There's a debate going on in the comments to this article I read and it's really pissing me off.
The article is titled "Is It Necessary To Always Tell Partners About Your STD
In this short article, the writer mentions a friend who has herpes who hasn't had an outbreak in 8 years but still tells all potential partners about it, even though her OB-GYN said she wouldn't have to as long as she isn't currently experiencing an outbreak. Then she references an advice columnist who answers a letter from a girl who said she contracted genital warts, called her past partners to notify them, then when she talked to her boyfriend about it, he said "oh, yeah, I was gonna say something about that ... sorry!" The writer takes the position in this example that the advice columnist was right to come down hard on the guy.
But then she points out that scary statistic that says 80% of women will probably catch HPV at some point in their lives, so if it's so common and we can't avoid it, she asks, are there ever any circumstances that justify not disclosing an STD?
Most of the responses are adamantly on the side of Always Disclose, but what is pissing me off is a vocal minority of responses that say "well, yes, you should always disclose, but don't be so hard on the people who don't. After all, it's scary to disclose".
And this just infuriates me.
"If you disclose, you'll never get laid again"
"If you disclose, no one will ever date you and you'll live alone forever"
"If you disclose, there's a social stigma that makes people not like you and that social pressure is scary"
"If you disclose, you risk rejection"
"If you disclose, you might get your feelings hurt"
"If you disclose, you could destroy a budding relationship"
And I'm supposed to be sympathetic to people in this position, apparently.
Point 1) not all STDs are permanent. Some are easily treatable with antibiotics and will go away in time, so this is hardly a life-long celibacy punishment.
Point 2) not all STDs result in death. Some people are willing to trade the risk of exposure to certain STDs in exchange for what they perceive is a life-long or long-term relationship. Plus, there is that 80% statistic, which means that some people out there have accepted that they will probably get it, so they just don't worry about preventing it.
Point 3) There are dating websites out there specifically for people with STDs so that they can safely have sex without infecting someone else ... because their partner is already infected.
Point 4) There are things people can do to minimize the chance of infection while still maintaining a romantic relationship, including using condoms and medications for certain STDs, and limiting activity during the most contagious times.
Point 5) Non-disclosure to avoid destroying a budding relationship is hardly likely to yield better results than scaring off potential partners ... when you infect your new girlfriend and have her find out from her doctor that you lied to her and intentionally threatened her life, health, and fertility, all to get laid (as she will probably see it).
Point 6) I don't fucking care if you get your feelings hurt. This is part of what being a grown up is all about, taking responsibility for your actions. Some things are scary, sometimes we feel bad. DEAL WITH IT. This idea that we're supposed to cushion ourselves from ever feeling bad is completely ridiculous, unrealistic, and childish. I have a news flash for you all ... YOU WILL SOMETIMES FEEL BAD. Get used to it.
Now, this is a totally separate issue from needing to remove the stigma from having an STD (which contributes to people feeling scared) or creating better sex education for our society. This is about someone who has chosen the path of least courage
. This is about someone who is choosing to protect their own ego or hurt feelings AT THE DIRECT EXPENSE OF THE LIFE OF ANOTHER HUMAN BEING through their actions (and by "life", I include the quality of life as well as the life itself - affecting someone's quality of life *is* affecting their life).
This is absolutely reprehensible to me. The fact that someone might be scared is totally irrelevant. I've been there, I've had to disclose, I've faced rejection, I've been rejected. FUCK THAT. Be a fucking grown up. There is no excuse whatsoever that deserves my sympathy or compassion.
Having an STD, or any illness of any sort, earns a level of sympathy from me because of the difficulties faced with living with that illness, including public perception of said illness.
But the instant you knowingly infect someone with a potentially life-threatening illness (or even just an "inconvenient" illness) without giving them the information necessary to make an informed decision about their exposure levels, you lose not only whatever sympathy I might have had for you regarding your illness, but you lose all sympathy and compassion I have for any human just for being human. This falls under the category of "evil", in my book.
Being "scared" does not give you a free pass.
Being a responsible, ethical, courageous person does not mean doing the right thing when it's easy. It means doing the right thing when it's hard. It means being afraid of being rejected AND DISCLOSING ANYWAY because it's the right thing to do. Because if someone else had disclosed to you, then you wouldn't be in this position of potentially being rejected and feeling scared and alone in the first place.
I'm being told that, because it's so scary, that I should have some compassion for people who have to face that scariness and that I should understand why people might want to avoid disclosure. I'm being told that not everyone is as courageous as me, and that it's not easy to learn to overcome one's fears.
FUCK THAT. I know EXACTLY how scary it is, how hard it is, how isolating it is. I was in that position. And I overcame it. The fact that some people are not as strong or courageous as I supposedly am is not a reason to allow our society to protect that cowardliness or to reward it by excusing poor behaviour. When you done bad, you done bad.
And absolutely no reason or excuse justifies non-disclosure. Ever.
Someone pointed out "misinformation", as in, the person doesn't understand that they are contagious and therefore doesn't disclose based on those grounds.
My rage at that person might be lessened, but not removed.
First of all, how many people do you know keep people at arms-length away before hugging when they have a cold? They might not know exactly what's wrong with them, but they know a runny nose isn't normal and they tell people about it so that other people can choose to expose themselves to the cold virus, or the flu virus, or strep throat, or even non-contagious allergies, or not as they see fit. People "disclose" all the time, even amid ignorance of the condition. Yet, when it comes to STDs, people treat total strangers with more consideration than the people they want to be intimate with, by disclosing a cold but not an STD.
