KATIE BISHOP: Okay, so, this is producer Katie Bishop. I'm here in the studio with producer Anabel Bacon.
ANABEL BACON: Hey Katie.
KATIE BISHOP: Hey. So, we just put out our episode about STIs.
ANABEL BACON: Mmhm.
KATIE BISHOP: And we're getting some emails in the inbox.
ANABEL BACON: Yeah! People are responding to this episode.
KATIE BISHOP: And we wanted to take a second to talk about one email in particular that came in today.
ANABEL BACON: Yeah. So we got an email from a listener who said that he really was glad to hear the episode, loved hearing us talk about sexually transmitted infections. But this guy was a little bit frustrated because he wished that we had talked more explicitly about what a disclosure conversation actually sounds like. He said, "You need to get back into this episode. You need to talk about how people break that taboo. How do they do it? What should you say? What are the tactics? How to break the news to a partner?" I don't think he's wrong.
KATIE BISHOP: Yeah, because in the episode we talk a lot about people disclosing, telling their partners, but we didn't actually talk about the words that they used when they did it.
ANABEL BACON: No, and those are really hard conversations.
KATIE BISHOP: And in the process of talking about this email from a listener that we got today, we remembered something else that we'd gotten in our inbox.
ANABEL BACON: Yes. Back in the summer we got this fantastic note from this woman who wanted to be called Hannah. And she had recently found out that she was diagnosed with HSV-2, which is genital herpes. And when Hannah wrote us this email, she was still trying to figure out, what does this mean for my sex life? How much is gonna change? How am I going to have these conversations where I tell my partners that I have herpes? So Hannah did this incredible thing. She wrote out an entire note to us, and this was totally hypothetical -- she'd never sent it to a partner. But it was to help her figure out what would it sound like if I said what I wanted to say to my partners about my STI?
KATIE BISHOP: And then, she recorded it for us.
Dear sir or madam: My name is Hannah, and if you're reading this email, it means that you are considering having sex with me. And I with you. Congrats! Sex with me has been previously been described as "fun," "hot," and "awesome." Before we go any further, here’s something you need to know: I have herpes. HSV2. Yup, that's the genital kind. Now, you may be thinking, "Well there goes that one. And she has such a nice ass too."
Here's the thing, though: herpes is not a big deal. The only way it affects my life is needing to send you this email and dealing with the social stigma surrounding it.
If you've read this far without locking your doors, bathing in bleach, and deleting my number, I like you even more already. Here are some useful facts for you to know:
- HSV2 is a relatively minor skin condition. Having sex with me is really fucking fun.
- About 1 in 8 Americans have HSV2.
- Most people who have it don't ever get a symptom and don't know they have it.
- I have never had an outbreak.
- Once you have it, the virus lives inside of you forever. Spooky!
- I can take a medication called Valtrex that reduces the chances of my transmission even further.
- If you have a penis, we're definitely using condoms. Condoms don't completely prevent transmission, but they do lower the risk to about 2%.
- If you have a vagina, sorry, but the chances of you contracting it are higher. I'll bring the dental dams!
Yes, I could give you herpes. But you could also get herpes from someone who doesn't now they have it, because most people who have it don't know they do.
Please see the infographic below for more information on transmission rates. Please see me in my bedroom for more information on my favorite kinks. Anyway, that's the full deal. Take whatever time you need and let me know if you still want to get some of this.
ANABEL BACON: I love that email so much.
KATIE BISHOP: It's really amazing to hear somebody just spell it out all out like that.
ANABEL BACON: Yeah, and with a sense that this is okay, we can have these conversations and it doesn't have to be the end of the world.
KATIE BISHOP: Listening to this email from Hannah, it just made us realize this is such an important exercise for people who have STIs, to say these things out loud. And also for people who don't have STIs to hear it.
ANABEL BACON: So, inspired by Hannah's email, and that first email we got that asked us to share more explicit conversations about disclosure, we have an assignment for you.
KATIE BISHOP: This weekend, before Monday, we want you to take out your phone, open up your voice memo app, and record yourself as if you're talking to a partner about your STI. If you've had this conversation in your real life before, use the words that you used then. And if you haven't had it yet, but you'd like to have some practice, just say what you'd like to say out loud.
ANABEL BACON: We're going to take all of the voice memos that you send us and we're going to share them with you very soon. Don't worry, we will keep you anonymous.
KATIE BISHOP: So again, send in your voice memos by the end of the weekend. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.