And what was once a great romance; soon becomes an abusive, manipulative, unfaithful, and sad situation. You’ll find yourself staying in that bad situation because you fear that no one else will want to be with you.
You have to want yourself more than you want them. No person (herpes or not) that comes into your life should complete you. You have to be complete with yourself; that way, anyone that you allow to occupy time in your life, only adds a bonus. Think of how good it felt to see that 110% on a test because you answered the bonus question- that’s the feeling you want.
ALL ON FRONT STREET (Immediate & Early Disclosure): “I’d rather not waste my time, so I just tell them to get it out of the way.”
I only encourage this approach in hook-up scenarios (online or in person). I’ve online dated for a very long time, and most often than not, conversations turn to sex. So, as a tactic to get to the point I state the following:
“So, just so you’re aware, before we go any further (before I come over); 10 years (X time) ago, I was diagnosed with genital herpes. None of my partners have tested positive, and I’ll do what I can to keep you negative; but you need to be aware of the risks.”
The above, script gets the fact out there, with details in relation to my diagnosis and the partners that I’ve had that have not been affected by the virus. I allow the person to think about it, I honestly answer any questions they have and I allow them to make a choice.
If you have not had this virus and you don’t have a record to reflect on; I used to say this:
“Before we go any further (before I come over); I need to let you know that, I was diagnosed with genital herpes (however long ago). I’m not having any symptoms right now, so the risk is minimal; but you should be aware of the risks.”
It should be stated, that you will have the most recurrent outbreaks and episodes of shedding, within the first year. Antivirals (valtrex or acyclovir) and an overall healthier way of living will minimize the frequency of these episodes. But just because you’re not showing symptoms, that does not mean the virus isn’t present. This year period is a good time to self-reflect. Take the year to learn your body and what your triggers are. Adapt a healthier and stress-free life and move forward.
I don’t like the AOFS approach when it’s a person you want to pursue in a more romantic way. When you blurt out herpes; you’re not allowing them to get to know you. Every person’s experience with this virus is different, but the image of what herpes is (magnified by the STIGMA) is always bad. Telling a person too soon, may cause them to only see the virus and not you. I realize that; nothing hurts more than dating a person, really falling for them, then when you finally disclose, they run for the hills. This rejection can send you into a downward spiral and make you never want to try again. But consider this fact; that people will reject you for a plethora of reasons: your education, past, finances, sexual past, the list goes on. Sure, you probably envisioned that they would be “The One” and now your hopes and dreams are shattered. But I promise you, they were not “The One”, they were simply the one you wanted.
IN DUE TIME (Tactical Disclosure): “I like to wait a few dates in or before we become intimate”
I advocate for this option for many reasons.
1. I’ve encountered many men that seem to be nice, that turn out to be ass-hats. Not to mention, you’ll be grateful that you didn’t tell them if the ending turns disrespectful. In cases where I was called a bitch, I was happy the words “dirty” or “diseased” weren’t placed in front of it.
2. There’s no need in disclosing something about yourself if you never make it to date one. With the dating culture filled with ghosts; the last thing you need, is to think someone didn’t show up because of you having herpes. I run out of hair follicles if I try to count how many times I’ve been ghosted, without them ever knowing I have herpes.
3. The phone (or text) conversations seemed to flow like water; but the in-person date was so dry, you swear they hired a ghost-writer. If you never make it to date two, was all the stress to disclose really worth it?
4. What’s wrong with just enjoying a date for the sake of a date? Again, the pressure and realization of this virus forces us to act with haste to find a partner, settle down, and be done with it all. So, we get all jazzed up to put our best foot forward to be chosen. But the truth is; there is nothing wrong with dating. Go on a date, share a kiss or two; it’s totally fine. Take your time and think to yourself; Would I want to be with this person, if I didn’t have herpes?” If the answer is yes then; set up a time to get ready to have the conversation. But if the answer is no; just enjoy the date.
So, once you’ve determined you like this person, what do you say? The answer is, there is no perfect answer. The truth is, some people will NEVER want to take that risk, and you’ll have to accept that. It doesn’t make them bad and it doesn’t make you dirty or whatever; it just makes them “UNWILLING TO TAKE THE RISK”. I strongly advise confiding in a family member or friend and practicing. It may also help telling people that you have no genuine desire to be with. I’ve found the best approach is confidence combined with a dose of education. The fact is; many people know nothing about herpes. They know: they know it’s called an STD, they don’t want to get it, it’s forever, and causes blisters. Arming your conversation with facts will only help when disclosing. Facts help to dismantle the stigma; and it also shows people they don’t know all they thought they did. Practice makes perfect!
