How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love VD

“Venereal disease” is a buzz-word that evokes a sort of disgust and moral righteousness that is unique among infirmities. No one sneers at someone who catches the flu, or disdainfully mocks cancer victims, but sufferers of VD are not blessed with this immunity. Poor them.

I recently came down with (I have no idea what it actually means to “come down with” something, but it seems like a nice euphemism for “contracting via impassioned intercourse”) something called Mollosum Contagiosum, which is a fungal infection that is oftentimes sexually transmitted. They look like itchy red bumps with little white heads reminiscent of blackheads, and until recently, they were cascading up the shaft of my penis from the base of my balls. I’m not Web MD, and this is as far as my knowledge of the subject goes. However, I do know that having Molloscum sucks.

Treatment for my Molloscum consisted of visiting my University’s health center and discussing my ailment with a certified medical technician (“I see these things several times a week,” he insists smugly, hovering over my cock with a funny look in his eye) as well as cryotherapy. Remember that ice cannon that Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin (the lame one with George Clooney) used in-between bad puns? That’s cryotherapy on the macro-scale. Liquid nitrogen, the substance harnessed in this micro-ice cannon, boils at -321°F (that’s colder than the temperature on Saturn). Thus, you can imagine the explosion of agony as temperatures colder than the 6th rock from the sun are blasted at the shaft of your cock, as well as the nagging discomfort that haunted me as I limped out of the examination room.

When I initially noticed these suspicious white growths, their origins and identity were a mystery. And their sudden manifestation on my cock was certainly stressful. I looked up pictures of Genital Herpes, desperately hoping to confirm my hopes that these dick zits were simply benign accoutrement for my otherwise healthy-looking sex organ. My search results were not comforting. Herpes sores, it turns out, have the same little white heads as Molloscum, and my penis looked like the spitting image of the Herpes dicks you see in Planned Parenthood pamphlets (albeit much, much, much less progressed).

By this point, I am beside myself with stress. Do you know what it’s like walking around with the feeling that your life has been fundamentally altered by rogue viral forces, that your genitals are the cause, and that your life will never be the same again (maybe I’m being a little over-dramatic, but this is an accurate picture of how I felt at the time)? It’s a pretty awful sensation, I assure you.

Anyway, the whole ordeal was incredibly embarrassing; at this point, I’d only told one or two friends, and I have no intention of going public or viral among my associates with the update that I narrowly avoided a lifetime of Valtrex treatment. Maybe some of you are embarrassed for me and find it unfathomable that I am recounting this story publicly at all. I’m afraid these people would find most of my actions unfathomable, so I’m not worried about explaining myself to them. This is for the rest of you.

I contracted this noisome rash, presumably, by (lovingly) engaging in repeated acts of casual sex. If I assume correctly, many reading this have also (passionately) indulged in. Need I feel embarrassed, ashamed, by this? Should I hide this malady from friends and loved ones, neglect to mention it on first dates (okay, obviously), and generally submit to feelings of inadequacy and cowardice? Sure, if that’s your bag, by all means, do that when-and-if you catch the clap or come down with a spot ‘o trach. But I think that’s ridiculous.

I have a lot of sex, with a lot of different people sometimes, and I don’t think that’s something I should feel bad about. If that’s your thing, keeping your sex life private, confined, and monogamous, I totally respect that, and more power to you. But, as far as I’m concerned, that sort of sex shouldn’t be more culturally or institutionally valued than my kind of sex, which, oftentimes, is casual, polyamorous, experimental, and hot as hell. Not that I don’t have other kinds of sex ever: I’ve been in plenty of serious relationships, and appreciate monogamous sexual partnerships for what they are – a pleasant way to get to know someone. But when I’m twenty-ish, establishing my sexual interests and determining my sexual identity, I find humping around to be the way to go.

That said, I think casually sex (when engaged in safely and appropriately) is as morally valid a sexual lifestyle as abstinence, and it is only our Western, post-Victorian social constructs idealizing chastity and privileging monogamy over all other forms of sexual expression that claim otherwise. Call it a manifesto, but I don’t buy into that nonsense, and I don’t think I should have to. I was wearing a condom when I contracted Molloscum, and I don’t feel obligated to be embarrassed by my sexual conduct. Call me a martyr, NBD.

