“Ew, what do you mean you caught flu? What have you been doing?”
“Well I was on the bus next to this guy who was sneezing and not using a hanky.”
“Well that’ll teach you to be the kind of person who catches the bus then. What do you expect if you sit next to people.”
“He didn’t tell me he had flu!”
“They never do. He’s just like all the other people who catch buses. Filthy. If you were well brought up you’d never have caught it. Slut!”
Why it is that we always seem to have conversations like this about STIs and never about other infections? Why is it that the kind of people who are self-appointed COVID super-spreaders are often quite happy to slut shame people who’ve had sex and contracted chlamydia?
Because double standards.
Most STIs are relatively harmless. Even HIV, once one of the world’s foremost health challenges, can now be managed. And yet, with the rise of antibiotic resistant infections, we may well find ourselves dealing with strains of bacteria that are either very hard or impossible to treat. This is already happening with gonorrhoea.
The most dangerous thing about STIs is generally people’s unwillingness to discuss them because of the stigma that surrounds them. This makes conversations about one’s sexual health status more difficult and makes it more difficult to plan sensibly so we can stop their spread.
Abstinence, scream the religious fantasists. Historically abstinence has done less to promote sexual health than it has done to promote lying and hypocrisy. Nor should we give in to people who are determined to foist their own uncomfortable relationship with their sexuality onto others – it’s a matter of personal choice and consent if, how and when we have sex – but consent does require us to be informed which is why we should facilitate frank, shame-free conversations.
That’s what I hope the latest episode of Beyond Monogamy offers. We’re joined by Amanda Jeffrey, Head of Sexual and Reproductive heath at METRO an equalities and diversity charity that promotes health and wellbeing to anyone experiencing issues relating to gender, sexuality, diversity, equality, or identity predominantly across London and in the SE of England. Also by Kate Oliver, from Illinois, President of the Kinder Foundation, which sometimes describes itself as the Amazon of sexual health. Finally by Peter Greenhouse of the BASHH; the British Association for Sexual Health & HIV.
This is one of our favourite episodes so far. It’s just fun – and hopefully informative. With an issue like sexual health it’s hard to have too much information. We’re super grateful to our three guests for giving their time and sharing their professional expertise.
Lastly, something we didn’t mention in the show; sometimes staff at sexual health clinics haven’t actually heard it all and much fun is to be had taking their surveys and sharing the intimate details of one’s sex life. It brightens everyone’s day. Don’t forget to be kind and considerate though!