Last Updated on February 21, 2021 by Jenelle Marie Pierce, CSE, Executive Director
From the author, posted anonymously with her permission:
First of all, I’m really glad this site exists and conversations like “can people with STDs have casual sex?” are being talked about. I don’t think there are enough resources for what to do once you have an STD, and how to live a normal and happy life with one, especially since so many people live with one! I just wanted to share my thoughts and experience with living with genital herpes and having casual sex, even though I know commenting on that podcast is closed.
This is something that I struggled with and continue to struggle with.
I contracted herpes while fooling around with a friend in college without even having sex! I held on to the notion that nobody would want to engage in sex with me, and it was this huge burden on my psyche. I abstained from having sex for years and was very bitter and saddened to not be able to partake in that aspect of life.
At this point in my life, I do engage in casual sex with people I don’t know very well. I want to experience the “Sex and the City” type sex, but I believe that I am being responsible about it.
1. How old are you?
26 years old
2. What do you do for a living?
3. What STI/STD do you have/have you had?
Genital herpes – HSV2
4. How long have you had or known you have an STI/STD?
5. Do you know how you contracted this STI/STD?
I contracted genital herpes from a friend from college whom I was having a “friends with benefits” relationship with. I was a virgin and got it from skin to skin contact. I later found out he got it from having unprotected sex with another girl, and he had no idea he had it.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STI/STD?
My life, for the most part, has not changed. How I view things and my mental state has gone through some phases (sadness, anger, bitterness, acceptance) over the years, though.
Honestly, it is something I still struggle with, but I feel much more in control about it now. I still view herpes as a serious disease, but I think the media creates such a negative stigma for it that makes it worse than it actually is.
7. Do the people who know you have an STI/STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
Not at all. I’ve told a handful of my friends, and they have all been supportive, empathetic, and I think I helped educate them on the disease and stigmas about it.
Sometimes I do worry that I’m letting the disease define me.
Oftentimes, when I get closer to a friend, I feel this tugging need to share my story with them, as if they couldn’t really understand the real me without knowing this part of me. I’m trying to be better about accepting that genital herpes is a part of me but it’s not all of me, and I don’t need to share my story with people as a means to feel justified.
8. Are you currently under treatment for your STI/STD? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.
I take valacyclovir daily (500mg) and have been since I found out.
9. Has having an STI/STD hindered past relationships?
In the beginning, I carried this huge burden that weighed down my mind constantly – how could anyone willingly want to be with me knowing that I have an STD? I wouldn’t want to put myself in that kind of situation, so how could I expect someone else to?
I met a guy about 6 months after getting herpes and would keep putting on the brakes when things got sexual. After a few weeks of him being confused as to why I wouldn’t ever go further, I mustered enough courage to tell him that I had herpes, and he was surprisingly was relieved.
CW: He thought I was going to say that I was raped, so this didn’t seem like that big of a deal, in comparison. I didn’t end up dating him, but this experience lifted that burden, because it was proof that someone could accept me with this and not even really care!
Thinking about disclosing this information to my next serious partner still scares the heck out of me, but that experience gives me hope that it won’t be so bad.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STI/STD affected your partner?
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STI/STD whom you did not tell you had an STI/STD?
Yes. Actually, the podcast, “Can People with an STD Have Casual Sex,” and this question are the main reasons why I’m filling out this interview.
I abstained from having sex for years and was very bitter and saddened to not be able to partake in that aspect of life, especially when all my friends were happily sharing their latest rendezvous. I realize the absolute best approach would be to practice safe sex AND to disclose that I have an STD to all my partners; however, in the last year, I have engaged in casual sex with herpes. It was with several people I don’t know very well without disclosing what I have.
I want to experience the “Sex and the City” type sex – fun and carefree – and I believe that I am being responsible about it. After much research and talking to my gynecologist, the approach I take is to take daily antivirals that reduce the instances of an outbreak as well as transmission risk, never have sex if I’m knowingly having an outbreak, and to use protection.
While I know that there are some people who would disagree with this approach, this is what works for me, and I have felt a great sense of relief in being able to feel normal about having sex without feeling like I’m risking someone else’s health. It also has helped me get over my ex-boyfriend (the one whom I got herpes from), as I don’t feel like he’s the only one I can have sex with anymore.
Yes, I realize there is still a risk, just like with many things in life, but I believe it is a low enough risk to proceed. I do intend to disclose that I have genital herpes to a partner that I want to become serious with, but for now, this is how I live my life.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STI/STD?
I feel like I am more empathetic and less quick to judge someone.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I felt the need to share my story and wanted to spur more discussion around dating and casual sex with herpes. I also want to thank Jenelle for creating this site as a safe avenue to share information and stories. I don’t think there are enough resources for what to do once you have an STD, and how to live a normal and happy life with one, especially since so many people live with one… This site has been a great help!
Can you relate to this interviewee? Did it help you to read someone else’s story? Have you experienced something similar or do you have some feedback to share with this individual? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!