Why I Will Never Support Herpes or STI 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

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

37 thoughts on “Why I Will Never Support Herpes or STI Dating Sites

  1. I think as a responsible, and moral person who wife cheated on them and gave them herpes. I could not see myself trying to date anyone who doesn’t have it. i wouldn’t want to past it on to anyone or take the chance of passing it on. With that being said how do u date ,or meet people without using a site like this, if u are morally uncomfortable dating someone without it. Just getting out there and regular dating, and then finding out they don’t have it. I personally wouldn’t want to date them anymore, even though it should be the other way around. That is just my thoughts on it, i would appreciate any input for a newly diagnosed male.

  2. As someone who is dealing with this stigma and gave the STI dating site a try, what would be a good resource to explore? Ive instantly regreted paying for and placeing my self out in the digital tainted meat market.

  3. I feel as you do, my x wife gave it to me or as the doctor said, “you or wife could have had in your system for years without a break out” so we couldn’t say who gave it to who, however we separated for more than two years and reunited for about ten months, she showed a sore first and asked me, we both went for tests, and positive, she swore to me she had no other partner and I did not have anyonelse we were married 12 years. No sense in arguing

    1. This is the blog I should have looked at 3 years ago! I never realized how much having this can be the main factor in meeting someone. I have learned what it’s like to be treated with shame and guilt, I’ve gone from a confident, successful woman to feeling demoralized and wishing I did not exist! I got this 30 years ago and no longer have outbreaks, but the disease doesn’t go away. I now treat it like alcoholism… Hi My name is ___ and I have H! I can’t believe there is not a cure for this… I’ve come to the conclusion, I’d rather be diagnosed with Cancer! At least it’s accepted, you can talk about it freely and everyone is your support team to beat it! So now what? You gave good points about going on a seclusive website! Right now, I’m not even going to try to date… maybe in the future?

      1. I unfortunately agree with the cancer remark.. When I was first diagnosed, I thought that I would rather have cancer or some other illness bc 1. You can’t really talk about Herpes and 2. The immense emotional pain I experienced about a skin condition that couldn’t even kill me seemed strange. Now, I realize how backwards the logic of a miserable person sounds.

  4. I just found the Herpes Dating site. But haven’t joined. My biggest fear was telling my partner that I had 3rd stage Kidney disease. And my life span is some what limited. Now that I found out I have both Herpes simplex viruses. And I have no idea how I contracted it. My ex of 10 years got texted and he was negative. But he was messing around so much that I just don’t know if I believe it be even got tested. Which posses me off that he would and could put my life in jeopardy like that. I would never do that to any other man.

    1. I’m literally a little over a month in. And just SAD!! And to make it worse I have to daily encounter the person, because he lives near me. He is denial and seems repulsed by me. I got on 1 of these horrible sites you speak of. Not even just for a relationship, but a possible friend to talk things out with. I have a handful of friends I can talk to. That stupid site positivesingles asked for money to respond to a message, view a profile and just about anything else. They clearly don’t give a hoot about people getting together. I refuse to pay. Your essay has helped give me some confidence. I was fine a month ago yesterday I decided to call him, because he recently seemed to wanna be nice to me. That seemed to rip the bandaid off and just hurt all over again. So out of sadness and needing comfort I turned to the crappy sites that don’t give a hoot about me. Thanks for your essay

  5. Genital HSV1 is just one more cross to bear. I got it from a non-penetrative assault, if that matters, when I was 36. It was a huge blow to me, mostly because of the assault, but also because I thought I would have lots of problems with it and my sex life was over. I have an autoimmune disease, which I treat with immune suppressants. I thought this would cause constant outbreaks. I also have fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder and general anxiety disorder. I rarely have outbreaks. I did have a relationship, and he never got herpes. I’ve been single for two years now and am very lonely. Turns out, no one is interested in a disabled woman, especially one with mental illness. No one sticks around long enough for me to disclose.

    1. Don’t give up, go on with life, live and love, this disease sux but your life doesn’t have to be with friends an lovers

  6. After being in what I thought was a monogamous marriage, I discovered my then husband was a sex addict and had been cheating on me from the beginning of our relationship. I was tested for STD’s and the results were positive for HSV-2. I don’t know how long I’ve had it, but never had an outbreak until this past week. I’m the proud owner of a sore on my butt cheek of all places. I think it was brought on by stress.

    I started dating recently. The first intimate moment came by surprise and I wasn’t ready for it. I stopped it from progressing and told him we needed to talk. I informed him about the HSV and how I contracted it. He was taken aback and didn’t go any further. After some texting, he informed me that he went to his doctor and had an STD panel done. He told me that if he was positive for the same he would keep dating me, but since he was negative he didn’t want to assume the risk.

    I’ve decided against any further dating for now. That is one conversation and aftermath I can’t bring myself to repeat. It breaks my heart, because I’m not a consolation prize. I’m also more than an STD. It’s such a small part of who I am, yet it now seems as if it’s going to dictate my future relationships, or lack thereof.

    I find it ironic that some people complain that the only people on the herpes positive dating sites are HSV-2 positive, as if that were some lesser species of humans. You’re looking down your nose at people with HSV-2 the same way you complain people are treating you because you are HSV-1 positive.