My Molloscum’s gone now, though my thoughts about what venereal disease means and how society perceives it have lingered. I’m not sure why I’m writing this, except that I think it’s important for people who’ve contracted STIs to share their stories, especially if we want to shake the ugly stigmas surrounding VD transmission in a post-AIDS world. People who catch STIs are not morally vapid creatures, even if casually sex played a part in their transmission. Our society’s framework for understanding venereal disease is woeful and shaming, and is just another system of oppression in a world already filled to the brim with disempowerment.

But I think another world is possible, one where contracting Trichomoniasis or Chlamydia (or even HIV) isn’t damning or shameful or morally corrupt. It’s just another crappy thing that happens to otherwise good people — like broken cell phone screens and lost car keys. TC mark

image – Taki Steve

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  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    Wow, Saturn is cold … …the thought of anything happening to my genitalia makes me cringe.

  • Anonymous

    I’m confused as to why you even elected to have cryotherapy. Mollescum goes away on it’s own without treatment… which why it is not really regarded traditionally as a STI.

    • Anonymous

      I was told it can spread easily when I learned of it. Best to zap it before it does.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Rogers/100000339098286 Robert Rogers

        ya, the doctor told me I didn’t need to get it zapped off, but he recommended it so it would be less likely to spread.

  • Anonymous

    your write very smoothly. a good read. 

  • http://twitter.com/snritchiee Sarah Ritchie

    kind of like cold sores and genital herpes… 

  • facepalm

    you idiot. it’s TRICHOMONIASIS. there’s no such thing as  “trachimosis”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Rogers/100000339098286 Robert Rogers

      hahaha, you’re right, should’ve checked the spelling before I sent it out. Good lookin’ out.

  • Anonymous

    linkhide.com.ar/47632

  • oolala

    Yes my first reaction is, “ew,” (the -scum sounds gross) but I liked this tirade. Power to sexin it up!

  • Anon

    Thank you for posting this. I have Molloscum as well and this gave me a greater peace of mind. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Rogers/100000339098286 Robert Rogers

      Ya bro, it’s really not a big deal, I just kept my dick to itself for a few weeks and it has gone away on its own. I talked to a friend about it recently and he had it as well, only it was on his face (he thinks he got it from sharing a razor with his brother). Anyways, hope yours goes away soon.

  • Rachel

    Would you be writing this post if it HAD been herpes you had contracted, or is that just too yuck to admit? I get that you feel relieved and happy you narrowly averted the virus you thought you had (which you most likely carry and don’t show symptoms of, if what you say about your sex life is true), that would theoretically so sicken future casual sex partners (who also probably carry some form of the virus). Are you still in the camp that the herp fundamentally changes your life forever…? Because a fundamental life changing disease in my book is one where you have a life-threatening issue going on, not one that is relatively manageable and essentially may just gross out and put off casual sex partners. I guess I really liked the overall message here, and I am all about blowing the lid off STD social stigma and shame, but this whole thing was a little too smug in my opinion. Good luck, I hope you are tested often and your ordeal made you consider that the more serious virus’ you may be pass along (ie: HPV & yeah, HIV).

  • http://entropicalia.wordpress.com Alison

    I’ve gotten a staph infection from bacteria that lives on all of our skins. I’ve gotten gonorrhea despite safe sex practices. And I can tell you that the staph infection was much harder to get rid of. Sorry to go anonymous on this comment, but thank you.

  • Rachel Otwell

    Would you be writing this post if it HAD been herpes you had contracted, or is that just too yuck to admit? I get that you feel relieved and happy you narrowly averted the virus you thought you had (which you most likely carry and don’t show symptoms of, if what you say about your sex life is true), that would theoretically so sicken future casual sex partners (who also probably carry some form of the virus). Are you still in the camp that the herp fundamentally changes your life forever…? Because a fundamental life changing disease in my book is one where you have a life-threatening issue going on, not one that is relatively manageable and essentially may just gross out and put off casual sex partners. I guess I really liked the overall message here, and I am all about blowing the lid off STD social stigma and shame, but this whole thing was a little too smug in my opinion. Good luck, I hope you are tested often and your ordeal made you consider the more serious virus’ you may pass along (ie: HPV & yeah, HIV).

