Casual Sex and Herpes
I’d like to use this week’s SharePost as a way to start an open discussion about issues relating to my last SharePost. Although the comments I received last week were negative, I’m happy that I generated a response from a couple of readers and would like to keep that momentum going.
To sum up, in my last SharePost I discussed the issue of casual sex and in it I disclosed that there are occasions, although certainly not frequent, when I don’t feel the need to tell my sexual partner that I have herpes. I also admitted to never having used a dental dam. This does not mean I’m intentionally spreading the herpes virus. I have spent hours and hours (really) researching herpes and examining my own body and symptoms. I’m always very careful (besides the aforementioned absence of a dental dam…I’m sorry but does anyone use those things?), I’m never even remotely intimate during or shortly after an outbreak, and I’m very aware of my body and risk level. All in all, I just don’t feel that it’s necessary to tell everyone. That is my opinion and I know I’m not alone. (It also doesn’t help that men don’t catch the virus as easily as women, and historically I have a good record of not transmitting it, proven with blood tests, to men who were potentially exposed.) Yes, there is always the risk of passing on herpes to your partner, I’m aware of that. But risk inherently comes with casual sex, does it not? I find that I’m usually the one promoting the use of a condom, whereas some guys I have slept with seem to not understand its importance. One guy, for example, a real smart Stanford grad, fought me tooth and nail to use a condom. Then when things didn’t work out he actually told his friends that I “lectured” him about safe sex…as if wanting to use a condom was a bad thing! I figure, if he didn’t want to use a condom with me, who else was he not using a condom with? How many women let him get away with it? If he has as active a sex life as I think he does, there is no way he can accurately be tested between partners. Therefore, his ignorance and arrogance put me, and countless other women, at risk much more than I put him.
Ok, so now you’re thinking “You’re all immoral. Don’t have casual sex”. Well I wish it were that simple. Although I’m trying to turn over a new leaf (and so far I’m doing pretty well) I do have a promiscuous past. I know that many people don’t get tested as often as they should and I find that a scary amount of people are very ignorant about STDs. So I know many of you may think I’m the devil incarnate because I don’t tell all my flings about my very painful secret, but the neglect and ignorance that many people have about STDs and sex is just as harmful, if not worse, than practicing safe sex with a carrier who isn’t telling. (I’m not saying two wrongs make a right, I’m just trying to put things in perspective.) In fact, I think there are a lot of worse people in this world. When will smoking around one’s children be deemed child abuse? Shouldn’t it be? How about everyone who drinks and drives? Or everyone who talks on their cell phones and drives? Too many accidents have been caused by careless people who love to gab. As a pedestrian, I’m extremely cautious because I just don’t trust those who are behind the wheel, whether I know them or not…but that doesn’t mean I won’t cross the street. Maybe people should take the same approach with sex. Some might call me cold, harsh, and cynical (in fact, many have) and although I can’t say I’m right to act the way I do, I don’t think I’m a bad person either.
So I’d like to hear other people’s opinions about this. Are non-commital sexual relations a guilty pleasure of yours? Do you always tell your partner? If not, when do you think it’s appropriate to tell? How do you tell your partner? And how have they reacted? Do you use a dental dam or condom when receiving oral sex? Please leave a comment below with your ideas, opinions, and stories. Although I have been (and will be) heavily judged, I won’t judge you! :-) Your doctor will always tell you the “right” thing to do, but I’m here to be an honest voice. Not every man who I allow into my body needs to be allowed into my life. But that’s just me…and, who knows, maybe you can change my mind.
Penelope wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Sexual Health.