Why You Shouldn’t Sue the Celebrity Who Gave You Herpes

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Sorta transcript:

An anonymous woman is suing an anonymous celebrity for allegedly giving her genital herpes. She says that she’s keeping the celeb anonymous because of his celebrity, and she’s keeping herself anonymous because of how embarrassing it is to have herpes.

Hey, here’s a thing that probably doesn’t help fix the social stigma of herpes: anonymously suing someone for allegedly giving it to you, regardless of whether he knew he had herpes or not.

A few weeks ago, I commented on what a giant piece of shit Charlie Sheen is if he had unprotected sex with people while knowing he was HIV positive, without telling his partners. Let me detail the ways in which this anonymous celebrity is probably not a piece of shit and should probably not be sued:

#1: The woman who is suing doesn’t know if the celebrity even knew he had herpes. She says he should be punished whether he knew or not, which is fucking insane. Most people who have HSV-2, which is usually what causes genital herpes, don’t even know it. Should everyone just stop having sex, kissing, or sharing soda pops on the off-chance that they could give someone herpes?

#2: While HIV can seriously fuck your life up, especially if it’s not managed properly, HSV-1, which usually causes oral herpes, and HSV-2 don’t really do that much. The woman mentions that now she can never give birth to a baby through her vaginal canal, which, as far as punishments go, that’s not really the worst thing I can imagine. That said, she’s wrong: doctors recommend pregnant women with genital herpes only go with a c-section if they’re currently experiencing symptoms at the time of birth. And herpes symptoms drastically decrease in frequency and severity over time. If you have some bad luck, well, women have c-sections every day for a variety of reasons, including just wanting to get that kid out on a Saturday. It’s not that big a deal.

The only reason why we think herpes is some horrible, shame-worthy disease is thanks to Big Pharma: a company came up with a treatment for herpes but at the time, nobody really gave a shit about the virus because again, it’s not that big a deal. So they started fear-mongering, got tons of press, and they succeeded in making herpes a bogeyman by the 1980s.

The weirdest part about the fear-mongering of herpes is that all the shaming is to do with sex, and suggesting that anyone with the virus is some kind of slut. But the majority of HSV-1 cases are contracted in childhood. That’s when I got it — when I was little we called them “heat blisters,” but by the time I was a preteen I was embarrassed as hell that every other summer or so I’d get a blister on my lip when I was out in the sun too long. I was embarrassed because by then I knew that the blister was supposed to mean that I was filthy and slutty, which in retrospect is hilarious because I was also embarrassed at the time that I was a fairly asexual virgin who had never made out with anyone. Basically, I got all the shame and none of the fun.

So before you shame someone, or god forbid SUE someone, for having herpes, remember that 60-95% of adults have it. And remember that there’s a fairly good chance that you have it, too, and you don’t even know it.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. I know that having a C-section isn’t the end of the world, but it’s still a pretty big deal. Sure, they can get the baby out of you in about 45 seconds, but they do have to spend the better part of an hour sewing you back up. My wife had a C-section, and if we have more kids, she will again, and while we’re not super upset about it, it is kind of a big deal.

  2. Charlie Sheen is a piece of shit for having sex with women and not disclosing his HIV status to them prior. (I would even qualify it as rape by fraud. They may have consented, but there was information which he knew which would’ve most likely changed their decision, which he refused to share. Standard informed consent procedure.)

    Now, onto suing over herpes, most people have HSV-1. That’s why you get cold sores.

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