The Herpes+ Writer Directory

Millions of people live with herpes. Many of those millions are writers who fearlessly share their experiences with the world. Each of us herpetic punks has an entirely unique story to tell, and we need as many stories as possible reaching as many readers as possible if we want to make STI stigma a thing of the past. In the interest of boosting other voices, here’s a list of authors you need to be reading, AND, if you’re a journalist or an editor, contacting about writing for your publications.

I also know several authors and journalists who aren’t public yet about their STI status. Your stories are valid, and your voices are valid, and I want to boost your work too! I will continue to do so on Twitter and Facebook, and I hope you’ll continue to reach out to me via my contact form when you have pieces you want to share. But this list is of openly herpes+ writers only, in the hopes that this will serve as a directory of sorts. It’s hard to contact Anonymous.

I’m excited to see queer people, non-monogamous people, sex workers, and different age groups on this list. But conspicuously underrepresented are men, trans men, trans women, and people of color. Most published, easily accessible stories about living with herpes come from cis-gender white women, and that’s a problem. Please, please, please help me add more voices to this list! Share your recommendations in the comments and help me boost other stories.

Ashley Manta. Ashley is a sex educator, podcaster, author and coach. She’s also a total bundle of joy. I’m a big fan of her essay Growing Through the Yuck of Having Herpes, which also appeared in Best Sex Writing of the Year. She often talks about herpes on her podcast, Carnalcopia, which she co-hosts with Katie Mack. Find her on Twitter @ashleymanta.

Britni de la Cretaz. Britni is a community organizer, activist, and feminist writer who came up on my Twitter feed one day and blew my mind with her essay for Cosmo, What It’s Like to Have Genital Herpes When You’re Pregnant. You can find more of her unapologetic writing on Twitter @britnidlc.

Sarit Luban. Sarit is a blogger and a zine maker and a personal role model of mine. I found her writing when I was newly diagnosed, and her understanding of STI stigma and its politics is so sharp and so necessary. You should check out her take on those ridiculous color-changing condoms over on xoJane, and her essay Six Ways to Talk About STIS (Without Being a Jerk). Follow her on Twitter @suhreet.

Mollena Williams. Mollena is a BDSM educator, an actor and a writer. Her essay No Shame: Coming Out Positive about being diagnosed as asymptomatic for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 is honest and raw. It also discusses the complex intersection of race and herpes. You can read more of her writing at her website, The Perverted Negress.

Adrial Dale. Adrial is the founder of The Herpes Opportunity, an online resource and community for folks struggling with herpes. I’ve gushed about Adrial on my blog before, and I highly recommend his Lifestyle Guides, available here. You can even use the coupon code ELLA to receive 25% off!

Jenelle Marie Davis. Jenelle is the founder of The STD Project and an STD expert on a million different sites across the web. She battles STD stigma, publishes interviews with folks living with STDs, and shares news and resources related to sexual health. Her recent blog post about dealing with shitty, judgmental family members, My Herpes > Your Self-Loathing, is brilliant and fierce. I’m not just saying that because I’m mentioned in it, I promise.

Madison Young. I don’t even know how to describe Madison because she’s so goddamn cool. She’s a feminist pornographer, a performance artist, an author, and a mom. She also happens to be herpes+, a topic she writes about in her gritty, sensual Daddy: A Memoir. I had the pleasure of interning with her a few summers ago, and we wandered around Berkeley talking about herpes and the San Francisco sexual health scene. What a badass. You can buy her book here, and visit her website.

Crista Anne. Crista is a sex educator, blogger, and founder of the and #OrgasmQuest. She also happens to be herpes+, and you should read everything she writes because she’s a rainbow revolutionary.

UPDATED 9/7/2015

Rae Lewis-Thornton. Rae is an author, coach and AIDS activist. Way back in 1994, she shared her HIV story on the cover of Essence Magazine, and she’s continued to be a badass ever since. I loved her blog post “Overcoming Shame…“, where she admitted that she struggles more with shame related to having herpes than to having AIDs. You can learn more about Rae on her website.

Andrew W.K. Andrew is a rock musician (think “Party Hard” from 2001), and an advice columnist for the Village Voice. He recently shared his experience dating and disclosing with genital herpes in the 9/2/2015 issue.

UPDATED 2/24/2016

Emily Depasse. Emily is a feminist sex writer whose work caught my eye a few months ago when she came out as herpes+ on her blog shortly after getting diagnosed. It’s been eye-opening for me to read somebody’s experiences while they are still fresh and ongoing, as opposed to reflecting years later—especially when the writing is this good. You can read her letter to her ex’s other partners, “To The Girls He Hasn’t Give Herpes To Yet: This Is For You”, on Thought Catalog. Find her on Twitter @eld3393.

UPDATED 5/11/2016

Lachrista Greco. Lachrista is the founder and CEO of Guerrilla Feminism, a global feminist resource network for activists. She recently wrote about the complicated dynamics of disability and desire for Bitch Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @lachristagreco.

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

12 thoughts on “The Herpes+ Writer Directory

  1. Ella,
    I can’t explain to you how much reading your blog has helped me.
    My best friend was diagnosed with herpes years before I was and I went through it with her every step of the way. So when I was diagnosed, I was strangely calm about it. I was educated about it. knew it was manageable. It wasn’t until after my separation from my boyfriend and re-entering the dating world that my diagnosis took a toll on me.

