This is a submission I received from a good friend of mine regarding the blogging I’ve done about STIs and the stigma associated with them, as well as the responses I’ve received. I really appreciate this person’s willingness to share and hope that my readers enjoy it as well.
Hi Brandy. Reading your blog recently, I noticed you got a not-so–positive response to your post regarding STIs. I realize the response was probably written by an intelligent, feminist individual (who else would read your blog?), so I will give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume they have good intentions.
I will ignore their claims that we don’t live in a sex-negative society (ha!), and address only their main point, which is “ if you make responsible choices with your body (ie: using protection, talking to partners about their history before sex, frequent tests for STIs) you won’t have to deal with this stigma in the first place.”
Well, for someone who agrees we shouldn’t shame a person with an STI, that point sure contained a whole lot of shame. In fact, if you read between the lines, the point is “if you didn’t have an STI, you wouldn’t have to be so ashamed!” That is an extremely unprogressive viewpoint. It’s days like this I want to throw up my hands, sigh, and give up. Instead, let me tell you a family secret:
My mother has had genital herpes since 1982. That’s 6 years before she met my father, and 8 years before I was born. She’s been living with herpes for 29 years, but I doubt that the physical sores and flair ups have caused her even a fraction of the pain that the social stigma has. I doubt it was the herpes sores that made her keep her two children in the dark about it until two months ago, when we were 20 and 18 years old.
So, tell me my mother deserves to be ashamed, I dare you. Tell me why she deserves to be embarrassed, not meeting the pharmacist’s eye at the counter while she picks up her Valtrex prescription. Yes, it’s true that if she’d been more careful she wouldn’t have gotten an STI. But making a single mistake at the age of 19 shouldn’t mean you suffer a lifetime of stigma. Herpes medications have made progress in the last 29 years, and she told me her outbreaks rare now. It’s just too bad sexual education hasn’t come as far as that.