Herpes

IMG_2249I was diagnosed with genital HSV-1 in May 2013. I write about what it is like for me to live, date, and be sexually active with the heavily stigmatized STI.

I have also appeared on MTV’s Girl Code, HuffPost Live, and the What’s Underneath Project. You can also listen to me on the Savage Lovecast with Dan Savage.

Watch my TEDx talk about herpes stigma!

Read the transcript here.

Essays on my blog:

So you’ve just been diagnosed with herpes. Start here! I cover all the basics in this post: what you need to know, who you need to tell, how to protect your partners, where to find community, and the pep talk you definitely need right this minute.

My characters care about safe sex because I have to. This was the first time I put in print that I have herpes. This essay was my take on a debate about whether or not characters in erotica should have to use condoms.

What happened after I told the Internet I had herpes. This is how everyone I knew reacted to me going public, from my parents to my exes.

The conversation that never happened: On herpes and abusive relationships. How I got diagnosed. We need to talk about emotional abuse and STIs.

herpes virginity leavesHow I lost my post-herpes virginity. Having sex after getting diagnosed for the first time is scary! This is how it went for me.

Herpes two years later: On sex without condoms. Shockingly, I don’t always use condoms now. This essay is about why (and how).

To the teenage girls who have herpes. This world tells teen girls they’re worthless. Don’t listen.

Why should I date someone with herpes? A rant we all need to make from time to time. Stop asking me this question. Send this to anyone who is rude to you.

Why I don’t call herpes a “gift.” The STI community needs more language to describe our experiences, but this is slang I can’t get behind.

The badass women of TED. What happens when you have a herpes outbreak at a TED conference.

A lesson in herpes stigma, via Facebook comments. Because BuzzFeed’s readers are pretty terrible people.

Dear Internet commenters who really don’t want herpes. Sometimes you gotta talk back to the trolls.

the-herpes

Herpes Interviews

  • That wrestler I dated. This long conversation wound up being intense and personal. My ex and I talked about what makes sex unsafe, and if he worried about contracting herpes from me.
  • The ex I had to call. Getting diagnosed meant calling my old high school sweetheart to ask him to get tested. It was terrifying. This conversation is about how we remember that phone call.
  • The best friend. My college roommate had a front row seat to my diagnosis… and to the abusive relationship I was in at the time. She and I gabbed about that, as well as Vulvar Vestibulitis and why adults should talk about sex before having it.
  • The guy from the bar. I met a really nice dude at a bar like it’s 2004 or something! I told him I had herpes that night, we had sex the next night, and we’re still having sex now. Hurrah.

For MTV Founders:

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 12.11.10 PM

For Women’s Health:

women's-health

disclosure-tips

CKnhyCGWgAAqoUC

On herpes journalism:

TIME Magazine ruined herpes journalism. Here’s how to fix it. My site editor Gabe Rosenberg and I read that 1982 cover story about herpes and it was goddamn awful. We dissected it and thought about what good herpes journalism would look like.

Why having a boyfriend doesn’t cure herpes. Please, please, please stop publishing essays about how you finally found someone who would love you despite your herpes diagnosis. There are other ways to heal, and there are better ways to challenge stigma.

5 rules for better herpes journalism. Because seriously, can we stop telling the same tear-jerking bullshit inspirational story? Oh my GOD.

RANKEDHeadlines on the herpes WHO report: RANKED. The World Health Organization discovered 2 out of 3 people have herpes. The Internet lost its mind.

I am not “suffering” from herpes. STOP DESCRIBING PEOPLE WITH HERPES AS “SUFFERERS.” OH MY GOD.

Why we need clicky, accessible herpes writing too. Some thoughts on writing about herpes for a mainstream audience, including poppy listicles.

 

73 thoughts on “Herpes

  1. Ella, you are an inspiration. I watched your Ted talk and cried. I was recently diagnosed with HSV2. I noticed a sore on my lip, having never had a cold sore, I was in denial as to what it was. I went to my doctor and she said it was Herpes. I got tested. I have read all I can on not transmitting to others and I am still confused. Can a person with HSV 1/2 transmit during silent shedding, the virus to others even without an open sore? If so, I’m so saddened at the thought of not being able to kiss anyone I love out of fear of transference. Can you help me understand.

