The thing that boggles my mind One of the many things that boggle my mind is watching Marian Grossman and her ilk talk about STIs as if they are the worst possible thing that can happen to a person. Apparently, bronchitis or glandular fever or gastroentiritis is considered a fairly normal part of life and absolutely no cause for alarm, while a bout of chlamydia or gonerrhoea is some hideous thing that marks us for life and that we should be forever ashamed about.
Yes, of course, practise safe sex. OF COURSE. In the same way that we ought to cover our mouths when we sneeze, wash our hands after going to the toilet and use a fresh needle when we shoot up, we ought to wear condoms outside of committed relationships. But if a condom slips or breaks, if in a moment of passion or stupidity or misplaced trust the condom is just plain forgotten, if we find ourselves in a position where we’re pressured or forced into unprotected sex and later it transpires that we have a bit of a case of syphilis… take a deep breath and relax! The treatment is the same as that for pneumonia, and we shouldn’t feel any more ashamed about having it or seeking treatment for it.
Even the dreaded Big Bads, hepatitis and HIV: yep, they’re mighty unpleasant; yep, they require a lifetime of management; yep, we want to do everything we can to avoid them – but they are just diseases! Lupus, Crohn’s disease, MS, et cetera, et cetera require a lifetime of management, but there is not the same stigma attached to them.
The thing that marks chlamydia or HIV as different from MS or pneumonia is one thing: sex. If we have chlamydia or HIV, people will assume we’ve probably had sex at least once in our lives*. Oh, the horror! Us and the vast majority of the post-pubescent population. It doesn’t mean we’re sluts (and not that there’s a damned thing wrong with being a slut), it doesn’t mean we’re dirty, it doesn’t mean that we’re reckless. We just have a bit of an ailment.
* Oh, yes, there are certainly other ways to catch them, but these are the assumptions that are made.