I’ve disclosed; over the phone, via text message, and I’ve displayed my status on dating apps; but I’ve found that I prefer disclosing in person. I like the in-person approach, because I like to see their face as I tell them. I often realize that their face displays one of shock or surprise, because I don’t look like a person that has herpes. (Because people with herpes, have “A LOOK”). I can see their brain reprogramming itself as I go on and on with details and stats.
One of the last dates, when I disclosed in person; went something like this. (We met on OKCupid, after date #2, and after date one he was already talking about giving me a ‘body massage’. I suggested we walk to the park and talk for a bit)
Me: So, before we go back to your place, there is something you should know. 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with genital herpes. I’ve had boyfriends and partners since then, all of whom have never tested positive. I always do what I can to keep my partners negative, but as there is always a risk, that I have to make my partners aware of.
Him: Wow! I wasn’t expecting that. Sorry you’re dealing with that. You know I really care about my health; I get tested after every partner, so I don’t think this will work.
Me: Don’t be sorry. Many people have it and many people are unaware they may be carriers of the virus, so I just do what I can to inform my partners.
Him: Wait what? Don’t you get like blisters and stuff?
Me: Some people do, but majority of people that have the virus show no symptoms; and many tests don’t include it. So, a lot of people are walking around, assuming they are negative, and all the while- are carriers of the virus and can spread it.
Him: I didn’t know that.
Me: Many people don’t. I would suggest that you and your partner get tested and share results before, if you care that much; since after would be too late. I told you, because I know, but like I said; many people don’t know, some people don’t tell, and many doctors don’t enforce telling.
With the above, I was honest, direct, and was specific about my experience with the virus. The date didn’t continue, but there weren’t any hard feelings (I wasn’t head over heels for him), but even if I had been; I would still consider it a good disclosure story. There was no anger, disrespect, he asked questions and I answered.
The below is a great way to feel a person out, if you’re still afraid to put yourself out there. This will be easier if there is an easy segue to the conversation, but with practice you’ll get better.
Me: My friend’s boyfriend (girlfriend) just found out that they tested positive for herpes.
Him/Her: I’ll that’s disgusting! Was he/she cheating on him/her?
Me: Not that she knows of. But, you know a lot of people have herpes, and most don’t know it.
Him/Her: No! Only dirty people get herpes.
Me: Would you call a child that gets cold sores dirty? Cold sores are herpes too.
Him/Her: No it’s not!
Me: It’s actually the (almost) identical virus. There’s actually a rise on genital HSV1 from people contracting it from oral sex.
Him/Her: But, I get cold sores too. What does that mean for me?
Me: Welcome to the club. I have herpes too.
Me: So, when was the last time you went to the doctor?
Him/Her: (Enter date) hopefully! Why?
Me: Well, I just want to make sure we both get tested and know our status before we plan to have sex. I feel knowledge of sexual health status is very important.
Him/Her: Well, I’m good! I don’t have anything. What about you?
Me: How would you know?
Him/Her: Because I always use condoms and I don’t mess with dirty people.
Now, the following is pending on the conversations you two may have had; like how soon the topic of sex was brought up during your previous conversations
Me: So, you’ve seen the test results of every person you had sex with (including oral)? And you know condoms don’t protect you from everything; right?
Him/Her: No. But I know the people I sleep with, and they’re good, so I know I’m good!
With this response (and strong mental arrogance) you now have enough knowledge to either enforce testing before you continue, or simply walk away.
One mistake I made early on (and sometimes still do, on occasion); I would assume that I’m the worst option on the table. I have herpes; so, nothing can top that. I only cared that they knew my status, but I NEVER enforced confirming theirs; it was enough for me to know they wanted me. I simply assumed, like we all do/did that the other person was STD/I negative. We put all the responsibility on the positive person to have to disclose, but rarely do we ask or confirm. Assumption is not Confirmation.
So, before you lay down or engage with a person (especially if you don’t want to use condoms or other barriers) know their status. No one virus or infection is better than another, but I’d prefer to not add any additional ones to my list.
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