The Most Painful Side Effect Of Genital Herpes Is Stigma

Most people know what herpes are. There’s the kind that gives you unsightly and painful cold sores on and around your mouth and there’s the kind that does so on and around your genitals. Herpes are extremely easily transmittable, requiring only skin to skin contact, with condoms being an ineffective form of prevention. About 1 in 6 Americans aged 14-49 have genital herpes causing them some pain and discomfort but more than anything else, embarrassment.

Perhaps the most devastating side effect of genital herpes is stigma. The stigma associated with herpes is absolutely brutal, especially considering the fact that it is non-lethal and, beyond it’s unsightliness, is harmless. It’s true, many people’s first herpes flare up can be painful or prolonged but we forget that the shame associated with herpes can cause significant emotional damage to many people who have the virus.

Sadly, herpes is incurable at this point in time. If you contract it, you have it for life. But there is something that can be done about herpes. The world at large can stop giving such an enormous fuck about it. Beyond the actual outbreaks, it’s such a non-thing, but even reading this I’m sure some of you are still completely turned off by the idea of herpes as though it were some giant mark of uncleanliness. “People with herpes are dirty sluts,” is the general consensus and in our society it is acceptable to openly mock them both in our personal lives but also, in some cases, in the media.

The shaming and the stigma surrounding herpes is one of the saddest consequences of the low level of sexual education amongst adults. It is so common, that when we speak flippantly and hurtfully about it in our social groups, the chance that someone present has herpes is quite high. Could you imagine being that person?

Herpes and HPV are so, so common. Most sexually active individuals have at least one of the two, the one’s with herpes and the strains of HPV that cause warts just happen to be the unlucky ones who have to explain their STIs to their partners (or worse, hide them) in hopes that they won’t run for the hills or shame them publicly. Imagine what effect this would have on a person’s confidence and sex life.

We need to educate ourselves on the realities of herpes and HPV and stop this culture of stigma surrounding them. We need to eradicate sexual shaming in all its forms, not just shame about orientation or how many partners one chooses to have, but the shame about the real consequences of simply having sex, because the only way to protect against herpes is abstinence. The only reason you don’t have herpes is because of dumb luck, and who knows, herpes can lie dormant and symptomless, it could be you that is giving herpes to the very people that you are shaming. Just think before you speak about herpes, are your words contributing to the worst side effects of this virus or healing them? There isn’t a cure for herpes, there is a cure for stigma.

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What’s On Our Radar 02/13/2013

Floating around the internet, here’s what I found:

Bang With Friend’s Takes All The Fun Out Of Friend Sex, Bang With Friends is a new Facebook app that…well…yeah – Nerve

In other app news ‘Predicktor’ App Predicts Men’s Penis Size Based On Personal Stats – Huffington Post

There were a lot of lists going around, here’s two relavent ones from Alternet: 9 Interesting Things You May Not Know About The Clitoris and 10 Fascinating Facts About Men, Sex and Testosterone – Alternet

And a list for all my feminists: 17 Essays By Female Writers That Everyone Should Read – Flavorwire

When It Comes To Condoms One Size Does Not Fit All…because you’re huge! – The Psychology Of Human Sexuality

And finally, this amazing new breast cancer app:


Could Valentine’s Day Be A Hazard To Your Relationship?

This being a sex blog I feel a slight obligation to mention Valentine’s Day which is coming up on Thursday. Valentine’s Day is a lot like your birthday or New Year’s, we tend to build it up to be this really amazing day that should be perfect and romantic. These super high expectations lead to us NEVER being able to fulfill them and a high potential for let down. We shouldn’t let a greeting card company dictate when and how we celebrate our relationships but, if you do wish to celebrate this Valentine’s day, here’s my advice. Keep your expectations low, just treat it like a regular old date night, don’t do what you feel you are supposed to because it’s Valentine’s Day, do what will be special to you and your partner. If you are planning on going out for dinner, take Dan Savage’s advice: Fuck First! Have sex and then go for dinner. So many Valentine’s Days are spoiled by going out for a heavy, rich meal and desert only to fall into a food coma and never end up having sex. Fuck first, it will ensure that you’ll have sex on Valentine’s Day and then you can make a later reservation at a restaurant for, say, 9:00 when it’s not so busy. But most of all, don’t forget to do this kind of celebration with your partners all throughout the year. This is the one day of the year where everyone is trying to be romantic…what’s special about that?

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Sex Is The Way We Play, A Rant

Is sex the most important thing in the world? No, obviously not, but it is really, really important. Now, as the writer of the sex blog, of course I’d say that. Sure, sure, sex is sooo important, gimme a break. But I mean it, even though it’s not the most important thing for humans, it’s way up there.

