All while Ella was busy this year going public and getting famous, I’ve had the immense pleasure of sitting tight behind the scenes and watching. As the now-official editor of her blog, I get to read everything she writes for this site—usually before it publishes, sometimes right after, depending on how big it’s going to be—and everywhere else.
When this blog turned the corner from being mostly erotic short fiction and Bachelorella reviews (pun, courtesy me) to being primarily about herpes, it also leapt from a small-scale project to a hugely public one with an outsized impact. 2015 was a giant year for this little website. I went through Ella’s blog posts from the past year and picked out my favorite 10, the ones I thought were not only her best written but also her most important.
— Gabe Rosenberg, bae-in-chief
10. “Ella’s Guide to Texting Your Potential Bae”
Okay so this one is pure fun. But honestly, this post is so practical and thorough that it’s also the most universally applicable. Luckily I haven’t had to ask questions about texting potential baes for quite a while, but all of this lines up with what I’ve had to tell other people who’ve asked me advice. And this gets to the point a lot quicker: don’t play games, and pay attention to gender dynamics. Oh, and dynamite GIFs.
9. “The Boner Backlash: Stop Telling Me You Would Still Fuck Me”
I heard the outlines of this for weeks before it finally got written, because online “compliments” are such a perennial problem. It’s a bold move to quote harassers and make this issue personal (which shouldn’t be a surprise on this blog), and it pays off. “The Boner Backlash” is a must-read for guys of any age, because this is our behavior and our problem. That this post talks to men strongly and directly in its campaign to turn unawares into allies makes it truly indispensable.
8. “The Conversation That Never Happened: On Herpes and Abusive Relationships”
When we talk about our lives, what are the stories we don’t tell? That’s been a huge thread in Ella’s writing and thinking since the big breakout, and there are no good answers or easy fixes in “The Conversation That Never Happened.” Abuse and trauma are scarring and ever-present, and we lose even more control in the public eye. What puzzles we can piece together about ourselves and our place in the world will take time, our own time.
7. “How I Use Trigger Warnings”
God, I could write an entire manifesto about why Millennial-bashing is nonsensical and totally counterproductive. Actually, I have. But Ella can really talk about trigger warnings in the first person, and that is so necessary in the face of totalizing narratives of over-sensitivity and political correctness. Trigger warnings are about respect—something that a lot of publications lack when it comes to young people.
6. “The Herpes Interviews: That Wrestler I Dated”
I was excited when Ella finally debuted this series on her blog, because not only is it new for her website, it was new, period. Part of the de-stigmatization project is expanding on and complicating even the stories of a single person, and nothing gets down to the very human impact—emotional as much as physical—of herpes as a face-to-face talk with a sexual partner. Plus, it’s nice to see Ella without all the answers for once.
5. “The Badass Women of TED: Or, My Second Herpes Outbreak”
What a nightmare that weekend could have been. Out of a lot of energy and exhaustion and people, Ella weaves a story of how she survived and thrived: with herpes, as a woman, in the media. It also contains one of my favorite paragraphs of the year. “A badass is not flawless; she is the sum of her flaws and doesn’t care about being flawless in the first place. A badass knows who she is and tells the world.” Truth.
4. “Time Magazine Ruined Herpes Journalism. Here’s How to Fix It.”
Maybe I have a bit of a bias about this one, since I got to collaborate with Ella on this #longread-est of longreads. But I swear, it was her idea! Ella’s writing on irresponsible reporting about herpes and STIs is always brimming with righteous fury, because we need publications to get it right. So when she asked me, her resident journalism geek, to talk with her about TIME Magazine’s botched herpes exposé, I couldn’t say no. We go deep, and I happen to think it’s worth the time.
3. “To the Teenage Girls Who Have Herpes”
Of all her blog posts this year, this one packs the most power-per-inch. Sometimes Ella seems to know exactly what words people aren’t hearing and need to, and her letter to teenage girls with herpes is the letter she wished she had heard herself. It is pure fire against misinformation and shame; it is a salve for fear and guilt. You can feel it in every painstakingly chosen word and piece of advice. I saw it in Ella’s reaction to all the messaged she received afterward. It shouldn’t be necessary to remind teenage girls that they have worth, that somebody is proud of them, but that moment of learning to shape your own story is a powerful reward.
2. “Herpes, Two Years Later: On Having Sex Without Condoms”
Definitely one of the more controversial pieces Ella has written, as anything this personal and against the grain will always piss off more than a few commenters. But this is also a call for holding judgment and for letting people speak for themselves—even educated, well-meaning friends and family can be just as hurtful about what they think is right. You can’t keep everything neat and tidy as you want it; the world doesn’t work that way. Ella takes the “personal is political” mantra to heart.
1. “My Characters Care About Safe Sex Because I Have To”
Because it’s the blog post that started it all. Because how it just drops herpes in there is so smooth and so nonchalant, even though everything behind it was so not. Because it, in and of itself, was everything Ella wanted to do from the time she started but never could until this moment—because waiting one more moment just would not do. This was not Ella’s biggest piece of writing this year—it was published on this blog and not Women’s Health, after all—and it did not make as much of a mark as some of the posts to come. But writing this post was huge. Publishing it was colossal. Delivering it to all corners of the Internet with pride and strength was something else entirely.
Bonus! Although it wasn’t published on this blog, I couldn’t resist mentioning how much I adored “Taking the Red Pen to My Abusive Relationship,” which I also had the pleasure of editing. Her most recent and powerful Femsplain essay, this is Ella at her most evocative.