Disclosure and self-educating/self-education is all part of being a responsible and ethical adult. Engaging in a sexual relationship requires being educated about the process. Now, I might allow society, or their parents, or the church, or whatever, to share the blame in this case. But that still doesn't absolve the person from not taking it upon themselves to learn about the activity they are engaging in.
Plus, if you're in the Abstinence-Only camp, then you're not supposed to be having sex at all, so you're a hypocrite on top of it. But that goes back to what I prefaced this rant with - that education of the ignorant is a different issue and one I also address in other venues (such as the entire STI tag of this journal and the Safe-Sex sections of my poly lectures).
Several years ago, I began dating a guy, and I sat him down to have our Safe Sex, Sex History, & Disclosure talk prior to sharing in below-the-belt sexual activity, as is my custom. He seemed like a reasonably intelligent person and earnest in his efforts to be responsible. He had no problems with getting tested, with sharing his history with me, etc. But then I started to talk about HPV, which, as my Constant Readers will know, is my little Pet Research Project, the STD I spend the most time on.
He had no idea that HPV is what caused genital warts, or that other strains of HPV caused cervical cancer. As I continued to talk, he got more and more nervous, until he told me the story of his most recent girlfriend.
He had been out of town for a while, long enough for he and this girl to break up and get back together. When he came back into town, they started to have sex, and he was using his hands. He noticed some small, hard bumps along the vaginal walls. Naturally, he stopped what he was doing and asked her about it. She said that, while he was gone and they were broken up, she slept with someone else and subsequently developed these little bumps, called genital warts. But don't worry, she says, they're not contageous. I'm taking these all-natural, herbal remedies that render them non-contageous and they'll go away soon. Here's a pamphlet from my natureopath doctor.
Well, being a hippie-anti-Big-Pharma-conspiracy-
theorist (which I didn't really understand at the time, or I would have never have dated him in the first place), he just accepted that her treatment was working, that her doctor had the right information, he didn't even read the pamphlet, and they had unprotected sex.
My jaw dropped.
I then had to explain to him (totally unable to keep the incredulousness out of my voice) that she was at her *most* contagious when the warts were present, but that she needed no symptoms at all to still be contagious, and that HPV is a virus that does not "go away" with herbal suppliments. The only treatment is to have them burned or frozen off, just like regular warts (convenient, since they're the same virus), and, maybe, if she's lucky, the virus will become undetectable to our current testing methods approximately 2 years after her final outbreak (but you won't know it's your "final" outbreak until the next one doesn't come). He was horrified. He was mostly pissed at her for not researching it properly, but he was also upset at himself for taking her at her word and not educating himself about something that affects his own genitalia. He blamed them both equally for his predicament.
Sure enough, about 2 years later, he developed warts.
As for me, I chose to maintain HPV Boundaries in place for the duration of our relationship and have since had only 1 abnormal pap smear in the intervening years (for which they followed up with an HPV DNA test, that turned out negative).
So, my point is that ignorance is not a valid excuse, because *I* am not ignorant and I asked him the kinds of questions that, even with his lack of knowledge, I was able to get his status that only a baldface lie could have hid. I felt sympathy and compassion for him in his ignorance, but his willingness to discuss sexual safety, and my own self-education on the subject, prevented this from spreading any further.
His ex-girlfriend, however, allowed him to have sex with her without disclosing up front that she had an STD, all mis-information aside. If she had told him prior to their sexual encounter, perhaps with his blood flowing properly to all his organs instead of just one, he might have been clear-headed enough to do some independent research before allowing himself to be exposed to something he didn't really understand. She intentionally engaged him in sexual activity and only disclosed after she couldn't hide it. She might have been ignorant about the STD's contagion, but she was not ignorant about having it, and I believe she willingly hid this information out of a fear that he would reject her because of it, since they both claimed to be each other's "best friend" and they told each other "everything" (I knew both of them while they were dating).
And now *he* suffers through the fear of rejection and a limit to his dating pool because *she* didn't disclose to him. Yet, even with his own ignorance on the subject, *I* do not suffer this same punishment because I questioned him, and I did so in a manner designed to bring us both to the same level of education on the subject, so only a lie on his part would have put me in his position. Yet, he took the path of greater courage and disclosed the information when I removed his ignorance from him, thereby saving me from suffering the same fate. For all his other flaws, I give him that. He didn't, however, think to disclose his exposure in the first place - I had to ask the right questions, share the right information, for him to be aware that this was something he needed to disclose, which is part of the education problem that is a different subject, as I've repeatedly said.
Ironically, she once condemed me for having vengeful thoughts about someone who was harassing me, and for wishing harm to another human being, yet I never took any action against that other person, although I almost did.
When I open myself up to another person, figuratively and literally, I take my responsibility for how my actions affect them very seriously. I allow them the dignity to choose how their own life should look and what risks they should take, even if it means I risk losing the type of relationship I might want from that person. My care and consideration is for the other person above my own desires, because what I desire above that is the happiness and safety of people I care about.
I can't even fathom the idea of liking someone enough to want their bits and pieces inside of my own yet willfully endangering them without their input on the subject. Part of the concept of "caring" about someone, or loving them, or even just liking them as a person is the idea that I care about their happiness and well-being too. How can anyone rationalize "love" (or even like) co-existing with actively harming someone else? And for the casual-sex crowd, I can't fathom allowing someone inside of me that I dislike enough to want to harm them by infecting them with an STD yet liking them enough to want those bits inside me in the first place. Either they are a human being, deserving of being treated with dignity or respect, or they are not. And if they are not, then why do they have access to my vulnerable parts in the first place?
And atheists & polyamorists are the immoral ones. I've got your "immorality" right here, you fucking weak, cowardly hypocrites.