    The first guy I told took it extremely well at first. He hardly reacted at all in fact. We discussed it and decided I’d begin suppression therapy. I remember thinking, “Wow, this really isn’t that big of a deal, my sex life isn’t ruined.” But after I got on the medication, his attitude changed. Suddenly he wasn’t sure if he was ready yet. And all of the doubts and insecurities that I’d previously pushed out of my mind came rushing back. It was months before we had sex. And when we finally did I felt guilty, like I’d convinced him to do something he didn’t want to, he was going to regret it, and what if I did give it to him. It didn’t help that each time we were intimate, even if we didn’t have sex, was followed with an episode of panic, him asking me a billion questions, “Well what if this . . . . Can this happen? What about this?” He was sympathetic when I inevitably got upset afterward, but continuously said he just needed his questions answered and I shouldn’t take it personally, because who else was he supposed to talk about it with than me? He told me I was more than my diagnosis and he’d get frustrated and angry when he couldn’t talk to me about it without upsetting me. And each time I felt like he was right and my reactions to his questions weren’t justified. I mean, after all he was exposing himself to a risk. I wasn’t sure how to explain to him why it was so insulting that he was panicked each time after we fooled around or had sex or how his reactions made it really hard for me to believe that he saw me as more than my diagnosis.

    My self-esteem plummeted. I was scared of passing it to him enough as it was. That coupled with his reaction each time we were intimate ruined sex for me. I couldn’t enjoy anything about it. I couldn’t get turned on. I felt like it was all he was thinking about, that he was worried, how could he even be enjoying himself, why does he even want me. Almost everything you’ve written in your blog I’ve felt at some point. I urged him to see a doctor and speak about it with a professional if he couldn’t bring himself to rely on information from the internet and he agreed to, but never made the effort to go. I just kept dealing with it because I thought, “What other options do I have. At least he stuck around.” I made myself believe that was the best reaction I was going to get from anyone I told.

    Reading about your experiences being diagnosed and living with herpes has been immensely helpful. Not only because I relate so much to everything you’ve written, but because I finally realized I wasn’t the issue in this relationship. I did everything I was supposed to do, I disclosed, got on medication, gave him all the information he needed, urged him to see a professional. I realized I didn’t have to subject myself to the treatment I was receiving and that just because he accepted me with my diagnosis, didn’t make his actions okay. It was the way he was treating me that made me feel insecure, not the fact that I have herpes. After reading your blog, I was finally able to relay that to him in a way that he understood and the relationship has done a complete 180. He saw a doctor who made him realize he was highly over dramatizing the entire situation and he now understands how to talk to me about it in a much more appropriate manner.

    And more than that, I’ve become increasingly comfortable with my diagnosis. You’re 100% right, the stigma will never go away if no one ever associates it with actual people. I’m still selective with who I tell, but it isn’t this huge secret I’m keeping anymore and I’m not afraid to talk about it with my friends and family.

    Being diagnosed can be devastating and terrifying. I was lucky that I’d been there for my best friend through her diagnosis and was able to handle it better because of that, but most people aren’t that lucky. Most people are the only people they know that have it. Having people like you speaking out, showing how manageable living with herpes is, and sharing your experience is invaluable. I can’t imagine how many people this blog has helped.

    You’re making an incredibly positive impact on the world.

  2. I have to say I admire your candor. Also your bravery in a soceity that is far too judgmental of too many things. Hypocrites are everywhere. It is always amazing to me that we’ll call oral herpes a “cold sore” and people will shrug it off and dismiss it almost immediately. Bring it below the waist and people freak out. Granted…I don’t think that anyone wants to be that person…I know I didn’t…but as you said in your article, if you’re standing in a room with a good number of people in it, chances are that there’s at least a couple of people that aren’t chuckling about a Herpes joke. Kudos to you young lady. There needs to be more like you.

  3. are you planninf or have you done a tedx talk ? the folks not aware of you are the ones that also need your message.’chuck

  4. Thanks for sharing this. If you’d like to read my blog check it out. My boyfriend has herpes and I am currently saving money to do my yoga therapy training to create a business teaching yoga to people with STDs. I write about my experiences here, I love helping people let go of fear, know they can love themselves, and be loved my others. Keep up the great work! 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing these authors with your readers, Ella! It’s a generous and tangible proof that this cause prevails over anything else for you.
    I stumbled upon your blog a couple months ago when I was considering to go public about having genital herpes. Your confidence was contagious and a few weeks later, my first post was uploaded. My entourage’s response has been great, even though the goal behind my disclosure was less about getting compassion and more about sparking honest conversations around it. Since then, some folks who are still emotionally battling with the stigma have opened up to me, and it only gave me more confirmation that people are ready to listen if not talk about a different story of genital herpes than the one culture has long been corroding.
    Anyhow, as a response to your encouragement to share other stories, I am including the link of my “coming out” post. I am glad this community exists, and eager to contribute to it in any possible way!

  6. It’s funny. I talk about my struggle with mental health, and all the mistakes I have made in my life quite happily on my blog, I share it on all my social media platforms, to friends, family, workmates and I have unknown readers all around the world. People call me brave for sharing the inner workings of my warped mind, yet I just don’t have the guts to share my STI story yet. My partner (obviously) and a few close friends know about it, but I am so far off being able to share it with my family let alone posting it for the world to see. I am so glad I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago, it gives me hope that one day I will completely let go of the stigma I have placed on myself and be a part of removing the stigma from the world too.

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