What having an STI really means

Having an STI tells me that you’re engaging in some kind of sexual activity.  It tells me nothing else about you. No, seriously. No one asks to have an STI.  No one consents to contracting an STI when they consent to sex, and it’s impossible to predict who will get one. STIs are also democratic in that way. Anyone can get one, regardless of who they are, their station in life, how much money they have, whether they went to college, what kind of job they have, where they live, who they associate with, who they have sex with, what kind of sex they like, what they do for fun, what religion they subscribe to, what their politics, and so on and so forth.

There’s so much shame around labeling someone with an STI as lesser than -- as dirty or slutty or whatever else-- but think about it this way-- would it be appropriate to judge the moral character of a person who has a cold or the flu? I can hear the ‘it’s not the same argument’ from the back- but really, it is. You don’t say to someone ‘you shook that person’s hand, it serves you right to have gotten his cold’—yes, that’s how uninformed it sounds when anyone tries to shame a person over having an STI. 

Understanding the science helps, because science is the antidote to fear and stigma. So let's be clear-- people get infected because of pathogens, not because of some invisible character flaw or because they enjoy sex too much or because they're "dirty". Whether you have a cold or gonorrhea or any other infection, they’re all caused by their individual bacteria or virus that takes up residence in our bodies and continues replicating until it can passed from person to person. Period. When someone we know is sick with a cold, we tell them "take care of yourself and I hope you feel better"! Let’s promote the same thinking when someone has an STI: I’m sorry you’re not feeling well-- please take care of yourself.

At tbd, we have a zero tolerance policy for slut shaming. Everyone has the right to a fulfilling sex life, and everyone deserves the tools to keep themselves healthy.