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Dating can be hard in the first place, so when you approach dating with an STI, things can be even more challenging.
In fact, the idea of getting over the barrier of breaking down your own walls and sharing something so sensitive, not to mention something that inevitably comes with a backstory, may be so scary at times it makes dating seem not worth it or impossible. For whatever reason, our society still attaches a lot of shame undoubtedly stemming from ignorance about herpes and those with the virus.
More important than how widespread the virus is, is the lifestyle that comes along with it. For the record, just because someone has herpes does not mean he or she cannot date or that they are tarnished in some way.
All too frequently, STIs are spread during an individual's first sexual encounter or simply because a past partner was not honest about their condition. And despite what outdated stigma our society holds all too often holds, having herpes in no way signifies the infected individual was or us dirty or promiscuous. Do you think an STI-positive person tried to get infected?
If you have HSV-2, you probably know some of the best practices when it comes to dating: Be honest and tell your partner about the virus, but at an appropriate time. On the topic of rational, if you are infected, the infection alone is no reason to lower your dating standards or think of yourself as unworthy of a caring partner, physical touch and pleasure, or a loving relationship.
Luckily, the Internet breaks down some of the self and society-imposed barriers that come along with dating with herpes, providing a transparent medium to interact and get to know others without so much worry about ignorant judgment or responses.
The virus becomes less important and who you are as an individual, you know, your personal, quirks, likes and dislikes, are elevated.
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These sites provide a communal feeling, and just being on them may do wonders to increase your confidence in offline dating as well. We are not on the same side of this war. They reinforce the impulse of scared, raw people to hate themselves and hide from the rest of the world.
These websites enable the self-segregation of the H community in a way that I believe contributes to our invisibility and inertia.
They say to the rest of the world that we belong apart, that we are less than, that we are a hilarious PositiveSingles punch line. They send a progressive message to no one.
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Denying that is intellectually dishonest. Some of these websites claim to empower their customers. Maybe some people use them as a transitional tool before re-entering the wider dating sphere, and hey, cool, whatever. Good for those people. But they are just as often predatory environments where newly diagnosed men and women but usually women are bombarded with attention.
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Like other dating services, they can be unsafe spaces for women where harassment and coercion thrive. When you round up a vulnerable and isolated population, create a community space and fail to moderate it or protect your users, you create a dangerous environment.
These folks would be better served by a support community than a dating app. STI dating services are a product of the stigma, not an empowering way out of it.
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Not to mention that people with herpes are diverse. Having a minor skin condition in common is a shoddy foundation for a healthy relationship. I think most people who have had herpes for a few years know this too. The only people who ask me about herpes dating sites have just been diagnosed and are still daunted by the idea of disclosing—a fear I encourage them to tackle instead of pursuing these trap door dating sites.
Which leads me to my next concern: Some of them bring on consultants in the sexual health world, but only after the fact, and by and large their founders do not come from our community.
These entrepreneurs may believe they have our best interests at heart, but they will never understand the stigma as well as someone who lives with it.