Ok, so here’s what’s more important than sex: strong, healthy, loving relationships. That is the most important thing in the world, period. But I’m not here to talk about why relationships are so integral being human, I’m here to talk about why sex is.

Sex is how adults play, which is the word we use for, “things we do for fun.” Remember fun? Fun is that thing that, when you were a ki,d you knew without question was the most important thing in the world. Relationships are what keep us alive, fun is what we live for. Now, I can already hear some readers saying, “Well he’s a millennial, of course he thinks fun is what we should live for, such narcissism.” Yeah, well, if that’s you right now then go away and stop bumming the rest of us out (or keep reading, whatever).

Play is super important, as much today as ever. We work many, many long hours as Western adults and are encouraged to funnel any and all creativity into our work. Fantasy and roleplaying are looked down upon as juvenile and have been relegated to the last bastion of play for adults, sex. Now all my Settlers of Catan players out there are getting their panties in a knot and I acknowledge that games in all forms are having a renaissance, and this is fantastic news. Right now, however, sex is still the primary form of play for adults and if sex isn’t going well for you then there’s a good likelihood that the amount of fun in your life is low. There is so much pressure for sex to be always fun and fulfilling and abundant, because it’s our primary playful release, that when sex isn’t so fun or fulfilling or is lacking in your life then life can start to seem pretty shitty.

There is a whole argument to be made about how we need to de-stigmatize the use of imagination and play as a thing for adults to engage in. Adults are actively discouraged from the kinds of playing that they were encouraged to do as children. This is the reason I think sex is so important, humans need to have fun. This is something that I emphatically believe. If sex is how adults have fun then great, but if so, we need to make it ok for adults to really have fun. This is why I think that getting rid of the stigma that surrounds kinks and fetishes and all the myriad ways in which people express themselves is so important. In a world with so much stress we need to be able to relieve ourselves of it as best we can and feeling shamed or guilty about the way we choose to play is going to greatly impede that catharsis.

Being open to the way in which people choose to play is your obligation as a human being. As long as no one is hurting anyone else or themselves, we need to support everyone in their quest to have as much free, self expressed fun as they possibly can. I want to live in a world where there is no sexual stigma and no stigma around fun and play. I want to live in a world where people are encouraged to express themselves in a healthy and positive way, to counterbalance the demands and stresses that this futuristic 21st century life places on all of us.

I take sex seriously because I take play seriously. I seriously think that play is fucking important and I think that fucking is how most people play. The reason why I do this blog is so that people will learn more about sex and how other people enjoy it, and how to enjoy it more safely, but most of all it’s so that, through exposure, people will start to become accepting of sexuality on all levels, not as something to be private and secretive about but to be proud and accepting about. The queer community has always had it right (obviously), we need to take pride in our sexuality and encourage everyone to do the same because who’ll want to fight when we’re having this much fun. Ever been to a pride parade? I’ve never seen a better celebration of fun and play in my life.

Rant over.

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Are Open Relationships And Ployamorous Relationships The Same Thing?

I was reading this week’s Savage Love (which, if you like The “Oh!” Face, you should definitely be reading every week!) in which Dan tried to untangle a reader’s misconceptions about non-monogamy. In this case it was in the context of cheating and cuckolding but I’m not going to go into that side of it. What I want to talk about is the many faces of non-monogamy and the ways in which they overlap. Non-monogamy in North America has been around since at least the Second World War when the first swingers clubs comprised of fighter pilot who at the time had the highest rates of mortality. They would have swinging parties with all their wives in the hopes that the pilots who survived the war would be more likely to take care of the wives of the deceased, having been intimate with them and hopefully having formed a deeper connection. Non-monogamy went in and out of vogue throughout the 20th century and is experiencing a resurgence of popularity today.

Non-monogamy takes many, many different forms and, one could argue, is unique for each partnership. I won’t go into detail about all of the different faces of non-monogamy because it would be about 300 pages long, but I will talk about the differences between a few of the more well known types of non-monogamy.

Open relationship is a term that is often used to describe non-monogamy, although it can be a bit of a misnomer sometimes. An open relationship is one in which the partners have some degree of freedom to pursue other sexual partners. Some open relationships allow for multiple boyfriends/girlfriends and others only allow for no-strings-attached casual sex or fuck buddies. But in general, both partners of the primary relationship have licence to seek out other sexual, and sometimes emotional, partners.

