Sharing herpes and excrement

I was freaked when my boyfriend gave it to me. He had cold sores on his face, he was a generous partner, they ended up where we might know is a bad place. Didn’t make me "marked," or a slut, or anything, but I still felt so dirty and ashamed that I was frantic when trying to get into a new relationship. I cried as I told the person I’m with now. He held me and told me exactly what you did, Dan: It’s common, it’s no big deal, and our relationship was more important than some disease.

Even now, he takes care of me during my (blessedly rare) outbreaks and assures me every time I worry that he loves me and he understands and he accepts the risk that he might get it eventually. Which makes him more of a man than MIST.

Thank you so much. Seeing your article meant a lot. —A. K.


Dan, I was really disappointed to read your response to MIST. You were insensitive and even insulting to a man who is confused about his marriage and scared of getting a disease. You and Karen J. Pataky did a great job of shedding some light on genital herpes — heck, I even learned a thing or two — but do you realize that you may have advised a man to possibly infect himself with herpes? That seems like douchebaggery to me.

MIST, yes, may already have it and he may have given it to his wife. But she also may be lying to him or may have infected him with it. Is it worth ending a marriage over? Hell yes there is! It’s a fucking incurable STI! If he already has it perhaps he and his wife can find a supportive partner in one another, but if by chance he doesn’t then he is by no means obligated to infect himself to save his marriage. —Seriously Incensed Recently


Regarding the letter from MIST, whose wife has surprise herpes: Another factor to consider is this: Women can have herpes outbreaks way on up inside — on their cervix, etc., and not know it, since there are not many nerve-endings up there, and most of us don’t primp our cervix that much. So it’s possible his wife had outbreaks in the past, just not where she could see or feel them.

Also, taking lots of Lysine can reduce the outbreaks. —Old-Tyme Savage Love Reader


I found out I had genital herpes during the fifth year of my marriage. The catch? I’d never even made out with anyone, other than my husband, and he’d never kissed anyone other than me. How the heck could I have gotten herpes? And no, we weren’t born again Christians. It was lack of opportunity, not unwillingness. But there we were, following all the advice that the abstinence-only people at my school offered, and we weren’t safe from the dreaded STIs. I never planned on being the one-sex-partner kind of person, but it really annoyed me that I didn’t get to enjoy the one teeny tiny perk that comes with a limited pool of partners.

The doctor, fortunately, believed me, and explained that the source of the infection didn’t necessarily have to be sexual. I could have wiped my mouth after a kiss from a person having an outbreak of oral herpes, and transferred it while peeing. I could have used the same toilet seat as a person with herpes. I might have been infected during birth.

The point is that even a virgin can contract herpes. Even if MIST’s wife did get the infection after she got married she didn’t necessarily get it from screwing around on him. —Virtue Induces Remorse, Get Immediate Nookie


With regard to MIST’s wife’s genital herpes outbreak, it is conceivable that she was exposed in the distant past. But the majority of outbreaks of primary genital herpes occur within seven days of exposure. Both MIST and his wife should be checked for additional STDs. —Dr. J


I just wanted to commend you on your excellent advice to MIST (the 47-year-old man upset over his wife’s herpes). This is a disease more than half of humans carry in some form, something we’ve all got to live with.

I wanted to recommend that MIST read the comic Monsters by Ken Dahl. Called "A must read for anyone with genitalia" by the Comics Journal, it chronicles the relationship of a young couple when they discover they both have herpes, the shame and disgust they felt with each other and their own bodies, and how they dealt with it. It’s available from

Please forgive the shameless plug, but, as someone whose partner also has herpes, reading it helped me sort through a lot of these emotions. —C.


You were right to tell the husband of the woman with herpes that she (or he) may have gotten it long before, but there’s also another possibility that isn’t well-known. (I have a Ph.D. in immunology, so this is kind of my thing.)

It used to be that HSV I was responsible for oral herpes (cold sores), and a different virus, HSV II, was responsible for genital herpes. It was always known that sometimes you got HSV I genitally and HSV II orally, but that was unusual. In diagnosing and treating genital herpes, doctors don’t typically subtype, because you treat both the same.

In recent studies, though, researchers were surprised to find that HSV I is now as common as HSV II in genital lesions. What this means is that people (mostly women) are getting genital herpes from oral sex with a partner who has an oral infection of HSV I. Not too long ago, just about everyone (90+ percent of adults) had oral HSV I, so their activated immune systems protected them from getting it genitally (but didn’t cross-protect against HSV II). Now it’s more common not to ever get oral HSV I, but those individuals are at risk for contracting it, either genitally or orally, from a partner.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can really do to protect yourself, since the virus is transmissible even when the infected partner doesn’t have a cold sore. The infected partner can take an anti-viral every day, outbreak or not, and that’s pretty good protection, but expensive and annoying.

Anyway, just wanted to help get the word out, because this has to be a very common cause of fights and breakups — a monogamous woman suddenly turns up with genital herpes, and both sides assume the other cheated …

Hope this was clear, and didn’t put you to sleep! —Dr. H


I respect your right to slack off, but your advice to Stinky Poo Finger was just plain lazy. Condoms? For her finger? Why not suggest a gallon-size Ziploc bag? Finger cots may not be widely known or available but latex gloves certainly are. If SPF is working at the fudge factory on a regular basis, it’s no more trouble to stock the nightstand with gloves or cots than to stock it with condoms. —Right Tool For The Job


Your advice for Stinky Poo Finger was close but no cigar. Finger cots are the way to go. They’re like little condoms for the fingers. It’s almost as if they were made for that very purpose. —R.H.


For you reader that wants to know how to remove the smell of feces from your fingers: Rub toothpaste on your fingers. Works perfectly. —Shilpa Send letters to

About The Author

Dan Savage

Dan Savage is a sex-advice columnist, podcaster, and author, and has appeared on numerous television shows. His sex advice column “Savage Love” first appeared in The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly, in 1991. The column is now syndicated across the United States and Canada. He has published six books...
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