A SYTYCB entry
One of the ultimate insults of a woman deemed too sexually promiscuous is, “Ew, I bet she is full of STDs.” This implies that she is so dirty, so raunchy and so sexually active, that with every seemingly sexual act, whether she has intercourse or even flirts with someone at a party, she is being pumped full of infected semen on a daily basis. You get a picture in your head of what the genitals of a person with a sexually transmitted disease look like. Are they warty? Do they look “normal?” Is it like the vagina from Teeth?
Even if a non-infected person has had several more sex partners than an infected one, they are still considered “cleaner.” This idea of cleanliness or dirtiness within sexually active people is the giant misnomer here. Person A has had condom-less sex but didn’t end up with an infected sex partner. Person B has had condom-less sex and did end up with an infected sex partner. Person B is disgusting, Person A is fine.
When I found out I had HPV, I had a pretty standard freak out. After I calmed down and determined that I would experience no symptoms and it would go away on its own, my thoughts went to, “How did this happen to me?” I was all for ridding our culture of the taboo of sex and STDs and would never judge another person for having one. When it came to me, however, I was harsh. I called myself dirty and stupid. I blamed myself for everything imaginable: only using the pill, having sex in college, waiting until my 20s to get a pap smear, having a vagina. Since I was so disgusted with myself for having this STD, this also meant that I really did judge others for their STDs, despite my previous belief that I was a non-judgmental feminist.
I watched Girls at the time I found out, despite the blogging community’s many problems with the show and Lena Dunham in general. The episode, “All Adventurous Women Do” became my revelation. Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, finds out that she has HPV from her first sex partner. We both had nearly the same reaction. By the end of the episode, however, she accepts it when she hears that her friend, Chloe, has HPV as well. Chloe sums her HPV up with, “All adventurous women do.” It’s a simple phrase to replace the more common rhetoric of, “All disgusting women do.”
This was maybe just another average, funny episode for people without STDs, but for those of us searching for just a little validation, it meant the world. That is how we change our anti-sex culture. Along with sex education about how to prevent an STD, we need to stop scaring teenagers with pictures of genital warts and making them believe that anyone with an STD is bad. We need to stop lumping infected people into this category of “dirty” just because they trusted someone, their partner trusted someone before them or they made a simple mistake and ditched the wrapping one night. We need an actual face in our lives to say hey, sometimes sexually transmitted diseases happen.
I am a healthy, 22-year-old woman. I have sex. I have an STD. Sexually transmitted diseases happen.