June 5, 2009

Shaming of the STI

Posted in 1, sex, Sex Education tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:52 pm by Femme Mystique

Recently I conducted a poll about sexual attitudes within the confines of a sex-positive community I participate in.  The question I posed was this:

Would you have sex with a new partner that confided in you they had an STI (other than HIV)?

I must admit, I was a little surprised and disappointed by the results of the poll.  Of the 42 respondents, an overwhelming 36% percent answered simply that no, if they found out a partner had an STI, they would not have sex with them, protected or otherwise.  Another 55% said that it would depend on which STI their partner had.  With the exclusion of the most harmful STI, HIV, I was unsure which STI’s people were most worried about.

There was some nervousness about cancer causing strains of HPV, but even more so there was quite a bit of worry about herpes.  The herpes virus carries a very low level risk of complications except for genital sores, which are a nuisance but seem to cause many more emotional issues that physical.

The emotional issues can be traced back to the perceived social and moral implications of herpes.  Culturally we are raised to value purity and virginity, so we often see STI’s as a sign of promiscuity and carelessness.  The herpes virus is the same virus that causes cold sores, yet confessing a cold sore often doesn’t cause potential partners to even bat an eye.  I believe that the key here is in the word “genital”, in genital herpes and is the synechologically the same reason for using words like “slut” and “whore” to insult.

Interestingly, the word “pudenda” (you thought it was just a slang term, didn’t you?), which is a somewhat antiquated word referring to a woman’s genitals and presently is the clinical name for a nerve running to the clitoris, derives from a Latin word meaning “to be ashamed” (Source).  It is not hard to see then how our negative attitudes about sex, genitals, and consequently STI’s have persisted.

Unfortunately it seems like healthier attitudes about STI’s are still pretty far off, but I have some hope that things will get better.

1 Comment »

  1. […] Original post by Femme Mystique […]

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