    • Samantha

      Having the herp does change things. You should try dating after you contract it. When is the right time to tell someone that you have it? Obviously before you have sex, but how about the first date. So it does fundamentally change your social life.

    • Silver

      Very true. Maybe he wouldn’t have written it at all if he had HSV. 

  • Rishtopher

    I find that I have mixed feelings after reading this. I’m a generally squeamish person, so it was hard for me to continue, but I ended up finishing. The article was actually pretty interesting and informative.

    That said, I’m having a hard time wiping the mental image of a polka dot penis from my mind…

  • Lou

    I have a normal life, with normal safe sex and contracted herpes and i am now on valtrex treatment for life.

    guess what: i am still very sexy, still have a lot of sex, feel like a normal person, and have people in my bed even after i have warned them. 

    you’re the first to say it’s a shame people look at VD like they do, but actually you are like them, so relieved not to have it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Rogers/100000339098286 Robert Rogers

      You bring up a really good point, Lou. I’m sorry if I offended you in any way, that was certainly not my intention. I admit that I was relieved that I didn’t have herpes: I think such a reaction is normal (after all, it is a contagious virus that I would carry with me –asymptomatic or otherwise– for the rest of my life). And I agree that initially I struggled with internalized guilt that fed off exactly the same puritanical sexual framework that I critique here. That was silly and stupid of me, as I’m sure you’d agree.

      I certainly did not intend to infer that people who have herpes generally contract it by having casual sex. I haven’t looked at the evidence, and even if I had, I do not feel that making that case is an empowering path to tread. Of course you’re still a normal, sexy person; and more power to you for being open and honest with your sexual partners. Sorry again if you feel my essay belittled or insulted you in any way.

  • anony

    lol buncha hoes

  • Samantha

    I have herpes.

    I would say, “there, I said it” but I tell everyone. It isn’t that I’m not ashamed of it, it’s just that it’s easier to get it out of the way up front. Got drunk at a party the other week and just blurted it out to everyone.
    Better to get it out there, especially when dating. It took me a year to figure that one out. Weeds out the weak (or just the ones that really aren’t that interested). I even had a button made that said “I have herpes”.

    Of course your article made herpes sound like the ultimate vd that we should all be ashamed of.

    • Asdf

      Yea his whole “tell everyone! no more secrets!” message seems to be tailored to cases of treatable STDs.

  • KFC

    Have not read other comments, just wanna say that molloscum is not strictly a VD, its something that kids often pass to one another from playing. I had that shit except no where near my shaft/cock/balls region. I had it on my bellybutton and on my wrist. So yeah. Sucks, but not totally a STD/ STI or whatever they call that shit now. 

  • Hills

    I had the unlucky experience this past summer of catching type 1 herpes from someone who gets cold sores.  I get them now too… just not on my mouth.  I will not deny that having this virus has changed my life forever and that it is somewhat of a burden.  Dating was something I used to approach lightheartedly, now it scares me to death.  I still haven’t quite gotten over the initial trauma and I’m still very bitter, but I know it will go away eventually. 

    Once it happens to you, you understand that having something like herpes is an inconvenience at the worst.  You aren’t dying, you aren’t injured, you didn’t become less intelligent or less attractive.  You just have some uncomfortable conversations to look forward to.  The challenge lies in convincing the rest of the herpes-free world of what you have discovered.  Some people might reject you, and I will be the first to say how badly that hurts.  But I also refuse to believe that there aren’t people out there who will feel that you are worth the risk, even though I haven’t met any yet.

