Advice! Herpes & Feeeeeelings

by Lady Perv on March 24, 2013

in Advice,Nonmonogs,Relationships,Sex Ed

Oh my god guys, we got a letter!

Hi!

I’m a poly cis-dude dating two lovely women at the moment. One of them, who for the sake of clarity, I’ll call my secondary, is HSV-1 positive. Of course, she disclosed to me right away before anything ever happened between us. My problem/question is this: My primary partner (who we also disclosed to right away) made a rule that I’m not allowed to go down on my secondary. I agreed. It was fine for a while, but I want to, my secondary wants to, and we feel it’s actually putting a kink (and not in a good way) in our sex life. The more I think about it, the more it doesn’t make sense; she doesn’t get outbreaks on her vag, with the exception of the initial, which she got by some lucky lady sucking her clit. It’s always on her face. We kiss, she goes down on me, etc., so I don’t understand, if my primary’s concern is simply health risk based, why this makes any sense whatsoever.

I have no fucking clue how to approach the subject. From the above writing, you could assume that I think it’s more of an emotional reason that she doesn’t want me muff diving, not a clinical one. Any advice on approaching a “hey bro, I want to renegotiate rules” conversation?

Thanks,

Confused Claiming Conversation

P.S. Did I mention that my secondary is absolutely crazy as far as keeping track, eating right, Valtrex, stress, etc.? I’m not even very worried about getting it, but we are INCREDIBLY careful.

As a women’s health nurse practitioner, I end up having a lot of lengthy conversations about herpes, so of course I totally had follow up questions for CCC. We clarified that his partner has HSV-1 in her mouth and in her genitals, has oral outbreaks extremely rarely and has only had one genital outbreak ever.

First off, some herpes basics for those of you who aren’t talking about herpes on a daily basis. There are two types of herpes, HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 usually lives in the mouth, and HSV-2 usually lives in the genitals. However, either one can live in either place. HSV-1 is a little more flexible than HSV-2; HSV-2 is rarely found in anyone’s mouth. Both viruses are extremely common and transmitted through skin to skin contact. Once you have the virus, it lives in the spinal nerve attached to the location where you were infected, and if you have recurrent outbreaks, they always happen in the same spot.

The main thing to remember about herpes is that it’s just a super common, highly stigmatized rash. Disclosure is obviously important, because it’s not like anyone strives to contract herpes, but it’s also usually manageable if you get it. Take good care of your immune system, be vigilant for signs of oncoming outbreaks, and you can generally avoid having too many outbreaks and passing the virus on.

The question of how contagious a person with herpes is when they’re not having symptoms is tricky, but the short answer is that it’s unlikely to be spread by someone who isn’t having an outbreak. It’s possible, but not probable, to have the virus without ever showing symptoms. Screening for herpes is not part of routine STI screening, so when someone tells you they’ve been screened for STIs, that generally doesn’t include HSV unless they had a suspicious sore that got swabbed, or they specifically asked for the blood test, which most health care providers don’t recommend unless you’ve already had an outbreak. Part of the reason it’s not routinely screened for in asymptomatic folks is because it’s so common.

OK, CCC. My first reaction to your letter was, “Wow, that seems really arbitrary.” Why is your primary cool with kissing, fellatio and P in V, but not cunnilingus? I feel like the risk for transmission is higher when your secondary is putting HER mouth on YOUR junk (or on your mouth, for that matter), since her mouth is where she tends to get her (extremely rare) outbreaks. Also, while condoms reduce the risk of transmission of herpes, they don’t eliminate the risk completely. The virus is transmitted through skin to skin contact, so any area not covered by a condom (say, your scrotum or your mons or the base of your cock) could still get infected. That said, given how careful your secondary is, I think you’re at a pretty effing low risk for contracting herpes from her.

Atavacron’s two cents:

You’re already doing all the right things for protection; a purist might say that you should be using dental dams and gloves 24/7, but your risk is very low, and you’re aware of that risk, and it’s a committed relationship, so…I’d say just keep on as you are, and stay alert.  Your secondary partner is tremendously fortunate regarding frequency of outbreaks, and it’s clear that she would give you a heads up at the slightest sign of one coming on.

It sounds like your primary partner needs a little more education, but some clarification about why she’s chosen oral sex as the one thing to latch on to that rubs her the wrong way.  Has she never had a partner go “muff diving” before you?  Maybe there’s a reason she’s protective of this particular intimacy.

It’s not unusual or unreasonable for partners to negotiate boundaries on new relationships – both physical and emotional.  Oral sex is such standard fare, however, that if you’re already allowed to have PIV sex and for her to blow you, it’s almost comically limiting for you to be unable to go down on her.

I think it’s time to renegotiate.

So, yeah, we both agree with you that your primary probably has more emotional reasons behind her rule. You’ve been respecting her kind of ridiculous and arbitrary rule for a while it sounds like, so you’ve already proven that she can trust you even when she’s being kind of ridiculous and arbitrary. I think the way to come at this conversation is with facts and compassion. Start by acknowledging that negotiations involving boundaries with other partners can be an emotional minefield, and that herpes is a scary prospect for many people. But then point out the low risk of transmission given the extreme caution you and your secondary are taking, and the fact that cunnilingus is no riskier than anything else you two are doing. Remind your primary that you care about her physical and emotional well-being, but that the three of you have got to figure out a way to renegotiate boundaries that will make everyone comfortable.

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