Then there are polyamorous relationships in which multiple partners, both sexual and emotional, are allowed. It essentially means having more than one boyfriend/girlfriend (or one or more of each!) or having a polyamorous triad (quad, etc.) of three or more people engaged in a single relationship. So why doesn’t all this fall into the category of an open relationship? Well not all poly relationships are open. Some triads are closed with no going out and seeking a fourth or fifth or sixth or… Some poly relationships are open but just because someone is in a polyamorous relationship doesn’t mean they are in an open one and, as I said earlier, just because someone is in an open relationship doesn’t mean that they’re in a poly one. Polyamory means multiple sexual and  emotional partners, multiple boyfriends/girlfriends not just friend’s with benefits.

Then there are what Dan Savage calls Monogamish relationships. These are mostly-monogamous relationships with a little outside action from time to time. These aren’t open relationships…except for when they are. This can include things like being monogamous except sometimes you have threesomes, or being able to have sex outside of the relationship when the other partner is out of town for long periods of time, or if the relationship goes long distance for a period.

As with any kind of relationship, non-monogamous ones require a good amount of work and a better amount of honest communication. Non-monogamy isn’t harder than monogamy if it’s what you truly want but it can be hard if only one person in the relationship really wants non-monogamy and the other one doesn’t. That’s where the whole communication thing comes in. If you’re interested in non-monogamy I would highly recommend reading the book The Ethical Slut, and Sex At Dawn is pretty wonderful too if you want to learn more about the history of non-monogamy, it’s much more common than you might expect.

Below is a ridiculously confusing ven diagram thingy that pretty much lays out all the different types of non-monogamy. It’s a little hard to wrap your head around but if you click on it, it will enlarge to a more readable size:

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Emergency Contraceptive Vending Machines Are Now Legal

Hey, check out my latest post at The Feronia Project about Plan B vending machines on American college campuses:

Emergency Contraceptive Vending Machines Are Now Legal

I blog once a month at the sex education blog of the Southwest and Central Florida branch of  Planned Parenthood. The blog is called The Feronia Project and it is an awesome resource for information about sex, pregnancy, birth control, gender and myriad other topics in that vein.  Some more info about them:

Who They Are:

The authors of The Feronia Project vary in our upbringing, education, and experience, but the common thread between us is our unwavering belief that reproductive rights are human rights.

What They Do:

This site provides a safe place to learn about sexual health, engage in discussion about social and reproductive justice, and find trusted resources for comprehensive, medically-accurate sex education.

For more information on Planned Parenthood click here.

Emergency Contraceptive Vending Machines Are Now Legal


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Bisexual And Lesbian Women Are More Likely To Be Abused Than Straight Women

The American Center For Disease Control (CDC) conducted it’s first nationwide study attempting to determine domestic abuse rates in the United States. The study found that a staggering 35% of straight women had experienced sexual assault, physical assault or stalking by a partner at some point in their lives. These numbers were even higher, however, for lesbian and bisexual identified women. 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women had experienced one of the three in their lifetime. That’s well over half of all the bisexual identified women surveyed reporting rape, violence or stalking by their partner at some point in their life and almost half of all lesbian women. The study surveyed 9,709 women, 96.5% of whom identified as straight, 2.2% as bisexual and 1.3% as lesbian.

Bisexual women were also the most likely to have been raped by anyone, not only their partner, with 46.1% of them having experienced rape at some point. This is an enormous number compared to the 13.1% of lesbian and 14.7% of straight women who reported having been raped. Most of the domestic violence committed against bisexual women was done so by their male partners and bisexual women reported much higher rates of after effects such as missing work or post traumatic stress symptoms than their lesbian and straight peers.

Buzzfeed reports that, “Mikel Walters, a behavioral scientist for the CDC, says the study didn’t examine the reasons why lesbian and bisexual women might experience especially high rates of violence. “Hopefully this research will spur more research” into causes, she said.”

A 2011 study found that bisexual women were at greater risk of depression and anxiety than women who were straight or gay, a result the study author attributed to stigma against bisexuality. “There tends to be this expectation or standard that a person picks one sexual identity and sticks with it. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about bisexuals,” the author told Huffington Post UK.

Read our previous The “Oh!” Face article about bisexual stigma here. I genuinely think that bisexual stigma is a very major problem that keeps, perhaps, large numbers of people from fully accepting their sexuality because of fear of this stigmatization. Bisexuality is not even considered a true sexual orientation by some and this belief disables certain people from feeling safe in expressing the full spectrum of their sexuality. These statistics make me upset not only because of how many bisexual women have been assaulted but because of just how many women in our society have been assaulted. If these numbers were true of, say, school aged children, I can’t imagine what the response would be. But our society pretty much accepts that more than one third of all women are going to experience some form of assault in their lives. That to me is completely unacceptable.

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Penicillin, Not The Pill, May Have Sparked The Sexual Revolution

Most of you probably know the standard narrative of how the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s came about. The birth control pill became available, everyone got on board and started having sex without fear of unwanted pregnancy. Hooray for sexual freedom! But a new theory could turn all that on it’s head.

