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NEWS

Savage Love by Dan Savage

This colum may contain graphic sexual advice and is intended for adults only

 

In addition to being a nationally syndicated sex advice columnist and author of books, Savage can also lay claim to being the only person at The Stranger to have actually converted his sexuality into a profession. Of the 100-120 days he works in a given calendar year, Savage dedicates fully 90 of them to psychologically abusing his staff by rewriting articles without telling them, assigning huge pieces at the last minute, and questioning their dedication to the paper, their intellect, and indeed, their sexuality. He has a husband and a child. He is also wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice and cheats at racketball. Good luck getting him on the phone, and don't ever ask where he's going or where he's been.

 

May 13, 2019

Savage Love

Disclosed

by Dan Savage

 

Garbage human here. I’ve had herpes for about 15 years. The first five years, I was in a relationship with a guy who also had it. The last 10 years, I haven’t been in a serious relationship. I’ve been a (rare, drunk) one-night-stand type of gal, and I don’t usually tell the guy because, like, everyone has herpes. (I get that one in five isn’t everyone, but if you count HSV-1? I’ve seen numbers as high as 80 percent.) Frankly, it seems about as significant medically as minimally contagious mild acne. (Some risks to pregnancies and immunosuppressed people exist, and I know logically it’s not my call to determine what may be serious for someone else.) I justify nondisclosure to myself these ways, even though I know it’s not ethical. On the occasions where I have disclosed, I’ve been made to feel like a leper by dudes who 10 minutes before were begging me not to have to use a condom. I obviously have a lot of resentment over having this stupid thing and over the guilt I have around nondisclosure, and I suspect my history of casual sex is influenced by not wanting to deal with this conversation. Which brings us to now. What I thought was a one-night stand has turned into a months-long affair, and I’m amazed to report I find myself liking and respecting this guy. (I know, I know: If I really respected him, I’d have told him before I ever knew I respected him). What do I do? I have to tell him. But how? Is there any justification for what I’ve done? Can I just say, “Oh man, I noticed a thing and went and got tested and guess what?” That just adds to the lie. There’s no way I can have a relationship with this guy based on trust going forward, is there? I’ve fucked this up and I have to bail, don’t I? Am I going to be alone for the rest of my life?

Deserves To Be Alone

 

You’re not a garbage human, DTBA. You didn’t share something you should’ve—the fact that you, like upwards of 50 percent of everyone, have herpes—but weren’t obligated to. The problem with not disclosing, as you now know, is that casual sex partners have a way of becoming potential long-term partners. And by the time you recognize someone’s long-term potential, the stakes are so high that bailing looks like an easier option.

“We don’t think DTBA needs to bail,” Momo and Felix wrote in a joint e-mail after reading your letter. “And we don’t think she’s destined to be alone for the rest of her life.”

Momo and Felix are the cocreators of My Boyfriend Has Herpes (instagram.com/my_boyfriend_has_herpes), an Instagram account that has amassed more than 15,000 followers in just a few months. Using simple, direct prose and Momo’s charming illustrations, Momo and Felix educate others about herpes while sharing the story of their relationship—from how they met, to Felix’s disclosure, to Momo’s initial hesitation to get involved with someone who has herpes.

“Our stance is pro-disclosure, always, but we know this isn’t possible for everyone living with HSV,” said Momo and Felix. “Unfortunately, one of the significant pitfalls of [not disclosing early on] is the difficulty it adds to the potential of a long-term relationship. And while we don’t agree with DTBA’s choice to not disclose to her partners, we understand why she might have made those choices. The stigma against herpes is terrible.”

Momo and Felix both feel—and I’m with them—that you need to be completely honest with this guy, even if it means the relationship could end. But it might not end, DTBA. He might have a disclosure of his own to make—he could have herpes, too—or the relationship could end for other reasons. You’ve been dating this guy for only a few months, and he could decide to end things for reasons that have nothing to do with the disclosure you’re about to make and/or your failure to make it sooner. Or you might learn something about him down the road that’s a deal breaker. (Have you searched his place for MAGA hats?)

So how do you broach this topic?

“She obviously cares about this person,” wrote Momo and Felix. “She made a mistake and she wants to make it right. DTBA needs to acknowledge her actions (opting for nondisclosure) and their impact (putting her partner at risk without his informed consent). DTBA’s partner may very likely feel betrayed or deceived. He might want to end the relationship, and his feelings would be valid. Unfortunately, all that DTBA can do is acknowledge her mistake, make herself vulnerable, and accept his reaction.”