    It’s very unfortunate that it takes actually contracting an STI for people to realize what it really means:  NOTHING.  You aren’t a bad person, you aren’t dirty, and you’re not damaged goods.  The stigma that surrounds these diseases is the most crippling aspect of having one, and it’s treated like it was in this article.  Because it’s not life-threatening, herpes is either a joke (you only become aware of the amount of herpes jokes once you have it) or something that only “sluts” have.  Let me tell you something; of people ages 18-30, one in three has a form of herpes (type 1 or type 2, oral or genital).  ONE IN THREE.  And most of us are functional, respectable people: your boss, your best friend, maybe even your mother.  

    You’re allowed to be relieved that you were lucky enough to contract something that goes away with medicine and treatment.  You should be even more relieved if you’re still clean as a whistle.  But for the sake of the sanity of us that weren’t so lucky, be respectful and think about us before you make a joke or a tasteless comment. 

    • http://dirtyyoungmen.wordpress.com Maxwell Chance

      You have herpies?! FUCKING GROSS, you nasty slut! I can’t contract it from replying to your post, can I? Oh no. I have herpies now, don’t I? You are a bad person.

    • http://dirtyyoungmen.wordpress.com Maxwell Chance

      You have herpies?! FUCKING GROSS, you nasty slut! I can’t contract it from replying to your post, can I? Oh no. I have herpies now, don’t I? You are a bad person.

    • Silver

      Hills, thank you for what you wrote. I also caught type 1 three week ago the same way you did. I’m still hurt and dealing with the way this is going to affect my life. Some days I forget I even carry this and some days, I feel like I will always be alone. This article treated every single other STI as something that was, in the end, okay. Except for Herpes. That kind of hurts considering what the point of this article was. 

  • Carolyn

    Great article – definitely agree. The stigma needs to go. You are a martyr!

  • http://dirtyyoungmen.wordpress.com Maxwell Chance

    Yeah, liquid nitrogen to the cock. Been there. Don’t recommend it.

  • http://dirtyyoungmen.wordpress.com Maxwell Chance

    Yeah, liquid nitrogen to the cock. Been there. Don’t recommend it.

  • https://twitter.com/iamthepuddles Jordana Bevan

    My friend got Molloscum and I got HPV in the same week. It’s always nice to have a friend along for the  VD/STI ride. sigh.

    • https://twitter.com/iamthepuddles Jordana Bevan

      thanks for fightin for our rights

  • anon, duh

    interesting. by all logic, if you kiss people with cold sores (oral herpes, obviously) and don’t ask before letting someone perform oral sex on you (about the same) then why would anyone care about genital herpes? 

    same thing, different locations.

    seriously, if it’s not HIV don’t fret. just take care of yourself (and do the necessary follow-up medical treatments, obvs) and move on.

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    all these commentors with herpes are taking this article mad personally.

    you guys, it’s not a big deal. anyone who won’t fuck you (for having herpes) is probably too puritanical to fuck you right anyway. holler at me if you’re fly, babes.

  • Lilym

    While this critique/personal anecdote is generally charming and agreeable, lets be honest about something: judging from your experience with having a VD as well as an (assumed) judgment of your person, you have probably one of the most privileged positions in the world to contract a VD. If you are white, heterosexual, male (and not trans), able-bodied, not fat, reasonably attractive, university-educated or enrolled, not a sex worker, with access to health care and not living in poverty, you stand to suffer from a LOT less stigma and discrimination than most.  I obviously can’t know these things about you, but lets just say that for some folks there’s a lot more at stake than being seen as “morally corrupt” or gaining an ill reputation. So yeah, carry on the struggle, but the stigma of VDs come from a lot more places than our puritanical sensibilities, and it is those systems that need resisting.

    Also, we don’t live in a post-aids world.

    • Keltydennis

      Totally agree.

    • jay

      I like how you try to refute his situation by stereotyping him because you assume these things about his lifestyle.

  • https://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/i-have-herpes-and-its-not-the-end-of-the-world/ I Have Herpes And It’s Not The End Of The World | Thought Catalog

    […] have to get a blood test to find out if you have the virus — herpes is not included in the standard “testing package” that you get when you’re tested for STDs, and it’s not visible unless you’re […]

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