thirstiest week of my fucking life. in the i-want-the-thrill-of-new-bodies-to-play-with way, which inevitably leads to me having that moment where i think “man, it would be so much easier if i didn’t have herpes” but that only ever lasts a few seconds because
a) too bad, i have it
b) i wouldn’t be as confident and strong as i am today if i hadn’t gone through all this shit and confidence is supposed to be ~hot~ right? and
c) i imagined how cute i would be saying “i wanna fuck you but i just want you to know…” because i mean, it’s a really good way to ask if somebody wants to fuck, amirite?
Ok, so. Disclosure is usually framed in this serious, non-sexualized way. I usually think of it in a serious, non-sexualized way. Like, *pause* all sexiness, I need to talk to you about safety (but it’s ok guys because we’re all working really hard to believe that safe sex is hot sex). I think sometimes we do talk about it as intimacy because trust and honesty is involved. Which I’m totally cool with! But here I am, imagining all the sex I wanna have, and inevitably thinking about all the disclosure that would have to go down, and not only am I not turned off by it, I am actually incorporating disclosure into the narratives of my fantasies.
How did I get here? For a long time there, disclosure seemed like a chore, something I dreaded but would just put a smile on my face and pull through it. It got easier and easier with time, and I never experienced a situation as dreadful as I could’ve made up in my head, but it’s definitely not something I ever looked forward to. But what if we change the perspective a bit, and look at disclosure to a potential sexual partner not as something outside of the sexual experience we might share, but an integral part of it? Instead of an interruption, in competition with our desires and potential experience, rather as something contained within it? Maybe in this way, disclosure can become erotic.
(To be clear, I’m not arguing for further sexualizing STIs; in fact I believe the opposite…that STIs themselves shouldn’t automatically be associated with sex. I’m talking about the act of disclosing STIs within an already sexual context).
Moreover, if our fantasies ubiquitously edit out our statuses, to what extent are indulging the wish that we were different than we are and thus reinforcing barriers to self-acceptance?
Conceptually I wonder if the erotic possibilities of disclosure might challenge the flawed notions that a) people with STIs are undesirable/dirty/scary and b) STIs are outside of “the normal sexual experience.” I said this is another post a few months ago - that I think de-stigmatizing STIs requires normalizing them, that being STI-free is not the assumed default (which makes no sense if most people get an STI at some point in their life, right?).
Maybe there’s a parallel here with condom use? Something that for a long time was considered unsexy, that would kill the mood, etc. etc. Sure you could talk all day about how “condoms are safer” or whatever but honestly I feel like “safety is sexy” is different than it feels really good on my dick when you roll that condom on with your hand. (Did anybody see the episode of Dawson’s Creek when Joey and Pacey have sex for the first time? ~i’m a shameless fan~ “Do you still have that condom?” is the line that indicates to Pacey that Joey wants to get down. Condoms are the build-up for a half an episode before this happens.) Now, nothing needs to be sexy in order to be important and legitimate. Safety doesn’t need to be sexy. So I guess I’m saying that instead of framing something as sexy in order to convince people of its legitimacy, I want to make room to explore erotic potential in a less prescriptive/more felt way.
So back to hsv. The act of disclosing can be the suggestion that you want to get with someone. The act of disclosing can be the prompt for figuring out if yall are going to do this certain sexual thing or not. In this way, disclosing is not an interruption, it’s a catalyst, it can actually be a bridge into something that you want.
While I’ve been thinking about all this, I keep remembering the first time I hooked up with this dude a couple years ago and how I thought I wouldn’t have penetrative sex with him because I didn’t want to go through disclosing. I thought it would be more pleasurable all around if I could just avoid that and be content with other stuff. But eventually I was like, screw it, I’ll tell him. I still wasn’t expecting that we’d fuck, I just decided I wanted to explain why I wasn’t going to. I gave a great lil speech, and then when I was done he thanked me for telling him. And then he was like, “let’s put on a condom and call it a day” or something? - mostly I just remember the way he said it, his voice. He said it in this way that was raw and full of desire and wasn’t just saying “I accept that you have herpes and I’m cool with that” (which I was certainly happy to hear) but he was also saying “I really want to have sex with you” (which isn’t really about herpes, that’s about me and us, and it feels really good to hear that when I’m on top of somebody and want to fuck them too, obvs)
That said, every disclosure looks different. Every one of mine has been unique. I won’t kid myself and say that from now on talking about herpes is gonna be this sexy thing, and hell, it really shouldn’t be. There’s so much about my experience with this virus that is not about sex, that is not glamorous or erotic. But there’s also no reason that talking about herpes must forever be unsexy. For how much this virus is wrapped up with my body, my physicality, it has the potential to work in tandem with the most carnal parts of me.
If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for bearing with me through my disorganized thoughts and probably some contradictions. I’m excited because I’m thinking about some new things, or at least in a new way, and I really want to hear what other people think. Does this resonate with anyone? Am I talking out of my ass? What am I missing? Let me know what you think!
And we thought Margaret Atwood wrote fiction.