“But whatever happens, she doesn’t deserve to be alone,” they said. “We all make mistakes, and we all have the opportunity to do better.”

 

I’m a 24-year-old bisexual female, and the new person I’m dating just disclosed their HSV-2 status. I really like them and was all set to get intimate with them. But their disclosure made me change my mind. They are understanding but sad. But I feel terrible about it! They did the right, honest thing, and now they’re getting punished for it. Herpes isn’t dangerous, it’s usually not even symptomatic, and the social stigma (the chances of someone like ME saying no) is the worst part. I get all that, intellectually. And I’d still rather… just… not take the risk of becoming someone who has to have a slightly harder dating life, because of the stress of disclosing to judgmental people like myself. Have I perpetuated the stigma of having herpes because I’m scared of ending up in the “life is harder now” group?

Help A Reluctant Miss

I shared your letter with Momo and Felix, HARM, and they wanted to respond to you individually. But first a quick download: Herpes is caused by two different viruses: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is commonly called “oral herpes” and HSV-2 is called “genital herpes,” even though both are transmitted in similar ways—vaginal, anal, and oral sex, as well as simple skin-to-skin contact—and both can cause sores on the mouth or genitals. Herpes is incredibly common: Some studies have found that more than two out of every three people have herpes. But most people who have herpes don’t know they do—which means that you could already have herpes yourself, HARM.

“It’s HARM’s right to choose not to sleep with anyone for any reason,” said Momo. “But I do think that she’s perpetuating the stigma by rejecting someone just because they have HSV.

I totally understand her concerns, and I had the same concerns before deciding to be intimate with Felix. But after doing my research and contemplating, I decided that I’d rather contract HSV than feed into the stigma. I don’t expect everyone to share the same feelings as me, but that was my choice. Plus, if she walks away from this person and keeps on dating, there’s a very good chance that a future partner might have HSV and not know it. So really, is she taking less risk by not dating them?”

“Like Momo said, everyone has the right to choose who they do or don’t sleep with, regardless of their reasons,” said Felix. “Is HARM perpetuating the stigma against HSV? A bit. But I think her feelings are super-understandable. It’s important for people to educate themselves and take action toward dismantling the stigma, but to potentially take on the burden of living with the stigma is a huge leap. I don’t know if being concerned about becoming a victim of the stigma is the same as perpetuating it. But while HARM fears that contracting HSV will limit her dating life in the future, if she walks away from a relationship with potential, then her feelings have already limited her dating life.”

 

On the Lovecast, listen and learn about vasectomies!: savagelovecast.com.

 

mail@savagelove.net

Follow Dan on Twitter @fakedansavage

ITMFA.org

 

Savage Love

Best Wishes

by Dan Savage

 

I’m a 43-year-old straight woman, and I spent the majority of my 30s celibate. At 40, I realized that while I wasn’t interested in dating, I was tired of my vibrator. I also realized that it was time to go forth and fuck with the body I had instead of waiting for the idealized body I was going to have someday. Over the past three years—despite being as fat as ever—I’ve consistently had fun, satisfying, exciting, creative, sometimes weird, occasionally scary, but mostly awesome sex. One guy I met on Craigslist was particularly great: awesome kisser, amazing dick. He came over, we fucked, it was excellent, we chatted, he left. This happened about four times. And then CL shut down the personals section. The only contact info I have for the guy is the anonymous CL address, and it no longer works. He has my Gmail address (the one I use for dating sites), but he has not e-mailed me. I’m not a crazy stalker (I swear!), but he once told me he teaches at a university in our area, and I managed to find his photo and contact info on the school website. So I know how to reach him—but that’s a spectacularly bad idea, right? Unless you think it isn’t? If a dude I’d fucked a few times tracked me down at my job, I would freak out. But I keep thinking: Would it really be SUCH a bad idea to send him ONE e-mail? Should I just accept that it was great while it lasted? Or should I e-mail him and run the risk of pissing off/freaking out a nice guy?

Can Really Envision Every Possibility

 

Don’t do it, CREEP—don’t do that thing you already know you shouldn’t, that thing you wouldn’t want some dude to do to you, that thing you were probably hoping I’d give you permission to do.

That thing? Don’t do it.

