Saturday, June 14, 2008

In the confessional.

A night full of talking that hurts,
my worst held-back secrets. Everything
has to do with loving and not loving.
This night will pass.
Then we have work to do.

- Rumi

Again, if you're seeking a post to get off on, you may wish to skip this one.

I have HSV.

I think that people who produce sex-positive blogs, like those who enjoy reading them, do so because we each share joy, raciness, and good, hearty Dionysian pleasure from the act. In the erotic retelling of our true stories, rarely are we reminded of some of life's basic realities that are nevertheless a part of human sexuality. Sex is risky, but that doesn't usually come into our psyche when we're watching, receiving, or giving a good blowjob.

I learned for certain that I had herpes after a longterm primary partner came home one day with news that she had been diagnosed with it. It surprised us both, and while it was not the reason that relationship ended, it certainly didn't help.

I began taking Famvir, and then Valtrex, not long after that. Valtrex suppresses the otherwise-contagious symptoms of the disease, although recent experiences have shown me (tragically) that that is still not the same as a (currently nonexistent) cure.

Not a week after it was re-rekindled, my love affair with Shayne came to a crashing, confusing, sudden halt because it turned out that in my less-then-well-informed denial, I had passed the virus on to her. Veronica, of whom I have written very little to date, is getting tested, even though she has not exhibited any symptoms.

In addition to losing Shayne, naturally I've become a pariah among her friends. It is possible, though unlikely, that a recent male playmate of hers, and a female playmate of his, may have been exposed in the last week. Such is the domino effect of STDs. Short of an even worse STD than HSV, I cannot imagine a more horrible turn of events.

And yet, my doctor casually tells me that this is the "common cold" of STDs, and that virtually 80% of the population has one form of herpes or another. A vast majority of the population likely carries a form of the virus, and while many people exhibit symptoms within three weeks of exposure, others can live for years without being aware that they are infected.

Antopia, a writer and sex-positive social activist for people with HSV and its derivatives, writes that "many people living with herpes have been afraid to start dating again, for fear of rejection when giving the talk or simply for fear of passing herpes to their new partner. Fair or not, many people in the dating world work from deal-breakers rather than deal-makers... Herpes doesn't define you, but judgmental people will make judgmental decisions. You don't need to be judged due to something that you can't control."

Maintaining a sex-positive life is still very possible with HSV. It requires more communication and understanding between partners perhaps, as well as monitoring one's symptoms and taking preventative medication, but it's not impossible.

My mistake was not as much that I exposed Shayne to the virus, though that happened, as much as I did not disclose my status clearly enough. I was afraid it would be a dealbreaker for us, so I was vague. Somehow I convinced myself that the matter had been approached... but it hadn't been, not really, and not at the right and proper time, which would have been on the first night we were together. Without realizing it, I had effectively "lied by omission." Yes: I was stupid, and somehow I managed to do the unthinkable, and with the worst possible consequences. This robbed Shayne of her right to make her own choice because she was uninformed about this vitally important detail about this "otherwise respectable man" that she had fallen in love with. In that respect, I betrayed her trust, which is worse to me than having compromised her health.

For me personally, that she may well have accepted the fact and wanted to continue a relationship with me after such disclosure was something that never occured to me, and that awareness makes the loss of things with her sting even more. I won't forget the lesson underneath that.

I am sharing this because I have learned something vitally important, not only about my actions, but about the nature of HSV and the power of acceptance and disclosure. I'm an intelligent, sexually sophisticated person, but this has reminded me that there is always something more to learn. I think that to be more than simply a roster of hot stories and images, to be fully sex-positive, this blog has to be open about all elements of human sexuality. That level of openness is another thing that I'm (re)learning.

It is possible to have a vibrant, ecstatic, hot sexual life while having a manageable STD. Future entries here will likely be a testimony to that, although it could be some time before I start citing stories about as-yet-unmet partners.That, friends, will probably be because that for the time being, it feels weird to me to be casting my eye elsewhere for very long. My desire for Shayne hasn't changed yet. It may not for a while. She herself is weaning herself from me. I understand, and despite myself, support her actions.

I'm so terribly sorry, honey. I love, respect, and admire you. I remain your supportive friend. I was a fucking moron. But please remember that I'm also the same "sexy rogue" you fell in love with... I'm just a sexy rogue who made some colossal mistakes. You'll always be my Pixie.

May your future be rich with vibrant laughter, creative bliss, unabashed joy, and better memories. I do love you.


Sexual Adventurer said...

*hugs* I'm sorry, darling.

Rogue said...

Thank you.

curiousgirl said...

what a thoughtful and honest post, r...that was a lot to share...


Rogue said...

Thank you.

Jill said...

Your post struck a chord with me.

My husband and I both have HSV. He told me of his diagnosis (as soon as he received it) after we'd been dating for a while. By that time I was in love with him and was pretty much unfazed about catching anything. We were as careful as we could be for years before I actually caught it. I was a bit sad about the idea of having herpes but it really hasn't affected me much over the years. The only time my HSV status has really concerned me was during my pregnancies (as HSV can be passed to babies during birth). I chose to take preventative anti-viral drugs at the end of my pregnancies and delivered two perfectly healthy girls. My husband and I have been married for almost 13 years now (together for just about 15) and as time has passed, my outbreaks have become fewer and less severe.

I like your doctor's analogy of HSV being like the common cold. Just like when I have a cold, an HSV outbreak is annoying, an inconvenience but not life threatening. It does make me wonder why there is such a stigma about this disease. Maybe because it's incurable? I've just never heard the amount of jokes or put-downs about other STDs as I have about herpes.

I'm sorry that you lost your love over this. I can understand why it would be scary to tell anyone, much less someone you adore, about your HSV. There's so much to lose. I've always admired my husband (boyfriend at the time) for coming to me right away to tell me of his diagnosis. He really put himself on the line.

Sorry I can't write more (as if this isn't already long enough) but I have a screaming child at my elbow. Just wanted you to know you're not alone.

Rogue said...


Thank you very much for such an exceptionally thoughtful and in-depth response. I'm pleased that my post gives people like us an opportunity to share and reflect on our shared experience.

I think I could have learned something from your husband, and perhaps Shayne could have learned something from you, though there is one small difference between our two experiences. That's simple: your husband fully took the risk that I had somehow managed to only skirt. He was clear; I was not, and the consequences are as evident as the necessary lesson.

I'm glad that you both continue to share a vibrant, loving life without distraction by this virus. I hope to be in that place.

I haven't really been exposed (so to speak) to the jokes about HSV, but I wonder if they exist because HSV isn't life-threatening. Perhaps for the judgmental and the ignorant, making fun of it isn't "as bad" as it would be over AIDS or hepatitus.

Thank you for thoughts and kindness. I hope you're enjoying the blog. Feel free to comment any time.