I have a friend who’s very…empowered about taking guys home. She claims she just does it because she has fun, and that she’s not looking for anything serious, so I mostly keep my mouth shut. Recently, though, she slept with one of my guy friends and he told me that she gave him herpes, and that she didn’t tell him she had it before they slept together. I feel like I should say something to her, but I don’t know what–that I know? That she needs to see a doctor? The whole subject is super awkward, but I think that what she’s doing is wrong. How do I get her to address this?
-I know WAAAAY too much
On the one hand, yes, you know too much. Frankly, none of us should have to think about our friends’ genitals in any detail; this isn’t Germany.
On the other, though, you know far too little to make any educated statements about this to ANYBODY. Here are the facts of the case:
1.) A male friend slept with your female friend.
2.) At some point after this incident (presumably), he realized he had contracted herpes.
3.) There is no point 3. You only know those two things.
It may seem like you have more information–your friend bringing home guys on the regular, or your own obvious doubts about her motivations for doing so–but none of that is actually fact, it’s your judgment seeping in. Moreover, it’s not very relevant. Plenty of people bounce from bed to bed without ever contracting anything more than a yeast infection because they do it safely. And plenty of others lose the sex lottery and wind up pregnant or herpified their very first time out of the gates.
If your guy friend is particularly chaste, hadn’t slept with anyone else in a long time, and is totally trustworthy–all big ifs–his (and your) conclusion might be right; it may be your friend’s fault. But that STILL doesn’t mean she’s done anything wrong.
Herpes fun fact: it’s spread by something called “viral shedding,” which basically means that if you have it, you can spread it EVEN IF you practice safe sex. That’s why they recommend you don’t have sex during outbreaks; condoms don’t provide enough protection to ensure it won’t spread.
Herpes fun fact #2: many people who carry the virus, and spread it, never show any symptoms. No sores, no redness, no nothing. Basically, they have no idea they’re going around with a loaded gun.
Are you starting to understand why the CDC estimates 1/6 people between 14 and 49 have it?
So what do I think you should do?
Two things. First, tell your friend that you were told, in confidence, that one of her recent conquests has herpes, and she should get tested. For all you know right now, he gave it to HER.
Second: try to back off on judging your friend so harshly. Your question is “about” the herpes, but it seems like your real problem is your friend’s sleeping around. If it’s something that worries you, tell her you’re concerned she’s doing it for the wrong reasons–as a substitute for self-esteem, say, or as a way to avoid connecting with people (and therefore becoming emotionally vulnerable). If, however, you have no reason to believe her behavior is self-destructive, stop mentally slut-shaming her.