You’re engaged in what’s called “dickful thinking” when guys do it—at least that’s what I call it, CREEP. It’s like wishful thinking, but with dicks. Men convince themselves of something improbable (“I bet she’s one of those women who like unsolicited dick pics!”) or unlikely (“Showing up at her workplace will convince her to take me back!”) because it’s what they want. Think of all the guys you’ve ever known who said, “She wants me!” when in reality he was the one who wanted her. Clitful thinking may be rarer than dickful thinking—women being less likely to think with their genitals and/or being more risk-averse due to socialization, slut-shaming, and the ever-present threat of gendered violence—but it’s not unheard of for a woman to rationalize unacceptable behavior (contacting this man at work) or deploy a self-serving justification (it’s just ONE e-mail) or solicit a “You go, girl!” from a sex-advice columnist when what she needs to hear is “Hell no, girl!”

Again, don’t do it. This guy has your e-mail address and he knows how to reach you. And since you didn’t have all that fun, satisfying, exciting, creative sex over the last few years with only him, CREEP, I shouldn’t have to tell you to focus on your other options. But since your clit is doing your thinking for you right now, I must: Leave this dude alone and go fuck some other dudes.

 

I have a desperate question for you. I’ve worked with a vivacious 30-year-old for five years. For three and a half years, she had a live-in boyfriend. She had a different boyfriend recently. I’m 58 years old and not good-looking. She is always sweet to me and always compliments me. She’s said that I’m a genius and a gentleman, that I’m a hoot, and that I have a confident walk. I’ve also overheard her say that she likes older men. However, a few months ago she walked up to me out of the blue and said that she just wants platonic relationships with coworkers. Then I overheard her say to another coworker: “I put out a sign, he will figure it out eventually.” But which sign did she mean? The “platonic” thing or the constant kindness?

Wondering On Reciprocated Kindnesses

 

This probably isn’t what you wanted to hear either, WORK, but this woman isn’t interested in you—and if you weren’t engaged in dickful thinking, you’d know that. But your dick has somehow managed to convince you that you’re the “he” she was referring to when she talked about sending someone a sign. But you need to ask yourself—and it’s best to ask right after you masturbate, as that’s when we’re least prone to dickful thinking—which is likelier: she went out of her way to let you know she’s not interested in dating anyone at work and you’re the “he” she was referring to, or the “he” she was referring to was one of the roughly four billion other men on the planet and not a coworker? I don’t mean to be cruel, WORK, I just want to stop you from doing something that could get you fired or screw up what has, up to now, been a pleasant work relationship. While kindness can sometimes signal romantic interest, the full weight of the evidence here—including the fact that she didn’t send an unambiguous signal when she was briefly single—indicates otherwise.

 

I’m a cis, white, gay male—partnered 15 years, monogamous for the first 14. About a year ago, my partner agreed to let me play on my own outside of the relationship. The rules: not when he’s in town, no one comes home, no regulars. I’ve taken good care of myself (sexual frustration + gym)—and at 50, I find that I’m attracting guys half my age. Sometimes, in the heat of passion, they call me “daddy.” This took a LOT of getting used to, but am I going to stop what we’re doing to discuss nomenclature? Anyway, I refuse to call them “son,” because I find that creepy. “Baby” doesn’t really work for me, either—it’s what I call my partner. That leaves “boy.” Which is fine if they’re white. The problem is, some of the jaw-droppers calling me “daddy” have been black. And I absolutely refuse to call a black guy “boy.” I want to leave them feeling amazing, not brooding on race relations and power imbalances. So what does a beautiful, dark-skinned, daddy-loving young man want to be called by the older white guy pounding him?

Daddy’s Uncomfortable Race Relations

 

Good for you for being able to think clearly even when your dick is hard—even when it’s buried in some hot guy—but I have to fault you for not reasoning your way to the obvious answer.

You’re a white guy who doesn’t feel comfortable calling a black sex partner “boy,” which is usually what gay guys who call older partners “daddy” want to hear. But instead of asking the black guys you’re fucking what they want to be called, DURR, you opted to ask some other old white dude what he thinks the black guys you’re fucking might want to be called. Do you see the problem here? The guys you should be asking about this… are the guys you’re fucking. And you don’t even have to call a halt to the action in order to ask them! Next time you’re balls-deep in some hot guy and he says, “Fuck me, daddy,” growl and say, “That’s right, I’m your daddy—and what are you?” If he says, “I’m your boy,” then that’s obviously what he wants to be called.

 

On the Lovecast, is it time for a gay homeland? Listen at savagelovecast.com.

 

mail@savagelove.net

@fakedansavage on Twitter

ITMFA.org