We had a really big health scare. An “oh my God is this the end of swinging scare.” A life-changing scare.
I thought I had been exposed to Genital Herpes. Not just exposed. I had been accused of giving Genital Herpes to a new play partner.
And here’s the thing. Googling “Genital Herpes” reveals that there is no cure. That you can have it and have no symptoms at all. Not even know that you have it. It is absolutely terrifying.
We got the information through a text. “I have symptoms. Two blisters on my penis. You are the only one who could have given these to me when I met you last month.”
As fate would have it, I had just gotten back from the gynecologist because I too was having something weird going on. A very mild discharge. Some discomfort during sex. Nothing that couldn’t be explained away.
That morning, prior to receiving the text, I had gone to the doctor in my little town, facing the dilemma of getting the medical care that I needed, while balancing what information I needed to tell my doctor.
“I should be tested for STDs. I have had an exposure,” I told the doctor. Honestly at the time I didn’t think I had other than multiple partners. We have always been very careful with condoms during intercourse. Oral sex…well that’s another matter I guess.
“How long ago was this exposure?” the doctor asked.
Which one? I thought. So I told her about my last one. “About a month ago.” Wrong answer.
“Well if you did catch anything, it’s too soon for tests. But I think this is just bacterial vaginitis. But we will test you just in case. You will need to come back in three months again to test as well.”
After coming home and getting the “I have blisters on my penis” text, I panicked.
I called the doctors office back. In the proverbial phone tag with the triage nurse I try to explain on a voicemail, “I have new information. I need to be sure that she tested me for herpes.”
The nurse calls back, and leaves me a message “We tested you for everything but herpes. If he gave you herpes it won’t show up for three months. Make an appointment for then.” But what if I gave it to him?
Since that text, we have not gone to parties. No talk of play. Hell, Mr. D and I haven’t even had sex ourselves. I didn’t eat for days. I avoided friends. Vanilla friends who I couldn’t tell anything about at all. And lifestyle friends who might shrink away from us in the future if we are viewed as possibly diseased. Tainted.
So I make a follow up appointment. The earliest I could get in is two weeks later.
When the day finally arrives, the doctor examines me again. “All of your symptoms have cleared up,” she told me. “It was just bacterial vaginitis.”
“But I still want to be tested,” I said. “He has blisters on his penis.”
She replied, “But even if you did contracted herpes, it will take another month or two before it shows up in a serum test if you have no symptoms.”
“But what if I gave it to him? I don’t know what to believe anymore. This is a public health issue,” I explained. “He is accusing me of giving it to him. An initial test is a data point. It tells us who has to look backwards in our sexual histories. A negative is information for him. And for me.”
She definitely was assuming that I was the victim. It occurred to me that I don’t know who she thinks he is. My cheating husband? An old flame of mine? A long-term lover?
“Has he been serum tested?” she asks.
“I’m not sure,” I answer. “He doesn’t live around here. He’s….an old flame who lives in Virginia.” Well at least the Virginia part is truthful.
She gives me the slip for the test. We wait another week for results.
The tests come back negative. Clean. We fell into each others arms with relief. Mr. D’s tests had come back clean a few days before.
I still have no symptoms, but I will test again in two months to be sure. And we will be very strict about regular testing in the future, no matter how embarrassing it is in a small town.
Maybe it wasn’t herpes for the guy either. Just something eerily similar.
The scare has caused us to wonder what we can do to make our play safer. We have always used condoms. But those herpes websites. They say you can get herpes even if a condom is used properly.
We have certainly not tested regularly enough, but we sure will now. I don’t know if we will feel safe playing with people that we meet at parties anymore. We might want to get to know people better than we have in the past. Or maybe this scar will fade away and eventually we will return to old habits. We aren’t sure.
It was devastating to think that an important part of our life could end with a Genital Herpes diagnosis. Could we go back to a vanilla life? A smaller life. A life with people not so open minded or fun loving. Could we still be around a lifestyle vibe but not be able to play? Would that be torturous or better than nothing or hell?
What we do know for sure is that in five years in the lifestyle, we have never had a conversation with another couple other than a brief reassurance of “we’re clean.” And yet we are sure that most have had a scare. We don’t talk about testing, scares, medical woes. They aren’t sexy. And yet we need to. This is scary stuff when it happens. And to be safe with one another, we need to be more open to talking about it.
My husband and I get tested every six months, and we do ask prospective partners about their testing + disease history straight-up, during a first meeting.
Yes, people will lie, but their non-verbal cues reveal a lot. The shocking part is always the finding out of just how many people never get tested!
I also use condoms during oral sex when we play at sex clubs. It’s actually not as gross as it seems, to give a guy a blow job through a condom, especially with banana-flavoured lube!
I know how scary these things can be. One thing to remember, though, is that Herpes is at most an inconvenience, and that many people swing, and are completely upfront about their infections. I know several people who have very active swinging lives and are positive for genital herpes. Part of the problem with this disease that is indeed forever, is the way people react to it, not the disease itself.
As for playing more safely, I highly recommend adopting an oral barriers rule. Sexifying up condomed blowjobs and barriered pussy eating really works wonders, and, as Emmanuelle suggested, it’s not the horrible thing you have in your mind.
All this said, really herpes should not be your major fear from safe-ish sex. Antibiotic resistant gonorrhea of the throat should be.
I’m with Cooper on this one, and I have a little bit to add on the shorthand of “clean,” which I wrote a blog article about, here: http://insidesenseappeal.blogspot.com/2013/07/down-and-dirty-my-take-on-stis.html.
Emmannuel said, “My husband and I get tested every six months, and we do ask prospective partners about their testing + disease history straight-up, during a first meeting.” That’s great, but standard testing doesn’t cover herpes; and unless symptoms are present, a separate type-specific blood test would be required to have any likely chance of knowing.
A great article from our friends over at Better Sex Ed on this topic: http://bettersexed.org/2013/09/12/do-you-have-herpes/