Three Things You Should Know About STI’s
Emily Depasse is a woman of many hats, er heels! A writer by heart, she maintains a sexual health and wellness blog, ELD Soul, which explores her vulnerability as a herpes-positive individual. Emily’s background in sexual health began long before her herpes diagnosis. She graduated Cum Laude with her BA in Gender and Sexuality Studies from Salisbury University in 2015, with a specific research focus on the female orgasm in relation to body image. This fall, she embarks on her MSW/MEd Human Sexuality dual degree at Widener University, with an intended Sexual Therapy Track. When Emily isn’t writing or researching, she spends time lifting, focusing on her savasana (with her newly acquired RYT 200), and exploring her version of Philadelphia.
The Sexual Health Series: Wellness isn’t all green juices and barre classes, it’s feeling confident and strong in your own skin. That’s why we’re exploring a huge component of confidence - sexuality. Follow along for advice, guidance and tips on how to connect with your sexuality and OWN your sexual health.
THREE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT STI's
1. THEY’RE NOT AS SCARY AS OUR MIDDLE SCHOOLS MADE THEM OUT TO BE.
Let’s be honest—when most of us hear the terms “STD” (sexually transmitted disease) or “STI” (sexually transmitted infection), we immediately flashback to gruesome (often worse-case scenario) pictures projected onto a white board during health class. The reality of sex education in America is usually rooted through abstinence and scare tactics, as opposed to a more comprehensive lens. From the moment we are introduced to our sexual bodies, we learn to fear them. This not only sets a negative precedent for stereotypes about STIs/STDs, but also for caring for our sexual selves as we transition into young adulthood and beyond.
During my initial outbreak of genital herpes (HSV-2) in 2015, I felt that middle school fear come to fruition. I woke up that July morning and the pain I felt was enough for me to avoid looking in the mirror. The physical swelling in my belly, the stinging walk to the bathroom to lower myself into the tub. Beyond the physical symptoms came the emotional burden. The shame and disgust felt so intrinsic. Emptiness, a fear of being unlovable and unaccepted by anyone, ever. Even a fear of telling my friends. This period in my life highlighted how deeply rooted STI stereotypes are, and their manifestation in my own mind proved that I, too, was a believer in them. Until I lived it and learned to navigate life with an STI.
2. YOUR SEX LIFE HAS SIGNIFICANT POTENTIAL TO IMPROVE (MINE HAS)
You read that right—sex with an STI can be more fulfilling. At first I thought my herpes diagnosis was the end of my sex life, but I began to see it in a more positive light. I was forced into a place of honesty with myself and my sexual partners. Over a period of about six months, I had to reacquaint myself with my sexual body and desires.
Safe, honest sexual exploration and experiences are more than asking if your partner has a condom, or making sure you speak with your gynecologist about an IUD or the Pill. Safe sex involves conversations that a lot of people aren’t willing to have, starting with oneself (likely attributed to the fear mentioned in Point 1). A positive and fulfilling sex life allows for both partners (or more) to create a safe space in which to voice their desires, opinions, and fantasies. Being honest about herpes has allowed me to find ease in disclosing sexual fantasies, kinks, pleasures and distastes without much of a second thought. I am more educated and confident in the bedroom, with myself and partner(s), because I made peace with my sexual body—its supposed limitations, its flaws, and its desires. I defined myself for myself. I made peace with me.
3. THEY’RE MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK.
Countless individuals seek my guidance because their doctors refuse to include herpes in a test panel. Why? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) claims that “…diagnosing genital herpes in someone without symptoms has not shown any change in their sexual behavior.” Additionally, herpes is common; so common that an estimated two-thirds of the world population under 50 years of age is infected with one variation, HSV-1 (World Health Organization).
HSV-1 and HSV-2 are two of the most common strains discussed in sexual health classes. HSV-1, or oral herpes, is the virus that is more commonly known and accepted as “cold sores.” It can be transmitted on the mouth or genital region. HSV-2, formally known is genital herpes, prefers the genitals, but in some circumstances, can manifest on the face as well.
Herpes Simplex Virus is not so simple, and has led me to more questions than it has answers throughout my journey. Do you have any questions related to sexual health, more specifically, STIs? Please feel free to reach out to Emily with questions to address in future articles.