It’s unfortunate that society seems to have made herpes the scarlet letter of our time. People are ashamed to even admit it to sexual partners, much less the general public. If you really think, there’s no good reason why. Except that herpes becomes something tangible that we can actually put our finger on that may just prove our own self-defeating beliefs around our lack of self-worth.

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Media doesn’t help out the cause either. It seems that herpes is the go-to joke in movies when it comes to making fun of characters who sleep around or look “slutty.” My favorite morning radio show always uses the classic line “the gift that keeps on giving” whenever they use the herpes zinger. Making jokes in this way just perpetuates the view that herpes is an outlier that only “certain people” have.
Let’s break this down: Are all people who have herpes sexual miscreants? No. Do all people who sleep around get herpes? No. Can a person who has had only one sexual partner get herpes? Yes. The proof against the stereotype abound. So why the disconnect between society’s perception of what a person with herpes is like and the actual people with herpes? I admit that for the first few years of my having herpes I would judge people with herpes as dirty, thinking that I was the special case who didn’t fit the “stereotype.” But it doesn’t take long living in a stereotype to realize that it just might just not be true. At all.
So what will it take to change a stereotype?
As people with herpes, we are the herpes representatives. If we are ashamed about it, others will shame us about it. If we tell it like it truly is, then we will change the tide.
Pardon the analogy, but it’s a lot like a kid being picked on by a bully on the playground. If the kid does think he deserves the abuse, he’ll take it and the bully will gladly continue in his role. But if the kid somehow realizes that he doesn’t deserve the treatment and starts to say he doesn’t appreciate what the bully puts him through and stands up for himself, the bully goes to pick on a more willing victim.

We as the herpes community don’t wear victimhood well. So why are we taking this? Why do we allow it? Ultimately, us allowing this is us perpetuating it.

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