  2. God I haven’t had a chance to read all through your sight yet, though I am excited to. I contracted herpes just over a year ago and it has dramatically changed my existence, mostly internally (hahahaha….yea, sorry,no pun intended.) Either way I’m stoked this exist. Everyone knows I have herpes, the only way i knew how to cope was to tell every one. So, I did. I don’t really care now, but yea, excited to find others to read their experience.

  3. I just watched your ted talk and it brought tears to my eyes. THANK YOU for being you and for everything you stand for .

  4. Just wanted to say a huge thank you for everything on this site. Last week I was in tears, having found a classic HSV lesion after a month of being under extreme stress. After reading horror stories on forums I was terrified of telling my fiance, who I’ve been with for 5 years and am marrying in 2 months (great timing right?!). I was convinced he’d think I’d cheated or lied to him. I spent 24 hours freaking out and finally calmed down after listening to your Ted talk and reading the stories on here. The moment came and I mumbled out what was going on (with a few tears) and he was AMAZING – confirmed all the things I knew about him before. He was just worried that I was ok, not in pain and not blaming myself. We went to the doc together who confirmed that either of us could have had this for years. We decided not to both get blood tests (though my fiance was happy to), and we’re just going to listen to my body before having sex going forwards.
    Thank you again for being upfront, truthful and taking the stigma away from this unfair virus. I’m hoping my story will also help other terrified people in a similar situation.

  5. Hi. I’m just looking for some Facebook support groups and/or dating sites that I can try for people with herpes. Would love it if you could help !! TIA

  6. I am up all night, suddenly compelled to fanatically research all things herpes as I did 6 years ago when I was diagnosed with HSV2. I am compelled to share my story here within an INTELLECTUAL and EMOTIONALLY CAPABLE space. In 6 years the conversation has changed. I am so grateful. I cry with you. I cry for every woman who has felt this. In triumph and mostly from the grace of others who go to great lengths to love us wholly and take the time to help support healing. People who will spend three years working on healing and loving you. They are out there. They exist. Being honest is a gateway to more honesty. My story is awful, but I share because I have overcome. It is important, as many of us with shock worthy stories have seen the reactions and pause before sharing. My father sexually abused me and first exposed me to herpes as a young child. I remember having “rashes” on my face and hands that hurt as young as three. I of course did not get std tested until much later. And doctors do not assume another white, middle class, person of local status is abusing their baby. But this happens too, far too much. I WAS extremely promiscuous (as follows most upbringings like mine). I did all of the drugs. Interestingly, I did not expose myself(I was careful, somehow, luckily) to any stds during my teenage years of prime activity. I knew I had HSV2 after being date raped by a “friend”. I had terrible outbreaks on my vagina, hands, and on my face. It was a very very painful time, as it also brought up clarity about my past abuse. I dropped out of school (I had a full ride writing scholarship) and continued to do drugs but stopped having sex. I finally began a diligent yoga practice and riding a bicycle(my car broke down) and essentially had nothing but a kind teacher who offered me free classes, a bike, and herpes. I got clean. I met a man who loved me through three years of intense healing and courtdates to protect myself and community from my father. Became a yoga instructor. Started playing music. Started writing again, making and selling art. I am now single and I am not “healed”. But I work with my shame about herpes every day. I learn self care every day. Your words, ELLA, are so true and so real. And as a person who has also risked much and gone through excruciating self exposer locally about incest (another taboo) I deeply respect your work. It is inner work and I have done the same. With much respect, care, and thanks, Chrys

  7. Reading your posts made me cry. I was diagnosed nearly 2 years ago and only just now realized I’ve spent this whole time punishing myself.
    Resigned to sitting in the corner and watching the rest of the world partner up and bear children, I pushed away the one love interest I really cared about. Assuming, as I’m sure many have, that I would be rejected and judged for my condition.
    I let this STI define me. Fuck that shit.
    Thank you, Ella, for reminding me that I am a person. I am not defined by this. That I can still live my life the same as before I was diagnosed.
    I’m going to embrace my life and own this shit.

  8. I Just Want To Say Thank You For Being The Voice I Love Everything That You Stand For And Everything That You Are Doing Thank You So Much Ella,

  9. Hi Ella, your work has helped me so much through my own diagnosis and I really love how informative you have been. Something has been bothering me today and I’m not quite sure where to go or who to talk to, but today on CNN a guest compared combating ISIS terrorism to treating herpes and this really upset me. I wanted to know your thoughts about this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s