*Updated on 11/13/2018 to reflect current relationship status and age
I have had HSV2 since I was 20 years old. I’m now 40, which means my herpes is almost old enough to drink in the United States. The person who gave it to me did not disclose he was a carrier. It was one of those “just the tip,” situations, and BOOM. A few days later, the doctor is very matter-of-factly telling me I have genital herpes.
When I called the guy, he said “Aww, honey. I’m sorry. Yeah, I thought I felt a little tingle.”
I immediately told the two other partners I’d been with recently, and one of them still wanted to continue seeing me. I actually was getting a little tired of him, so I used it as an excuse to end it.
The first new partner I told was the man I’d eventually marry a decade later.
I hemmed and hawed over it. “I have something to tell you. I’m so nervous. I don’t want you to be angry.” I was petrified he’d be upset with me, but I shouldn’t have been.
“Just tell me,” he said.
“I have genital herpes.”
He laughed. “Is that all? I don’t care.”
Tony and I were together for two and half years, and then after a five year break, back together for the next ten. After the first month, we stopped using condoms. He never got it from me in over a decade of fucking.
I had a few other partners during that five year break. From the very beginning my stance on this whole thing has been to disclose BEFORE things get hot and heavy.
One guy I was dating got hot and heavy before I expected him to, and I told him just as our clothes were coming off. He went ahead and fucked me, but a few days later he broke it off because he’d spent the previous two days freaking out about it.
That’s when I set my 24-hour rule. Any prospective partner needs to be aware of my condition for 24 hours before he or she is allowed to make the decision to fuck me. I would make exceptions for medical professionals or people who tell me they’ve had partners with herpes in the past.
Well, in order to accelerate that whole timeline once I was interested in dating again, I was open as hell about it. It’s been in my profile here and was on dating site profiles as well (when I had them). I talk about it openly and I bring it up whenever it’s relevant, including during negotiations with a new play partner that might have had the potential for more.
Nobody has treated me with any disrespect. The worst that has happened is that I’ve had people decline to go any further, but because I disclose early, that happened before I developed those pesky feelings for them.
Herpes is a fact of life these days. I remember @TheFerret once posted a blog about thinking about your answer to this question before it is one that is posed: Are you willing to engage with someone who has herpes?
That was a great post. Seriously.
Was it hard to find partners to sleep with? Yes. That would be hard for me with or without the herpes though. I prefer to have a pretty deep emotional connection to want to have sex with anybody, regardless of my HSV status. In the two years after reconnecting with the kink scene, I met only two or three people that I would have wanted to have sex with (that wanted to have sex with me) that felt herpes was a dealbreaker for them. There were perhaps two or three others that didn’t want to sleep with me for other reasons.
Herpes is so prevalent, by the way, that there were plenty of options for me with other guys who have herpes. But, their own HSV status didn’t give them any bonus points. They still had to be compatible with me on every other level.
But there’s a silver lining. How many broken hearts has having herpes saved me from because it deflects guys who are only in it for the sex?
I get asked in PM a lot what it’s like to live with herpes. Here’s my standard answer:
My period is more of a nuisance. It happens every month and has far worse side effects. Herpes outbreaks happen maybe once or twice a year. I know when they’re coming. I eradicate them quickly by doubling up on my daily suppressant therapy. And the most annoying side effect is that I have to stop touching myself for a week or so.
As of the time of this update, I average about one or two outbreaks a year. My partner trusts me to tell him when I feel the symptoms coming on, and we find alternate ways to enjoy each other when that happens. Now that I’m in a stable relationship with this incredible man, I don’t have to deal with the annoyance of trying to date with HSV.
But, I will add something that wasn’t in the original version of this post. Dating poly people when you have herpes is more complicated, because there are multiple people who have to be notified of the risks, as minor as they are. I’m grateful that the people involved with my person were educated and open to it. That has not always been the case for me in poly situations.
I’ve also given permission for and encouraged my partner to inform any other partners he may potentially engage with sexually that he has an HSV+ partner. The more we treat it like the normal thing it is, the better all around.
For those who have questions, feel free to ask me here or in PM. I’m very open about this. I want to educate people about it. I think the stigma attached to having herpes is perpetuated by fear and lack of information. I also think the stigma around this, at least in the kink and polyamory worlds, has decreased significantly since I first posted this.
It used to feel like people without herpes live in perpetual fear of getting it, while people who have it live in perpetual fear of never getting laid again.
But the actual condition itself? It’s a nuisance. A tolerable, controllable nuisance.
UPDATED 1/22/2016 To include this link