Why I Will Never Support Herpes Dating Sites

Positive Singles. Meet People With Herpes. Truster. Hift. Hope. H Date. Hmate. Herwks. That’s right, friends. It’s time to talk about herpes dating websites and how much I hate them.

Herpes dating services have been around since the Internet was invented, thanks to a powerful social stigma that makes disclosing your STI status a frightening prospect for many of us. In a world where we are judged for having a sexually transmitted condition, telling a new partner about herpes means risking a rejection that plenty of herpes+ people would rather avoid. I get it. There is a market for these services, and I don’t want to dismiss the experiences of the people who use them. Please do not read this essay as judgmental. I don’t mean to knock the insecurities of people with herpes: I want to address the companies that profit off of them.

One of the first emails I received when I went viral way back in April 2015 was from a woman claiming to work for PositiveSingles.com (I say claiming because she wasn’t using a PositiveSingles email address). She wanted me to become a spokesperson, and when I refused, someone higher up in the food chain emailed me again. I politely declined for a second time. But then the same thing happened again with another STI dating site, and then another, and another. A booming app industry in Silicon Valley means that new STI dating services pop up every few months, and a cursory Google search means that their marketing team, or their founder, or their intern, quickly discovers me.

Let me be very clear: I will never endorse an STI dating site. Period. Ever. You’ve got the wrong woman.

Here are a few basic reasons. I don’t want to endorse a product I would never personally use. I don’t think any STI dating service is going to reinvent the wheel and be successful when so many have tried and failed in the past. As time goes on and stigma lessens, there will be less of a demand for these services. STI dating services would make great hacking targets in an online landscape where vigilante justice is all the rage and people with STIs are unsympathetic victims (whaddup, Ashley Madison). Not to mention these products are often cheap and tacky. I mean, “Hmate”? Really?

But here’s the big, huge, important fucking reason I’ll never support a herpes dating service: these products contribute to herpes stigma. Herpes dating apps rely on, profit from and contribute to the social stigma that I am absolutely against. We are not on the same side of this war.

Creating a dating app only for people with herpes feeds into the prejudice that people with STIs shouldn’t date people without STIs. They reinforce the impulse of scared, raw people to hate themselves and hide from the rest of the world. These websites enable the self-segregation of the H community in a way that I believe contributes to our invisibility and inertia. They say to the rest of the world that we belong apart, that we are less than, that we are a hilarious PositiveSingles punch line. They send a progressive message to no one. Denying that is intellectually dishonest.

Some of these websites claim to empower their customers. Maybe some people use them as a transitional tool before re-entering the wider dating sphere, and hey, cool, whatever. Good for those people. But they are just as often predatory environments where newly diagnosed men and women (but usually women) are bombarded with attention. Like other dating services, they can be unsafe spaces for women where harassment and coercion thrive. When you round up a vulnerable and isolated population, create a community space and fail to moderate it or protect your users, you create a dangerous environment. These folks would be better served by a support community than a dating app. STI dating services are a product of the stigma, not an empowering way out of it.

Not to mention that people with herpes are diverse. Having a minor skin condition in common is a shoddy foundation for a healthy relationship. I’ve dated people with herpes and I’ve dated people without it. The relationships that start with the premise “Hey I’ve got herpes too, let’s get a drink!” are usually short and predicated on nothing more than a false sense of familiarity.

I think most people who have had herpes for a few years know this too. The only people who ask me about herpes dating sites have just been diagnosed and are still daunted by the idea of disclosing—a fear I encourage them to tackle instead of pursuing these trap door dating sites. Which leads me to my next concern: these websites and apps are not created by people with STIs, or by people who are openly STI positive. Some of them bring on consultants in the sexual health world, but only after the fact, and by and large their founders do not come from our community. These entrepreneurs may believe they have our best interests at heart, but they will never understand the stigma as well as someone who lives with it. They do not listen to the needs and opinions of this community, and they take funding and attention away from real efforts to provide treatment and testing, and to de-stigmatize sexual health.

STI dating services are almost always unethical money-grabs that prey on what seems like a potentially underserved niche market. This Silicon Valley opportunism is antithetical to real social change and progress. I would ignore these pop-ups as they inevitably fail, one after the other, except they won’t leave me alone. They reach out to me, share my posts and my talks on their social media platforms, and contact my fellow activists when I refuse to collaborate with them. This is a play for legitimacy and access to my platform, and I’m super done with it. As soon as a company like Truster starts talking about how they’re going to eradicate herpes stigma in a naïve and ignorant Medium post, I need to play bad cop.

