Princess often finds it irritating how every single day or week or month now seems to stand for something from National Apple Day to Bisexual Visibility Month to Honey Week (although I refuse to humour Steak and Blowjob Day until the sexist stereotypes fuck right off.)
But I was intrigued to see that September 4th is World Sexual Health Awareness Day because it’s a subject that still really needs talking about. In the last two weeks on Twitter alone I’ve seen people discussing a recent Durex campaign that insinuated you can tell who has a STI by looking because well turned intelligent people ‘aren’t like that’ and the frankly stigmatising site DaddyBear that assures you only HIV negative people can sign up.
STIs are also the first topic that comes up when the subject of polyamory or multiple partner relationships come up. A large number of people refuse to consider the validity of non monogamous relationships because apparently people in them are all disease ridden and therefore not to be afforded any respect.
I always blush slightly at that point because early on in my relationship with my Master in a yes, non monogamous relationship, I gave him chlamydia. Which I got from the married man I was fucking at the same time no less. A lack of care with condoms on my part showed me that ethical non monogamy and good old fashioned cheating don’t really mix.
But it also shows that passing on an STI is very often simple error, human nature and the power of bacteria and viruses to gatecrash even the best dates. I would always advise people to practise the best sexual health they can but not to beat themselves up if things go awry. In the same way you should wash your hands after using the toilet or take care with raw chicken, you wouldn’t consider yourself dirty and inferior if you passed the cold or food poisoning on to your partner.
Yet there is a real feeling of shame in society for people who have STIs as if those diseases make you morally inferior. There is something problematic of course if someone knows they have an illness and make no attempt to protect other people from that whether that’s not using a condom or not covering their mouth when they sneeze on the Tube (my disability makes me immune suppressed so probably more worried by a germy copy of the Metro on the Bakerloo line.)
But this shame and stigma simply worsens the problem. By suggesting that STIs are a moral failing you make people less likely to discuss the subject of using condoms or other barrier methods such dental dams with any sexual partner, especially ones they aren’t long term relationships with and it makes them afraid and ashamed to visit clinics for check ups and treatments.
Partly because it was essential to my job as a sex worker it’s been a long time since I felt any particular shame about visiting STI clinics viewing them as just as much a part of the NHS as all the other departments my chronic illness takes me to. But it’s clear to me that other people, including the NHS itself, do not see them like that judging by the shifty silence in the waiting rooms.
There’s always a Cinderella sense to them with euphemistic signage, hard to find departments, restricted opening hours you can’t book in advance and a vague feel of reprimand from the reception staff I find baffling especially when most of these clinics serve other aspects of sexual health too like contraception or smear tests. (And yet they wonder why women under 30 are failing to attend cervical screening tests as much as they should? What a puzzle.)
Yet when it came down to it and I discovered after a routine STI check at the fantastic Dean Street Express in Soho (which took me fifteen minutes including an HIV test) that I had chlamydia and had almost certainly given it to my Master, I felt incredibly guilty and disappointed in myself. I could see why people just do not want to have that awkward conversation especially if they fear being judged.
I stared at the text message of doom willing it away, drank several cups of tea to distract me and reassured myself that telling him was the right thing to do, especially because of Princess and that it couldn’t really be more awful than the only other time I had had to tell someone I had chlamydia.
Back in the days when I got round a lot of cock and wasn’t quite as sensible as I should have been, I ended up fucking a guy my very very coupled up housemate was obsessed with. On her boyfriend’s birthday when we were all in the pub she became paranoid that her fella could tell they had been having a torrid emotional affair for months. So in impeccable drunken logic I took said guy home for a decoy fuck so her boyfriend wouldn’t suspect anything. He turned out to be a spectacular fuck and didn’t leave for the entire weekend and definitely distracted both my flatmate and her boyfriend nicely.
Unfortunately it also gave me symptomatic chlamydia and I spent the next few weeks feeling like I had a dreadful kidney infection. I ended up with antibiotics and an awkward chat to be had on February 14th, having to phone my ex fuck to tell him I had chlamydia and he almost certainly did too. There’s never a good moment for that disclosure but accidentally interrupting his big Valentine’s Day date with the girlfriend I didn’t know he had took it to the next league.
My logic was that things could only go better this time with my Master and luckily they did. He basically sighed and shrugged like ‘shit happens’ and then we discussed best places to get antibiotics. I was mortified but he took it calmly and with concern for me as much as anything else and no annoyance at me for putting him and Princess in that situation. My other fuck buddy however was everything you don’t want when you have that conversation.
So while I’d still rather I’d never been in the situation with my Master it proved to me who I should be fucking and it’s not the man who gets angry or dismissive when you discuss sexual health or bodily autonomy. I ditched the fuck buddy and put my effort into my relationship with my Master instead.
It just goes to show when we don’t shame people for being imperfect or treat them like sexual lepers, they talk and trust more and the sex gets better no less…