    That same man who didn’t feel I was acceptable had multiple unprotected sexual encounters. “There but for the grace of God go I.” Herpes is not a death sentence, it’s an annoyance and an inconvenience, period. I’ll run from someone who has uncontrolled diabetes or hypertension because that’s someone who is going to die young and leave me a widow. A skin condition should not be a deal breaker. We’re not talking leprosy here people.

    I’m the woman guys stare after and say I’m beautiful. I’m intelligent as hell, could read and write at 4 years-old, and graduated with honors. I cook, keep a beautiful house, raised some amazing children, and quite frankly am a champ in the bedroom. But the shop’s closed because of the selfishness and cruelty we inflict on one another. I would never pass this on to someone else without their knowing the risk, but I also won’t allow myself to be treated as less than because of a stupid sore on my ass.

    1. “I find it ironic that some people complain that the only people on the herpes positive dating sites are HSV-2 positive, as if that were some lesser species of humans. You’re looking down your nose at people with HSV-2 the same way you complain people are treating you because you are HSV-1 positive.”

      Actually, if you are referring to my post, I was simply stating I didn’t want to ADD HSV-2 to the mix, but I’m unable to find HSV-1 people on the site I was using. I haven’t had a single outbreak, and if that’s because HSV-1 is less active, then I am grateful. I don’t want to add yet another type that might cause more outbreaks. Maybe I will change my mind over time, but it’s all recent. I haven’t been intimate with anyone since I’m not sure how to handle the rejection if it happens. I’m a handsome man, but I don’t feel compatible with many women, so when the rare woman appears, I’m sure it will depress me to be rejected. I’m not a “numbers” guy who asks out women strictly for the blanket approach.

      What you shared is exactly the same thing I’m worried about…and I can’t ignore that I wouldn’t have assumed the risk (although I did with my ex-wife 17 years ago) unless I truly felt serious. However, at 48, it’s hard to be positive about meeting new people and expecting a long-term relationship after a failed marriage…and then adding this issue into it all.

    2. I’m feeling it too Joy. I had the talk with a woman I was dating when things heated up. She remained interested in me for awhile, but then broke things off. I am back to dating, but not looking forward to the the talk again – but it’s going to be worth it when eventually someone realizes feelings are greater than a stigma.

    3. I feel as you do, my x wife gave it to me or as the doctor said, “you or wife could have had in your system for years without a break out” so we couldn’t say who gave it to who, however we separated for more than two years and reunited for about ten months, she showed a sore first and asked me, we both went for tests, and positive, she swore to me she had no other partner and I did not have anyonelse we were married 12 years. No sense in arguing

  7. I recently was diagnosed with herpes not sure when I contracted since all my last several partners came bck clean. But like most post I read here, I myself is early 40’s live in Indiana and not going to hide it from a person of interest. Obviously someone did that to me. So if you say dating g sites sucks which I do agree with some of your views, what are we to do abt data and finding a sexual relationship?

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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…

  14. 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

    1. I am with you Matt. I have genital herpes and got 23 years ago from a guy who knew he had it but couldn’t bring himself to have the talk. I stayed in the relationship because I felt I had made my bed and had to lie in it. The relationship didn’t work out after 5 years of trying. When I got it the internet wasn’t a thing and I couldn’t bring myself to use the newspaper to connect with someone else who had the disease. I am on a web site now for people with STD’s and am trying to make a connection and yes I have found some people will send you a wink and when you reply there is no response at all. Never thought it could be the web people for that site that would set up fake profiles. But given now I know that goes on I’m not going to be questioning what was going on.

      But I would hate to pass the disease onto someone else and would feel guilty as hell if I did. In a perfect world people would be accepting but we don’t live in that world. I work in a field that people judge one another harshly and if my employer ever found out I had the disease I would be looking at disciplinary action because when I applied I didn’t disclose it as part of the medical. If I had I would never have been hired in the field I work. And because the government agency I work for is all so concerned about image and what the public would think if one of its employees infected a member of the public and that member of the public disclosed that on social media or to the media. I love the field I work in but hate the judging and the fear of reprisals from my employer and that alone causes stress on top of the stigma from the disease.

      Case in point I suffer from dry eyes and my eyes become inflamed, red and glassy because the condition, yet people I work with think it’s got to be from drugs because she was involved in motor vehicle accident, had numerous spine surgeries and takes medication to treat chronic pain so obviously she is impaired by drugs. No I’m not and one does not have anything to do with the other because my eye condition pre-existed long before I had the accident. That is how people make judgements and an STD has a far greater stigma in the eyes of world. I have dated people without herpes and that fear of passing it on is more than I can take and the talk well that is a totally other beast to deal with. And I believe women are more likely to accept a man with herpes than a man would be. That’s my perception from a woman’s view point.

      I hear what everyone has said about limiting the dating pool and the dating sites for people with STD’s are also a form of stigmatizing us all over again. But for me I am going to stay with the web sites and hope I can make a connection because I have been single for so many years and I would like to find a partner to share my life with. So I will continue on the road I’ve chosen and hope for the best. And please don’t judge those of us that choose this road because there is way too much judging in this world.

      Best of luck to all whatever road you choose!

      BJ

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