The V-Spot: Horny With HPV – Now What?

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I’m a 26-year-old female with HPV and a high sex drive. Ever since my diagnosis I haven’t been able to have a lasting romantic or sexual relationship because I’m too scared to open up about this.

I’ve told my closest friends because I want them to know that they should take care of themselves, but when it comes to opening up to someone that I like, I get too self conscious and don’t let anything physical happen because I don’t want to risk it.

I’m a very affectionate person and I feel like I’m holding back on so much. I don’t want to end up pushing away all the love that I truly deserve just because I’m too scared to be honest. Truth is I do feel ashamed. How do I make peace with this?

Sexual shame does damage. It prevents many from getting sexual health care, from talking openly with our partners about sexual health, and promotes STI/STD transmission because rarely does Shame go anywhere without her bestie, Silence.

You’re not alone in your struggle with HPV (human papillomavirus). Half of all college-aged women contract HPV. HPV is so common, Free Me, that sexual healthcare providers have called it “a symptom of sexual activity itself” as 75 percent of sexually active people will experience an active HPV infection. You’re one of 20 million people with HPV right now, Free Me and, statistically speaking, your lovers may already be in the same boat with you.

Without the visible symptom of warts (which only some strains of HPV cause) there’s no HPV test for male bodies. Trickier still, HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, rather than the familiar fluid-to-fluid transmission of many other STIs/STDs. So, though condoms can offer a 70-75 percent protection rate against HPV transmission, they can’t offer full protection as they don’t cover the full genital area. Other protective measures like using dental dams for oral and gloves for manual sex can reduce your HPV risk, but abstaining completely from genital-to-genital contact forever is the only sure way to completely dodge HPV transmission from where you’re standing.

I just don’t think the latter is going to cut it for you, Free Me — nor would it for me. So what now?

Keeping ourselves and each other sexually healthy is tantamount. However, one’s decisions around sexual risks and pleasures are extremely personal, much like choosing to smoke cigarettes or abstain from McDonald’s. Sexually and non-sexually, it’s your body and it’s your choice. The difference when it comes to sexual health is that other people are involved. And those other people (your partners) cannot make consensual, autonomous decisions about their sexual health unless you — the partner capable of transmitting HPV to them (if they don’t already have it) — disclose this relevant information. To be an ethical sexual partner, we must disclose any information that may alter or impact our partners’ physical, emotional, sexual, and/or mental health.

Your partners are also bound to this sexual ethics code. Meaning, you are not Patient Zero, Free Me. You are not broken, dangerous, or untouchable because you, like 20 million others, have HPV. Instead of approaching this safer-sex discussion as the one with the bomb to drop make this disclosure part of a larger talk about having sex with this new person. Topics for this discussion can include the other person’s STD/STI status, testing history, kinks, likes, dislikes, significant relationships, and how both of you would like to move forward in terms of protective measures and risks.

Finally, head to Scarleteen.com for a plethora of information about HPV prevention (the vaccine, regular pap smears), transmission details, and studies done about how the body ditches HPV. The Guttmacher Institute found that 9 in 10 people’s bodies naturally fight off HPV infection within two years. Knowing your stuff will reduce shame and better prepare you to squash silence.•

Yana Tallon Hicks is a pleasure positive sex educator and writer in the Pioneer Valley. She has a website bursting with advice, workshops, and sexual health resources at yanatallonhicks.com.

Yana Tallon-Hicks

Author: Yana Tallon-Hicks

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