When I was in elementary school, I didn’t get much of a sex education. I, just like my other classmates, was told to always use condoms during vaginal intercourse, so we wouldn’t catch STDs. Yet… no one told us about using condoms for oral sex, no one told us what to do if we end up getting an STD and most importantly — no one told us that people can lie to you about their sexual health, and you don’t have to have sex with many people to get an STD.
Growing up, I was the typical good girl. I had my first kiss at 14 and my first sexual intercourse at 17 which was later than most of my peers did. I never thought that I would be the person who would get an STD because good girls don’t end up in those situations, right? Wrong.
When I was 19 years old, I met someone on Fetlife. I was curious about BDSM, thirsty for love, and I thought that a way older man could give me all that I needed. I thought an older man would be more honest, wouldn’t try to lie or manipulate me. Of course, I was wrong. I only met him once and had this dreamy, seemingly wonderful date. He took me to a restaurant, paid for the dinner and appeared to be such a gentleman. I didn’t mean to stay the night at a stranger’s place after the first date, but I did just that. This was the person who seemed to truly care and promised to help me in so many ways. I trusted him and thought that I was safe with him, and he betrayed that trust. What I was expecting to remember as a hot encounter with an older guy, had some unpleasant consequences in the near future.
I never saw him again after that first date. Did I want to? At first, yes. But as certain things came to light, they made me feel physically nauseous. Although I had ‘the talk’ about sexual health with him before even meeting him, about a month later I started having weird symptoms. At first, it was just irritation and itching/burning sensations that couldn’t really be relieved by anything. I went to my gynaecologist, who said it is just a yeast infection. So I got prescribed a medication that I took 3 times over a 2 or 3-month time period. Unfortunately, the symptoms still kept coming back and even getting worse. Passing urine was painful, and deep down I knew that something was very, very wrong. I had to get tested for STDs, and so I did.
The results came the day I had one of my exams. I didn’t want to open them before the exam, as I felt that it would upset me too much to focus. But I ended up bursting into tears during the exam. And when my teacher asked me what’s the matter, I just couldn’t say. I felt too ashamed. What would I even say? Oh, don’t mind me, a few months ago I went on a one date with a stranger, and now I’ve got an STD? All it took was one look at the results for my worst fears to be confirmed. Out of several STDs I got tested for, one came back positive. Fortunately, it was one that could be treated, but nevertheless it was a really unpleasant experience.
For these few months prior to getting tested I felt horrible not only physically but also emotionally. I felt ashamed, worried and scared. In these few months I also found out that I wasn’t the only person this guy got sexually involved with, which was a stab in the back as he never bothered to tell me. Instead, he just updated his relationship status on Fetlife. Play partners with so-and-so. At this point I don’t know what felt more like a betrayal — him sleeping with other people without telling me or him lying about his sexual health. Both were connected and seemed equally bad.
It took me some time to finally gather my courage and tell him about the situation. Initially, I was planning to tell him in person and solve it in a mature way. Maybe he didn’t know he had it? Shit happens. An apology, some honesty and willingness to get tested and treated would have gone a long way. However, the reality could not have been further from that. The response I got after proposing to meet up and talk was: “You know that if we meet, we’re going to have sex, right?” I couldn’t believe my eyes. The audacity! When I told him it won’t happen, he decided there was no point in meeting. So, I had to tell him the bad news over the text.
He denied having an STD and told me that I must have gotten it from someone else. But at the time, he was the only person I got intimate with during the 6-month period. Still, he kept shaking off the responsibility and blaming me. He got more defensive and angry with every message, until eventually he told me to get lost. Although he had been an irresponsible prick and given me an STD, I was the bad guy here. Eventually, I think we just blocked each other, and that was that. I haven’t heard from him ever since.
Something that no one really tells you about getting an STD is how it impacts you mentally. How much shame, guilt and self-hate comes with it. It took me about a year to properly process it and get myself in a better place mentally. When my next partner asked if I’m really sure that the STD got cured, I got an anxiety attack and burst out in tears on a bus. Maybe if someone had told me in sex ed that getting an STD isn’t the end of the world and would have explained to me what to do next, I wouldn’t have felt this way. But most institutions of education seem to talk about this topic in a way that if you catch an STD, you become damaged goods. They make you think that no one will ever want you after you have gone through this experience. Hell, I didn’t even want me after that.
I still recall the hesitance to touch myself after this incident. How could I give myself pleasure if I was at a constant worry of what symptoms I might discover next. For a few months, I was too aware of whatever was between my legs. I felt every inch, but not in a good way. How could I ever enjoy self-pleasure or sex after all the burning, itching and irritation? And more importantly — how could I ever trust someone to have sex with me again? One bad apple in the basket made me wonder if the entire basket is full of rotten apples. I was left wondering, how many people really put their selfish needs before common decency. I felt crushed.
Eventually, I healed from it — both physically and emotionally. The emotional healing process was significantly longer, of course. It took me at least a year and a half to start feeling better about myself. And now, four years after this experience, I’m better than ever.
Catching an STD is not the end of the world. More people have gone through this than you think. It doesn’t make you a bad person, lying about it to your partner/-s does. Please be honest to your sexual partners, regardless if you are romantically involved with them or not. I know it can be hard to open up about an issue like this, but the right person will understand. And those who don’t — just let them go. Someone better will come in place.