I don’t care about your vague plans to invest in public health campaigns if you become profitable. You cannot say your service fights STI stigma when it relies on stigma to exist. Just because a product is built for women doesn’t make it feminist, and just because a product is built for people with STIs doesn’t mean it serves our causes. What we need is better sex education and health care, access to therapy and more representation. These companies are nothing but vultures, co-opting the language of activism.

What’s that? You’re founding a herpes dating app? Get my name outcha mouth and get off my lawn.

Recommended Reading: Dating Sites for People with Herpes Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up to Be, Motherboard

Posted by

Ella Dawson is a rowdy millennial who cares too much about The Bachelor. Her passions include sexual health and education, feminist erotica and social media.

18 thoughts on “Why I Will Never Support Herpes Dating Sites

  1. I contracted HSV-1 (unknown location) in my late 40s. Like other posters, I would rather avoid the worry of passing the virus to someone else by finding someone that already has it. My ex-wife had it, and I never worried about it. The irony is that I never got it from her after 17 years of marriage…I got it from a casual fling afterwards.

    My issue is that most people with HSV-1 don’t seem to join those sites. Invariably, most of the women I find on the sites have HSV-2 genitally. So far, ALL of the women in my area are Type 2. Since I don’t want to add Type 2 to the mix, that cuts out most women unless I accept another risk. I haven’t even had an initial outbreak other than getting incredibly nauseous ( a rare symptom ). I have even been under considerable stress…and nothing. It’s almost easy to think maybe I won’t be a risk…but I know from my research that is unlikely. As I said, my ex-wife and I had a lot of sex/kissing over the years and I never received it from her since we were always careful with kissing if she had a sore.

    My conclusion is that most women aren’t disclosing it, either out of fear, ignorance, or don’t consider it an issue. I’ve tried doing the “right thing” and find someone with it, but I’ve been failing on the sites for HSV-1.

  2. Call me what you want but the look in a girls face I feel something for when I’ve had that convo….. like disappointment…… whether they’re ok or not doesnt matter. That look hurts me. They have to decide if its worth it? Im like 8 years positive and i wonder about the sites, never touched them, but wondered because screw the talk…. thats tough, but the look in their face is infinitely worse. Someone with it wont force me to experience that with them. I had sex unprotected and contracted so its my bad. I made my decisions and I’m reaping the benefits, but 8 years of those looks and reactions is tough for a grown cocky superman feeling 20’s kid’s stupidity. I accept the consequences for my actions, but if im doomed to a lifetime of those looks/reactions…… I’ve done a lot of dumb shit in my life that has given me some amount of wisdom, but I’d only have one regret……

    1. Evolve, if it matters, I was married for 17 years to a woman with HSV-1 orally…and never contracted it from her and using no antivirals or condoms/dental dams. I actually contracted it afterwards from my FIRST fling after the marriage. Go figure. Anyway, when you tell someone and they accept it, do you simply use antivirals, condoms, or just wait a week if you feel a sore?

  3. Thank you for this. My daughter recently contracted herpes and I was thinking about these sites as a way to support her. I am now looking at them in a total different light. She is a bright outgoing fun person and should not let this stop her in anyway – nor limit her potential friend or dating pool. Again – thank you.

  4. I see your point, however I believe that these sites allow individuals the sense of safety in knowing they will not pass this virus onto a partner. That is all I am looking for. Although women want to be with me despite me disclosing my condition, I can barely fathom the thought that by accident I could possibly pass this virus onto them. I would much rather find someone with the same virus I have for the mere fact that we can understand one another and feel comfortable with intimacy.

    1. I’m totally a fan of everyone finding the love they deserve (of course), and if going to herpes-only dating sites is your way to do that, that’s great. BUT, consider how going to herpes-only dating sites is actively segregating yourself from 86% of the population! It’s pre-rejecting us from all of those people out there who would LOVE to be in a relationship with you regardless if you have herpes or not. And for the most part, people staying in the herpes-only dating pool is only due to being afraid of having the herpes talk (ultimately, fear of rejection). What are we so afraid of?

      1. I have to admit my fear is I live in a town with a population of 23000 alot of family and friends and where no one talks about I just got out a 7 year marriage and don’t know what I’m gonna do to be honest. The talk is the scary but everyone knowing and becoming even more secluded is scarier. But these apps seem to be more fit for people in larger areas which makes it hard. When do you feel a talk to some one you just starting dating or want to date be brought up obviously there might be immediate action in certain situations.

    2. Everything you said, yes!!! Dating is so hard and after reading this I can sit back and think to myself “Hmm the dating website takes away that awkward conversation part but I’m still not 100% at peace inside because of how I felt like I had to do it. (find a spouse)” Anywhoo that was awesome. Thanks
      27yr F 6month+ but trying to stay positive (no pun intended)

    3. Everyone should always disclose… however never eliminate someone without herpes a soulmate is a soulmate

      1. I disclosed it to what I thought may have been a soulmate and boom, to the friend zone which I don’t know if it is a nice way of a let down or a longer period to get to know someome.

        1. It’s exactly this situation that is disheartening to me. At 47, the pool is very shallow, and even though I consider myself a handsome man for this age, I can see this being a big barrier. People at my age realize they are no longer invulnerable and, honestly, I’d understand the rejection…but I wouldn’t like it. Two people very important to me in my life also have HSV-1, but they don’t disclose it since it’s been such a non-issue in their lives. I’ve had it for a little over a year now and I never even had a primary outbreak. I’m conflicted to the point where I don’t date right now.

  5. I met a few women from herpes singles, the 1st one liked me, but not my life style, i am bi at times, and i do like to crossdress at times to, but still perfer woman, the 2nd one didnt mind i dabbled, but was afraid i would leve her for a man..lol, even though i told her absoulety not, but we needed more than just a weekend to get serious, not sure what other issues she had, but i fugured alot..lol, some how i ended up getting back with my cheating lieing girlfriend which claimed she had changed, we ended up getting married, just to find out she hasnt changed one bit, actually worse now than ever before..lol, it’s hard to think positive, but i believe what goes around, comes around, just a matter of time, you reap what you sow.

    1. You are so right …Every site wants money to do the extra exclusive membership feature. We’re already having a hard time just trying to cope with telling someone of our mishaps. But what makes it harder to find someone is the bull shit App site that want to make a few dollar out of us.

  6. YES THANK YOU you’ve vocalized what I’ve been trying to explain to my trying-to-be-supportive friends (who are all negative) who suggest these dating sites to me when I’m expressing my dating anxiety. NO. NO NO. I will not be corralled into the dark corners of the internet where H+ people can hide out and collectively bathe in our shame. Maybe that’s dramatic but that’s what it feels like we’re doing. No thank you!

    1. There’s no right or wrong way to find love… I too avoided those sites, for 5 years in fact.. That said, whilst there are some wallowing in shame to be sure, most are just good people looking for love in a dating pool where they don’t have to hurt someone the way the feel they’ve been hurt… That is not wrong or right, but to each their own… Casting those who use those sites with the same brush of ‘shame’ is stigmatizing in its own way…and we should all hate stigmas of all kind…

  7. I definitely see where you’re coming from but there are a few nuances that you may be overlooking in casting those dating sites in a bad light.

    For instance, I have had HSV-1 (certainly oral and maybe below-the-belt) for 5 years and have disclosed to 2 girls who both decided to continue to a relationship with me… but my own stress (fear of passing it, and fear that if I passed it I might have to stay in the relationship out of a sense of obligation), ‘guilt (not being able ‘to go down’ and feeling of being selfish for putting someone I love at risk of something ‘bad’) and the ‘barrier’ (kissing or sex is supposed to feel like a ‘loving act’, but I could never completely enjoy either with HSV in the back of my mind)…

    Your response to the above may be ‘get over it, it’s not a big deal’, but it is to some and it’s impossible to know how a partner may process it physically or emotionally once transmission actually occurs — even in the case where they’re disclosed to and educated (many of the educated will always assume that they won’t get symptoms based on the info out there — anecdotally from support sites this is rarely the outcome). Further, I know I would be riddled with concern and guilt if I passed it as causing suffering to another human being is not what I want to do…

    I’m all about eliminating the stigma..Even though it barely exists in my mind as I know most girls would choose to be with me if I disclosed, and I know that i’m an awesome man. I have not shut myself off from the world, but am certainly thankful for such sites as positive singles. For me they represent a chance at a great relationship that is stress-free, guilt-free and has no barriers on intimacy. I will say that I protect all personal data (fake email, fake info, paypal, etc..) and photos from those sites though for reasons you mentioned in your post..

    All the best,
    Matt

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