According to the statistics, it was actually around the 1950’s that people started engaging in more and riskier sexual behaviour, more teens started to get pregnant and rates of illegitimate children rose. People were having more sex with more people in the 1950’s than in previous decades. These rates only continued to grow in the 1960’s and 70’s and were again increased by the advent of The Pill but the initial spike came years earlier than the birth control pill.

In the early 20th century, syphilis was an epidemic, comparable to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s and 90’s. It had the ability to cause blindness, dementia and even paralysis, and by the mid 1940’s had been contracted by approximately 600,000 Americans alone. The rate of syphilis deaths in the late 1930’s was almost as high as the rate of AIDS deaths in the mid 90’s and there was a 1 in 100 chance of a random sexual partner having the infection.

Enter: mouldy bread. Penicillin, a drug derived from bread mould proved to be a highly effective treatment for syphilis. By the end of WWII it was being widely used and by the late 1950’s syphilis was at an all time low. Around the same time, gonorrhea and unwanted pregnancies were starting to spike and continued to increase through the advent of The Pill and the sexual revolution. The increase in sexual promiscuity and freedom seemed to have begun much earlier than previously believed. There is no doubt that The Pill was an important factor in the free love movement but it is likely that penicillin was the real game changer.

In 2000, antiretroviral treatments for HIV/AIDS made it possible for carriers of the infection to have undetectable viral loads, meaning that it was far less likely for them to transmit the infection to their partners or suffer from the ill effects of AIDS. This seems to have changed the game once again, making HIV/AIDS a much less deadly STI. Much like in the case of penicillin, after the introduction of this kind of treatment, the rate of risky sex increased and there has actually been a marked spike in HIV transmission rates over the past decade or so.

I love it when a long held belief is questioned. It’s interesting to me that the 1950’s, a time most consider highly puritanical, was in fact an age of increased sexual promiscuity. But honestly, the theory makes sense to me. I never really got that the advent of The Pill could bring about a free love revolution, always in the back of my mind was the question, “What about all the STIs they must have contracted? Why doesn’t anyone talk about them?” (Of course, social and political factors were at play and helped create the sexual revolution as well). The Pill would have ushered in a new age of unprotected sex, sure there would be fewer pregnancies and HIV hadn’t come about yet, but still, it never seemed to add up for me, until now.


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You Can Break Your Penis

Now, if you’ve had any kind of anatomy lesson you know that the penis doesn’t actually have a bone in it, but that doesn’t stop nature from being terribly cruel. Despite it’s being boneless the penis can still be broken, and although it is a fairly rare occurrence it is really not something that you want happening to you.

So how does it happen? According to Dr. Lehmiller at The Psychology of Human Sexuality, it depends where you’re from (seriously). There seem to be significant cultural differences in how men break their penises. North American men tend to break them due to bashing their penises into their partners pelvic bone, having missed their prime target. Japanese men on the other hand more often break their penises solo, accidentally rolling over onto them while masturbating. Europeans break theirs most often whilst ‘kneading’ their erections in an attempt to make them go away.

What exactly happens when a penis breaks? Well, when the areas in the penis that fill up with blood to make it erect rupture due to blunt force trauma, the penis makes a popping or cracking sound. Lehmiller describes what happens next, “The erection quickly disappears and is often followed by intense pain, swelling, discoloration, and potential deformity. In severe cases, the fracture may result in urethral injury, which can produce urinary difficulties.” If left untreated it can lead to further complications and deformity. The key to breaking your penis is to go get it treated as soon as possible. The sooner you get it treated the more likely that you’ll be fully functional again. Still, as many as one quarter of people who fracture their penises complain of penile curvature and other issues with penile function.

So I guess the moral of the story is, slow and steady wins the race, if you rush in like a charging bull you might miss your mark and break your penis and that would suck.


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What’s On Our Radar 01/30/13

Here’s what’s been on my reading list this week:

My favorite title for an article ever, Monogamy Is Like Dubstep: I Don’t Understand It – Role/Reboot

Keeping on the Monogamy tip, Forget Online Dating: Here’s Something That Might Really Hurt Monogamy, in which the argument that technology is causing us to avoid commitment is challenged somewhat – The Atlantic

The Vagina Popsicle, a very intriguing post on The Feronia Project about how putting yogurt in your vagina can help ease the symptoms of a yeast infection…seriously – The Feronia Project

The War On Sex Workers tears into the United States’ war on prostitution –

A lady in Brazil put poison in her vagina and tried to kill her husband by getting him to go down on her…Death By Cunnilingus – Salon

No video today but I did find this infographic on The Feronia Project: